Walk out to the street and look at your house. Note anything you see that looks in need of attention. Have a friend do the same. Then go to where the buyer will likely park and walk to the front door. Note anything you see along the route that buyers will be taking to your front door.
- Grass should be freshly cut as frequently as possible.
- Be sure edges are sharp.
- Keep mulch fresh by raking/turning it as needed.
- Remove dead annuals and cut back spent perennials.
- Take out dead shrubs and trees.
- Keep shrubs neatly trimmed.
- Add as much color as possible. Potted flowers are an alternative to planting in beds.
- Be sure house is clean. Remove all dirt/mold from siding and trim. If you elect to pressure wash siding, be prepared to clean windows afterwards.
- Closely examine all wood surfaces such as trim, soffits and railing spindles. Be sure the wood surfaces are adequately painted and do not show any signs of rot.
- Consider neutralizing if the shutters and/or front door are an unusual color or do not match.
- Remove all dirt, mold and stains from walkways, driveways, foundation and basement walk-ups. Pressure washing is the best option for this job.
Buyers notice everything around the entryway because they are standing around while the agent opens the lockbox and unlocks the door. This is part of the critical first impression opportunity.
- Enhance the front porch with one or two potted plants.
- If the porch is large, consider adding a chair or bench.
- In addition to the porch surface and siding being clean, check the corners around the front door frame and the under surface of the porch roof.
- If there is a railing, make sure it looks freshly painted.
- Clean light fixtures.
- Front door should look freshly painted and clean with a clean and secure door knob.
- Be sure the entrance doesn’t feel hidden, dark or secluded. If there’s a large evergreen blocking the front porch from the street, take it out. Buyers will notice if the entryway does not feel safe and secure.
- Replace a worn or stained welcome mat.
This room is one of the most important in the house. The kitchen is the center of the house and buyers expect a great deal from this room so think spotless and sparkle. You probably have more clutter in this room than you realize, so you will need to work extra hard to get it ready and keep it that way.
- Stow all countertop appliances that do not get used every day. Be sure those that remain are clean. Move them to places were the cord can be hidden behind the appliance unit.
- Cleanliness is critical. Pay close attention to the sink, appliance faces and handles, the stove top, and the inside of the oven, dishwasher, microwave and refrigerator.
- Store all soaps, sponges, towels and rags. The kitchen should appear unused like a model home.
- Clean out the refrigerator so it does not look overloaded.
- If you have an electric range, be sure the burner units are level and operational.
- There should be nothing hanging or taped to the refrigerator.
- Store the mail piles, bulletin boards, kids’ homework and everything else that isn’t part of the basic cooking and eating functions.
- If you are a short on cabinet space, consider storing some items so the cabinets have some empty space.
- Be sure the kitchen table and chairs are not too big for the room; they will make the room feel too small and interfere with the traffic flow in the room.
- Consider having fresh flowers or a large bowl of fruit in the center of the room (possibly on table or island).
If you spend money on any upgrades to sell your home, the kitchen and baths are likely to bring the best payoff. Here are some suggestions:
- Hang plush towels on the towel rack. Replace them if needed. Match them to the area rugs. Go with a light neutral color if the bath is painted a darker color.
- Roll some plush towels and place them on the edge of the tub and/or on the counter next to the sinks to create a spa-like feel.
- Store all soaps, toothbrushes, razors, washcloths, etc. The baths should show like they have never been used. Everyone should have a bucket or plastic bin so they can break out their personal items when needed and store them easily when finished.
- Pay close attention to glass shower doors. This glass needs to look brand new so the shower looks unused.
- Bleach all discolored grout and, if it can’t be whitened, consider a top coat of grout. Do the same for caulking.
- Look out for toothpaste in the kids’ sinks and stow the bath toys.
- Replace worn or nasty-looking toilet seats. They’re cheap!
- Many manufacturers now offer stainless faces on even their lower priced appliance lines. If your appliances are dated of mismatched, this will be a valuable upgrade.
- Cabinet replacement can expensive, but poor cabinets really hurt a sale. Alternatives to full replacement are re-facing (pulling the face and doors off but retaining the structure and interior cabinetry) or painting/staining the existing cabinets.
- You can also add some pulls/handles to plain cabinets to spruce them up.
- If the flooring is laminate or outdated, upgrading it can really make a difference. While nice tile or hardwoods are best, there are synthetic materials that are less expensive but will still modernize the room.
- Bath fixtures are inexpensive, so consider some replacement here (stay away from 1970’s brass look).
- If a bath or shower is outdated or hard to get sparkling clean, companies like Bath Fitters can “wrap” or resurface the shower/tub area.
People spend the most time in their family room (or living room if there is no family room), which is even more true for families. Buyers want to envision relaxing, watching TV and entertaining.
- Arrange the furniture for both conversation and watching television.
- Be sure there is not too much furniture in the room because it will make the room feel small. Remove pieces that are unnecessary or too big. Maximize “openness” and size.
- If furniture is worn out, try a slip cover or consider renting furniture.
- Remove knickknacks and clutter. Don’t forget the mantle.
- Arrange furniture so the room feels large and open. Avoid creating a “box” effect with long couches and tables.
- Remove unnecessary furniture so rooms feel as large as possible.
- Clear off side tables. Put magazines, books, glasses, remotes, etc. in a cabinet or get a small container and stow them under the bed.
- Make the beds look plush. If bedding is getting a bit shabby, replace it. Inexpensive bedding is available at discount stores and can still look great.
- Clean out closets to the point that hanging clothes barely touch each other. Do not use the floors for storage except shoes. These things will need to be packed anyway, so do it now.
- Kids rooms. Do not make everyone miserable by holding these rooms to the same standard as the rest of the house. Size is most important so remove unnecessary furniture and toys so the rooms feel big. Otherwise, just de-clutter as much as you can and keep them neat. But, there’s no need for these rooms to be perfect.
- Remove all personal photos (vacations, weddings, family, etc.). They distract buyers from the house.
- The house must show bright at all times. Open shutters, shades and blinds, pull back drapes and turn on all lights. Replace low wattage bulbs with brighter bulbs.
- Adding a large plant to every room (real or artificial) helps to give each room an important focal point.
- Store all trash cans inside closets or cabinets (especially baths and kitchen).
- Repair minor defects such as nail pops and loose railings.
- Paint over any water stains. Even old leaks will concern buyers and home inspectors.
- If you have pets, centralize all litter boxes, beds, cages, etc. in one place such as the basement or laundry room. They create more odor than you realize.
- Do not use the garage to store everything you needed to get out of the house. Garage sizes are getting larger and you don’t want yours to show small or cluttered. Same goes for unfinished basements and storage areas.
- Laundry room. Remove everything that is not used on a routine basis. Make sure the washer and dryer are clean and appear in good condition. Be sure the area is neat.
- If there is a rough-in in an unfinished basement, be sure it’s visible and readily accessible to buyers so they know it’s there.