Everyone, including your friends have suggestions for what to do to prepare your home for sale. While relatives and friends mean well, they often have no clue as to what motivates a buyer to purchase your home. The advice runs from the mundane, “don’t do a thing, it’s perfect” to “you’ve got to rebuild that deck and re-carpet the whole house”. From the low-cost do-nothing option to the high cost “rebuild the whole house from the ground up” option. Television shows like “Brother vs Brother” will advocate that your home will only sell for $400,000.00 in the current market but, if you invest $75,000.00 to reformat your whole first floor, you will magically make your home worth $525,000.00. Wham, you make $50,000.00. My advice; don’t bet on it.

While this can happen from time to time with sophisticated investors and savvy speculators, it is often an exercise in futility for the average homeowner. Having said that, there are things that you can do to incent a buyer to make an offer on your home.

First impressions are truly important in selling anything, including yourself, but critical when folks are considering buying a home. I can’t tell you how many times I have shown a home and the yard, shrub beds, plants, trees, and everything else in the yard is overgrown. No trimming not mowed and just plain ugly. As an experienced real estate broker, I evaluate the potential sales value of the home by observing market conditions and its overall condition. If the home is in excellent condition, staged and freshly painted it will sell for a higher amount than the home next door that needs repair and cosmetic work. Buying a home is an emotional purchase. Most buyers will be less interested and less motivated to make an offer if they think the home needs too much work including mere cosmetics. Investors will look for the run-down home in a good area because they know the value of a appealing and well maintained property.

1.  The first and foremost thing to do is, clean up the front and back yards by removing excess debris, cutting back bushes and trees that are overgrown as well as planting some bright colored flowers in some new bark dust. I often recommend that a client hire a landscape crew to do an initial cleaning of the shrub beds, trimming of overgrown shrubs and installing fresh bark dust. It goes without saying that watering the lawn and trimming it weekly shows that the homeowner cares and takes care of the home.

2. Second, declutter! Make sure that all the wonderful stuff you collected over the years is stowed away and, if there is too much sold or moved to an off-site storage facility. No buyer wants to walk through a home and not be able to envision themselves and their families living there. If all the walls are covered with photos, pictures and Elvis crushed velour tapestries the buyer will be distracted and not be able to feel comfortable in the home. Again, investors love to see this because they can hire low cost crews to haul it all to the dump knowing that removing it and repainting the walls increases the value and price of the home.

3. Ensure that every room in the home has a clear and defined purpose. Its not uncommon to see a bedroom that serves as an office and an exercise room stuffed with a bed, desk and various treadmills and stationary bicycles. This recommendation goes hand in hand with decluttering. The treadmill and stationary bicycle probably should be removed along with the desk to define the room as a bedroom.

4. Clean the walls of clutter and repaint with a neutral color so that its is fresh and clean appearing. If the paint is in good shape and acceptable make sure it is clean and touched up so that the appearance is acceptable. Check the ceilings too. Often, ceilings are not repainted and will be left with a dingy off-white appearance. The cleaner, sharper and more up to date or “on trend” the interior looks, the better chance folks viewing the home will be impressed and motivated to make an offer.

5. Check out the flooring and make sure that it is clean and in good repair. You don’t have to replace carpets and refinish hardwoods to sell the home but, it might be advisable to have them professionally cleaned and repaired if replacement is out of the question. Again, buyers will evaluate the home based upon their personal preference and how much they believe they will have to invest to get the home up to their standards. If its clean and fresh it is more appealing.

6. Take a good hard look at the kitchen. It is often said that kitchens sell homes. In my experience this is true. If the kitchen counters are cluttered and surfaces are dirty or in need of repair, it might be a good idea to declutter and repair or replace counter surfaces as needed. In addition, take a good hard look at the cabinets and the general appearance of appliances. If the kitchen is bright, clean and in good repair the prospective buyer can see themselves cooking and serving dinner to their loved ones in that kitchen. To the extent it is unappealing, the opposite is true.

7. Take a good look at the bathroom(s) and make sure the are clean and freshened up. Common issues I have seen are simple to fix but often ignored. Replacing the caulking around the rim of the bath tub with bright and clean white caulking makes the tub and surround look like the buyer could use it. Again, counter surfaces, walls and ceilings should appear decluttered, clean and in good repair. You don’t have to remodel the whole bathroom, but it might surprise you to see some of the bathrooms I have seen while showing homes and wonder what the seller was thinking.

8. Observe the bedrooms and make sure they are well defined as bedrooms. Make sure the toys, miscellaneous books, furniture and other collectable stuff (just kidding) is stowed away and your able to walk through it without tripping and wondering how anyone could sleep here. I’ve seen real estate photos of bedrooms where there is actually somebody sleeping in the bed while the photos were being taken.

9. Walk through and note any small or obvious problems that need repair. If possible and within your budget or expertise, fix them. Believe me, people walking through the home are looking for these items too. Cracks along the ceiling, nail pops (areas where the sheet rock nail has backed out and causes a small lump in the sheetrock), missing trim, open electrical switches or worse, wires uncapped hanging out of electrical boxes.

10. Have a good talk with yourself and your partner about what happens if, and when, the home sells. Amazingly, I have had clients who did not have a clue and when it came time to move still had no idea where they were going. This is an emotional decision and your emotions will be moving up and down through the selling process. That’s one of the values a seasoned and trustworthy broker can be worth more than the commission. They can and should help you with these decisions if you are willing to listen and value their input.

Finally, there are many more things to consider in preparing to sell your home, but these broad areas will help you focus and get the home to sell. One of the last things to consider is the price you plan on setting to sell. Far too many people will read the newspapers and see that “the market is good” and want to set the price high. I get it and understand why however, what usually happens is the home sits, get few tours and chases the market down to a point where buyers who are interested and tracking see it as a value. The better strategy, in my opinion is to price the home right and hopefully obtain multiple offers from which the highest and best can be selected.