How to Get Your House Ready to Sell


By Jon Miller, Realtor®

Are you thinking about putting your home on the market but you’re not sure where to start? Here are inexpensive things that you can start on today to help you get your home ready to sell.

Make the Right Decisions

Deciding where to start when getting your home ready to sell can be overwhelming. And if you watch a lot of HGTV you might be under the impression that you’ll need to remodel your house from top to bottom to sell it. The reality is homes sell every day in every possible condition, from homes that look like they could be featured in Architectural Digest to homes that haven’t been updated in 40 years and everything in between.

When deciding what to do to get your home ready to sell you’ll need to make good financial decisions. You wouldn’t want to make a $5,000 upgrade to your home if it only increases the value by $2,000, for example. You’ll also need to factor in how much time you have to get your home ready and your budget. A short window to prepare may mean that you can only tackle the basics. If you only have a week to get your home ready to sell you may only be able to do a little bit of organizing and cleaning given the time restraints.

Make Good Investments

When budgeting for getting your home ready to sell you’ll want to be sure that any improvements maximize  your return on both investment and time. Generally, this means that you’ll want to get your home showing in it’s best possible condition without doing any costly updates or major remodeling. It’s usually better to reflect the condition of the home in the asking price rather than spending a lot of time and a lot of money on updates that may not even pay for themselves.

Things You Can Do Today to Get Your Home Ready to Sell

While every home is different the list below covers the things that you can get started on right away, before you talk with an agent or contractors, as you begin to get your home ready to sell.

  1. Get Organized & De-Clutter
    A clutter-free and well-organized home is easier to clean and shows better in photos (where your potential buyers will nearly always first see your home). Go through each room and get rid of anything that you no longer use and find homes for things that you’ll continue to use regularly but maybe not every day. If you have things that you only use once every few months, store them neatly out of the way. Get moving boxes and start packing anything that you’ll take with you but won’t need right away.As you de-clutter and organize make sure that kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and closets are well-organized. You should also get rid of any furniture that you won’t take with you. This will help rooms look bigger and more inviting. This is also a great time to get rid of extras in basements like scrap wood and old paint. As you go through each room be sure to take down personal photos and knick-knacks. These items can be distracting to buyers and now is a good time to pack them up since they will most likely go to your new home anyway.

  2. Clean
    Now that your home is neat and organized you should have it thoroughly cleaned by either hiring a professional or cleaning as if you’re a professional house cleaner. Carpets can be steam cleaned if they won’t be replaced. Wood floors should be cleaned to a nice shine. Counters, drawers, and cabinets should also be cleaned thoroughly. It’s also important to clean baseboards and trim around doors and windows. You should also clean around light switches and doorknobs where grime tends to build up. Windows should also be cleaned, inside and out. A clean house tells buyers that the home has been well-cared for and it helps make the best impression for little to no cost.Tip: Pick up some Magic Erasers for cleaning grimy areas near doorknobs and light switches. These sponge-like cleaners to a great job. You can find them in the cleaning aisle at Stanley’s Hardware
  3. Paint
    A fresh coat of paint has the best return on investment when it comes to getting your home ready to sell. New paint can breathe new life into a home and help it show much better than it otherwise would. While best done by a professional, it’s one of the few major overhauls that most homeowners can tackle on their own. When choosing paints be sure to select the right paint for the job: Flat paint for ceilings, eggshell for walls, and high-gloss or satin for trim. You’ll also want to choose colors that are neutral and lighter to help the space feel bigger. Right now, Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter is one of the best options around. You can find Benjamin Moore Paints at Stanley’s Hardware.Tip: Did you know that you may be able to paint over wallpaper? If your wallpaper is in good condition this can be a great option to update a room at a fraction of the cost of removing the wallpaper. I recently had clients with a wallpapered powder room. They always meant to remove the wallpaper but never got around to it. They painted the room before putting their home on the market and said they wished they had known they could do that sooner so they didn’t have to live with that dated wallpaper for several years.
  4. Light
    Lighting makes a big difference in how a home feels. Retails stores, restaurants, and hotels all spend a lot of time and money on lighting and it’s something that you should make your home as well-lit as possible, too. Start by replacing your light bulbs with bulbs that give off the best possible light. Using soft-white bulbs that have a warm temperature (around 2800 Kelvins) will make your home look it’s best for a small investment.Personally, I love GE Reveal lightbulbs. They give off a great comfortable light and are worth the investment but any soft-white bulb around 2800 Kelvins will do the job. Just be sure to stay away from fluorescents and other harsh lights that will make your home feel cold.

    Bringing in as much natural light as possible is also important. You can do this by removing shades, blinds, and curtains. If you still want some privacy, replace any dark curtains with shear or white curtains but stay away from room darkening curtains that will make your home much darker than it could be.

  5. Repairs
    Which repairs to make may be among the toughest decisions you’ll have to make so it’s a good idea to talk with an experienced Realtor before doing anything big. For now, since we’re talking about things that you can do as you begin to get your home ready to sell, we’ll focus on the common smaller repairs that you can start on right away. These are the inexpensive to repair items that will help your home show it’s best . . .

    1. Lubricate the front and rear locks. Nobody likes a home that they can’t get into easily. Lock lube is better than WD-40, it will last longer.
    2. Fix sticky doors
    3. Repair leaky faucets and under sink drains
    4. Tighten loose cabinet knobs and drawer pulls
    5. Tighten loose toilets

      Major Repairs: If your home is in need of major repairs it may be best to go ahead and get those issues corrected before listing your home. If you don’t have the time or money to get those repairs made then you can always disclose the issues to potential buyers and factor the need for repairs into your asking price. Consult with an experienced Realtor® before taking on major repairs so you can determine the best strategy to address these issues.
  6. Curb Appeal
    The very first impression that buyers will have of your home will be the photo of the exterior. The exterior is also the first thing they’ll see when they drive up to tour your home. You’ll want to make the best possible impression to make your home stand out from the crowd. Here are a few budget friendly things that you can do now to maximize your home’s curb appeal . . .

    1. Get the front of your home powerwashed and paint, if necessary.
    2. Remove screens from the front windows. Screens look terrible in photos.
    3. Plant seasonal flowers.
    4. Spread fresh mulch. I like natural colored Cedar mulch but just about anything will do.
    5. Paint the front door. This can really make a big difference for minimal effort and cost.
  7. Finances & Paperwork
    Go ahead and get your finances in order so you can estimate your proceeds from the sale. First, you’ll want to contact your lender to get your mortgage balance payoff. This is the amount that you owe to your lender if you pay off your mortgage today. Next, you’ll want to get a high and low estimate of the value of your home, think of this as the best and worst case scenarios. Those estimates minus your mortgage balance payoff will help determine how much you may want to invest in other updates and upgrades.In addition to getting a clear picture of the finances, now is a good time to get paperwork organized and ready for the new owner. Gather receipts and warranties for appliances and for any work that you’ve had done to the house. It will also be helpful to put together a summary of average utility costs since buyers will most likely ask for this at some point.

Everything on this list can be started right away which will give you a head start since you’ll probably end up tackling all of these at some point anyway. If you’re ready to get started on preparing your home and would like more information, I’m happy to schedule a free home prep consultation to help you get started.

Jon Miller, RealtorJon Miller is a Philadelphia Realtor with Compass Real Estate. Jon has been working with home buyers and sellers in Philadelphia and Montgomery County since 2010.