A buyer has scheduled a showing of your house. They hop out of their car, walk up the front walk, step through the door, and their Realtor awaits the reaction. The desired one would be "Ooooo, it's soooo cute! This is the one I want to buy!" The reaction that would make the Realtor cringe would be, "Oh man, look at that cluttered living room and stained carpet, and what is that SMELL?" (As an active member of the industry I've lost count how many houses have been nicknamed the "Cat House" with Buyers because we could smell the family cat Fluffy during our home tour). It's said that first impressions are lasting, and when it comes to selling your house, the same holds true.
So where's a Seller to start when it comes to getting their house ready for sale? While it's not usally necessary to break the bank on upgrades and improvements in order to prep your home, it is necessary to put on your "Buyer hat" and view your home through their eyes, as if you were visiting your house for the very first time. Grab your clipboard to jot down your to-do list, start at the curb of your house, and remember this simple recipe as you make your tour: "Green, Clean, White and Bright".
Green: Think "Curb appeal": Mow the lawn, mulch and edge the garden beds, trim bushes, and fix the mailbox. As you step up to the front door, pause a moment (as the Buyer would while they wait for the Realtor to open the lock box). Does the front door need painting? Are there cobwebs on the light? Are the handrails wobbly?
Clean: While it may seem intuitive that you should clean your house in order to put it on the market, the benefits of a thorough deep clean and good ole' fashioned elbow grease can't be stressed enough. Start with decluttering: Empty out your attic and your basement. Clean your closets (they should be no more than 2/3 full). Clean everything and anything. Recaulk your bathtub. Fix Leaky pipes. Put new shelf liner in the cupboards. Wash your kitchen cabinets and all of your appliances, including underneath them. Wash the inside of your dishwasher. Wash doors, tracks on windows, and of course the windows themselves. (While pet and kid fingerprints and nose prints may look cute to you, they look "dirty" to a home buyer and leave a lasting -negative- impression). Put away pet supplies and pets during showings. And for all that is holy, please, clean the litter box.
White: "Neutralize the space" in reference to color and personalization. Remove all personal items such as photos and knick-knacks.Clean the front and sides of the refrigerator of your magnet collection. If you have wallpaper, take it down and paint a neutral color. Buyers are frequently drawn to key phrases in a listing include the following, "Stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, newly-refinished hardwood floors". They all speak to a modern feel and (at least) a little updating.
Bright: Turn on all the lights. Open curtains. Remove dark draperies. Remove excess furniture to makes the room more spacious.
Most buyers are looking to buy a house, not a project. Lasting impressions of "needs work", or nicknames like "the house with the peeling wallpaper" will mean a lower offer. There are those types of buyers out there that will overlook those things; they're called Investors, not owners, and they pay "wholesale" not "retail" prices. To get the most amount of money for your house, you need to show the best value for the dollar and paying attention to detail and prepping your home for sale will pay off later.