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Inexpensive ways to prepare your home for sale

By on December 9, 2007

photo by sassy gardener
hanging flowers
First impressions are important when trying to sell your home. Extreme changes aren’t always necessary. There are simple steps you can take to prepare your house for the market while staying within a reasonable budget. The interior plays a big role, but don’t ignore exterior modifications, such as fresh lightbulbs, an attractive mailbox and welcome mat, shiny doorknobs, a silk door wreath and window boxes, to name a few.

The following reader tips can help you get a higher price and go from for sale to sold.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN: Take all personal items, such as pictures and trophies, and box them away. Buyers want to envision the house as their own, and that is hard to do while looking at 500 pictures of little Johnny and Suzie all over the place.

Remove clutter, and clean. No one wants to see dirt on the baseboards, cluttered counters or a filthy microwave. Dust the ceiling fans and stair handrails; sweep, mop, clean the toilets, etc. Mow the lawn, edge it and sweep or consider power washing the driveway, front porch and the curb. Make your flowerbeds look neat and tidy. Consider adding hanging planters and fresh mulch outside, too. — Neely, e-mail

WHAT’S THAT SMELL?: Smell is a huge factor. When you open the front door, what smell wafts out? Get someone not living in your house to give you an honest opinion. Put clutter into storage, not the garage. Add vanilla-scented candles in all the rooms. This scent isn’t too overpowering and is the most neutral. Go through every closet, cabinet and drawer and pack it up or move it out if you’re not using it. Ask your real-estate agent to walk through and give your home a once over. — Laurie, Florida

TEND TO THE DETAILS: When I entered one woman’s house, it looked nice except that the carpet was awful and the tub was really stained. You can rent a carpet machine at the grocery store. The blinds are also a big thing to clean because they hide dirt. You want the windows to be open and plenty of light shining through or at least bright interior lighting. If you have a loaf of bread or brownies baking, it really helps offer a welcoming scent, too. — Katie, Virginia

FIX ‘ER UP: 1. Paint interior and touch up exterior. All neutral colors.
2. Fix minor problems such as a sticking door, leaky faucets and broken/bent mini-blinds. We always figured when we were house hunting that if the small things weren’t tended to, the big stuff probably wasn’t maintained, either.
3. Be sure to take the trash out. Maybe I’m cynical, but when house hunting, the strong scents made me leery of what smells they were trying to mask.
4. Play music. We put on some smooth jazz.
5. Consider offering a one-year homeowners warranty. It’s a nice incentive for the buyers, especially if your home is older than 15 years.
6. Display new hand towels for the bathrooms and some houseplants or fresh flowers for around the house.
7. Remove anything that has strong connotations, such as hunting trophies, campaign signs or hot-rod posters.
8. New light fixtures are a cheap update.
9. Have laundry baskets or boxes handy for an emergency showing. I kept them in the car, and, when I had a hectic day and wasn’t ready for a showing, we went around and tossed things into the baskets and loaded them into the car to be sorted out after the showing.
10. Clean the refrigerator. Even if you don’t include the fridge with the house, as a homebuyer, I always check the fridge. In my opinion, it is an honest evaluation of the care taken of the house. — Denise, Colorado


  1. Devora Sage

    12/10/2007 at 4:22 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that we’ve added a link to your blog from the ‘Simple, Frugal, Sane’ page of our website —

    Devora Sage, on behalf of the very frugal Earthy Women

  2. Sara Noel

    12/25/2007 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks Devora. Happy to have you visit and link to us. 🙂

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