This depends on the market and your competition, but generally, home sellers believe they have to do more to their property than they really do. The first impression of a home is when you drive up to it and when you reach the front door. Those areas should be cleaned up to look in good order. Once inside, you should let in as much natural light as possible, and rooms should not be cluttered. Kitchens, particularly, should be free of clutter, and basements should be clean and bright (use 100 watt light bulbs) and have the windows cleaned. If your carpets are very dirty, you might want to have them cleaned. Spend as little money as possible and don’t get carried away.

  • Repair. Just because you’ve gotten used to the cracks in the walls and the rattles in the radiators doesn’t mean a buyer will too. If you have hardwood floors that need refinishing, be sure to get it done—hardwood is a huge selling point. Buyers like to snoop around, so be sure to fix any sticky doors or drawers as well. Finally, don’t forget to address any issues with the exterior—fences, shingles, sidewalks, etc. After all, without curb appeal, some buyers may never get to see the inside.
  • Neutralize. You want buyers to see themselves in your home. If your living room has lime green shag, wood-paneled walls, and all your collectibles and personal photographs, this will be much harder for them to do. Try replacing any bold color choices in your floors and walls with something more neutral—beiges, tans, and whites. Repainting will make everything look fresh and new, and help prospective buyers imagine all the possibilities.
  • Stage. Once your house is clean and updated, it’s time to play dress up. Home stagers can add small details and décor touches that will bring out the possibilities in the various spaces in your home: lamps, mirrors, throw rugs and pillows, flowers, decorative soaps and towels, patio furniture. Home staging can be particularly useful if your home is especially old or if the exterior looks dated. Think of it as a little mascara and rouge—if it’s done right, you notice the beauty, not the makeup.