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Twelve Tips for Preparing Your House for Sale

Written by Nickel - 14 Comments

On the heels of our mortgage refinance, I thought I’d put together a rundown of all the things we did two years ago to get our old house ready for sale. What follows is a rundown of all the ‘major’ stuff that we did just prior to putting our house on the market…

1. Had a moving sale
2. Gave a bunch of stuff to Goodwill
3. Moved a bunch of stuff to storage
4. Minor drywall repair
5. Minor paint touchups throughout the house
6. Washed all windows
7. Had Stanley Steemer clean the carpets ($225 for the whole house). For what it’s worth, you can find exceptional ideas on buying, repairing, restoring, or maintaining carpets online and save money that usually falls underfoot. Cleaners, installers, and professionals offering other flooring options are offering special pricing now in the distressed economy.
8. Repaired a ground fault by replacing the cable from our house to the lamp post
9. Re-painted our mailbox and lamp post
10. Replaced exterior light fixtures on alongside garage door
11. Fertilized the lawn about two weeks before putting it on the market
12. Re-did the mulch beds with fresh pine straw

While this stuff took us a few days to get done, we actually turned a profit in that our moving sale generated more than enough in the way of profits to cover the costs of everything else, plus we had tax savings from the Goodwill donations.

When all was said and done, all three realtors that we interviewed walked through the house and said it was ready to show without doing a thing. And guess what? They were right. We sold our old house for very close to our asking price in under six days. Of course, the market was a heck of a lot better back then than it is now, but still… If you’re thinking of putting your house on the market this spring, be sure to do what you can to spruce it up.

Published on February 20th, 2008
Modified on November 19th, 2009 - 14 Comments
Filed under: House & Home, Moving, Real Estate

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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14 Responses to “Twelve Tips for Preparing Your House for Sale”

  1. 1
    Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    I’d add one more: DE-clutter every room of the house to make it seem more open and larger.

    Sounds like you had a great plan.

  2. 2
    Ria Rhodes Says:

    Nice tips. When I moved from NY in 2004 I did pretty much the same. It’s obvious these days that a price discounted to your area comps is key to flagging what interest is left out there, and even then house shoppers are firmly planted on the sidelines tossing out an occasional low-ball offer.

    ..remember those hokey selling tips back in the bubbly days like, “Bake some cookies in the oven to fill the house with an enticing aroma”?

    That’ll really help you these days.

  3. 3
    Mr. Debtbeater Says:

    Nice list. I’ve done similar things in the past. The real trick is to do as much as you can quickly and without spending a lot of money. If you’re about to sell a house, you can almost never make your money back from major improvements.

    Another tip I actually got from two separate realtors was to leave something little for the new owners to think they can do. Got a closet painted bright pink that just doesn’t go with the rest of the house? Leave it. They’ll mark that off as something they can do when they move in and it’s EASY for them to do before moving in.

    The idea was to focus on the high payoff things that help with curb appeal, cleanliness, etc. without a huge time investment.

  4. 4
    nickel Says:

    Ron: You’re exactly right. I wasn’t really clear about this, but that was the whole point of 1-3.

  5. 5
    Cheap Like Me Says:

    Great ideas, and I agree with Mr. Debtbeater that careful strategizing about *what* to fix is a good idea. Fix some major things, decide which major things you’d rather negotiate over (IF it’s a concern to a buyer), and leave some little stuff.

    We decluttered into a movable crate that went into storage and then was delivered directly to our new house, so some of the decluttering was actual moving work.

  6. 6
    Matt Says:

    Unfortunately I’ve got a bunch of walls that are in desperate need of painting before we can show our place off to prospective buyers. The biggest one is getting rid of some of your old stuff – not only does it help make your place look cleaner and neater there’s the added bonus of not having to move it with you.

  7. 7
    Jesse Says:

    Heres another random one: if you live in a place with lots of trees consider getting roto rooter in…especially if the house might be on the market for a bit. I know i get roots every year and it tends to back things up at the most inopportune times possible…

  8. 8
    SingleGuyMoney Says:

    Those are some great tips and and they are even more important in this slow market.

  9. 9
    MasterYourCard Says:

    Good tips, but sadly I don’t think they’ll be enough to assist many of those who are forced to sell under these market conditions.

    Just out of curiousity, has anyone had any success with the ’sale by owner’ method?

  10. 10
    Fiscal Musings Says:

    I’m always amazed by the houses that I see on the market where none of these things have been done. Just a few simple things can make a huge difference in the first impression appeal.

  11. 11
    Mr DebtBeater Says:

    There’s actually an awful lot of homes that start on the market that aren’t even clean. Growing up in realtor’s family meant there was always a good share of work to earn money cleaning homes of people that would just move out w/o even vacuuming or wiping out the sinks.

    People, if you’re going to sell a house…take 3-4 hours to just CLEAN it and you’ll avoid losing half your interested parties. I’ve seen it first-hand affect time on the market. To the point where to sell the thing the realtor (or his son) ends up cleaning it just to help it out.

  12. 12
    Danielle Says:

    As someone who was looking for a house years ago, having all these things done on a house made me assume that the people took better care of their things in general.

    It might have been an error to think so, but it made me think that other things about the house would have been kept up better as well.

  13. 13
    Lucy Horne Says:

    I will need to sell my house in the next year,due to job relocation,but house needs some major work ex;roof,ac,exterior fascia work &painting and alot of cosmetic stuff. What would you advice me to do,I don’t
    have much money to spend on all these repairs? Also how much do you think I will cost for these type of repairs? Thanks for your time.

  14. 14
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