Prepping Your House for Sale

Even in a seller’s market, your house is often competing against other homes staged as if they were just built. If you want to get the highest price possible, make sure your home is in tip-top shape for potential homebuyers.

Disassociate - Letting go of your hosue can be a struggle. You've lived there, possibly for years, and the house holds many memories. To detach from it emotionally, you must realize that without you in it, the house is just a shell that will be made a home by your buyer. Let go and make room for the next occupants.

Depersonalize - Pack up your personal photographs, family heirlooms, and other objects and clutter that might distract potential buyers and hurt a possible sale. You want to present buyers with largely an "empty canvas" -- a clean environment where they can imagine the space filled with their own favorite photographs, furniture, and art.

Declutter - People tend to collect an amazing quantity of items over the years. However, for many items, if you haven't used them in over a year, you probably don't need them. These are items that are prime for selling, donating or simply pitching into recycling or trash.

Organize - Buyers will be curious about storage space and willl check closets and cabinets. Tidy up these spaces and make an effort to further declutter, as overflow and disorganizaton send a negative message about not only your house's storage potential but even how well you manage your house. When a buyer sees everything organized down to the last detail, it shows that you take care of your possessions and likely took good care of the house.

Move - For showing, less is more. Remove furniture pieces that block or hamper paths and walkways, and put them in storage, along with distracting furniture, artwork, and empty bookcases. Less "stuff" will make your house look bigger and, once again, give potential buyers room to imagine the home as their own.

Pro Tip: Opening windows and turning on lights makes rooms seem larger, and helps buyers picture how their stuff would work in a space. Burned-out light bulbs can be a red flag that the home hasn’t been taken care of.

Remove - If there are items -- perhaps window coverings, built-in appliances, or fixtures -- you plan to take with you, remove them before showing the house. Buyers should not be distracted by items that will ultimately not be included in the sale. Telling a buyer they can't have an attractive item that appears with the house could undermine the sale.

Pro-Tip: Take out the leaf (and extra chairs) from your dining room table to make the space seem larger.

Repair - In some seller's markets, a home in lived-in condition can sometimes be sold with little work. But in normal markets or a buyer's market, repairs can make or break a sale. Cracked floor or counter tiles and holes in walls not to be taken care of. Fix leaky faucets and doors that don't close properly, as well as kitchen drawers that jam. Any one of these problems could negate an otherwise great first impression -- and that may be the only impression you'll get to make.

Shine - Cleaning your house for showing may include washing the windows inside and out; powerwashing sidewalks and the exterior; recaulking tubs, showers, and sinks; and polishing chrome faucets and mirrors. Make sure all dust is removed from under the furniture, in cabinets and closets, and everywhere else it could be hiding. Plan ahead and give yourself time to do a good job (and at least consider hiring outside help).

Pro Tip: Bring in a trusted "outside nose" to sniff around. Homeowners can become "nose blind" to odors that may be a turnoff to potential buyers.

Look - Back inside, linger in the doorway of each room, and imagine how your house will look to a buyer. Examine how the furniture is arranged, and rearrange pieces until the room achieves visual appeal. Make sure window coverings hang evenly. Once you've cleaned and gotten everything repaired and organized, you can begin staging your home.

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