Preparing to Sell? Do This First
So you've made the decision to sell your home. What you do to prepare - from the outside in - will make all the difference in whether prospective buyers choose to take a look.
First impressions matter. The goal is to get buyers past the front door, but you can't do that if they drive on by because they don't like the appearance outdoors. So spend a couple of weekends on exterior maintenance.
Clean the gutters of debris and grade the area under downspouts so water flows away from the foundation (you'll have less mess to clean up after it rains). Trim plants and lay fresh mulch. Mow and weed so the landscaping looks well tended. Fix anything broken, such as fencing, water fountains, the mailbox, or cracks in the sidewalk. Put out a new doormat and a planter of flowers to create a welcoming impression.
Inside, the keyword is clean, regardless of the physical condition of the property. People may react more negatively to a dirty home than one that needs a few repairs. The bathrooms and kitchen, including appliances, are especially important. Sweep away cobwebs, dust the ceiling fan blades and wash the windows--all the chores that probably haven't been done in a while.
Some buyers have trouble seeing past clutter, so remove as much as possible - preferably to a rented storage unit. Don't stuff the closets or the garage, because it will only make those spaces seem smaller. And remember, people will open every door, cupboard and medicine cabinet, so tidy up! If a buyer sees a well-organized linen closet or pantry, she'll be more likely to assume you've taken great care with the rest of the house.
Depersonalize by removing belongings such as family photos or awards. You want buyers to envision the home as theirs, and that's hard to do with your toddler's drawings taped to the fridge.
Your home might smell fine to you, but strangers may not agree, especially if you smoke or have pets. Shampoo the carpet and rugs, wash and wax the floors, and use a fabric freshener on any upholstery. Paint, if necessary, to remove the smell of tobacco.
Replace any burned-out light bulbs, patch nail holes, and lubricate squeaky doors. Fix leaky faucets or running toilets, re-caulk the shower, and clean the grout. Obviously, these things take time, so put together a to-do list and start tackling the projects as soon as you decide to sell.
Have a trusted friend come over who's willing to be completely honest. It could sting, but you'll thank her later. By viewing your home through the eyes of a prospective buyer, you'll see what needs to be done before you sell.