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How to Prepare Your Home (and Yourself) for a Sale

prepare your home for a saleThe housing market has bounced back from its scary lows. Housing prices, as most of you know, plummeted during the depths of the 2008 – 2009 recession, but in most areas of the country, housing is now valued back at pre-recession levels.

Many people who sat on the sidelines during the last five years, waiting for their homes to recoup their original value, now have the freedom to list their house for sale. In other words, there’s a lot of “pent-up demand” from sellers who were waiting for this moment.

If you’re among the many homeowners who are getting ready to list your house soon, here are a few tips that you should know to prepare your home for a sale.

#1: Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit

You already know the obvious ways that you should prepare your home for a sale: fix that leaky faucet, repair the broken screen door, grease the hinges so they stop squeaking.

You also know that you should clear the clutter from your closet, clean the carpets in your living room, and even spend a few dollars on improving your home decor, so that your house “shows” nicely to prospective buyers. There’s no reason to go overboard with your decorations, but tiny touches like throwing a nice slipcover on your Craigslist couch, adding a few brightly colored throw pillows to your bedspread, or putting a matching set of towels in the bathroom can go a long way towards making your home feel … well, homey!

These items are the “low-hanging fruit” of preparing a home for sale. It’s tough to repaint the house or replace the roof, but it’s much easier to buy a $10 set of matching towels for the bathroom, add a candle or two, spend an hour de-cluttering, and rent a steam carpet cleaner from Home Depot for $30. In short, there’s no reason not to take these steps to prepare your home for a sale when they could add thousands of dollars to your home sale price.

prepare your home for a sale#2: Buy or Rent Another House

Okay, it’s time to talk about a dreaded aspect of home sales: coordinating move-out and move-in times.

You see, the buyers may have a particular timeline in mind. They might need to get into your house before a specific date, when their job begins or when their children’s school starts. You, on the other hand, may also have a specific timeline. And the problem is that your timelines may not mesh together well.

Many home sale contracts have fallen apart because the buyers and sellers can’t agree on a closing date (or can’t agree on a “buyer takes possession” date, which is technically the day that the buyer legally acquires the property – this can sometimes be after the official closing date).

The best way to avoid this is by staying flexible. If you have the means, buy or rent another dwelling, and move in while your house is still for sale. Yes, you’ll be paying two mortgages, but the buyers will know that they have the flexibility to take possession at anytime.

If that’s outside your budget, rent a storage unit for your possessions and arrange to stay with family or friends for an indeterminate period of time. Be ready to put your belongings in storage and move-in with your grandparents at the drop of a hat. The more you can work around the buyer’s schedule, the better chance you have of selling your home for the asking price that you desire.

#3: Change the Lighting

Here’s a final tip that most people don’t think about, but that makes a huge difference when you need to prepare your home for a sale: swap out your bright incandescent lightbulbs for ones with a warm, soft glow. This isn’t necessarily the best “task” lighting (since it’s not daylight-spectrum bright), but it emits the feel of coziness and goes a long way towards making a home feel inviting.

If you can spend another $20 to $100, buy a few desklamps or floor lamps and place these in the corners of your bedrooms, stairwell landings, family room, and anywhere else in your home that has a darkened corner. This will create an interplay of shadow and light that adds depth to a room, making it both brighter and more beautiful.

Are you selling your home soon? Prepare your home for a sale and get yourself top dollar for it!

Housing Make Money Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. These are simple, good tips that would definitely make a difference to how inviting a potential new home might be to a buyer. Here in Australia many vendors hire people to ‘stage’ their home in a stylish and inviting way for house inspections. This often includes removing all of the owner’s possessions and bringing in hire furniture and decor items, all for thousands of dollars! Crazy….

    • Thanks for the comment Alpenglow! I have heard of quite a few high class homes being staged here in the U.S. as well. I think it can make a huge difference with the sale of a house (since people apparently have zero imagination these days). 😉

  2. Great post! We plan on selling our home in the next few months and have a lot of little things to do. Hopefully our home sells quickly!

    • Well best of luck to you Michelle! It’s amazing how many little things need to be done with the sale of a house. Typically, they just don’t all get done, which is probably okay. Once you get down to the minute details, chances are the buyers won’t even notice.

  3. Great tips!! We just sold our home about 5 months ago and decluttering was a must!! We also repainted some rooms, made sure the carpets were cleaned and spruced up our decor. The home sold within two months which isn’t terrible.

    • Congrats on selling the house! No, two months isn’t bad at all – not so fast that you think you left money on the table, and not so slow that you lost interest from the market of buyers. Did you ever have it where you looked at your house after it was all spruced up and think, “Hmmm, my house looks amazing! I kind of want to stay…”?

  4. Another great way to make sure your home is ready to be sold is to make sure the roof is in great condition. No one wants to buy a home with a damaged room.

    • Good point Brittney! A roof is a huge expense that most people don’t have the dollars to replace. Actually, now that I think about it in reverse, if you’re looking for a house and have the cash, perhaps an old roof would result in huge savings!

  5. These are excellent, common-sense tips. Fixing a few simple things that people are sure to notice (like that leaky faucet) is affordable and helps you sell the house faster. It is also wise to stage the home and rent another one or stay with family until the house sells. People prefer to see a blank slate because they can better imagine themselves living in the home. It is harder when someone is still living in the house and has all their personal belongings around.

    • Many buyers have absolutely zero imagination, so yes, staging is immensely important!

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