Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What To Get Done BEFORE Putting Your House On The Market

The old saying "Time flies" has never been truer as we get busier and busier. Weren’t we all celebrating the New Year just a few days ago? Well February is here and the Super Bowl - and Ground Hog Day – have just past in a blur! If you are thinking about selling your house this spring, don’t run back into your house like a groundhog afraid of his shadow. To get it done right, you probably need to start NOW!

Most people agree that selling a house is stressful. If you think all you need to do is put a “For Sale” sign in the yard, you had better keep reading! The best way to avoid unnecessary stress is to plan and be prepared with these key steps:

Get Your House Inspected

Consider getting your own house inspection. While it is true that a serious buyer will most likely hire a professional house inspector (unless they are one or are a contractor) you probably don’t want to wait for that potential buyer to surprise you with any bad news from their report! The cost of an inspection is usually around $250-$500. It is a wise investment. If you have someone interested enough in your property to pay for one, it is better to be prepared. You want to know about any issues before the buyer starts to lower their original offer with a counter offer based on an unfavorable inspection report, or worse yet, back out of the deal completely!.

Think of it as an early warning system. If you get an inspection soon, you will have plenty of time to make repairs before the spring. It’s better to be proactive, than reactive. It is better to know what the inspector is going to find and be able to fix it -- and pick who will fix it. You can shop around for the best price instead of perhaps paying an inflated “rush” price later on when you will have so many other things to think about.

It also gives you the opportunity to coordinate with the work you had already planned on doing. You would probably be very unhappy if you just put in new landscaping and then found out you had to redo your roof. As careful as any trades person may be, the dumpster and new materials have to be placed somewhere!
Find out what the inspector thinks, review the report and make a list of necessary repairs and projects.

Curb Appeal

Everybody knows that curb appeal is important when selling a house. If your house is not inviting from the street, buyers may not even get out of their cars to look inside! Get the opinion of your friends and neighbors – the ones that will give you an honest answer. Note any outdoor maintenance, repairs or improvements.  See if you will need to remove dead branches from trees, pull weeds, prune and freshen as needed. Check the paint on fences, decks, trim -- and everywhere else. Decide if you will need to paint or if a good pressure washing will do. An inspector may not comment on driveway cracks if they are not structural. Fixing them will keep your house from giving the impression that it's not maintained.

Even though the house in this picture looks neat and tidy, it still seems bare. 

If your budget allows for more than basic maintenance, think about improving the landscaping. Depending on where you live and your landscaping style, consider new mulch, add gravel, sharp edging, show a healthy lawn and beds of flowers. Make sure you will have a clean entry way. Plan to sweep or pressure-wash the front walk and porch (you will probably need to do this anyway if you decide to paint). Will you need to polish the outdoor metalwork, clean the windows and glass and replace any burnt-out bulbs in outdoor lighting? Would it help to add planters with flowers?

For now, note it all down.

Evaluate The Interior

Even if you got an inspection, the report may not address outdated features if they were working well. Are your kitchen cabinets more than 10 years old? How about the baths? Do you need to paint the whole house, just a few rooms or touch up the trim or doors? Do the floors need to be updated? Are the carpets worn? Will any wood, tile or stone flooring stand up to the scrutiny of a buyer? How are the plumbing fixtures?

Keep writing it all down.


When you have buyers touring through your house, you don’t want them distracted by clutter. You want them focused on the HOUSE you are trying to sell and not your nick-nacks! And some buyers will have attitude. They are expecting to see your house at its best. They are “visiting” after all! In addition, removing anything unnecessary will give the impression that your house is bigger, brighter and airier. Buyers look and pay for space and light. There will be couples and even families plus their agent, or if you are lucky, multiple families walking through your house -- so make sure they can! If you are thinking you will “just stuff it in the closet when they come”, guess again! Buyers will expect to actually walk into those "walk-in" closets.

Think positively of this process. You are going to a new start. Has your family outgrown it? Will it fit in your new place? Is it time to get something new anyway? Do you really love something enough to PAY to move it!

Don't forget to consider the time it may take to throw things out, arrange donations, give to family, ship them early or rent a storage locker.

So look around the house, make a plan to clear out that clutter & write it down.


These days buyers have little tolerance for dirt. You're never going to be able to sell your house fast without cleaning it first.  While this is a stage for later in the process, objectively look at it now so you can record any major issues. Do it yourself or hire a crew. Just remember that even professional maids may take a pass on a heavy-duty cleanup of a neglected house.

If it's been a decade since you washed the blinds, plan to clean them or remove them. Same for any drapes or curtains.  Expect to pull the stove out and clean behind it every couple of months until the house is sold. In fact, come up with a plan to keep all the appliances sparkling. You may be used to a particular smell, but for a fussy buyer, an unusual smell may signal the end of a potential sale! Look at the bathrooms and decide how to keep them spotless and glittering.  Make a strategy to be sure the floors are always clean – you never know when a potential buyer might want to see your house. If you have forgotten about those dirty windows, you can be sure a potential buyer won't!  If any of these things are dirty, buyers will question whether the house is well maintained.

So you’ve gone through the house again. Now make a list to prepare a major cleaning before you put your house up for sale and a cleaning routine until the house is sold!


Think about all the important papers you'll need for the sale. These documents include the deed, your mortgage or note (depending on where you live), operating manuals for appliances and HVAC system. If you are missing a manual, chances are you will be able to find one on the internet. If you just had some work done, it may have a warranty period. It would be a good idea to get documents for everything that still has a warranty together. 

While you're at it, make a note to pull out your old utility bills. Experienced buyers will want the information and those seasonal totals may help make your home look more appealing if you have energy saving features.

For now, make a list of what you need to find or replace.


Walk around your house inside and out. Have a friend help you if necessary. Be objective. Think of yourself as a potential buyer. If you see something and wonder if it will bother a buyer, write it down.

Take a look at all the things you have been noting as part of this process. DON’T get overwhelmed! It’s just a list! Now is the time to put things in order. For each item, think about what has to happen before, during and after. For example, are you ready to shop for an inspector or do you have so many boxes in those “spare” rooms that he or she won’t even be able to get in?


If you have a long list already, start by separating into 3 lists. Only you will be able to make the decision of what goes on which list, but here are some suggestions:

The MUST DO list would include anything that would be dangerous or cause damage to your house. Leaking roof, any structural damage, termite infestation, plumbing or electrical issues.

The SHOULD DO list could include items like repairing or replacing broken or missing features. Examples would be kitchen cabinets or windows that don’t open and close properly, cracked or chipped bathroom fixtures, damaged lights or ceiling fans. If you have peeling wall paper, damaged floors or flooring, cracks in the walls, you should definitely address them. Don’t forget the landscaping or yard maintenance. Remember that you should eliminate clutter and clean.

The WOULD LIKE TO DO list is for anything to improve the appeal of your house. Consider renovating any part of your house that is damaged, has seen better days or is too dated, even though it still works fine. Repainting – whatever you think shows wear such as scuff marks or fading. Think about projects to increase value - such as rearranging rooms for more space or better flow. Include plans for getting you more money (like making that home office into another bedroom) or decorating to attract attention to special features.


Think about the timing of items on your lists. If the weather in your area is an issue, plan accordingly. If it is the “slow period” for a trade, take advantage of it. Figure out what needs to happen first - like the example of fixing the roof before the gardening. Decide what things are best left until later – like planting fresh flowers or getting your carpets cleaned.

Find out what trades people are available to help you and when. It is best to get several price quotes including availability and expected length of the work – not just labor cost and materials!

Once you have completed the research and decided what work you will do to get your house sold, confirm the contractors. Make a schedule on a calendar so you have a visual aid of your plan. This will help make sure everything will completed on time and in the proper order. 

Well, I am glad that you stuck with me through this part of it. It was a little longer than I thought it would be. It seems I have left you with a lot of things to think about! So start reviewing you house and get planning! :)

Next week we will continue with making preparations to sell your house fast. It will be a lot less “heavy lifting” than this week’s list, I promise. We are going to take a look at more research that would be a good idea to start now. What you should consider when it comes to marketing. How to come up with a price for your house. Documents you may wish to prepare to help sell your house.

So thanks for reading my post. I'm so glad you're here! And I’ll look forward to getting into more good stuff  in future posts so that you can Turn Your House To $OLD!

Feel free to ask me any questions on my facebook page: Turn My House To Sold

I would be very happy to help. :)