So, you’ve decided to list your home, talked to a real estate professional, and scheduled a date for photos. Oh no! Now what? What do you need to do to get your home photo and showing-ready? Don’t worry, it’s really pretty basic and in the long run once your home is under contract, you’ll be so glad you put in a little effort early on in the process.
Let’s go room by room and tackle the most important tasks to get your home ready!
Step #1. The Kitchen
Clean and shiny is the goal here. Remove all items from countertops- especially the small appliances like the blender, coffee maker, and the yucky toaster. This will give it a nice, neat look and allow potential buyers to see what’s important, not all your belongings. Keep cleaning materials and brooms, etc. stored away, and tidy up the pantry. A kitchen’s cleanliness (or lack of) sends messages to potential buyers about how well the rest of the home has been maintained. Give them a great first impression by cleaning the oven and stove, change out the burner pans if they look dingy, and give other appliances a good wipe-down as well. Be sure the sink is clean and shiny, and take out the trash before each showing.
Step #2. Living Rooms
Simple is the goal here. You want your buyers to be able to imagine themselves in the home. To accomplish this, simplify as much as possible. Clear off end tables and shelves. If you have extra furniture in the room, consider removing it. You want this area to look light and spacious. This also means putting away items that aren’t used frequently or that don’t belong- the free weights or other work out equipment, the cat or dog beds and toys, children’s toys, etc. Conceal media cords to create a nice, clean look. And put away personal items such as mail, magazines, books, movies, and family photos. New, colorful throw pillows are an excellent (not to mention inexpensive) way to add a splash of color and freshen up a room.
Step #3. Dining Room
Welcoming and spacious is the goal here. Removing extra leaves and extra chairs from the table can make the room look bigger. Often times formal dining rooms are seldom used and tend to become a dumping ground for everyday items. Toys or pet items don’t belong in the dining room. Remove these items so potential buyers can picture what the room was intended for- their family sitting around the table enjoying a meal. Another way to encourage this is keep the table completely clear with the exception of a stunning centerpiece. One more interior design tip: the bottom of your chandelier should be at a minimum of 60″ from the floor.
Step #4. Bedrooms
Oh boy! This can seem overwhelming if you have children. But don’t stress. Just take it one step at a time. Start by concealing personal items and clothing in their appropriate places. Remove personal items from the night stands and dressers and walls. Keeping the floors clear of extra items will allow for quick and easy vacuums before showings.
Helpful tip: Give kids a list of their own! Even toddlers can sort and put away toys efficiently. Work on the master while they work on their space, then once they’re room is tidy and toys are no longer covering the floor, your task of cleaning the rooms will be much more manageable.
Don’t forget to tidy up the closet! While this area is often used to conceal everything else that needs tucked away in the home, trust me, buyers look in there, too.
Step #5. Bathrooms
Again, clean is the goal here. Stow away items in the drawers. But first! Use a wet wipe to wipe down the inside of your drawers. Consolidate items like hair ties, tooth brushes, toothpaste and floss into their own spaces. Helpful tip: the dollar store has little connectible trays for such items. This not only keeps it looking neat but also saves the wood from toothpaste and other liquid stains.
While I’m at it, I’ll share with you the best discovery I ever made when it comes to cleaning. We live in a rural area with iron in our water. If you’ve never had iron in your water, you’ve never really had to clean. Iron leaves an orange stain on whatever it comes in contact with. And it’s a pain to get out. While this little remedy removes that pesky iron stain, I also found it makes everything shine like new! So here goes…
You’ll need: Distilled white vinegar, baking soda, and Dawn dish soap (the blue kind).
Take about a 1/3 cup of vinegar (or more for big projects), pour in a microwavable bowl and heat in the microwave about 20-30 seconds. Let cool for just 20 seconds or so. Remove carefully. Slowly pour in baking soda. I say slowly because it will volcano in the warm vinegar. Then squirt in maybe 3 tablespoons of Dawn and mix into a paste. You can add baking soda to make it thicker. Wipe it all over your tubs, sinks, even faucets, and let sit for a while. Then, use a rag or a sponge to lightly scrub. Voila! Clean and chemical free, so even the kids can help!
Okay so back to the task… Remove unnecessary items from the shower. Get rid of empty bottles and keep only what’s needed neat in their appropriate places. Replace rusty shower certain hooks and also consider a new shower certain. Light colors are best, but if a pattern or color is desired, keep it to a simple, tasteful pattern, not bold and busy. Consider re-caulking the bathtubs to make it look clean and fresh.
Fold color-coordinated (or even just white) linens neatly in the linen closet or on shelves. Place a nice, new bottle of soap on by the sink and a fresh hand towel near by. Add a new bath rug for a clean and fresh look.
Say no to toilet lid covers! Store them away and always, always keep the toilet lid clean and closed for showings.
Step #6. Laundry Room
I know this can seem daunting, especially if you have children, but keep baskets of clothes out of the laundry room and make sure there’s no laundry in the washer or dryer before showings. The goal here is for potential buyers to think, “Wow!” this is plenty of room for our family’s laundry needs.” A jug of detergent is fine on the counter, but tuck all other items away.
If your laundry room doubles as a mud room, tuck shoes and coats away in a closet and use an odor repellent like Febreze often. Also, use high-watt light bulbs to make the room appear bright and clean.
Step #7. Garage
Pack un-used items in boxes and organize neatly. Sweep out the garage for a well-maintained look. If there are scrapes on the inside walls or dirty areas, repaint them. Be sure garage door is mechanically sound. Better to perform active maintenance now than have your buyers ask for a $1000 credit because they’re wondering what that squeak could mean.
Step #8. The Yard/Exterior
You don’t have to go over board with landscaping, but a few simple steps can make all the difference in adding curb appeal.
Remove weeds and trim bushes from planting areas. Be sure bushes don’t block windows so trim to just below. Freshen up flower beds with new mulch. This give a nice, fresh look and also helps your plants color to pop. For an inexpensive pop of color, add some brightly colored flowers near the entrance of the home. Throw some new outdoor throw pillows on the patio furniture to brighten the space and make it more welcoming.
Have the outside pressure-washed, including the driveway, and wash windows (hello vinegar and water for a streak-free shine) inside and out. If necessary, consider painting the exterior. This brings one of the highest returns on investment. The current trend in colors are light grays, beiges, and white. If the front door is looking dingy even after the pressure-wash, go ahead and paint it in a contrasting color.
If there’s any rotten wood, replace it. You’ll save yourself the trouble when the inspection report comes back.
The most important part of getting your home ready to list is to declutter and clean (never underestimate the power of dusting!). Try to be objective about your home and imagine if you were a buyer coming to preview it. This will help you get another perspective and make changes or updates accordingly. Doing these things will go a long way in helping your home make a fabulous first impression!