Ten Steps to a Quicker Home Sale

One of the major factors in getting your house to sell quickly is simply put:  make it attractive.  Most buyers select their homes based on emotion and then justify the decision with facts, so it is i

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mportant to make the house inviting and pleasant.  Yours is not the only property the prospective buyer will see.  You are competing with model homes, homes that may have been professionally decorated, homes that have no children, no pets and have Mr. and Mrs. Perfection as owners.

Start with the Outside…

Are shrubs overgrown?  Is there oil in the driveway?   How does the grass look?  Do the flower beds need weeding and mulching?  Try very hard to see your grounds through an independent observer’s eyes.  Trim the shrubs or plant new ones if the ones you have are lacking.  Houses with no landscaping in the front lose thousands of dollars of value in the mind of the buyer.  Adding a few well placed blooming flowers also adds appeal.

If the grass in the front yard is particularly non-existent, consider sodding.  Do some price shopping on this.  Sod is not cheap but there are some good prices available.  Let’s say is cost $600 to sod the front yard and your house payment is $800 per month.  If you save one month of selling time you are ahead $200.  (By the way, you can probably get away without sodding the back yard.)

Kitty litter in the driveway will absorb the oil and grease stains.  (Then remove the kitty litter!)

Next, go around and clean up the yard.  Remove any toys, tools and/or building supplies.  Here’s the acid test;  if you don’t see it in a model home yard, don’t have it in yours.  that goes for the bag of charcoal by the grill too.  However, the (non-rusty) grill can stay.

Now look at the exterior…

Is the painting fading or chipping?  Is the color outdated or too personal?  Is there mildew or mold growing?  If the house needs painting, choose a neutral color.  White or cream (not yellow) and light gray are good colors and they appeal to most people.  Use contrasting colors for shutters.  Black, rich brown, and medium gray are all good.  (One note about gray:  avoid blue-based gray.  It usually turns out looking blue – which is something you would not want to do for resale purposes!)  Doors and molding may match the house or may match the shutters, depending on the amount of contract created.  If you want some ideas for paint combinations, go look at three or four model communities who houses cost $20,000 to $30,000 more than those in your neighborhood – and copy one of them.

One last note on painting:  always give the front door and door trim a fresh coat of paint or stain even if you paint nothing else.  Buyers stand at the front door waiting to get in.  Give them a good first impression.

If your house was painted recently, or if it is a non-painted surface but is dirty, have it pressure washed.  Also pressure wash mildewed wooden decks.  Have it professionally done or do it yourself using a solution of 2 gallons of water, 2 cups of chlorine bleach, 1 cup of powered detergent and 1 cup of powdered dish washing detergent.  Caution:  to prevent damage to shrubs or grass, wet surrounding areas thoroughly before cleaning the wood as well as rinsing the greenery of all cleaning solution afterwards.

Now let’s go inside…

Go through the house room by room and pack up 20 -30 % of the accessories.  If you doubt the wisdom of this, go back to those model homes and compare their countertops with yours and their coffee and end tables with yours.  See what I mean?

The cardinal rule is this: The way you live in a home and the way you sell a home are two different things.  I know this will take some time and may seem like a nuisance, but remember you are in competition with other properties.  He who wins the Good Housekeeping Award probably sells his house first…and for the highest dollar.  Look as it this way – you are going to be moving anyway so just consider this to be advance packing.  By the way,  label the moving boxes and stack them neatly in the garage  –  floor to ceiling.

Pack any collections and family photos you have displayed.  Too much of your personality in evidence does not allow for the potential buyer to mentally move in.

Pack everything from the cabinets and all closets that you do not need on a routine basis.  You want to create the perception of roominess.  Remove everything but a week’s worth of linens from the linen closet.  Fold neatly and color coordinate those remaining.   (I’m not kidding.  This is the stuff sales are made of.)

Remove out-of-season clothes from the clothes closet.  Pack them and put them in the garage.  Arrange your shoes neatly.  Hang your clothes by category:   all blouses together, all shirts together and so on.

Now take another walk through the house.  Are there rooms that are cluttered with too much furniture?  Remove extra chairs, side tables and maybe even the 100” sofa which is really too big for the room.  (Notice how decorators use small pieces of furniture.)

Minor redecorating is recommended.  If your carpet and vinyl are outdated, either in color or style, change them.  Off-white carpet and vinyl are best.  This makes the rooms look larger and cleaner.  If the existing carpet padding is at least 5/8” thick and is not worn down, reuse it.  (Unless pets have done a number on it.)  If you are replacing the pad, select a very thick one and then install just a modest grade of carpeting.  The feel will be plush and expensive and that’s what you want.  If carpeting is in good condition and is a neutral color, just have it cleaned.

If your vinyl flooring is worn or if it’s just outdated, replace it with off-white vinyl.  But if the vinyl is up to date, in good condition and light colored, just scrub it thoroughly, paying special attention to dirt or wax buildup around the baseboards and in the corners.

Off-white painted walls are best.

If painting is required, use flat latex (except in kitchens and baths where you will use semi-gloss latex.)  If walls are dirty, experiment to see if scrubbing them is easier than painting.  To remove finger smudges on woodwork, rub them with kerosene.  Clean wood paneling with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of turpentine, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 quart of warm water.  Wipe dry.

If you have wallpaper, make sure it is clean and up to date.  If it is not, strip it.  (Hint:  some wallpaper is easy to strip if first sprayed with window cleaner.)  After stripping it, either paint or re-wallpaper, depending on the condition of the walls.  Sponge painting is also an easy, attractive alternative.

Repair badly cracked plaster, loose door knobs and crooked light fixtures.  Correct faulty plumbing.  Leaky faucets can discolor porcelain and call attention to plumbing defects.  To remove mineral stains from such leaks, pour hydrogen peroxide on the stain, then sprinkle with cream of tartar.  Leave this for 30 minutes before scrubbing.  Bad stains may require two or three applications.

Next, make your house sparkle…

If you do not have time or the inclination, hire someone to thoroughly clean the house.  Clean windows inside and out.  Clean with white vinegar using newspaper.  Clean mini-blinds, curtains and drapes.  In the kitchen, clean appliances inside and out.  Remove grease and grime by scrubbing with undiluted vinegar.  Scrub the inside of the refrigerator with baking soda; not only does it not scratch, but is removes odors.  Get rid of kitchen odors by pouring hot salt water down the drain twice a week.  Grind citrus peelings or apple cores in the garbage disposal.  Leave a small uncovered container of vinegar in the corner of  your kitchen counter.

Have bathrooms scrubbed to pass a white glove inspection.  If tubs or sinks are rusting, have them reglazed.  Clean grouting of the tiles with Tilex.  Recaulk the tub and shower.  Clean fixtures with white vinegar.  Scrub rust spots from chrome with grade number .000 steel wood dipped in kerosene.  If you have some appliqués in the tub which have seen better days, remove them by scrubbing with a kerosene soaked cloth.  Them rub the remaining adhesive with a cloth and cooking oil until all traces of the adhesive are gone.

If you are home, light a small candle for atmosphere and a pleasant (not overpowering) aroma.  Hang a set of designer bath towels on the most prominent rack in the bathroom, complete with verbal instructions to your family not to use them!  (Remember, you’re in show biz now!)

Pets should be out of sight and out of smell…

If you have pets, you need to get rid of pet odors and it is recommended that the pets themselves be kept out of the way and out of the house during showings.  Some people are uneasy around animals and also their presence may detract from the prospect’s attention to the house.  Getting pets out of the way is, unfortunately, much easier than getting pet odors out of the way.

If flooring has been repeatedly stained with animal urine, you’ll probably have to replace it to get rid of the smell.  And that means the carpet, the pad, the carpet strips, and the baseboard trim.  The sub flooring will need to be treated to kill the odor.

Put a small, uncovered dish of vinegar in the room where your pet sleeps.  This will remove “doggy” smells.  Of course, put the dish off the floor so the dog doesn’t drink the vinegar!

To absorb odors in the cat litter box, add a cup of baking soda to the litter.  (By the way, please remove the litter box from the shower or tub.  To non-cat lovers, you have just made your shower or tub mentally off-limits.)

Food smells can work for you or against you.  Baking bread, cookies and pies all smell good.  Spaghetti sauce is a delicious smell.  Frying fish or liver and onions is objectionable.  And of course, now days the small of cigarette smoke is offensive to many.  If your house has an unpleasant smell, use scented candles, fragrant fresh flowers or the proverbial vinegar in a dish.  Two other options are Ozium, a commercial preparation to remove odors from the air rather than mask them, and Glade Plug-in’s, which you can find at your grocery store.

Finally, tackle that thing called the garage…

This area is the catch-all where everything goes that has no place to go, so it is usually a mess.  Therefore, if your storage area is neat, one would surmise that you must really take good care of the whole house.  Now you’re going to say I’m becoming extreme, but believe me, this works every time.  Empty everything out of the garage.  Hose down the floor.  If there are stains remaining, paint it porch gray.  Paint the garage walls off white using a flat latex paint.  If the hot water heater is in the garage, wipe it down so it looks brand new.  Polish the copper pipes.

Now – after the paint is dry – put everything back in the garage piece by piece.  Throw out what you will not be taking with you.  Pack what you can and add to the stack of neatly labeled boxes.  The organize what’s left.

If you have a storage shed, organize it the same way, and if it needs a coat of paint or stain, do it.  An open bag of charcoal will absorb moisture in the storage shed.  If you have too much “stuff” for the shed, rent a small storage unit.  Un-cluttering can make all the difference in the world.

Lighting plays an important part…

During the day have all your curtains and blinds open.  If the day is cloudy, turn on all the lamps as well.

At dusk, put blinds down but leave them open.  Leave drapes open.  Turn on all lamps.  Overhead lights should be turned on but dimmed by 40%.  (Installing dimmers is easy and very effective for “setting the stage” and I highly recommend putting a dimmer switch on every switch plate in the house.)

At night, use the same lighting formula as above,  but close the blinds, curtains and drapes.  Adding candlelight is very effective.

Turn off the television during all showings of your house as they are distracting.  Put on soft background music.  (Kenny G, Yanni, or other soft instrumental only music)  Once you have “set the stage,” leave the house for the agent to show it.  Prospects can more easily look at the house with no distractions.  They will also feel freer to ask questions of the agent.  Buyers can mentally move in better without the current owners around.

Your house should be comfortably warm in cold weather and moderately cool in hot weather.  Make sure your air filters are clean.  Not only does this decrease your utility bills, but it makes the house smell cleaner.

Once you have read this, make a list of what you intend to do.  Then call me to go over your list.  I will give you an objective opinion and many times I will be able to save you time and money.


I’m sure you’re thinking, this is crazy!  But do we want to sell your house or not?  These are tried and true home selling tips.  There may be several homes on the market in your same price range at the same time as yours.  My job and yours is to get your house sold as quickly as possible so that you can move on to the next chapter of your life.  If you will follow my advice, which is why you hired me, I guarantee we will sell your home in the least amount of marketing time.


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