Quick Ways to Prepare Your Home for a Fall Sale

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

There’s a limited window to get your home listed and sold before the holidays so you’ll need to focus on the highest priorities to prepare your home before listing it for sale.

Home buyers are looking for homes that are bright, open, and move-in ready. Spending some time getting your home into the condition that buyers are looking for will help your home get more interest from buyers and help it to sell more quickly. While every home is different, the list below will be a good place to start for just about any home.

Quick Ways to Prepare Your Home for a Fall Sale

1. Reduce, Remove, and Organize

Home buyers want space to grow into. If you’re outgrowing your home and it’s filled with stuff then they will be concerned about outgrowing the space, as well. As much as possible, get rid of anything that you won’t be taking with you when you move. That includes extra furniture, old clothing, outgrown kid’s toys, unused kitchen appliances and items in the cupboads, and the treadmill that’s become a clothes hanger.

Donate, sell, or throw away as much as you can now. Anything that’s left that is rarely used or out of season should be packed up. The rest should be well-organized and easy to put away before showings. By reducing, removing, and organizing, you’ll make your home feel more spacious . . . a home that your buyers can grow into.

As part of the process,  de-personalize your home by packing up your photos and knick-knacks, especially if you have a lot of them. These things do make your home feel like home to you, but not to buyers who are looking for their home. A few photos and personal touches can be fine, but too many will be distracting. They want to see the house itself and picture it as theirs. Plus, the reflection off of photo frames can be bad for your listing photos.

2. Clean

After thinning out and organizing, clean like you’ve never cleaned before. Home buyers are looking for move-in ready homes, they don’t want to spend their first few days cleaning the house before they move in. Ideally, you can have your home professionally cleaned. It’s usually quicker and a professional can get it done on a deadline. And, having a cleaner scheduled will give you a deadline for getting rid of things and getting organized.

Kitchens and bathrooms are the number one priority. They should be spotless. Go around doors, window trim, and switch plates with a Magic Eraser to get rid of any smudges and grime. Clean your windows thoroughly, too. If you have curtains, they should be washed or replaced with new ones. In some cases, the best solution is to remove them. It brings in more light and can make a room feel more inviting.

A quick tip about windows . . . Remove your window screens. Screens make windows look terrible in photos (and your buyers are going to see photos of the front of your home before anything else). Since the weather’s nice and you may want to have your windows open, put the screens back in after the photos are taken.

If you have carpets, have them professionally steam cleaned. It’s relatively inexpensive and can make a big difference in how your home shows. It’s a good investment and quicker than having them replaced which may be an option, but may also take more valuable time.

The cleaner and more organized the home is, the better the listing photos can be. Nobody wants their home listing to end up on badmlsphotos.com.

Given the short selling season in the Fall, this may be all that can be done before listing your home for sale. For most, this can be done in a week or two.

3. Make Small Repairs

Small issues that need repair cause buyers to think that there are bigger issues that haven’t been addressed. Whether or not that’s the case, it can keep a potential buyer from making an offer and it can cost money.

Common small repairs include sticky doors, locks, and windows; loose toilets and seats; toilets that run; leaky faucets; and leaky pipes under sinks. All of these things will eventually be checked in a home inspection, so go ahead and get them taken care of now. Most of these items can be fixed by a handyman.

What about the big repairs? There are a few ways to deal with bigger repairs. One option is to go ahead and have them repaired. It’s often easier to do that during the Fall than it is in Spring when contractors are busiest. But, it may still take days, or weeks, to have repairs made.

Another option is to account for the cost of repairs in your asking price. This will be the quickest option. Getting repair estimates that you can show to buyers will be helpful. Note: If there are any major issues that you’re aware of the law requires that you disclose them to potential buyers.

Getting a Pre-Listing Home Inspection may be a good option. More home sales fall through during buyer’s home inspections than at any other point in the transaction. If you are getting a Pre-Listing Home Inspection, plan to provide the report to anyone who’s interested in purchasing your home to comply with disclosure laws for known issues.  A Pre-Listing Inspection can reduce the chance of a buyer walking away from the sale after their inspections as there should be fewer surprises, if any.

Home Inspectors are usually a little less busy in the Fall than they are in the Spring so scheduling an inspection shouldn’t take long. Many inspectors can arrange for an inspection within a few days so you should be able to get a report within a week. The report can be used as a punch-list for items to be repaired and as a guide for getting any repair estimates that you may need.

4. Lighting

An easy way to brighten up your home is to change the light bulbs to the maximum allowable wattage for the fixture. If you’ll be replacing lightbulbs, stay away from fluorescent bulbs. Even the best fluorescent bulbs cast an unappealing light. Changing bulbs is particularly important during a Fall home sale as many buyers will see your home after the sun goes down. If you don’t change all the bulbs, at least replace any that are burnt out.

5. Paint, as Needed

Painting has the best return on investment of any improvement before selling. Paint is inexpensive and highly visible. If you haven’t painted in 5 years, it’s probably time to do so. Or, if have painted recently but the colors are “unique,” it may be worth re-painting before you list. Hiring a professional will be the quickest and easiest, but painting is something that most people can do themselves.

If you’re doing the painting yourself, be sure to use the right paints for the job . . .

Eggshell: Eggshell is for walls. The tiny specks help hide the imperfections. When selling, neutral colors are best. You can find some excellent recommendations on the Benjamin Moore website. Matte paint can also be used for walls.

Flat: Flat paint is for ceilings. You can buy ceiling specific paint, which has a flat finish. The lack of glare and reflection doesn’t draw your eye to a ceilings imperfections (there tend to be many, but we don’t often spend much time looking at ceilings).

Semi-Gloss: Semi-Gloss is for trim (use white). Semi-Gloss paints are easy to clean and shine helps the trim stand out.

6. Seasonal Decorations

It’s ok to decorate your home with seasonal decorations. This can make a great impression on buyers and in-season decorations will make it stand out as a fresh listing. Halloween decorations can be another story, though. Personally, I love to go overboard with these, but not when selling a home. A few tasteful decorations are fine, but please don’t turn your home into a house of horror this year.

Comments and Contact

Please comment below if you have additional suggestions, tips, comments, or questions. If you’d like to discuss listing your home with me, please call 215-839-6034 or email me at jon@jonmillerhomes.com.

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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.