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The Ultimate Guide to Preparing Your Home for Selling

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Preparing a home for sale requires some strategy on your part. To maximize the price you hope to get and complete the sale within your desired time frame, your house must be as perfect as possible for potential buyers. The DMV housing market is strong but not so strong that you can let your home appear mediocre and still command top dollar. Therefore, diligent preparations before you list are highly recommended.

In the real estate industry, the act of preparing a home for sale is sometimes referred to as staging. This can range from major upgrades throughout the home to purposely (and a bit artificially) making it look more appealing for prospective buyers to simply giving the house a good cleaning. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Staging, 49 percent of agents say most home buyers are affected by staging, and another 47 percent say some buyers are affected by staging. Simply put, good preparations into selling your home will make most prospects take notice and are well worth your effort.

So what should you focus on when preparing your home for sale? Here are several tips, taken from our comprehensive e-book, to consider as you take the initial steps toward listing your home:


Some home buyers love a good fixer-upper, but there are some parts of a house no one wants to deal with when they move in. Not upgrading these problem areas can ultimately slow the time to sale and/or reduce how much you get. Here are some of the important upgrades you should think about making before listing:


Yes, replacing your roof is a major project that seems like it will delay your plans to sell, but it’s one upgrade you can’t overlook (depending on the shape of your roof). If a home inspector tells a buyer under contract that your roof is a problem, the deal may ultimately fall through. Now for the good news: A new roof carries a high return on investment and, perhaps most important, will never scare off buyers; if anything, they may be more apt to purchase knowing they have decades before they will need to worry about another replacement roof.


New windows simply look good to prospective buyers. Though expensive, windows offer a return on investment similar to a new roof and give your home an updated, fresh appearance during an open house.

Exterior doors

Potential buyers walk in the front door to look at your home. Don’t let that first impression be negative because the door is 70 years old. And don’t fret about the cost—steel doors offer one of the best returns on investment of any home upgrade.


For sure, prospective buyers, and the inspectors they hire to look at your property, will pay close attention to your heating and cooling system. That old furnace or a lack of central air conditioning will not impress. An HVAC upgrade is another major project that is too risky to not undertake when preparing your home for selling.


Some parts of your home may not need upgrading but desperately require some sort of repair. Don’t put off these projects thinking the next owner can handle them, even if it means you will get less from the sale. For starters, the cost of the repair often is cheaper than whatever is knocked off the sale price (and those price reductions, which usually come in $500 increments, add up). Furthermore, qualified contractors might identify more problems that will need to be addressed. For example, hiring a roofer to replace some missing shingles might lead to a recommendation for other repairs—repairs that, if not made, might burn you on a home inspector’s report and cut into the sale price.


Less stuff in your home will make it look bigger to prospective buyers, who in turn can more easily envision their own stuff in the house. Declutter your home—putting things in storage and/or having a garage sale—as part of the staging process. You will be moving all your possessions once you sell anyway; consider decluttering a good head start toward that endeavor.


This advice should be obvious, but you might be surprised how many home sellers don’t put much effort into cleaning their homes before listing. Take a weekend to really attack the dirt and dust in your home, which may include cleaning walls, ceilings, floorboards, and upholstery. And don’t hesitate to hire a professional service to give your home the deep clean it will need before listing.


Don’t ignore the outside of your home while taking care of all the interior issues that must also be addressed. Your house can be in perfect condition, but if your front lawn has dead patches or your gardens are overrun with weeds, prospective buyers will form a negative impression of your home before even setting foot within. Preparing your home for selling means preparing your entire property; paying extra attention to the exterior will increase the chances you get your asking price.

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