Photo by Home Estaging

Update: The economic downturn has had a severe effect on the housing market. Selling houses is much harder than it used to be as people are reluctant to move in an uncertain economy and buyers are much more cautious with their money. That’s why putting your home up for sale isn’t a guarantee that it will sell quickly and for a good price. It’s a buyer’s market, so vendors need to make sure their home stands out from the others. Before putting up that for sale sign in front of your home, there is work you need to do to get your property ready.

To find out more you can also read our complete guide to home staging.

To sell your home fast and for the highest price, you can take many steps to make it appealing and inviting to prospective buyers. You will have to decide what your home needs and what it doesn’t. Also ask your real estate agent, if you hire one, about dressing up your home for a faster sale. On the outside of your home, consider the following improvements to sell your home faster and for a higher price.

  • Your landscaping and the lawn needs to be in good shape. If you don’t have time, hire a gardener. Invest in annual flowers and other plants to brighten up the place. Low-voltage lighting can also add charm for a minimum cost, and most buyers will look at your home at night before making an offer.
  • The mailbox, street number, and exterior lighting should all be clean and functional at a minimum, but upgrading these items will improve the appearance of your home.
  • The front door and exterior of the house should be painted if they look weathered.
  • Gutters and the roof have a big impact on the appearance of your home, but unfortunately, at $5,000 to $15,000, these expensive updates won’t provide much of a payback if you replace them in order to sell your home.
  • Fences should be in good repair and painted/stained if needed. If they are in poor condition, consider replacing them.

On the inside of your home, consider the following improvements to make your home more appealing to potential buyers.

  • Minimize family photos and religious or cultural items on display. You want the people viewing your home to imagine that the home is theirs as soon as they walk in the door. All of your personal items will just remind them it is someone else’s house. You will need to pack these items away when you move anyway, so do it sooner and sell your home faster and for a higher price. Other places to start your packing early are closets, attic, basement, and garage. A home with a few, neat items stored in these areas invites buyers to be impressed with the large amount of available storage and envision how they could use all this space. Full storage areas don’t appear very large and don’t help would-be buyers imagine how they could use the space. These areas are often the easiest to pack and move anyway. Often, they are full of boxes still packed from your last move, seasonal clothes, or decorations. Pack these items and move them out!
  • Visible cracks and damage in the walls, windows, floors, and other surfaces should be repaired. Potential Contractor Selection Workbookbuyers will typically spend only a few minutes walking through your home. They want to put it quickly on the list of possible homes they may purchase or ones they are not interested in. Seeing a few cracks here and there in the drywall or windows will quickly eliminate your home from consideration for many buyers. Only buyers looking for a fixer-upper will be interested in your home, and they won’t offer you top dollar.
  • Windows and doors should all operate smoothly and be easy to open and close. All the locks should be working. An inexpensive way to dress up your home is to change the interior doors and doorknobs if the existing ones are damaged or outdated. In most areas, for as little as $200, you can purchase a new door cut to match your existing door. Spend another $20 for a lock set, and you have a brand new stylish door.
  • Clean, clean, clean. Windows, walls, floors, kitchen, bathrooms, everything should be clean all the time. You want prospective buyers to have access to your home whenever they want, so assume that would-be buyers will be dropping by anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Keep the rooms picked up and clean; dust and vacuum regularly. (You may like the way your house looks when it’s always organized and clean enough to keep up this tidiness after you move!) You may wish to hire a professional cleaning service to do a thorough cleaning initially.
  • Have all appliances, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, and light fixtures in good working order. If one light switch doesn’t turn on a light, one ceiling fan doesn’t work, or one sink leaks, buyers will imagine ten other things that need to be repaired. They will decline to make an offer or lower the offer by $3,000 just to reserve enough cash to fix the items they discover.

  • Bathrooms should have no smells, no mildew, and no discolorations on any fixture (tub, shower, sink, or toilet). Toilet seats and faucets are inexpensive and fast to replace. Chips in the porcelain can also be repaired. Tile should have the grout cleaned, repaired, if needed, and recaulked. If your home has smaller bathrooms with a tub/shower combination remove the shower curtain and keep some nice props such as fancy soaps, a jar of bath beads, and a matching towel set in the bathtub.