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How to Prepare Your Home for Sale and Attract Buyers

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

When you prepare your home for sale, it’s important to be able to detach from the house emotionally, so you can understand what buyers are looking for, and what their potential concerns may be. We consulted with experts and researched market conditions, buyer trends, and step-by-step guides to compile every touchpoint covered in this checklist on how to prepare your home for sale.

Purge, pack and store

When you decide to prepare your home for sale, the first order of business is to start packing and purging immediately. To avoid feeling like your entire life and home are upside-down, outline a strategy to keep you organized. Below is a checklist of the most important things to tackle during this process:

Go through every room and collect items you want to donate, throw out or sell. Do this before you start packing to save you both money and work. Since determining what you should get rid of or keep can be a painstaking task, here are some tips to help you on this.

Take an inventory of all your belongings. Taking inventory while you’re moving not only helps you keep track of everything, it’ll serve double duty as an inventory to save for homeowners insurance purposes.

Label everything. Top real estate agent Carrie Buckett, who serves Illinois and Wisconsin and is also a relocation specialist, has seen too many clients leave boxes unlabeled and stick them in the basement, thinking, “Oh, we’ll go through these later.” And they end up collecting dust never to be opened again. “Label everything,” advises Buckett.

Pack a suitcase full of items you want to hold onto during the moving process. This includes everyday necessities, valuable and sentimental items like family heirlooms and important documents.

Save time and keep your items safe and damage-free through the entire process. For tips and tricks to making sure your belongings don’t break, and other strategic packing advice, check out our guide to make moving easier.

Proper packing techniques will help you prepare your home for sale in more ways that you think. If it looks like you take good care of your possessions, buyers are likely to assume you have taken the same approach with the house.

Declutter and depersonalize

Once you pack, it’s time to clear out all the clutter in the house, so you can showcase your home in a simplified manner.

Declutter in an organized way

When you prepare your home for sale, there needs to be enough room for buyers and agents to move around, so this means you cannot have boxes lying around. In addition, clutter can be visually unappealing and impede potential buyers from seeing themselves living in the house. For items you need to hold onto, find a few decorative boxes that can be kept out of sight yet still easily accessible. You may also consider renting a storage unit. For more advice, read our decluttering checklist.

Depersonalize

Depersonalizing goes a step further than decluttering, by removing any signs of you and your family’s presence in the time so that the buyer can envision themselves and their own belongings in the home. When you prepare your home for sale, depersonalizing is important because it removes distractions that could keep the buyer from focusing on the house itself. It’s best to remove items such as your family photos or loud furniture. For more information on this, check out our guide to depersonalizing your house for sale.

Deep clean

“A deep clean never fails to solicit buyer comments like the house feels solid, well-maintained, or meticulously care for — even if the house is really outdated.” says Jessica Riphenburg, one of the top agents in Madison, Wisconsin.

You can hire a professional if you wish, but that will cost you between $150 and $250, with most homeowners paying $221 on average for cleaning an average-sized house, according to Fixr.com. This is one of those projects that you may want to take on yourself, if you are willing to put in some effort and be thorough.

Since you set aside your cleaning products when you were packing, you already have at least some of the tools and solutions you will need. Assess all the materials in your home to see what other products and tools you may need before you get started. Some examples of common products are Pledge Multi Surface II Antibacterial Cleaner and specialty products like stone sealants such as those recommended by the North American Tile Cleaning Organization. For more in-depth information on how to perform a thorough deep clean, check out our house cleaning checklist.

When cleaning, it’s best to take one task at a time and perform that task through the entire house before moving on to the next task.  And while you may not be quite able to disguise your lived-in house as brand new, when you are trying to prepare your home for sale, you really must go the extra mile.

This means pulling out furniture to get rid of dust bunnies, removing carpet stains, scrubbing your appliances inside and out, and wiping down baseboards and door handles. Check out Homelight’s guide for trying to sell a house with pets, for advice on issues such as fur and odors.

Remember, when you prepare your home for sale, those that are coming to see your house are not simply guests for the evening; they will be on the lookout for potential problems and signs that the home’s maintenance might have been overlooked.  So don’t forget to unclog drains, sterilize and descale faucets and shower heads, and clean out that garbage disposal! For more tips on home maintenance like this, read our home maintenance checklist.

Connect with a top agent

Working with a top agent can be one of the most important steps to take as you prepare your home for sale. Homelight’s data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average real estate agent.

Thanks to their experience, agents can help you identify things specific to your home to best prepare for the market, and will often have a rolodex of contacts for work that needs to be done by professionals. You can also utilize your agent’s homegrown network of professionals that you are likely to need when you prepare to sell your home, from stagers to landscapers, contractors, photographers and beyond.

Connect with a Top Agent

If you’re starting to prepare your home for sale, hiring a great real estate agent is an important step to take. HomeLight data shows that top-performing agents sell homes faster and for more money than average agents.

Curb appeal is king

Curb appeal is extremely important, as it determines the first impression a buyer gets when they approach the home or view home’s exterior in photographs. To prepare your home for sale, clear your yard of debris (and any unwelcome surprises if you are a pet owner), mow the lawn (cut it short but don’t go overboard), and trim back bushes with electric hedge clippers. If you choose to do some planting, it’s wise to apply mulch liberally and use low-maintenance flowers like perennials.

If your exterior paint is faded, flaking, or your house cracks, wood rot or other water damage, these are all signs that it would be wise to paint the exterior when you prepare your home for sale.

Another quick and affordable curb appeal fix is adding hardscaping to your entryway, since a concrete slab only costs $4-$8 per square foot to install including labor, and this can give you more room for decorating and serve as a potential seating area. Read our list of inexpensive ways to help your house’s curb appeal attract buyers.

Good landscaping increases home value. According to a recent study performed by Mark S. Henry for the University Center for Economic Development of Clemson University, landscaping increased home values anywhere from 4% to 12%, depending on the level of landscaping quality.

Complete needed repairs

Gone unrepaired, obvious damages are likely to be red flags to buyers, and the last thing you want is a buyer nitpicking problems they can use as bargaining chips to seek a lower price.

Here are some quick tips on how to handle repairs when trying to prepare your home for sale:

The most important repairs are the ones that pose a hazard or have a significant impact on everyday life. These range from plumbing issues, to dated electrical problems, to problems in your home’s foundation. Some of these can be easy and low-cost fixes, while others can be expensive, but are necessary since they are critical to the sturdiness and functionality of the home. Filling in a single foundation crack, for example, runs between $800-$1,500 according to the Foundation Repair Network. Here’s some advice on how to get ahead on appraisal-required repairs such as these.

You may consider getting a pre-listing home inspection to ensure that your home is up to par with needed repairs and maintenance. Expect to pay on average between $280 and $401. This can be money well spent, since recent data from National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reported that home inspection issues were responsible for 11% of delayed contracts and 9% of contract terminations in 2021. Read up more on pre-listing home inspections, how home inspections work and common repairs needed after a home inspection.

You don’t have to get everything like-new, however, as there are certain fixes that soon-to-be home sellers may wish to undertake when selling a house.

Upgrades

When preparing your home for sale, some upgrades can increase the value of your home, and there are a range of areas you can choose to enhance for future buyers. For example, kitchen updates are a big selling point for homebuyers, such as updating the backsplash, upgrading appliances, and installing new light fixtures.

Energy efficient upgrades like a new HVAC system can save buyers money over the long-term. According to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights report from late-2020, 47% of real estate agents nationwide have seen homebuyers increasingly prioritize energy-efficient features in their home search. For further advice, read our guide to upgrades that increase home value.

If you are handy and have the skills to fix certain issues such as plumbing or landscaping, or want to do DIY projects such as painting the walls in some key rooms a neutral color, this may be a cost-efficient way to increase the value of your home. But be careful with other DIY projects that attempt to improve the appearance of the home, like a DIY bathroom remodel or painting a faux fireplace, as these upgrades can turn off buyers. Check out our list of other upgrades that do not always add significant value to your home.

Staging

When you prepare your home for sale, staging is the art of highlighting your home’s features without drowning them out, creating an attractive vision to help buyers to see your house as their future home. And while it may seem simple in a way, staging is a skill, so you may want to hire a professional.

In many cases, expert staging can allow sellers to forgo expensive updates and instead bring out the best in their home, as is. In a recent HomeLight Top Agent Insights report, agents reported staged homes sell 6% to 10% quicker than unstaged homes. And a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors® revealed 18% of sellers’ agents said staging increased the dollar value of a home 6%-10%.

If you choose to DIY your staging, below are some tips:

With a top-producing real estate agent at your side, and a solid game plan, you can successfully sell your home and make a seamless transition to the next stage of your life. When you prepare your home for sale, just remember to do your research, buy the right supplies, take your time, and if you need extra help, hire a handyman.

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