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The 4 Key Steps to Preparing Your Home for Sale, From the Outside In

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.

Preparing your home for sale might feel like a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Sure, there’s going to be some work involved. But by starting early and tackling sections of your house at a time, you can ensure that when your house finally does hit the market, buyers are both impressed and interested. Plus, according to the National Association of Realtors, 62% of agents say that homes that are staged and spotless spend less time on the market.

So what are the things you should do to get your home ready? In this article we’ll cover exactly that, telling you what to fix, what to clean, and how you can ready your home step by step.

A HomeLight infographic explaining key steps to prepare the house for the new year.

Instead of trying to get it all done at once, a great strategy is to start from the outside and work your way in. Starting from the home’s exterior guarantees that you catch everything a buyer will notice on their first visit, and it also allows you to tackle these items in the order they’ll be seen. The best thing to do throughout this process is to focus on impressions: Think about what a buyer will see, touch, and smell. If it doesn’t look good to you, it definitely won’t look good to them.

Ready to get started? Read on for our step-by-step guide to preparing your home for sale, and get one step closer to closing that deal.

1. Spruce Up Your Home’s Exterior

Curb appeal is incredibly important in the success of a sale. In some cases, real estate agents have even reported clients making a 150% return on a landscaping investment in the final sale price of the home.

Everything from your walkway to the paint that might be chipping by the front door, these minor details can make or break your buyer’s first impressions— which is what curb appeal is all about. To get your home ready, take a stroll up to your front door making notes of what it might need.

Mowing the lawn and refreshing the landscaping is a must (pull those weeds!), but some less obvious ideas might include renting a power-washer to clean the exterior, fixing any damage that’s visible from the front door, and making sure your home address number (if you have one) is visible.

It also never hurts to give your front door a fresh coat of paint that invites buyers in. Top real estate agent Maribel Sotuyo of Houston, Texas says, “If a home doesn’t look visually appealing from outside, often [buyers] don’t even want to step inside.”

For a buyer, curb appeal is more than just what the outside looks like. In the words of the HGTV experts, “A sloppy exterior will make buyers think you’ve slacked off on interior maintenance as well.” Buyers tend to leap to conclusions based on minor details.

Says Sotuyo, “I spend a lot of time right next to the door getting the lock box open, and so [a buyer] is standing there looking around, and if they notice there are a few items that could easily be maintained and they’re not, then they’re going to assume maybe other things aren’t maintained.”

Bottom line: Make the outside look awesome so you don’t lose your buyer before they even get inside.

2. Make The Entryway Feel Inviting

The entrance of your home is the next most important piece in getting it ready for sale. If the exterior works to convince buyers to take a closer look, then the entrance should really make them swoon!

Entryways should feel warm, bright, and pull the buyer inside. Anything dark, gloomy, or overcrowded and you may just scare your buyer back out the door. One of the first and most important things you can do for your entryway is to remove excess furniture.

Sotuyo advises her clients to be aware of small entrances and to be sure there’s a clear pathway to other rooms. She encourages homeowners to put bulky or oversized furniture in storage (even if it’s really nice stuff). Less is more, and overcrowding a room will do nothing except make it look smaller.

After eliminating some furniture, take a look around at what else needs TLC. Cobwebs hiding in corners and on top of ceiling fans should be promptly dusted, and curtains should be thrown open to let light in. As a general rule, your real estate agent will show the home with windows uncovered and lights on (for maximum light) so be sure you go through your home in the same way.

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3. Create Welcoming Spaces Throughout

After ensuring a grand entrance for your buyer, it’s time to tackle the rest of the home. Every room should be tidy, clean, and neutral. That means no aggressively colored walls or artwork. Sure, you might like this one incredible painter who splashes red and yellow onto the canvas— but your buyer probably does not. Try to make your home appealing to everyone.

Besides being clean, nothing in your home should appear overtly broken. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be in working order, it just means it should have the appearance of working. Many buyers don’t mind if a home needs some minor repair work— what they do mind is if it looks neglected.

But that doesn’t mean spending hours or even hundreds of dollars on repairs. A lot of quick fixes are available to the savvy seller, and things like updating worn kitchen or bathroom areas with peel and stick tiles or epoxy coating can go a long way in enhancing the appearance of your home. Says Sotuyo, “if done well [these projects] actually make a big difference, even if it’s DIY.”

Similarly, investing in fresh linens can do wonders to liven up a space. Throw a new white duvet on an old comforter in a bedroom, or line up white hand towels in a bathroom. “Cleanliness is more than [a home] being visually appealing, it appeals to the buyer in a psychological way,” says Sotuyo.

4. Organize Your Storage

Don’t spend so much time on the rooms in your home that you forget all about the closets. It isn’t just curiosity that drives buyers to look behind closed doors, there’s also a more practical reason. “Buyers are opening closets to see what kind of space they’ll have,” explains Sotuyo who reminds her clients how vital this storage space can be— especially in parts of the country where homes don’t have basements or significant attic space.

Before you clean out your closets entirely, consider keeping some of your stuff and storing it in stacked boxes away from the door. This is actually better than leaving closets empty as it gives buyers an idea of the storage space they’ll have.

Some sellers even go as far as leaving nice shirts on hangers or stuffing brand-name shopping bags with tissue paper on shelves. Whatever you choose to do, just be sure closets aren’t cluttered but organized. Same goes for the drawers. Expect things to be opened and organize accordingly.

Final Steps in Preparing Your Home for Sale

Before you finish preparing your home for sale, do a final walkthrough. Try to take in your space as the buyer would. How does each room feel? Does anything stand out as ugly, broken, or dirty? Is there a clear pathway between each room? Prep your house with the buyer in mind and you’re sure to impress them when it comes time to sell.