Preparing Your Home for Sale

Preparing your home to show is not a matter of taste, but of strategy:

Is there anything that might be done that would result
in making you more money?

Regardless of current market conditions, it has been shown time and time again that a well-prepared home will sell for a higher price and in less time than unprepared properties.

Many items that may be done cost comparatively little, and yet may dramatically enhance market response and value. However, from basic cleaning to full staging, anything that appears likely to add significantly more value (in achieved sales price) than what it costs to perform is worth your consideration.

Remember that most buyers and agents have little imagination: If a property looks appealing, they respond well, and if it doesn’t, they simply walk away without even thinking of simple remedies.

The options below range from items that every seller should undertake or at least seriously consider – because the return on investment is so clear – to options that may or may not apply to specific properties or make sense to specific sellers.


  • Thorough, professional cleaning of the entire house, including carpets, hardwood floors and windows. The kitchen and bathrooms, in particular, should look pristine for all showings.
  • Fresh interior paint, especially of main rooms, with light, neutral colors. Perhaps the best investment a seller can make.
  • Flower boxes for steps, walkways, patio, deck and/or exterior windows: it is incredible the effect this makes on buyers and the value this can add.
  • Remove clutter from shelves, tables, counters and desk tops, closets, refrigerator, bathroom cabinets, garage, basement and attic.
  • Remove unneeded or unattractive furniture to open up the room and make it appear larger.
  • Set the dining room table as if for an elegant dinner party.
  • Maximize light and enhance views as possible: new lamps, brighter light bulbs, adjustments to drapes and blinds, tree trimming. Minimize unpleasant views with decorative screens, window treatments or glazed windows.
  • Change the use of rooms to enhance value—for example, from child’s bedroom to adult’s bedroom, exercise room to media room or office, recreation room to den/library, basement to workshop.
  • Replace selected pieces of furniture or area carpets.
  • Fully stage selected main rooms, such as living room, formal dining room and master bedroom—a less expensive alternative to staging the entire house.
  • If necessary, consider wholesale carpet replacement, or the addition of area rugs. If there is hardwood flooring under carpeting, consider carpet removal and floor refinishing. Purchase new doormats and carpet runners.
  • Stage back patio, terrace or deck to look inviting; power wash or re-stain decks.
  • Stage the fireplace, bookshelves, hutches, coffee tables and end tables.
  • Order pre-sale pest and contractor inspections: remedy specific deficiencies as reasonable and cost effective. Get estimates for those major repairs you will not be undertaking. (Reports and estimates will be provided to prospective buyers.)
  • Make miscellaneous small repairs, especially those that improve appearance: replace broken windows and old light-switch plates, fix leaky faucets, touch-up paint.
  • Yard, lawn and garden work: weed, plant flowers, mow, trim shrubs and hedges; if necessary, re-sod lawn.
  • Fresh exterior painting, especially of the front of house, front door and/or front fence.
  • Re-glaze sinks and bathtubs; fresh grout in bathrooms.
  • Make pet arrangements for showing times and open houses; if possible, relocate pets for duration of showing period. Hide litter boxes and pet beds.
  • Have your home photographed by a professional real estate photographer once preparations are completed. The vast majority of potential buyers will first see your home through its photographs, and then decide whether to come see it in person.
  • To consider, if feasible: moving out for first week or two of intensive showing—sometimes sensible for Sellers with young children.

You might consider hiring a staging consultant, whose entire experience and only job is to help sellers identify options to enhance value.

“A study found that staged houses sold in half the time as unstaged homes and…on average almost 5% more than the sales price for unstaged homes.
The Week