21 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Selling

Don't just list it without any advance preparation. A few minor touch-ups can go a long way toward making a favorable impression on potential buyers — and perhaps cinching a deal.

"Put your buyer's hat on and walk thru your home like it is the first time," says Marilou Young, an Accredited Staging Professional and an Associate Broker with Virtual Properties Realty in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

"Make notes on what you, as a buyer, would notice," Young advises, "and then repair or replace those items."

Some of her top recommendations include getting rid of clutter, hiding family photos, cleaning out closets, removing excess or oversized furniture, and cleaning.

These tips from Trulia are among the 21 top ways to prepare your home for a sale. Let's look at the others:

  1. Clean, clean, clean. Dust on top of the fireplace mantle and fan blades, polish your appliances and faucets, and give the windows a thorough washing. If you've already moved out or if you're too busy to stay on top of things, consider hiring a cleaning service to stop by every couple of weeks.
  2. Pay attention to smells. "Don't cook bacon in your home the day of a showing," advises Rachel Weinberg, a broker at Wright Kingdom Real Estate in Boulder, Colorado. "Although it might taste great, the smell is strong and lingers for a long time. You don't want your home to smell like a fast food restaurant!"
  3. Clear out the clutter. You want buyers to focus on how awesome your space is, not how messy it looks. Banish that piles of shoes from the entry, that stack of mail from the kitchen table and anything else that detracts from your home's gorgeous features.
  4. Repaint the walls neutral colors. As much as you love your dramatic red dining room, it could turn off a good portion of your buyers. So repaint your rooms in neutral tones like tans and whites that allow buyers to focus on the spaces themselves, not the color of the walls.
  5. Keep the décor simple. To help buyers imagine themselves in your space, get rid of any art or other décor that might turn off people with different tastes. A classic landscape painting? Totally fine. Your zebra print leather couch? Might want to slipcover that for showings.
  6. Get rid of personal items. Buyers want to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove anything overly personal, like family photos in the hallway or your kids' artwork on the fridge.
  7. Let there be light! Open up all the windows to let in natural light and add floor or table lamps to areas that are dim. A bright, cheery room looks bigger and more inviting.
  8. Bring nature inside. Potted plants or a few pretty buds in a vase can help bring energy into a space, fill in empty corners and even draw attention to features you want buyers to notice. Just make sure the plants are in good health (and bug-free!).
  9. Get rid of bulky furniture. Your furniture should fit the scale of the room, so get rid of any extra or oversized items that could make your space look smaller than it really is.
  10. Organize your closets. Storage space is a huge selling point, and if your closets are stuffed to the brim, buyers will think you don't have enough of it. Invest in some boxes, dividers and other solutions that will help you make your stuff look more organized, and remove extra items you don't need immediately (you can stow them away until you move).
  11. Tackle that honey-do list. All those little things you've been meaning to do but never got around to? Buyers will notice them, and they'll detract from the value of your home. So set aside a weekend to tighten those loose doorknobs, fix that leaky faucet and paint over the scuffs from when you first moved in your sofa.
  12. Do a faux "renovation." Little tweaks can make a big difference in the overall feel of a room. Kitchen a little outdated? Replace the fixtures, faucets and hinges. Family room furniture beaten up? Throw some slipcovers over it.
  13. Give each room a purpose. That spare room you've been using as an office / guest room /dumping ground won't help sell your home unless you show buyers how they can use it themselves. So pick a use (office, guest room, crafts room) and clearly stage the space to showcase that purpose.
  14. Turn the bathroom into a spa. Create the feel of a relaxing, luxurious bath — for less than $30. Stack a few pretty washcloths tied with ribbon, add some scented candles and faux plants, and buy bathmats and towels in coordinating tones such as light green, blue and white.
  15. Close the toilet! When it comes to both showing and photographing your home, this little trick can make a surprising difference.
  16. Turn the living room into conversation central. Help buyers picture themselves relaxing with family and guests by grouping your furniture into arrangements that inspire conversation.
  17. Keep the flow going. The last thing you want is people bumping into furniture as they tour your home; it disrupts their focus and makes your space look cramped. Do a dry run as though you're seeing your home for the first time and tweak anything that interrupts the "flow."
  18. Make something yummy. Realtors don't put out fresh cookies at open houses just to treat buyers; a "homey" smell like baking cookies or bread can help people connect with a kitchen. Not a baker? Fake it with a scented candle.
  19. Make it look "lived in" with vignettes. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by adding deliberate vignettes that showcase how your home can be lived in. An inviting armchair and a tray with a coffee cup and book can turn that empty corner into a reading nook. Pretty soaps in a decorative tray can make your tiny half-bath more appealing.
  20. Highlight focal points. Draw buyers' eyes toward any special features with bright colors or accents like plants. A pop of red throw pillows can draw a buyer's attention to that lovely window seat. A striking fern on the mantle can show off your fireplace.
  21. Boost the curb appeal. Don't spend all your time indoors. More than one buyer has decided not to even enter a home based on its curb appeal, so make sure your home's exterior looks excellent. Trim your shrubs, weed your flower beds, fix any peeling paint and keep the walkway clear. Just adding a row of potted plants along the walkway or a cheerful wreath to your front door can make a big difference.

The final tip is a critical one, says Young. If her clients are on a tight budget, she'll recommend that they at least spruce-up the front entrance. That first impression, she says, goes a long way.

Kimberly Ehardt, a firefighter in Austin, Texas, agrees. She's in the process of shopping for her first home, and she says she spends a lot of time viewing houses from the outside.

She and her agent will often meet at a house (rather than drive there together), she says. If she reaches the property before her agent arrives, she's left standing outside for several minutes — with nothing else to do but scrutinize the exterior.

"Before I go inside the house," she says, "I have a strong feeling about it."

This article 21 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Selling originally appeared on Trulia Tips.

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