Preparing Your Home

To maximize the selling price of your home, little things can make a big difference. There are books written about staging the inside and enhancing the curb appeal on the outside, but here are some quick tips that we've seen work for our clients. And, to help you make the best impression, Sentry's agents are experts in preparing your home for sale and will help with specific ideas for your property.

Stand back. Look at your home as though it belonged to somebody else. Is there anything that would make you wonder how well the house had been maintained over the years? Decide what needs to be cleaned, painted, repaired, or discarded long before the "For Sale" goes up.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Spend only as much money on repairs and improvements as you have to in order to improve the salability of the property. Don't assume that you'll be able to recover all the costs in the sale price. Deciding whether and where to invest in repairs and improvements can be a hard judgment call – your Sentry agent can help you make it before the "For Sale" sign goes up.

Set a realistic price. This is a tough one for many homeowners. No matter how well you've kept up your property, or how much "sweat equity" you've put into it over the years, you need to keep your asking price within the range governing the local real estate market. Here again, your Sentry agent can help you assess your home objectively before the "For Sale" sign goes up.

First impressions matter. Keep the front yard and driveway clean and uncluttered – grass mowed, shrubs pruned, deadheads plucked from the flowerbeds, lawn raked free of fallen leaves in autumn, pathways shoveled clear of ice and snow in winter. Put a floral wreath on the door or some potted plants along the walk. Obvious exterior flaws – peeling paint, missing shingles, flapping shutters, crooked fences, etc. – should be remedied before the "For Sale" sign goes up.

Create space, any way you can. Crowded rooms look smaller than they are, so remove as much furniture (and as many loose objects from surfaces) as you can. Don't put it all in the basement or the garage, because buyers will want to look at those areas, too. Remove half the stuff from all your closets so that they look more spacious. Rent a personal storage unit if you have to, or hold a tag sale before the "For Sale" goes up.

Project a comfortable ambience, not a strong personality. A few carefully chosen "life-style" accessories – an interesting pottery bowl, large pillar candles, soft-white bulbs in the table lamps, fresh-cut or silk flowers, a couple of nicely-framed family photos, etc. – will lend feelings of warmth and comfort to any room. But pack away the controversial political posters, the erotic art, the vacation souvenirs, or anything else that might interfere with prospective buyers' ability to envision themselves living in your house. Walk through every room in your house to identify potential distracters before the "For Sale" sign goes up.

Follow your nose. Sniff your way around the house and remedy any problems. Many of us become accustomed to powerful scents – litter box and other pet odors, cigarette smoke, even strong cooking smells – that could be off-putting to others. You don't want your house smelling like disinfectant cleansers, either, so do the heavy-duty clean-up long before the "For Sale" goes up.

Focus on the kitchen. Because buyers will. Scrub the appliances until they gleam, including the plates under the burners, the underside of the fan hood, and the vegetable bins in the fridge. (Fairly or unfairly, many people look at stuff like that for indications about how well you've maintained your home over the years.) Defrost the freezer and eat up some of the contents if it looks crowded. Clear off the countertops, un-clutter the cupboards, and clean out the junk drawer. (Every kitchen has one, but you have to empty yours before the "For Sale" sign goes up.)

Scrutinize the bathrooms. They have to sparkle, even if the fixtures are old. Re-grouting the tiles can perk up an aging bathroom, as can fresh curtains, bright towels, colored soaps, and a new shower curtain. But you have to fix the leaky faucet or the running toilet (and any traces of water damage!) before the "For Sale" sign goes up.

Keep your house cleaned and ready to show at all times. Insist that your family get some things (like newspapers, magazines, and recyclables) out of the house every single day, and put other things (like toys, sports gear, and clothes) back in place immediately after use. You may want to designate one container – such as a large basket or box – as the emergency place in which to stash stuff if you get a last-minute call for a showing. (But don't designate a closet, room, or cellar since you'll have to expose those to view, too.) If they complain, remind them that you can all relax into your more casual routines – after the "For Sale" sign comes down.