Tips on Selling Your House

The time has come.  You’re ready to move on, either to a new town, a larger home to better suit your needs or perhaps to a condo that is better suited to your family now that the kids have gone on to college.  Making the decision to sell is the first step, but more difficult steps are yet to come.  One of the most stressful steps is usually preparing your home to put on the market.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything you need to do.  Which repairs need to be made to make your home more attractive?  Are there any remodeling projects you can do that will put your home above others in prospective buyers’ eyes?  Who can you work with to make sure that the projects you do to your home will actually accomplish your goals?  We’ll help you answer these questions and more!

Professionals to Work with

As with most projects, working with the right professionals is the key to making it a success.  You may think that trying to do all the work yourself will save you some money, but usually the opposite is the case.  Here are a couple of professionals who can help you get the most out of your home sale.


Realtors are not only good for listing and selling your home, but they can also be an invaluable partner in helping you prepare it for the market.  Realtors see hundreds of homes in the market and they know what sells—and what doesn’t.  Work with a realtor and let them direct you to the updates, repairs and projects you can do that will make your home stand out and be more attractive to potential buyers.

Realtors can help you throughout the entire process, starting with preparing your home for the market to actually listing it and promoting it with open houses, to the sale and then to the purchase of your new home.  This is often a long and involved process, so choosing the right realtor is of the utmost importance.  If you do not already have a relationship with a realtor, consider asking for references from family or friends who have recently bought or sold a home.  Then don’t be afraid to interview two or three of them before actually settling on the best one for you.  Remember, this is someone you will be working very closely with for months, so you should always make sure you choose someone you feel comfortable with and whom you feel you will be able to have an open and honest relationship with.


Home stagers have one purpose—to prepare your home to show it’s very best to those who come to view it.  Stagers often work with realtors to help them prepare a home for the market.  They can either use the furnishings and décor you already have or advice you to take out some of your belongings and bring in a few new pieces depending on the current shape of your home and how much you’re willing to change.  Improvements could be as simple as taking down a few personal photos and putting that old recliner in the garage to repainting, decluttering and moving half of your belongings to a storage unit.

Before You Begin

When completing a home improvement project that you believe will dramatically improve the resale value of your home you need to consider your neighbors’ houses. If you have the nicest house in your neighborhood, but you are trying to sell it for twice as much as the appraisal value of other homes in the neighborhood, you will be disappointed.

A general guide is to not try to sell your home for more than 20% of what the surrounding homes will sell for. For simplicity, let us assume that the homes in your neighborhood are appraised at a value of $100,000. This would mean that you could expect to get about $120,000 out of your home if you make selective home improvements.

What this means for you as a homeowner is that you should seriously rethink any home improvement project that would cost more than $20,000 going by our above example. Using the above example, it is easy to see that a $30,000 home improvement project would cause you to lose money in the long run.

Before you begin your home remodeling project, you should also calculate the estimated time and financial costs. This should include the cost of materials, tools, and required local permit fees. A list of specific building codes is available with your local government and this will help you find out just how much those permit fees will actually be. If you need your project completed quickly and professionally, you may want to consider hiring licensed remodeling contractors. Contractors are often a good choice for larger projects since they know mandatory codes and permits, save time, and can keep within your planned budget. Keep in mind it is always suggested to go with reputable contractors and to get written estimates before agreeing to work with a contractor.

When choosing a contractor, get suggestions from friends, family or co-workers who have recently got work done.  Make sure you check their references and sit down with the contractor and interview them for choosing.  Remember, don’t go by estimates alone.  Usually, the lowest bidder is usually low for a reason (perhaps he hasn’t included everything in the estimate or is planning to use lower quality materials).  Your final determination should center more on reputation and how well you get along with the contractor when you meet with him.

Projects to Consider


Cleaning is a must before you put your home on the market.  Even if you already keep a relatively clean home, there is probably more that needs to be done before you show it to potential buyers.  Moving is the perfect opportunity to do some purging and get rid of things you haven’t used in years and probably won’t use any time in the near future.  This type of cleaning can easily fill up trash can after trash can, so you might want to consider getting a roll off container from a company like Deffenbaugh to put in your driveway while you do the heavy cleaning.  This way, you don’t have to worry about unsightly overflowing trash cans sitting by your curb every night and can put a number of larger items in the roll off that you would not normally want to put out for the regular trash collection.

Decluttering is a huge part of preparing your home for sale.  People collect an amazing amount of junk over the years and you don’t need everyone who walks in seeing all of it and having it cloud their impression of your home (and it’s likely you probably don’t need to take a lot of it to your new home anyway).  Consider removing all books from bookcases, packing up all your knickknacks, cleaning everything off kitchen counters, and putting essential items that you need daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.  Think of it as a head start on packing for your future move.

If you do not yet have a new home to move into, consider renting a storage unit.  Almost every home shows better with less furniture.  Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage.  Since your bookcases are now empty, store them.  Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger.  Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose, yet leaving plenty of room to move around.  Also, make sure you give each room a purpose.  You want people to walk in and know exactly what the room should be used for.  If you have rooms that you have used for storage or have never really designated for anything, considering putting in a bed and dresser so buyers can imagine it as another bedroom or perhaps haul your treadmill into it so they can picture an exercise room.

Anything That is Broken or Outdated

Nothing will turn a potential buyer off quicker than walking into a home where the carpet is threadbare, the toilet is leaking and the appliances are that color of green that hasn’t been popular than the ‘70s.  Even if the repairs or replacements will be relatively minor for the new homeowner, it’s likely they will be much more attracted by a home that is updated and in good condition.
If repairs are minor, you might be able to get a handyman in to do most of the projects for you in a day or two.  If they are more extensive, you might have to call in a plumber, electrician, flooring or painting company.  This is a good place where your realtor can help out by doing a walk-through and pointing out issues they see as needing fixed.

Curb Appeal

Think of the last time you were looking for a new home.  How many did you drive by and reject without even stopping?  If you’re like most people, the answer is probably quite a few!  Even those who still go into a home have usually made up their mind if they like it or not before they go through the door.  That’s why curb appeal is so vital.  No matter how great the inside of your home is, it won’t matter if your yard is overgrown, the outdoor paint is peeling and your mailbox is falling over.

Roofs are a large part of curb appeal.  If your home needs a new roof, it’s probably best to just bite the bullet and do it.  Even though most roofing tear-off jobs take only one to two days, buyers often shy away from buying a home if the roof needs to be replaced.
Other small projects could include patching cement cracks in the sidewalk or driveway, resurfacing asphalt driveways, planting flowers, caulking windows and doors, replacing doorknobs and locks and fixing or painting fences.

Working with a handyman, landscaper or general contractor to get your curb appeal in tiptop shape is an excellent way to make sure those who are driving by are intrigued enough to stop and give your home a chance.

Kitchens and Baths

“Kitchens and baths sell houses,” points out Melissa Dirksen with Interior Glass.  “You’ll want to pay special attention to these two spaces.  If possible, you will want to have a clear glass shower door and panels in the master bath.  This keeps the room looking as large as possible as obscured glass acts as a solid wall and closes down the space.”  Melissa Dirksen also suggests a quick update to bathroom mirrors by framing them.  “We have a line of frames that you can select from and they will overlay right over your existing mirrors.  This will create an instant update and a homeowner can do it themselves if they want to save some money.”

Other kitchen and bath updates may include new flooring or countertops, new appliances, painting of walls or new baths/showers.

Simple Updating Projects

Sometimes a major remodel is not needed and just a few simple updates is all you need.  Nancy Sempeck from Christensen Drywall says, “Our subdivision, Patches Xpress, can come in and fill all those picture holes, dents in the walls from door knobs, etc. that will make your house look brand new.  Simple updating projects like a new backsplash typically involve some drywall work and all of those things can be handled quickly and efficiently.”

Other simple updating projects might involve painting a room (especially if you have it in an overly bright or unique color that was appealing to your family, but might not have broad appeal to potential buyers), refacing cupboards that are scratched or outdated, repainting or staining a deck..


Flooring is an important part of your home’s appeal.  If you have hardwood floors that have been covered by carpet, it would probably pay to have the carpets removed and the floors refinished as many homebuyers today are looking for hardwood.  If your sub-floor is plywood rather than hardwood, consider replacing carpeting with a light tan as neutral carpeting is your best bet for resale.  For ceramic tile floors, replace chipped or cracked tiles, but don’t install ceramic unless it’s for aesthetic reasons in an entryway as it’s quite expensive.

Furnishings and Artwork

If you plan on keeping your belongings in the home while it is on the market, you might want to consider some changes to what you have on the walls.  Renee Brown with Fast Frames says, “Some freshening and updating, even as simple as rematting and framing existing art or a few new pieces, completely changes the look of your interior and makes it appear more modern.  We can even come to your home and review your color scheme, making suggestions on new art or changing existing art.  This can be at a fraction of the cost of new furniture or remodels.”  The best part?  You can take your new artwork to your new home when you’re ready to move in!

After the Sale

You’ve done it!  Your home is finally sold!  If things have worked out well, you already have a new home to move into and now is the time to call in a moving company to help you make the move as quickly and painlessly as possible.  This is another area where people often think they can save money by doing it themselves but often find that they would have been better off working with professionals.  Not only do you run the risk of breaking your possessions, but you also have to worry about injuries (do you or your spouse really know the proper way to move a refrigerator?), not to mention the time, energy and frustration that moving always entails.  Wouldn’t you much rather walk into your new home and find that everything has been moved and put in the proper rooms?

Selling your old home and buying a new one is a huge project and one that should not be taken lightly.  By working with the right professionals to help you get your home into its best shape, you can be sure it will sell for the right price and in a reasonable amount of time so you and your family can settle into your new home as soon as and with the least amount of stress as possible.