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How to Prepare a House for Sale

How to Prepare a House for Sale

When you’re getting ready to put your house on the market, there are a few important areas to think about before you put the for sale sign up in the yard. Buyers and their agents will often look for specific things before making an offer on a home.

It might feel overwhelming to prepare a house for sale, but it can make a big difference. By taking care of certain tasks before your showings start, you can increase the chances of getting offers and more value out of your house.

  1. Pay Attention to the Roof

    Another important part of your home prep is taking a closer look at the roof. Even the best upgrades inside won’t convince a buyer if you have a structural issue like a leaky or damaged roof. If your roof has noticeable wear and tear or missing shingles, it’s probably worth getting an estimate for replacement. If the cost is more than you can afford, consider offering credit to any buyer who makes an offer.

    Choosing to replace the roof before you put the house up for sale can instill more confidence in a buyer. It’s appealing to buy a house that won’t need an expensive repair right away. When an appraiser looks at your home, he or she will look at the roof. If any potential buyers are planning to finance the house purchase with a VA or FHA loan, the appraiser might require a roof replacement as a condition of the financing.

  2. Improve Your Landscaping

    From the moment a potential buyer arrives at your home, the first impression will happen when he or she sees the outside. This means the landscaping of your front yard should look great. Landscape design can add up to 20 percent of value to your home. Overgrown garden with lots of weeds or patchy areas of your lawn isn’t appealing. A buyer will often think of how much it will cost to fix the landscaping. In fact, a lousy yard could deter someone from putting in an offer.

    If your landscaping has seen better days, take some time to improve it before you list. Clear out any dead branches and prune the bushes, so they look well-maintained. Get rid of weeds in the grass and the flowerbeds. The next step is adding flowers and other plants that help brighten the property. Don’t forget to bring in mulch to improve the quality of the ground. A well-manicured lawn with shrubs and trees will add to the curb appeal, so it’s worth the time and investment.

  3. Make the House Inviting

    Your house should look and feel inviting to anyone who comes to see it. Curb appeal is essential, but landscaping isn’t the only way to improve it. Bring in a real estate agent to look at the outside from a new perspective. He or she can tell you what needs to be done to make the house look more inviting. Use a power washer to clean the siding of the house. It’s easy to rent a power washer or other necessary exterior home tool for a short time. Add a fresh coat of paint to the front door.

    If you neglect the outside of your house, buyers might think you don’t care as much about it. Even if you do maintain the inside well, some buyers may not make it through the front door if the home doesn’t feel very appealing from the street. Your house should also be easy to find. If the numbers are wearing out, pick up a new set of house numbers to put on the outside for better visibility. Painting your door can also add to the appeal.

  4. Prepare the Flooring

    The flooring in your house is another important thing to consider. When someone first walks inside, he or she will notice the floors first. Worn-out flooring can make the rest of the house look outdated, which means buyers may not make it too far past the first phase of looking. Replacing the floors may not be the only option; look at ways you can breathe new life into the flooring you have. A steam-cleaning machine can freshen up vinyl or laminate. A carpet cleaner can get stains out of plush flooring and make it look like new again.

    If the flooring is in terrible shape, consider replacing it. A flooring upgrade doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Wood plank tiles and laminate options look nice but don’t cost nearly as much as other styles of flooring. New carpeting will also offer that appealing smell, which can make a buyer more interested.

  5. Paint Neutral Colors

    For some buyers, it’s impossible to look past certain cosmetic aspects of a house they don’t like. One of these things is the colors of the walls. Although it may not seem like a deal-breaker, a bright paint color could deter someone from even coming to look at your house. When buyers walk into a home, they want to envision their stuff on the walls. Family photos, art, and other mementos are harder to picture on a bright wall.

    Go through your home and take a closer look at the walls. Even if you love that bold red shade in the kitchen or bright pink in your daughter’s room, someone else might not. Repaint with neutral colors to make space feel appealing to a broader audience. You don’t want to rule someone out as a buyer just because he or she can’t get past the wall colors you chose. Adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls will also be a good selling point, so it’s worth the time and money.

  6. Remove Clutter

    Do you have parts of your home that feel a bit like an episode of “Hoarders”? Cluttered storage spaces and rooms will make your house feel a lot smaller than it is. When buyers come to the house, one of the major things many are looking for is how much storage space is available. People have a lot of possessions, and they need a place to put away items that aren’t always in use, such as decorations and seasonal items. When the storage feels limited, buyers will probably walk away.

    It’s also hard to picture yourself in a home when it’s crammed with things. Too much furniture, a bunch of decorations, and piles of items that don’t have a place to go will all be deterrents for buyers. Clear out the clutter and make your home look more neutral. This allows potential buyers to envision themselves living there, instead of feeling like they’re invading your personal space. It’s smart to rent a storage unit to store extra belongings while your home is on the market.

  7. Make the Home Energy-Efficient

    Energy efficiency is another big selling point for potential buyers, especially those who care about their impact on the environmental. Even those who want to save money on heating and cooling will appreciate any efficiency upgrades. If you have money to put into the house, consider replacing older appliances with energy-efficient models. You could also consider upgrading the HVAC system, which would be appealing to most buyers. A smart thermostat can produce big energy savings.

    If you don’t have money for big upgrades, do a few things to step up efficiency. The typical homeowner spends an average of $2,000 each year on energy bills according to the U.S. Department of Energy, so even small upgrades can make a big difference. Weatherstripping is inexpensive, and placing it around windows and doors could eliminate some drafts.

    You could also have an HVAC technician perform an energy audit. This involves looking at every aspect of the HVAC system to figure out how much energy is used for heating and cooling and where you could make improvements for efficiency. According to the National Association of Home Builders, home buyers will pay, on average, an extra $10,732 for a home to save $1,000 a year in utility costs.

  8. Focus on the Kitchen

    The kitchen is one of the first rooms buyers will look at when viewing your home’s listing online. Most families spend a good chunk of their time in the kitchen. Between meal prep, homework at the table, and planning out the upcoming week, the kitchen becomes a base camp for just about everyone in the house. An outdated, unappealing kitchen can turn off potential buyers before they even come to your home.

    Even minor remodeling jobs in the kitchen can bring high returns on investment. If you have more money to spend, consider replacing the cabinets and countertops for an all-new look. For smaller budgets, installing a backsplash or using wood oil to revive the cabinetry can make a big difference. Even a small change, such as new countertops, could be enough to entice a buyer. When you have cheap, standard hardware on your cabinets and drawers, you could swap these parts out for upgraded pulls.

    A dark kitchen could also be a deterrent, especially for someone who likes bright spaces. Dark wood cabinets can be restained or painted. Update dark flooring and countertops with lighter, more neutral options. These small changes can brighten up the kitchen and make it seem bigger at the same time.

  9. Spruce Up the Bathroom

    Along with the kitchen, the bathrooms are up there on the priority list for a buyer. Small upgrades are easy to do and won’t cost a lot. For example, if you have tile on the floors or in the showers, rent a steam cleaner to remove dirt and eliminate stains. Replace the grout, which is notoriously hard to get clean. Replacing the toilet with a sparkling new unit or upgrading to a rainfall showerhead can also create a more inviting feel in your bathroom.

    If you have cracks or water damage in the bathroom walls, now is the time to repair these issues. Any sign of water damage could scare a buyer away. Many bathrooms have low-end light fixtures with bare bulbs that cast a harsh light on the space. Upgrading your fixtures could cost less than $100 but offer a high return on the investment.

  10. Eliminate Smells

    When someone walks into your home, the smell inside is important. Unpleasant odors are hard to get past, so spend some time getting rid of anything that might cause a bad smell. If you have cats in your home, your real estate agent has probably already mentioned that their stuff should be taken out or hidden before showings. Buyers with allergies or who dislike these animals may not make an offer if they know cats live in the house. The litter box should also be taken out or cleaned well before a showing.

    The same goes for dogs, which can create odors that you get used to when you share your home with a beloved pooch. Take them with you when you leave the house or put them in their crates outside. Use air freshening products that are light and appealing, such as sprays with citrus or lavender. You could also bake a batch of cookies to make your home smell that much better.

    Avoid heavy smells that might cause allergies to flare up. Stick to natural scent-boosters. One good option is a known real-estate agent trick: fill a pot with water, a sliced lemon, a tablespoon of vanilla extract, and a few sprigs of rosemary. Simmer the concoction on low heat to create a delicious and inviting smell throughout the house.


These upgrades can help boost the resale value of your house while making it look more appealing to a potential buyer. However, any major physical problems with the house must be disclosed to the buyer by law. Instead of trying to avoid being upfront and honest with your buyer, take some time to fix up your house before you put it up for sale. Consider hiring an inspector to make a list of things that should be repaired. Taking these steps before you list your home could help save a lot of time and trouble.

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