Preparing Your Home to Sell

Cecilia Sherrard

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If you’re thinking of selling your home and you look around wondering, “Where to start?" Here’s a list of some things buyers will look at and ways to improve your home’s appeal.

First of all, let me tell you that I’m a Realtor in Cleveland Ohio. I have been in thousands of homes. Worked with hundreds of buyers and sellers, and I know what people are looking for when they walk into a home. Real estate agents are a great source of advice! If you’re current market is anything like Ohio’s, then it’s full of stiff competition. You definitely need to be prepared and ready to impress.

You may want to go ahead and have a home inspection prior to putting your home up for sale. This way, you will have documentation and will be able to supply a potential buyer with knowledge and realistic life expectations. It will help them feel more comfortable with the possible flaws and more confident in you and the home. Even if there are things to possibly be fixed or replaced in the future, you may have just gained their trust and okay with doing some projects on their own.

Pricing your home correctly will ultimately be the deciding factor for the buyer as a rule. I’m sure you’re looking for top dollar and expect the most out of your home. After all, it is probably something you’ve invested in and it’s personal to you and your family. This list is intended to be straight forward and to the point.

Let’s start with the most important aspect of your humble dwelling, CLEANLINESS!

I can’t say this enough. Clean, Clean, Clean. Okay, three times will have to do (For now. )

While the word clean is hopefully sticking in your mind, (oops I said it again. ) let’s focus on the exterior; this is the first thing people will see obviously. There’s nothing you can do about your street or location, but there is something you can do with your own lot. Get the outside ready to go for that crucial first impression.

- The yard, depending on the season or your climate, should always be looking it’s best. Bushes and landscaping should be neat and trimmed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked onto a property with someone, and the first words were “Uh oh, I hope the inside looks better. " Or “Wow, so far, so good. " Please make sure all outdoor items that aren’t being used are put away neatly, including lawnmowers, toys, and garbage cans.

- New storm doors are a great way to add appeal for a decent price. If your current doors/screens are in need of paint or replacement, it may be something to consider. Windows are also in today’s market looked at seriously. Most buyers expect newer replacement windows. If you can’t quite swing it, at least make sure your existing windows are sparkling, free of cracks, functional, and there are no missing storms or screens. Paint the window trim if needed. No paint should be chipping or pealing including on the home, porch, awnings, or windows. A buyer looks at it as neglect. If you’re neglecting the outside, what should they expect on the inside? Don’t let them raise eyebrows already!

- Smaller improvements can add value and visual appeal also; such as a new mailbox, address numbers/letters, well placed flowers/planters. Even a new welcome mat and a swept porch/sidewalk can make everything just look more clean. (There it is again. )

I’ll assume you knew most of these things and they are already done. Understand, I’ve been to many homes and have seen some interesting things. Not everyone has the time or the funds to make improvements or to make things sparkle. Perfection isn’t expected, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Now let’s move on to the inside of your abode. The best advice I can give is to start at the door they will enter. Start slow. Look around the way a stranger would. Take the tour yourself! Pretend you’re a potential buyer, or have a family member/friend come in and critique each room. (Preferably, have your Realtor do this before putting in the for sale sign!) This is actually my favorite part. Maybe because I understand how important it is and how simple it can be. I always find something to move, replace, organize, or change in a home. Often times, it’s something that homeowner has overlooked all the years they’ve been there. An outside eye can make all the difference. Okay, I think you’re getting point. Clean! Sorry, had to throw that in there.

You may or may not have all these features in your home. If you do, please allow your ears to perk up, and take note. The entrance should be extremely taken care of. If you have a foyer, keep it clutter free. Paint if needed, and remember the hall closet WILL be opened.

- Closets are a big one. If you have an older home, like many in Ohio, chances are you’re in need of more closet space. In the old days people actually survived with fewer garments. Imagine that. There’s not much you can do about the space, but there is something you can do about the appearance of. The more that’s out and off the floor/shelves, the better! People love closet space, and they love going through your closets! Don’t forget them. Make sure they offer as much space as possible and are clean (Yes, clean!)

- The kitchen, or shall I say the busiest and most used part of the home. In today’s HGTV/Home Depot world, you should expect for the kitchen to be looked at and observed carefully. Upgrades are a must. Newer appliances that come with the home are also a positive. That lime green stove from 1978 isn’t a great throw in feature. Cabinetry is also a huge factor these days. Lots of space, and beauty is in. If you can’t afford to go all out and replace them, a cost effective approach may be refacing the cabinets or replacing/updating hardware, even painting them may help as a last resort. Granite, marble and engineered stone countertops are all rage. There are so many choices from top of the line, to lower budget beauty. If replacement isn’t an option, at least make sure your counters are clean! And free of any clutter. Remove almost everything not used. Store it away, but remember potential buyers will also look inside your cabinets.

- Painting the walls or applying wallpaper should be done with care. On average, people choose white. White or lighter colors will make the room appear larger yes. It may not reflect the light in the best way though. There are so many colors and textures to choose from. Try if you can to keep it neutral but don’t be afraid of a little color. If your home looks like it may fit in with a hospital, it may not be quite warm enough or shall I dare say boring.

- Flooring options are abundant. The preferred choices are ceramic tile, granite, or hard wood. Natural is in if possible. If you want to be unique and draw some interest, try adding bamboo or cork flooring. Perhaps not in the whole house, but a rec room, bedroom, or sunroom may add an interesting twist. If you have carpet, shampoo it, and make sure it’s not in need of replacement.

- should have furniture moved to show the most potential space. It should be roomy, bright, and free of personal belongings. Many people have religious items, photos on the wall/mantle, family albums on the coffee table, etc. All these items should be removed. Hang or replace with something neutral. The reason for this is that when someone is interested in possibly buying your home, they aren’t just a visitor. They need to view the home as theirs. Imagining their photos and personal belongings filling the walls and home. Allowing this freedom to the buyer will not only help them make a decision about living there, but it will also make them more calm and comfortable while touring your home.

- Bedrooms are similar. I understand it’s hard to get the teenager to remove the poster of Britney Spears, or to add something different to the part of the wall that includes the wedding photo, but again, it’s necessary to keep things as neutral as possible and of course clutter free. All personal belongings on dressers should be tucked away. The one place I hardly notice anyone looking is under the beds. This may be a great place to store things as they build up from the closets and cabinets. Purchase storage bins at a discount store and fill them up! (By the way, clearing out these areas helps when moving. The more you can get rid of now, the easier for you later. ) Yes, make the beds and make sure everything is clean! (Sorry)

- Bathrooms are almost as looked at as kitchens. The more bathrooms you have the better. Buyers often request from me 4 bedrooms 3 baths. It’s almost expected for there to be a bathroom for every bedroom. With so many different features and hardware to choose from, having an updated bathroom is almost considered standard. Even if you can’t get to everything, a few new things such as a vanity, mirror, flooring, lighting, or interior surround in the shower may help. Most of these projects separately are pretty inexpensive. Double sinks are very desirable in the master bath along with Jacuzzi tubs. Again, expect your linen closets and medicine cabinets to be looked at, so make sure they’re umm, yes you got it.

- Basements and attics are considered living spaces at times. Depending of course on the size, they can make for great rec rooms, offices, dens, and even an extra bedroom. If you have a space like this, and it’s not finished, finish it off if you can. Adding an extra living space in the home can add tremendous value and can set you apart from the house down the street. Basements should be dry. They should be bright and as cheerful as possible. Please remove the clothes hanging near the dryer!

- Mechanicals are and should be looked at seriously by buyers. There’s more to a home than wallpaper and granite countertops. Your furnace if not newer should be inspected, serviced if needed and make sure it’s CLEAN. (Last time I promise. ) You should also have paperwork on the furnace and all major appliances if possible. The electric should be upgraded. Outlets should be grounded, and any outlet within 6 feet of water should have GFCI’s. Contact your electrician if you don’t know what all this means. With today’s technology, homebuyers are looking for your home to be able to handle their electronic needs. Updated electrical may also be a requirement from a government-backed loan such as FHA or VA. A home inspector will tear it apart on his report in red ink if it’s not reliable or done properly. Hot water tanks should show no sign of rust. Having at least a 40-gallon tank is optimal for keeping enough hot water in the home for multiple showers. Hopefully the roof isn’t that old. Buyers will ask about the roof and gutters. This again, is a great time to provide that home inspection report.

- One last note. I find particularly important. Whether you’re a cook, have pets, or you’re just addicted to moth balls, please make sure you do something about the air quality and the home’s fragrance. Don’t be overbearing or have it be noticed, but invest in febreze, boil cinnamon sticks on the stove, clean drapes, bedding, carpeting, and give your home a thorough - (I promised. )

Cecilia Sherrard is a full time dedicated Realtor in Northeast Ohio. With years of experience and knowledge, she has maintained a multi-million dollar producer status. Servicing areas such as: Westlake, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Rocky River, Cleveland, Brook Park, Parma, etc. Visit her website at


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