This post is the first in a series of three to help you sell your house, whether in 2021 or down the road. Even if you don’t plan to sell, I hope these posts will inspire you to keep your home in top shape and boost your potential resale value anyway! Here are my 4 must-do projects before selling your house. The best part is, you can tackle most of these projects for FREE or at very low cost!
Advice from a Legit Real Estate Agent
If you missed this post last year, you might not know that I am a licensed real estate agent. True story! Here’s what I recommend for anyone trying to sell a house.
Before You Sell Your House, Tackle These Projects:
Clean, clean, clean
If you do nothing else, set aside multiple weekends to deep clean your house. I’m talking, clean like you’ve never cleaned before. You can also hire someone to help you with this chore, or perhaps parts of it.
Here’s what I recommend. In addition to your usual house cleaning, consider these specific areas:
- Bathrooms should be immaculate.
- Kitchens – clean every nook and cranny possible. Clean all appliances.
- Windows – clean inside and out (a good project to hire out). Don’t skip basement window wells, if they are visible from inside the house.
- Power wash house exterior if you live in a humid climate. Zap the green stuff!
- Shampoo carpets, mop wood floors, and wipe down walls if you have pets. This is a good enzyme cleaner.
- Pay attention to the details: baseboards, appliance insides, and all light switches and doorknobs. If you can, clean grout lines with a bleach-based cleaner to make them as bright as possible.
Here’s the thing. Everyone gets used to their own smells and dirt. A clean house smells better, looks better, and appeals to more people because there will be less to turn away potential buyers. Do not light a candle and call it a day. You’re basically trying to return the house to a neutral, odorless, super-clean state. Even if you’re selling an empty house, and especially if you have pets. (See that section below.)
This is the kitchen sink in a house that I just toured. The house was newly remodeled, so I think this is just mess from the contractor. Still – yuck!
Trust me, whether it’s dated or newly remodeled, a clean house speaks to buyers.
Read More About Our DIY Home Updates
Declutter – Less is More
After cleaning, the next best thing you can do to sell your house is to declutter. This is a FREE update that is almost guaranteed to boost your home’s appeal to buyers.
Decluttering is about more than taking down your Chuck-E-Cheese family reunion photos. Although, zapping the personal tchotchkes does help to neutralize a space for potential buyers. I know this sounds over-the-top, but most buyers are unable to see past colorful personality in a home. It’s better to keep things sparse and fairly neutral, or at least toned down with a few pops of color or flair.
Unless you are already a minimalist, try to remove 1/3 of the furniture and decor in every room. Seriously! It’s nice to have some furniture staged, so potential buyers can envision how they might live in your space, but keep it low-key. Your home will feel more spacious and airy with less STUFF. Store the extra furnishings in your garage or even rent a storage space for a month or two.
Clear off all horizontal surfaces. Dressers, countertops, coffee tables, kitchen table, desks, nightstands, and side tables… Put back a few carefully selected items on the coffee table or nightstands. Pop a vase of flowers on the kitchen counter, and perhaps a runner and centerpiece on the dining table. That is it.
Boost Curb Appeal – First Impressions Matter
The next time you return home, approach your curb appeal with a critical eye. What needs to be cleaned up, trimmed, pruned, put away, or otherwise spruced up outside your home? You can also take a photo and see what stands out to you from that perspective. (You’d be surprised, but this trick works!)
Some careful landscaping and clean up can work wonders to improve your curb appeal. No need to plant new shrubs, but weeding your garden beds and making sure the lawn has been mowed will go a long way. Here is the progress we’ve made so far at our current house.
If you’re willing to invest a bit more time, energy, and money, here are some ideas to give your home a quick facelift:
– Paint the front door. I prefer a pop of color, but black is also timeless and Zillow says it’s a winner.
– Buy or pot some seasonal flowers for your porch/entry and purchase a new doormat.
– Update your house numbers, mailbox, and perhaps porch light.
Read More About Our DIY Home Updates
Fresh Paint Can Mask Many Flaws
Dingy, dated walls? Pet or other odors? Just looking for a quick update before listing your house? If you have time to paint (or hire a painter), break out the brushes and a nice, neutral color.
Fresh paint helps your house feel clean and new. It signals to buyers that you care about and maintain your home. It’s amazing how well this works! If you’ve painted in the past year or two, you can get away with touch-ups and buffing out marks with a magic eraser.
Whether you DIY or hire someone, just make sure not to get sloppy with it. I toured a nicely remodeled home recently and noticed paint on the vintage door sets and new light fixtures. To me, that says the contractor rushed, and I wonder if other corners were cut, too. Details matter. Plus, paint on these vintage knobs is a crime!
Paint also helps cancel out odors. I’m adding a section about pet odors below, but this is another reason to consider a new coat of paint to help sell your house. Choose a low-VOC paint if you’ll be listing your house immediately after the work is done, otherwise, the fumes can be distracting to home buyers.
My friend sold her house in 2019 and reported that her real estate agent advised painting the interior Dolphin Fin by Behr, which she called a “perfect, neutral gray.” Guess what color we painted our last house? I was ahead of the trend on that one! Here’s what Dolphin Fin looks like, with Behr Swan Wing white on the trim and doors.
Need more color recommendations? Check out my blog post on my favorite white Behr paint colors, or this one on exterior Behr white colors for more options. Plus, here’s a post on color trends in 2021 for the latest scoop. And here are popular white paint colors from Behr, Benjamin Moore, and Sherwin Williams:
BONUS: How to Neutralize Pet Odors Before You Sell Your House
If you live with pets or rent your home to pet owners, you should put in the elbow grease to remove the smell. Even for pet lovers (including us!), it’s gross to smell them when touring someone’s home. Before you sell your house, here’s how to handle pet odors:
1. CLEAN. See section one.
2. Replace or shampoo the carpet. You should replace old carpet anyway if it’s within your budget. Definitely attempt to replace the carpet if you’ve lived with pets. Also, I would choose to replace carpet over painting, if you can only tackle one of those projects. Shampoo the carpet, instead, if you absolutely cannot replace it.
3. Spot clean any furniture or rug stains with an enzyme-based cleaner. Biokleen Bac-Out is great.
4. Consider painting the walls to remove baked-in pet odors. At the very least, wipe everything down (walls, doorways, and trim) with a cleaning product. Pay attention to doors and door frames, where pets rub along the edges as they pass through.
5. Wash ALL bedding, including duvets and blankets, before your home is listed for sale. This will do double-duty to remove pet odors and freshen up bedrooms.
6. Finally… now it’s time to add a fresh scent. Before a day of house tours, simmer a pot on the stove with water, lemon or orange peels, and a few cinnamon sticks. Ahhhh.
Good Luck Selling Your House!
Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll feel inspired to give your home a good old deep cleaning, whether or not you plan to sell it. I’m hoping to tackle the windows this week… we’ll see if the weather cooperates. Next week, I’ll continue this series with a behind-the-scenes look at home inspections. Why they matter, how to do your own, what to look for, when to hire a pro, etc. I’ve got tips galore. Stay tuned!