101 Tips for Preparing Your Home For Sale

When it comes to selling your home, preparation is paramount.

Take a moment to read our list of 101 things you can do to improve your chances of selling your home for top dollar:


The Rule of Thumb is – if something needs repair, fix it!

1. There may be several things in your house that you have simply become accustomed to over time – things that you have been promising yourself to attend to. Well NOW is the time. Buyers will mentally add up their perceived costs of repairing all those minor flaws and end up with an amount that is generally much higher than your actual costs will be. You might be saying to yourself “These repairs aren’t any big deal”, but the buyer is thinking, “if the owner didn’t take care of these little items, then what about the roof or plumbing or air conditioner?” Necessary, non-critical minor repairs and perceived owner neglect will either lower the price or lengthen the time to sell.
2. Check all corners for peeling paint, chipped corners and loose wallpaper.
3. Large repairs: in today’s climate of open disclosure and vigilant home inspections the “Golden Rule” applies. Treat the buyer as you would treat yourself. Repair any problems with major systems.


4. Every area of the house must sparkle and shine! Each hour spent will be worth the effort. Make it easy for the buyer to want your house.
5. Clean all of the windows, including the laundry and garage.
6. Clean all carpets and rugs. Clean and polish lino, tile and wooden floors. Consider refinishing a wood floor if necessary.
7. Clean and polish all woodwork. Pay particular attention to kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
8. Clean all light fixtures. The glass covers of most ceiling fixtures can be made to sparkle by running them through the dishwasher.
9. Clean and polish ceiling fans. Take down and clean exhaust fan covers, these are dust magnets.


10. Be cautious about selecting colours when painting the interior walls or replacing the carpet. Your objective is to make your house appeal to the largest possible buying segment. Ask yourself, “How many of the available buyers would feel able to move into your house with their own furniture and not want to replace the carpet or repaint the walls? Position your house on the market to be as liveable to as many people as possible. Select a neutral colour scheme that will make it easy for the buyer to mentally picture the house as theirs.
11. SORRY – but you will have to put your personal taste on hold. The market is always driven by buyer demand. The average buyer will have a hard time looking beyond the blue carpeting and bold wallpapers. Consider replacing unusual or bold colours with neutral tones. Two coats of off- white paint may be one of the best investments you will ever make.


Create the illusion of more space

12. Arrange furniture to give the rooms a spacious feeling. Consider removing some furniture from any room that may seem over crowded. If necessary, put large items in storage.
13. Pack up your collectibles – both to protect them and to give the room a more spacious feel. Leave out just enough accessories to give the house a personal touch.
14. Remove all clutter and make it a habit to pick up clothing, shoes and personal possessions for each and every inspection or open house.
15. Empty cupboards of off-season clothing and pack them away for the move. Organise cupboards to demonstrate the most efficient use of space. Cupboards should look as though there is room to put more. Leave as few a items as possible on floors and shelves
16. Use light to create a sense of space. All drapes should be open. Turn on all lights throughout the house for showing


When placing yourself in the potential buyer’s shoes, you will want to consider the overall atmosphere of your house. Keep in mind your sense of smell as you go through the checklist. Create the atmosphere of your house as shelter – a place that is safe and warm and in good condition.

17. A clean smelling house creates a positive image in the buyer’s mind. Be aware of any odours from cooking, cigarette smoke, pets etc. These may have adverse effects on potential buyers. Remember that some people are much more sensitive to odours than others. Smokers rarely notice the odour of cigarettes that fills their houses, and pet owners may be oblivious to objectionable dog or cat odours.
18. You can use products like carpet deodorisers, air fresheners and room deodorises, but the best strategy is to remove the source of the aroma rather than cover it up.
19. Unfortunately, often the only way to remove the smell of pet soiling from flooring is to rip it up and replace the carpeting and any underlay. If this is preventing the sale of your house, do not hesitate to make this investment.
20. If smoking and cooking odours have permeated your house, have your carpets and furniture cleaned and air-out or dry-clean your drapes.
21. Mildew odours are another source of problems. Don’t allow wet towels to accumulate in hampers or dirty clothes to pile up in cupboards.
22. Another source for odours to collect is the air conditioning filter. Clean the vent covers and change the filters at least once a month. A high accumulation of dust detracts from the presentation and can circulate odours through-out the house. You may want to consider having the air conditioning ducts professionally cleaned.
23. Once offensive odours have been eliminated, consider adding delightful scents. Recent studies have shown that humans have strong, positive responses to certain aromas, Cinnamon, fresh-cut flowers, bread baking are all excellent ways to enhance your house.


This part of preparing your house for sale can be the most fun and involves the use of colour, lighting and accessories to emphasise the best features of your house.

24. Study magazine ads and furniture showrooms to see how small details can enhance the appearance of a room. The effect of a vase of flowers, an open book on the coffee table, a basket of logs by the fire place, etc., can make rooms more attractive and appealing. But be careful not to create distracting clutter.
25. The use of a brightly coloured pillow on a chair or a throw blanket on a sofa can add dimension to an otherwise neutral room. Use accent pieces for colour.
26. Soften potentially offending views, but always let light into your rooms. Replace heavy curtains with sheer white panels.
27. Take advantage of natural light as much as possible by cleaning windows, opening shades and drapes, etc. Add lamps or additional lighting where needed. Be sure that all fixtures are clean and have working bulbs. Increase the wattage of the bulbs to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
28. If your kitchen has fluorescent lighting fixtures, use ‘warm-white” bulbs for a bright appearance.


Check your house for any needed maintenance just as a buyer would. Repaint to touch-up as necessary. You can’t make a better investment when you’re selling your house. Don’t let the outside turn off buyers before the inside turns them on.
29. Colour has the power to attract. A tub of geraniums, a potof petunias or a basket of pansies on the front step is a welcoming touch.

30. If you have a porch or front deck, set the stage with pots of flowers and attractively arrange outdoor furniture.
31. Consider using a wreath of dried flowers or an attractive welcome mat to greet the buyers when they come through your house. It can also encourage them to wipe their feet and keep dirt from tracking through the property.
32. Check to see that all doors and windows are in good working order. Give special attention to your house’s exterior doors and front entry. Clean and paint doors if necessary. Remember that you have only one chance at that first impression and that is likely to be at your front door.
33. Replace any broken or cracked windowpanes.
34. Screens should be free of any tears or holes
35. Inspect all locks to ensure that they are all functioning properly.
36. Check for loose or missing tiles and clear out gutters and downpipes. Touch up peeling paint on gutters.
37. Check for mildew or stains on outside brick or concrete. Power wash if needed.
38. Sweep all dust and leaves away and consider a small water feature in a glazed pot. These can come in all sizes and budgets.


39. Make sure the grass is neatly mowed, raked and edged.
40. Prune and shape shrubbery and trees to compliment your house.
41. Consider adding seasonal flowers along the walks or in the planting beds. Try a row of sweet- smelling plant to line a short sidewalk or pop in some perky marigolds to form a cheerful oasis of colour in your yard. Such stand-bys as petunias and inpatients are easy to maintain if you only remember to water regularly.
42. Add an inch or two of bark mulch around your shrubs and trees. This freshens and renews garden beds by an enormous amount.
43. If you have room, set up your old badminton or volleyball net – suggest a scene of family fun.
44. It is important to devote at least one area of your yard to outdoor living. Buyers will recognise a scene set with picnic table and chairs and respond favourably to it.
45. Cover your picnic table with a cloth and set out plates and glasses, bring out the BBQ tools and buyers will almost smell the steak and onions cooking.
46. If you have a wooden deck make sure that the wood is not too faded. A quick coat of stain or paint may be in order. Check your fence for any loose or broken pickets replace any rotted wood.


The surface of your driveway should be beyond re-approach. After all it’s one of the first things a buyer sees.

47. Sweep and wash the driveway and walks to remove debris, dirt and stains. Repair and patch any cracks, edge the side and pull up any weeds.
48. The driveway is no place for children’s toys. They can be both unsightly and dangerous. Remove any oil stains if possible.


Whether a graciously proportioned centre hall or a small foyer just large enough for a coat rack and tiny table, this part of your house deserves your particular attention.

49. Study your entry hall and ask yourself what kind of impression it makes of your house. Dried flowers or a small plant can make a striking focal point on a hall table any time of the year. Virtually any entry hall will benefit from a well- placed mirror to give the illusion of space.
50. Your entry hall flooring will be observed carefully by the prospective buyer. Make sure the surface is spotless and add a small rug to protect the area during showings.
51. Your entry closet will be the first one inspected, make it appear roomy. Add a few extra hangers and hang an air freshener that will emit when buyers open the cupboard. Remove all off-season clothing.


Think of these areas as furniture show rooms. Your job is to make each room generate a positive response. Add touches that make a room look truly inviting.

52. Sweep and clean the fireplace. Place a few logs on the grate to create an attractive appearance. You are welcome to have a fire going for showing during the winter months (if you have gas logs, it is even a good idea during the later part of Spring) – it creates a great atmosphere.
53. Place something colourful on the mantle, but don’t make it look like a country craft store.
54. Improve the traffic flow by removing excess furniture. Have easy traffic flow patterns. Be sure that all doors open fully and easily.
55. Remove over sized television sets if they dominate the room. If necessary, substitute with a smaller one until you move.
56. Draw attention to exposed beams or a cathedral ceiling with special lighting. Be sure to remove any cobwebs and dust.
57. In the heat of the summer, place a bowl of lemons or limes on a counter to provide a fresh pleasant aroma.
58. Clean and organise all storage space. If your cabinets, drawers and closets are crowded and overflowing, it makes the buyers assume that your storage space is inadequate. Give away items that you don’t use anymore, storing seldom used items elsewhere and reorganise the shelves. Neat, organised shelves and drawers look larger and more adequate for prospective buyer’s needs.
59. Large kitchen windows are an advantage and should be highlighted as a special feature of your house. Take a critical look at the window treatment – is it clean, sharp and up–todate? Do the curtains need washing or the blinds need cleaning? Would the window area look better without any treatment?
60. Set the table for any informal meal with bright place mats and a generous bowl of fruit as a centrepiece.


Avoid going overboard. To be effective, any stage setting that you create should appropriately reflect that character of your entire house.

61. Visually enlarge a small dining room. If your dining table has extra leaves, take out one or two. Consider placing your dining table against a wall if you cannot move around it with ease.
62. Remove any extra chairs. Consider putting over sized pieces in storage until your house sells.
63. Set the scene by setting the table with an attractive arrangement. Add fresh or silk flowers as a centrepiece.


Pay particular attention to your kitchen. This room continues to be the “heart of the house”. A pleasant, working kitchen is near the top of most buyers’ list of priorities and is a room that buyers always scrutinise closely

64. Avoid clutter. Clear counters of small appliances and store whenever possible to maximise the appearance of work spaces.
65. Check the counter top around your sink and remove any dishes, washing liquid, brushes, etc, which may be cluttering the area.
66. Sinks cabinets and counter tops should be clean and fresh.
67. All appliances should be absolutely clean, bright, sparkling and shiny.
68. Clear off the top of the refrigerator. If you must use it for storage, use baskets and bowls to blend the items kept there.
69. Set the scene with an open cookbook, a basket filled with fruit, a basket of silk or fresh flowers, or a ceramic mixing bowl and wire whisk.
70. Create the aromas associated with happy houses. Bake some cookies or start baking a loaf of bread or pop a frozen apple pie in the oven.
71. Set out some potpourri or mix up a batch from scratch.
72. If you have a counter top eating area, set two attractive place settings with Coordinating napkins and place mats, and place cushions on the stools.


A separate laundry is a true asset and is one of the most frequent requests that buyers make during a home search. Don’t hide this treasure behind doors closed doors. Spruce up the room and open the door proudly for inspection.

73. Add a fresh coat of paint.
74. Organise all cupboards, shelves and storage areas
75. Remove all dirty laundry. Keep up to date with your washing or store all dirty laundry in a closed container.
76. Ensure the ceiling is clean and free of mildew or mould. This is a common result from clothes dryers.


Stairways should provide an attractive transition from one level of your house to another.

77. Make sure the stairs are safe! Stair lighting should be more adequate, stairs must be clutter free, Stair railings tight and secure and runner or carpeting tacked securely. Remove any items from the surface of the stairs and store elsewhere. Check the condition of the walls; paint or re- paper as necessary.
78. If the stairs are a main focal point of the living area, carefully choose accents to improve the visual appeal. If you have a wide, gracious staircase, emphasise this feature by hanging a few pictures along the wall. Draw attention to a handsome light fixture by polishing the metal and dusting each small light bulb or crystal prism. Any stair landing should also have an attractive focal point, be it a fern on a plant stand, a dramatic poster, a chiming clock, or a special chair.


Imagine for a moment that you are in the “Bed-n-Breakfast” business. How would you change your house’s bedrooms to appeal to a paying lodger? Naturally you would make the beds with your prettiest sheets and quilt. Maybe you would add a vase of flowers on the dressing table or a cosy armchair in the corner. Every bedroom in your house should invite prospective buyers to settle in.

79. Large master bedrooms are particularly popular among today’s homebuyers. Make your bedroom larger. Paint the room a light colour, remove some furniture if the room is crowded, minimise clutter to maximise spaciousness. Aim for a restful, subdued look.
80. An ensuite off the master bedroom is a real sale plus… decorate to coordinate with the colour scheme of your bedroom creating the “suit” affect.
81. Virtually all buyers are looking for a house with plenty of cupboard space. Try to make what you have appeared generous and well planned. Removing and store all out-of season clothing. Remove any items from the floor area – this will make a cupboard seem more spacious. Arrange all shelves to maximise the use of space.
82. Make sure all articles in the cupboard smell fresh and clean. When prospective buyers open your cupboard door, they should be greeted with a whiff of fresh smelling air. Hang an air freshener in the cupboard for a pleasing fragrance.
83. Make sure all cupboard lights have adequate wattage and are operating. Add battery lights to the cupboards that lack built-in lighting. Lighted cupboards look bigger and more attractive and allow buyers to inspect the interiors easily.
84. Take the time to explain the importance of marketing to your children. Encourage them to participate in preparing your home for showing. Ask your children to cooperate by making their beds and picking up their things prior to inspections. Consider promising a special reward if they willingly participate in your house – selling goals.
85. Have children pack any items that are not currently in use and dispose of unused possessions.
86. Remove any crowded, unusual or personal wall hangings such as posters and store them until your home is sold.


Take special pains with preparing your bathrooms for scrutiny by strangers. The bathroom is a room, after all and a very personal one. Prospects will inspect yours carefully, so be sure it is immaculate.

87. Cleanliness is the key! Make sure that all surfaces are spotless.
88. Replace worn or dirty shower curtains, clean and repair grout.
89. Clear off counter tops and store all personal items and products out of sight.
90. Repair any taps that leak or do not function properly. Clean off mineral deposits with vinegar or commercial products.
91. Clean and organise all cabinets and drawers. Don’t forget the vanity cabinets; dispose of old items and clean the shelves.
92. Remember to appeal to a wide range of buyers. Play down dominant colours with contrasting neutral coloured towels and accessories. If your bathroom is mostly white or neutral, add a few cheerful accents of colour, such as towels in the popular new shades. Don’t hesitate to buy a few new towels and a rug. After all, you will be taking these things with you to your new home.
93. Scrub and wax an old floor. Cover the largest area you can with a freshly washed rug.
94. Decorate and personalise – create a pleasing, individual look. Consider bringing out your best towels and perfumed guest soaps. Add a plant for colour and freshness.
95. A gentle hint of fragrance in the air is fine – but keep it subtle.


96. Sweep and wash the floor to remove dirt and stains. Organise tools, lawn and Garden equipment, bicycles, etc. A clean, organised garage appears large.
97. If the area is dark, add more light. If it is small and accommodates only one car, remove your car before buyers visit. An empty garage always looks larger. If you have a two-car garage with very little extra room, remove one of the cars so that the buyers can make their inspection in comfort.
98. If your garage is appropriate to use as a recreation area set up your ping- pong table (with balls and paddles as props), hang some bright posters and you have transformed the place into a teenagers retreat. Your setting does not need to be complete and should not cost a large amount – it’s only meant to suggest further possibilities to buyers.
99. Clear off and organise the workbench in your garage and draw attention to it as a sales feature. Make sure the lighting is excellent and stage the area as a comfortable place in which to work.


There are two main rules we enforce above anything else.

100. No clutter or odours. Your property must be kept clean and clutter free. Tidy things and put them away. If the property looks clean and smells fresh your buyers will form a positive opinion of your home.
101. Whether it’s an “Open House” or private inspection, it is imperative that you are not there. Buyers find it hard to feel comfortable and picture themselves as living in the property if the current owners are there. They also find it hard to be honest about what they think of the property and normally rush through the inspection. Needless to say it makes selling your home difficult. So go shopping for an hour or visit a friend. Let the agent do their job! After all of this hard work, you would have added appeal to your property and therefore, value.

Daryl Rouse
Article By Daryl Rouse
After 9 years in the Royal Australian Air Force as an electronics specialist, Daryl entered the Real Estate industry in the mid 80’s. During his 30 year career, Daryl has…
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