Inside the house, look for things like stained ceilings, missing tile, broken windows and doors, heavily scratched floors and other signs of neglect. Outside, look for broken or missing shingles, patio pavers and tuckpointing. If you have a deck, check for cracks in floor boards and loose railings. Make a list of everything you see and then decide which things you're going to tackle. A real estate agent can be very helpful in determining what needs to be done and what doesn't.
Every homeowner has at least a couple ongoing projects that never seem to get finished. Now is the time to finish painting the guest room, install the ceiling fan you bought last summer and stain that beadboard you put up in the pantry. If painting is on your list, this collection of tips will help you finish the task with a lot less mess.
Create Curb Appeal
It's important that your home makes a good first impression. When potential buyers drive up to your home, you want them to think, 'Wow! I could live here!'
To make sure buyers want to see the inside of your home, make sure the outside is well-kept, tidy and inviting. It's important to touch-up or completely repaint trim., keep the grass cut, edge along sidewalks and paths, maintain flowers and shrubs and keep the yard tidy. You never know when curious buyers will drive by.
Resist the urge to roll your eyes at this one. It is imperative that your home looks livable. Potential buyers may not be able to see past your clutter. Think of it this way—don't move things you no longer want or need. Make decisions now and your house will sell faster and your move will be easier.
It's no secret that getting started is the hardest part of decluttering. Take one room, or even part of one room, at a time and dive in. Recycle or shred paper. Donate books, toys, clothing and duplicate household items. If you're getting frustrated and you can't deal with one more stack of papers or shoebox of old photos, put them in a plastic tub, label the tub and stack it somewhere out of the way. A stack of tubs doesn't look like clutter. For completely out-of-the-way plastic tub storage, check out this simple rack for storing tubs overhead in your garage.
Declutter Some More!
Don't overlook items on display on your shelves, tables and countertops and inside buffets and other glass-door or open-shelf cabinets. You probably don't even notice what's there, but too much clutter on and in everything can distract a buyer.
A good rule of thumb is 'Reduce by 50%.' In other words, if you have 10 things on a shelf, put away (or get rid of) 5. If there are a dozen mugs on display in the kitchen, lose 6.
One more thing: If you have a lot of personal items on display, it can make it harder for potential buyer's to imagine themselves living there. If you display items of a political or religious nature that could be off-putting to others, consider putting them in storage until you can proudly display them again in your new home.
If you decide to do some interior painting, stick to neutral colors. You've heard it before, but it's the truth. Neutrals don't distract and they allow potential buyers to imagine their things in your home. If you'd like some guidance on choosing colors, check out this collection of tips.
This may be the most important step you take toward getting your home ready to sell. For a home to live up to the 'move-in condition' description, it has to be clean.
If you already keep a clean house, simply keep up the good work, checking to make sure you don't overlook little-used closets and other nooks and crannies that aren't part of your weekly routine. This needs to be a deep cleaning.
For the rest of us, it's time to get serious. Start at the top (the attic or second-story rooms) and work your way down. Clean ceiling light fixtures first, scrub walls and woodwork and finish with floors. As you work your way from top to bottom, don't leave one area until it is completely clean and then move on. Don't drag dirt from one area back into the place you just cleaned.
Finally, don't underestimate the power of clean windows. Buyers won't walk in and think, 'Wow, clean windows!' But, freshly cleaned windows look great from the outside and with the lights on, they sparkle on the inside. And with this method, window cleaning is not all that bad.
Rearrange Your Furniture
Your furniture is arranged the way it best suits you and your family. When you're staging your home to sell, you'll need to use your furniture as marketing tools to help create inviting vignettes.
Avoid having furniture lined up along the walls. Pull the sofa away from the wall and pull chairs close to create a conversation area. Also, you may need to remove some furniture so it's easy for people to walk around in the rooms. If you've toured model homes and had the feeling you could move right in and live there, that's what you're going for.
As Andy Dwyer once said, 'Windows are the eyes to the house.' If your windows are covered with heavy drapes, flouncy curtains and/or clunky valances, take all that stuff down. You want every possible ray of natural light coming in through your windows. Most people want shades or blinds to provide privacy, with as little obstruction as possible. If you have shades with a broken lift cord, here's how to fix it.
Buy Fresh Flowers and Plants
If the weather allows, plant flowers in pots, window boxes or right in the ground to add color and pump up the curb appeal. Pay close attention to the plants, keeping them watered and trimmed.
Inside the house, fresh flowers in vases add color, life and the feeling that you, as the home seller, are putting your best foot forward. It may not matter to some buyers but others will appreciate this detail and take it as a sign that your home has been well cared for.
Create a Welcoming Entry
The potential buyer's lasting first impression takes place at the front door. Curb appeal is important, but a negative impression as a buyer steps up to and through the door could be a deal killer.
Be sure the steps and/or walkway up to the front door are in good repair with no big cracks or overgrown weeds. Check that the door (and storm/screen door, if you have one) is in good shape and is working properly. Also, check the lock. You don't want the real estate agent to fumble trying to open the door. Check the threshold to make sure it's clean and in good repair. Replace any dangling or loose weather stripping.
And finally, put a wreath on it. Hokey or not, a simple wreath on the front door is an inviting and welcoming sign of good thing to come inside.