Last weekend, my husband and I hosted a party for his teaching staff at our home. He’s been wanting to do it for five years, and this year I finally relented. But I had a couple requests- new flooring and fresh paint. With two boys and three animals, our nine year old carpet had seen better days, and my walls had been tormented by light saber wars and bouncing balls. It took me three weeks to get the new flooring ordered and installed, the walls painted, new trim installed, and the dust explosion cleaned up.
It was a lot of work! And on top of the inside needing some improvements, the outside needed some attention, too. Landscaping is my hobby, but this summer I’ve been so busy with work that I hadn’t been able to weed as aggressively as usual. Bushes needed trimmed, plants needed pruned, and weeds pulled. I spent two days outside working on just that. For about ten minutes before the party, my house was absolute perfection. It was the best it had ever been, and the best it will ever be again. I looked at my husband and said, “If we ever want to sell this house, now is the time. This is what a house needs to look like to get the highest dollar.”
This weekend, I scheduled showings for three buyers. I showed twelve houses in one day. Guess how many of those houses were show ready? Three. And I’m not talking about houses that are $20,000 and need TLC. I’m talking about lakefront homes and homes on large tracts of land. So what does a show-ready home look like? Here’s a list:
Prepare Your Home to Sell
- Landscaping needs to be weeded, mulched, and pruned. Make sure that bushes aren’t covering your windows. Buyers love natural light. A well pruned and weeded yard gives the impression that the house is cared for and maintained.
- Check for bee nests. So many people are allergic, and it is very unsettling to those buyers to be around an active nest. This picture is from an occupied house I recently showed. The lockbox was on this same porch!
- Speaking of front porches, make sure it is swept and the front door is freshly painted.
- Power wash the siding. It’s crazy how dirty it gets.
- Move your garbage cans to a more inconspicuous spot. We all have those necessary monstrosities, but we don’t need to see them as soon as we pull in the driveway. And while you’re at it, how about you clean up all your cigarette butts from around the back stoop, the chew filled bottles, and the smashed up beer cans laying around your patio table.
- Clean up your tools and equipment. If it doesn’t belong, put it away!
Believe me, the effort you put into these things makes a big difference. I pulled into a driveway yesterday right behind my buyer, and as soon as the house came in view, they slammed on the brakes and just sat there in awe. I knew what they were thinking because I felt it, too… an overwhelming amount of work. The yard was overgrown, the siding was covered in moss, a car was parked right by the front door, and garbage was laying everywhere. It was a disaster outside, and the inside was the same.
- Why do people paint outlet covers? That drives me insane. It hardly costs anything to change those things out. The same thing with vent covers. Why? Replace them. It looks SO much nicer.
- Fresh, neutral paint. It really cleans up a space, unless you are a horrible painter. If you are not good at painting, please hire it out. Nothing looks worse than paint roller blotches on the ceiling and trim. A painter doesn’t cost a ton of money, and it makes a huge difference.
- Organize! I understand that not everyone is a neat freak. But if you’re thinking that you can cram all that stuff that’s laying out into the closets five minutes before people show up, you can’t. This might work if you’re hosting a party because your guests won’t open those doors, but a buyer does. And what it tells the buyer is that this house is too small! Organize and edit your belongings. You will have to do all that anyways when you move, so before listing the house is the best time to do it.
- Dust your furniture, and sweep or vacuum your floors. Geez.
- Wash the windows. Consider hiring someone to come in and wash your windows and screens. I always just did it myself, but I couldn’t get to it before the party, so I hired it out. You have no idea what a difference that made! My screens and window sills were filthy. I had no idea how much until they were cleaned. My whole house glowed from the light that came through. It was an unbelievable difference.
- Fix all the little things that have bugged you, or that you’ve been putting off repairing. Make a list of your annoyances, and get it done. I had lime build up on my refrigerator’s water dispenser. I’ve tried to get it off for years, and never was successful. I did a little research, and found that toilet bowl cleaner is the best remedy. I worked on it for 20 minutes, and it finally came off. My black fridge looked brand new. That shelf that is broken? Fix it. The door knob that won’t latch? Fix it. The leaking faucet? Repair it. A buyer doesn’t want to do these things either!
My list could go on and on, but you get the idea. The main thing is to take some pride in your home. You are asking a buyer to give you their hard-earned money for your home, usually at a higher price than they want to spend. Make it worth it to them. When you go car shopping, do you want the one that sparkles inside and out, or the one that has dings, dirt, and stains? It’s the same thing with your house. Take some time BEFORE you list the house to get these things in order, and you will see more money and a quicker sale.
Now, start prepping!