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Selling your home may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can make a great impression with buyers and whip your house into shape, getting your home ready to sell without breaking the bank. By putting in a little effort before you list your home, you can save yourself hours of time and avoid pitfalls down the road.
Wondering how to get your house ready to sell? First, before you list your home, it’s smart to connect with a top-performing agent in your area. Seasoned agents can help you check all the boxes and sell your home quickly.
Also, if you have any flexibility in your selling schedule, it’s a good idea to time your home sale to line up with seasonal demand in your local market. Before you sell, check out the HomeLight Best Time to Sell Calculator. It will show you the best time to sell your property for the highest value. Once you’ve taken care of those two important items, follow our checklist below for 9 must-do steps to getting your home ready to sell.
How to get your house ready to sell
With a few preparations, you can set up your home to dazzle onlookers and fly off the market. Here are the 9 simple steps to getting your home ready to sell:
1. Complete a pre-sale inspection
When surprise fixes pop up during your inspection, it can drag out your home sale. In fact, in 2021 the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found home inspection problems caused 11% of contract delays and 9% of full-on contract terminations. You can race ahead of inspection issues and speed up your home sale by completing a pre-sale inspection.
Typically, when you conduct a pre-sale inspection, a professional will examine your home before you put it on the market. That way, you can make pre-emptive fixes and protect against last-minute surprises that could hold up your sale. As you make updates, be sure you cover these common issues that come up during home inspections:
- Dirty air filters in HVAC systems
- Signs of pest infestations
- Plumbing clogs
- Cracked windows or broken screens
- Broken appliances
- Water stains on ceilings
- Leaky faucets
Even if you don’t have months to prepare, it is possible to make some quick, inexpensive, upgrades to get your house ready for listing. By focusing on the areas with the highest impact and visibility, you can give your property an edge over the competition without going over your budget.
2. Set the perfect price for your home
Your home’s listing price can be the difference between selling fast and watching your home sale drag on for months. It sets the tone for a sale right away. If the price is too low, you may end up losing profit you otherwise would be pocketing. Set it too high, and your home could end up sitting on the market untouched. That’s why it’s so critical to nail down the perfect sale price as you’re getting ready to sell your home.
Wondering how to pin down your sale price? Hiring a top agent is an easy way to help set up a pricing strategy for your home that aligns with your goals, but there are also ways to grab a preliminary idea of your home’s value before you get it ready to sell. For instance, HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator gives you a fast, accurate look at what your home is worth in a matter of clicks. Here are a few things that can drag down your home’s value to watch out for:
- Damaged roofs
- Poor workmanship
- Noisy spaces
- Outdated rooms
- Deferred maintenance
3. Tackle those neglected weekend maintenance projects
Chances are, you have projects that have been sitting on your to-do list for a while that you haven’t quite gotten around to. As you’re getting your home ready to sell, it’s important to complete these tasks. That’s because they will tell a broader story about your home to the buyer. If an interested person spots even small repairs that need to be done, they often suspect there are other areas that need fixing up. And that may hurt the sale.
As you get your house ready for a sale, take care of any repairs, big or small, before a home inspector or appraiser finds them. All of those little annoyances you’ve grown accustomed to — like the leaky kitchen faucet, the squeaky door hinges, or the broken refrigerator drawer — could lead buyers to assume that the rest of the house hasn’t been well-maintained.
“This will save you money because you won’t have to pay the appraiser to come do a reinspection of your repairs,” points out Angela Miller, an appraiser with Miller Appraisals.
4. Deep clean your home
If your house isn’t clean and attractive, it could turn off buyers or deflate your home’s final sale price. That’s why it is essential to give the entire house a thorough cleaning as you get it ready to sell. Connie Taylor, a top real estate agent based in Amarillo, Texas, suggests tackling one room at a time to make it more manageable.
As you deep clean, be sure to pay special attention to the hotspots that tend to get a lot of eyeballs during showings.That includes these critical areas:
- Doors and walls
5. Declutter and depersonalize your home for buyers
As you’re getting your home ready to sell, it’s important to remove clutter and put away personal items. Marty Basher, an organization expert with Modular Closets, explains, “You want prospective buyers to see the space, not your stuff.”
According to Basher, your plan should be to clean up, depersonalize spaces, and create a blank canvas, so your buyer can easily see themselves living in your home after the sale. “The goal is to get rid of all the junk that prevents someone from truly seeing the spaces within the house,” says Basher. “If there is clutter everywhere, it will be difficult for a buyer to visualize their own furniture and décor, and how they might use the spaces.”
When it comes time to get your home ready for a sale, you can declutter by traveling room-by-room and tidying up spaces. Here are a few tips to help you organize and depersonalize your house before you sell:
- Consider renting a storage unit
- Remove expired food and wipe away messes in your fridge
- Tidy up your pantry and kitchen cabinets
- Clean and organize your closets
- Clear floor spaces
- Store less-used items in plastic totes
- Hang shoes on the door with shoe racks
- Use fabric storage cubes to hold scarves, hair tools, and other small items
- Hide messy cords
- Remove any traces of your pets
6. Swap out old light fixtures and brighten spaces
Upgrading your light fixtures is a quick, affordable way to get your home ready to sell. “This is a super simple and very effective way to add value to a home and attract buyers,” notes Andrea Walker, a certified professional organizer in New Jersey. “Replacing a dated chandelier in a dining room with a more modern fixture will immediately improve the appearance of the space, even if the furnishings are dated.”
There are a few simple ways to improve lighting in your home:
Remove dust from existing light fixtures
To enhance lighting, dust fixtures weekly with an extendable duster to prevent build-up. For deep cleanings of glass-encased fixtures, carefully remove the glass, dump out any debris and dead bugs, and soak the glass in a bucket or sink full of warm, soapy water.
Check and replace your lightbulbs
Go on a lighting audit to make sure all of the bulbs in the house are working and that the bulbs match in each individual light fixture.
Also, check the color temperature of your lightbulbs. On the Kelvin temperature scale, the lower measurements (2000K-3000K) are warm white, 3100K-4500K are cool white, and daylight bulbs range from 4600-6500K. Most home staging experts recommend using warmer shades of around 2500-2700 Kelvin.
Also, make sure the foyer entry light fixture is fresh and modern. This will set the tone for the rest of the house tour. Walker recommends visiting a big-box home improvement retailer or checking online for inexpensive, but stylish, light fixtures.
7. Paint your home’s interior with fresh, neutral colors
It may not be necessary or cost effective to paint every room of your house, but adding interior paint strategically can drive up your home’s value. Taylor recommends touching up paint on interior walls where it’s needed.
If you don’t have extra paint on hand — or if the paint you do have is past its prime — you can use a razor blade to shave off a 1” portion of paint and then take it to the hardware store to have it matched with the appropriate color. From there, use a Q-tip or a tiny brush to touch up small areas.
If you want to paint entire rooms, Taylor suggests choosing a neutral, timeless color that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. She says Sherwin Williams’ Agreeable Gray is her go-to shade.
8. Touch up or upgrade your home’s exterior
Your home’s exterior hits your potential buyer with a first impression that could make or break a sale. That’s why it’s so important to examine your home’s exterior before you list it for a sale. Start by power washing your home’s exterior. Look out for any spots with chipped paint or siding damage. From there, you can add value by applying fresh paint to your home’s exterior. In fact, some research suggests exterior paint can land you a 51% return on investment.
Additionally, you can improve your home’s exterior by removing any objects littering your yard. Just like you did inside the house, survey your lawn and driveway with a critical eye, and remove outdoor eyesores, such as kids’ toys, knick-knacks, trash cans, or other items that could be distracting. Sweep off the porch and walkway, and clean out the gutters. If you have an outdoor seating or entertaining area, clean out the grill and freshen up the furniture cushions.
Once you’ve taken care of those basics, here are a few more ambitious home exterior additions you may want to consider as you prepare to sell your home:
- New garage doors
- A patio or deck
- New or repainted front door
- Fresh or repaired windows
9. Tidy up landscaping and boost curb appeal
A final way to prepare your home for sale, and drive up value, is to tidy up landscaping. One survey of real estate agents found that basic lawn care can score you a 539% return on investment. Here are few simple enhancements you can make to sharpen your landscaping and boost your home’s curb appeal:
- Trim shrubs and trees
- Add outdoor accent lighting
- Plant some flowers and blooms
A few small enhancements to entry spaces can have a heavy impact on that first make-or-break impression, hook a buyer right away, and set your home up for a fast sale.
Prepare Now For a Smooth Selling Experience
When it comes time to sell your home, a little preparation now will stretch miles in the long-run. It may seem like more work up front, but taking a few proactive steps early in the house-selling process can spark big rewards. Put in some extra elbow grease now, and you’ll be on the road to sell your house faster down the road — and secure a stress-free selling experience.
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