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Over the past ten years, I have sold five of our personal properties.  All sold quickly!  Four of these in less than a month.  What is the secret?  I know how to price, market, and most importantly how to get a home “show ready.”

So how do you do this if you struggle with clutter, love your things, or live in a house too small for you and your family?  I always advise clients to pretend they are going to have a party with very important guests.  It is amazing what you see when you walk through your house with this in mind.  You will start to notice areas of your home that may need help.

Here are a few tips and rules that I use with my homes:

1. Work on curb appeal, it is very important!  No one will want to see the inside of your home unless it appears attractive and cared for from the street.  Mow your yard weekly, trim bushes, edge the yard and plant flowers in the beds and planters.  Buy mature bedding plants in baskets or containers for instant pop instead of young plants in trays.  Add fresh pine straw – it spruces up a yard in a second!  A favorite motto of mine is “More people will ride by your home than will ever come inside.”  What impression does the outside of your property convey about what shape inside might be?

2. Pressure wash walkways, decks, patios, concrete around pools and driveways.

3. Throw out old door mats and replace with new.  Shine door knockers and hardware.  Refresh paint or varnish on the front door if faded.  Make sure your front door  works properly!  I would bet that 6 out of 10 doors that Realtors attempt to open, don’t do so correctly.  If the problem is a sticky lock,  WD-40 works wonders and/or have a new key cut that works.  It does not make a good first impression when we have to struggle with a key that won’t turn or a door that sticks!  Most homeowners don’t use their front doors so this often goes unnoticed.

4. Clean out the clutter!  Clean out the Clutter!  Clean out the clutter!  Box up extra knickknacks , family photos, and store in the attic, garage, or rent a storage unit.  Move extra furniture out now!  Today’s buyers love the clean lines of the “Pottery Barn” look.  Depersonalize  your home.  A buyer needs to envision a home as theirs.  Imagining their furniture and possessions in a house with rooms and walls full of family photos is hard to do and buyers do not need to be distracted.  A few photos are fine.  I never pack up all of ours when selling a home but remember “less is better.”

5. Clean ceiling fans and wash windows.

6. Take down outdated wallpaper and paint.  Bold colors are out of style; the new looks are neutrals such as beiges, whites, and greys. Paint is inexpensive and makes a huge difference.  New paint also helps with odors as well.

7. Replace tired houseplants with new. Fresh new plants add to a bathroom or living space.

8. Clean out closets, cabinets and drawers.  And yes buyers will open these, especially in the kitchen so these areas need to look organized.  Buyers don’t like homes that feel crowded or cramped. (See tip #4)

9. Keep your kitchen and bath counters clean and uncluttered.  Put up bottles, medicines, food items, etc.

10. Have your carpet professionally cleaned or replaced if needed.  Try to vacuum if possible before each showing.

11. Pet and cigarette odors – WOW, nothing turns off a buyer faster than these two!  We all have pets and we love them, but a smelly house does not show well.  The truth is we are accustomed to the smells in our homes but notice odors in other homes.  Have a friend with a good nose come over and see if they notice any unpleasant odors.  PS. Candles do not cover up odors, they just make buyers wonder what you are trying to hide.

12. Make sure all light bulbs are working in light fixtures and lamps.

13. Make any repairs that you know about in advance.  They will come up later in the home inspection!  Peeling paint, rotten wood, double insulated windows with broken seals etc. all need to be addressed before you offer your home for sale.  I always do this in advance and yes it does mean spending money that I don’t want to but it pays off in the end.

14. Pay special attention to bathrooms.  Clean grout in showers and around tubs.  Stained grout in showers or floors can make the whole room look dirty.  Clorox can work miracles but sometimes grout and caulk need extra help.  Grout pens are available at your local hardware or home store.  Old tubs can be re-glazed for about $250 and will look brand new.

15. Keep your home clean while on the market.  Make beds, pick up toys, laundry, etc.

16. Take down any light fixtures,  drapes, mirrors or other objects that you are taking with you.  Or prepare your mind and heart to part with them.  If you love them and it makes a room look good the buyers will love them too.  I can’t tell you how many times buyers and sellers lose sight of the objective (the house) and argue over decorative items.  You are selling your home – not your personal property.  Move it out!

Preparing and keeping your home ready to show can be tedious and sometimes not pleasant.  No one ever said that selling a home is fun but remember this will not last forever and the more you do – the faster it will sell!  A little effort goes a long way.  Houses that are exceptionally clean, staged well and priced right still move quickly in any market!