7 Essential Steps to Getting Your House Ready to Sell

You don’t need to embark on a lengthy renovation to sell your home. Smaller investments can bolster your windfall just as effectively. With most Americans scouting properties first from a laptop or smartphone, “pictures are key,” says Jay Bell, co-founder of Virtually Staging Properties in Doraville, Ga. Even before the pandemic, 70% of house hunters toured the inside of a home online, according to a 2019 report from the National Association of Realtors.

To lure buyers and maximize your home’s sales price, real estate experts have these seven tips, including a new way to stage a space in the digital age.

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Let Go of the Sentiment

Your home may be special to you, but for potential buyers, it’s just another property. To sell it, get over your emotional attachment and think of your home as a product. “For many retirees, this is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome, especially for those who’ve been living in their home for a decade or more,” says Lori Matzke, owner of Home Staging Expert in Arlington, Minn. Just because you love your home’s brightly painted accent wall or bold, patterned wallpaper doesn’t mean others will find it attractive. Look at the space as a buyer would — with a critical eye — to spot what needs changing.

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Depersonalize the Space

Empty photo frames on a wall.

Homebuyers like to picture themselves living in the home with their furnishings in the room. So put away family photos, knickknacks and collectibles, and remove pictures from the walls and mantels.

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Clear Out the Clutter

Woman decluttering house.

Downsizing your belongings helps your house command a higher selling price. “The less stuff in a room, the bigger it looks,” says Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers in Hinsdale, Ill. If weeding out a lifetime of possessions seems overwhelming, hire a professional organizer, who will even call the movers and donate your giveaways. Organizers charge between $50 and $125 an hour, or between $3,000 and $5,000 to help clean out an entire house.

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Stage Your Home

Professional home stager arranging light fixture.

Although rooms should be free of clutter, you don’t want them completely empty either. If you need to move out of the house while it’s on the market or just want more neutral, attractive furniture to show off the rooms, a staging company can help. Traditional staging usually involves furnishing only a few key rooms, such as the living room, dining room, master bedroom, master bathroom and a half bath. This can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $6,000 if you end up renting the furniture for an extended period.

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Consider Virtual Staging

Phone capturing snapshot of living room.

As a cheaper alternative to traditional staging, firms can digitally add pieces of furniture to pictures of the rooms in your house. These photographs can then be used on websites that show home listings. Virtual staging costs about $500 total and lets you furnish spaces you wouldn’t ordinarily do with traditional staging, like placing a pool table in a recreation room. The downside is the rooms you are virtually staging must be completely empty.

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Make Everything Brighter

Bright light bulb.

Anything you can do to lighten and freshen up your home is likely to pay off. Paint the outside accents of your home, including the mailbox, to bolster curb appeal. Use a product like Orange GLO to make cabinets and wood floors shine. Change light bulbs in lamps and overhead lighting for ones with a higher wattage. Replace heavy window coverings with something that lets in more light such as sheers. “Light-filled rooms energize potential buyers,” Matzke says.

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Aim for Nice But Not Too Nice

Well-decorated living room.

If more significant renovations are needed, limit them to simpler projects, such as upgrading kitchen appliances or bathroom cabinets, rather than knocking down walls to reconfigure the room’s footprint. Any improvements you make should be in line with the average home prices in your area. “You don’t want the nicest house on the block,” Buysse says. “If your house is in a moderate price range, pick moderately priced cabinets and appliances. Otherwise, you aren’t going to make the money back.”

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