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Preparing Your House for Sale

When preparing your house for sale, it's often necessary to make changes that will highlight the best features of your home and increase your home's market value. This practice, called “home staging," highlights the features of a home. This makes the home appealing to a broad base of buyers by:

  • Reducing clutter
  • Updating to a more broadly applicable style
  • Minimizing eyesores
  • Minimizing highly personalized decorations

Not doing these things may hide the home's broader appeal. But taking these steps often makes the home more desirable and easier to sell.

Preparing your house for sale through staging can include painting, landscaping, decorating, hiring professionals for a deep clean, and renting furniture if necessary. Homeowners also can hire a professional stager. This usually costs a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Or they may complete the task themselves.

A properly staged home not only has decor appealing to buyers, but it may have certain upgrades to increase the sale price. Preparing your house for sale walk-throughs may not be as difficult as it seems. Here are some tips for staging properties for home sellers.

Pack Up Unnecessary Items

To make a home appear more spacious, removing excess furniture—especially old furniture in disrepair—may be necessary. Packing up large furniture will also make it easier for a buyer to notice important features of the house, such as the fireplace, a window seat, or an extra nook space in a bedroom. Consider storing these items in a storage unit rather than in the garage.


One of the easiest ways to prepare a house for sale is to de-clutter. This simply means storing, throwing away, or donating unused items. De-cluttering helps the buyer focus on the home instead of the mess. Simple ways to de-clutter include:

  • Removing unworn clothing from closets
  • Clearing off kitchen and bathroom countertops
  • Getting rid of knick-knacks
  • Packing away books
  • Organizing cabinets
  • Removing magnets and other items from the exterior of the refrigerator

De-Personalize the Space

Most people personalize a space by displaying family photos. But photos can easily distract buyers and make it more difficult for a buyer to imagine living in the home. Packing away photos and other personal items will make the space more attractive to homebuyers.

Clean Your Home

The least expensive way to stage a home is to clean it.

  • Clean dirt and grime in bathrooms and the kitchen
  • Dust the furniture
  • Have the carpets cleaned
  • Wash the inside and outside of windows
  • Get rid of cobwebs
  • Re-caulk showers and tubs
  • Hide the cat litter box
  • Use air fresheners or candles to freshen the air
  • Paint old, dingy interior walls with a neutral color

Make Repairs

Before listing a home, make any necessary repairs and renovations. The law requires a seller to inform a buyer of any known physical problems with the home. Likely, unless the buyer is willing to purchase the home "as-is," the buyer will request the seller to make certain repairs anyway. It is better to address problems like a leaky roof, a structural problem, or termite issues before selling the home. A home without major problems is always more appealing to buyers.

The Virtue of Cheap Repairs

Consider making the cheapest and easiest repairs first if a realtor deems them necessary. But also prioritize repairs that you feel are obvious and might cause a problem with the sale. Fixing draping, faucets, and closet doors are all examples of quick fixes. If the front door needs to be fixed, prioritize this, for example.

Basic aesthetic enhancements can increase the home value dramatically. Light bulbs that need to be replaced are another easy fix to prioritize. Light fixtures can also be easily replaced. Prospective buyers will be deeply affected by first impressions. Repair baseboards, as well.

Make sure the dining room and living room are in good shape. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders if executed properly. Home improvement can be the difference between selling your house at the cost you'd like and doing so at far less. The appearance of the home's exterior can determine a lot. Home sales can be made far easier by basic enhancements.

Give Your Home Curb Appeal

Preparing your house for sale isn't limited to the indoor space. The outside of a home is important, too. An unappealing exterior can drive potential buyers away from the home even before viewing the interior. A well-landscaped yard will add value and bring buyers into the home. Simple fixes include:

  • Mowing the lawn
  • Trimming bushes
  • Planting colorful flowers in pots or in the ground
  • Repainting areas where the paint has chipped

How To Know When Enhancements Are Worth It

It's likely that you'll need to consult with a realtor or listing agent on home enhancements. But some things are common sense. You'll probably want to re-paint the house if chipped paint is visible from the street. If many bricks are out of place, and that can also be seen from afar, you'll want to tend to this, as well.

If you're in doubt, it's a good idea to check the state of nearby houses. If your house falls well below the neighborhood's standards, make the needed repairs. If you're still in doubt, consult with a real estate agent. And if the repairs require a lot of skill and expertise, don't do it yourself in a DIY approach. Find experts to make complicated repairs, such as those related to electricity and plumbing.

Collecting Records for the Next Buyer

Collecting records for the next buyer could reduce your liability if there are unforeseen problems. Any records about repairs, warranties, and manuals for important appliances and the air conditioning or heating unit should be retained. They should be provided to the next buyer. You'll want this information ready to go immediately after closing. Keep all the records from home inspections. These are likely to be useful in any home-selling process.

Check for Safety Hazards

A homeowner must keep homebuyers safe from injury. It's a homeowner's duty to warn invited guests of known dangers and to inspect the property for dangerous conditions. Because many homebuyers will view the home, a homeowner should eliminate potential hazards by checking the home for the following:

  • Electrical hazards
  • A slippery walkway
  • Broken steps
  • Dangerous areas in a yard

If a potential hazard exists, it is best to fix it, remove it, or isolate the area from use.

Lock Away Expensive Items

Most people that view your home are interested in buying a home. But in rare circumstances, some visitors use open houses and home showings to scout out a home to burglarize later or steal valuable property from. Beware of suspicious activity, such as a visitor who asks probing questions about your marital status or your schedule. Or look for a visitor using a distraction to keep you occupied while someone else looks for valuable items in the house.

There are several ways to help lessen the chance of theft:

  • Keep valuable items, such as cash, debit cards, checkbooks, and credit cards, close by or stored in a safe place
  • Remove valuable items from accessible drawers
  • Remove expensive art
  • Have visitors sign a guest register
  • Allow visitors to leave only from one door

Related Resources:

Review the following resources for more information:

Under either circumstance, it's important to be able to inform either the buyer or the owners of the neighboring property of who will benefit.

Need More Help? Contact a Lawyer

If you still need help and a legal issue arises, contact a licensed real estate attorney near you. It's important to get the help you need. To learn more about what to expect as you prepare your home for sale, consider reviewing FindLaw's additional tips on holding open houses.

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