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Preparing Your House for Sale

You want to sell your home for the best price. Start by enlisting a real estate agent and making a list of needed projects, to maximize the potential of your home.

Use this list to determine what to do, before listing your home for sale:

Enlist a Real Estate Agent

An agent experienced with the market in your neighborhood is the most qualified person to determine how potential buyers will perceive your house.

Curb Appeal

One of the most important factors in determining the salability of your house is how inviting potential buyers find it from the street or curb. Your real estate agent is in a better position to evaluate your home’s appearance in a way that approximates what a prospective buyer sees.

First among the considerations for curb appeal is the front entrance. The front door, porch and any surrounding windows and structures form the focal point for your home. A freshly painted door and polished door hardware can make it more attractive. Easy-to-read house numbers, a freshly painted mailbox and functioning porch lights are also important.


Another major component of curb appeal is landscaping. This includes the lawn, plants and such structures as retaining walls, walks and steps. The trees and shrubs need to be well trimmed. Garden beds should be well defined and freshly mulched.

Update the Interior

Kitchens and bathrooms can present problems. The question is whether renovating a kitchen or bath (or adding a bath) will ultimately pay for itself. Often a fresh coat of paint, a new countertop and a new floor are sufficient to bring a kitchen up to speed without great expense. The same is generally true of bathrooms.

Reduce Clutter

The next major issue to consider when getting your house ready for sale is often the least expensive and the most troublesome: getting rid of clutter. This is where the advice of an honest outsider is important. If you are unable to take on the clutter problem immediately, the best thing to do is to put things into storage until you’re ready to sort through them or move.

Walls, Floors and Countertops

Regardless of the surface, if you are going to refurbish it, choose neutral colors. With paint, that nearly always means off-white. With floors, stick to lighter colors. In most cases, if you haven’t done much painting recently, it makes sense to repaint the entire interior.

If carpets are in good shape, a professional cleaning will usually suffice. If they are old or stained, you are better off either replacing them, or removing them and refinishing the floor underneath.

In the bathroom and kitchen, replacing an older vinyl floor can easily brighten things up. Use quality materials and avoid patterns and colors that are busy. Also note any tile or caulking problems.

Fixtures and Outlets

To check electrical fixtures, go through each room and try each electrical outlet by plugging in a portable lamp. Test every light switch, replacing bulbs when necessary. Test the faucets in the kitchen and baths. Note any that are leaking or otherwise in need of servicing.

Distinctive Features

As you form your list of projects to prepare your home for sale, make sure your home has some distinctive features. Perhaps you already live next to a park, have a nice wooded lot, or have a Victorian gazebo in the back yard. These become “talking points” that help your real estate agent and others entice potential buyers to your home.

Prioritize Your List

You have now identified everything that you will need to do to prepare your home for sale. Look at your overall list and decide on the things you want to handle yourself. Nearly all do-it-yourself projects take longer than you think, so be realistic about what you can accomplish on your own.

Determine the projects you are unable to do yourself. Group the projects by category. Many times service professionals prefer to receive larger projects, and you will save money by having everything repaired and updated simultaneously.

Use Patience

Complete your list of repairs before listing your home on the market. Your house will be more desirable to potential buyers and command a higher selling price. Avoid putting yourself in the position of showing the house before it’s ready.

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