Updated: Nov 8
Image courtesy Raider Photography at a former listing of mine
Before listing your home, and even before a listing appointment for your home, if time is on your side, it's a good idea to take steps to prepare your home for it. If in doubt about something even the slightest, ask your agent or wait for your agent's guidance, and if they don't say something about it, ask.
This post is a continuation of my posts on Basic Elements of Preparing Your Home for Sale & is related to my post on How to Prepare the Exterior of Your Home Before Exterior Photos.
If you only have time to take care of exterior items before a listing appointment, and the season is changing for the worse, it's not a bad idea to mark those items on the interior which you plan on taking care of (with blue painter's tape & labels of what you plan to do) so that as the prospective listing agent goes through your home, he can see your plans, not repeat what you already plan to do, and have advice more targeted to what you don't yet know. Also, your agent may advise that you do something differently than what's on your label, or not at all. If you're unsure about something, you could even put a "?" or a few possibilities.
Keep in mind that some of the below is controversial topics. Many in my position would exclude it from this article because of it. Me being honest with buyers or sellers & keeping my fiduciary duty of taking the interests of the client above my own is more important than whether or not I work with someone if they happen to get turned off by something I candidly state, even something that happens to be controversial. For instance, most Klu Klux Clan members would probably not like some of what I state in this article. In the event that you ever believe that what I state is wrong, I invite you to engage with me directly on the subject.
Cost effective interior preparations for your listing include the following:
Remove any photos of family and friends; you want the buyers to feel at home no matter what they look like, whatever age they are, how big or small their family is, what race they are, what religion they are, etc.
Some sellers opt to remove any religious materials, especially if they are not Christians since Christianity is the most popular religion in America with the most buyers who would relate to it among religions. That said, some sellers find that they would be turning their back on their religion to do so, so it's really up to you as a seller to determine what your beliefs are on the subject. It's possible that you'll leave some things with more widespread appeal (i.e. something about 1 Corinthians 13, a passage on love commonly shared in weddings), while removing something that is more polarizing. It's up to you as far as how you want to handle the issue ethically as you consider your own convictions, but in terms of resale, generally widespread or universal appeal will yield the highest prices.
Keep photos (i.e. of landscapes or architecture without people) and art that would have universal appeal no matter the background, race, religion, or age of the buyer. Also keep in mind that if you're non-white, and the appraiser can tell, you may face racial discrimination, despite the fact that it's illegal. Did you know that more than 97 percent of home appraisers are white? If you have 5 separate buyers making offers, and none of them are racist, but you encounter a racist appraiser, it could cost you. I've personally seen a large appraisal gap before between when an African American couple lived somewhere vs after they had moved out and the race of the owner was less apparent. The first appraisal was for $368,000, while the property sold and appraised for $455,000.
When you remove photos from your walls, be sure to repair your walls well and repaint so that it is as though the photos were never there.
Paint is one of the most cost effective ways to prepare the interior & exterior of your home for sale if you have peeling paint, a bad paint job, or need to make some adjustments to scuffs and marks, but I've seen plenty of situations where a DIY paint job has gone very badly. I've seen where even the contractors mess up a paint job, so be sure to check their work. Painters tape, drop cloths, the right paint colors, the right type of paint, different coats of paint, preparing surfaces prior to paint, testing paint in a small area, matching textured paint, and keeping in mind the changing color of paint based on age are all important to note.
Caulk on the interior and exterior, where failing or missing, can be another highly effective way to get your exterior in good shape for purchase.
It's a good idea to declutter if you have any clutter in your home. Everything should look like you're very organized, even if you're not. It's a good idea to remove any knickknacks and collections as well, since you want buyers to focus on your home, not your knickknacks or collections.
Be sure to thoroughly clean your home (whether DIY &/or with professionals), and don't forget about areas that you don't typically traverse, like scuttle access attics. In places like that, if you have mouse traps, check to see if there are any mice in them. If so, replace the trap asap and try to resolve any rodent infestation prior to sale. If you don't see any mice or insects in any related traps, and it's been a long time since you have, it's not a bad idea to remove those right before sale so that buyers don't get the wrong impression of you having a problem.
If you have hardwood floors that look terrible, considering refinishing them.
Go through your home and check to see if any lightbulbs are out. Be sure to replace them if so. If lightbulbs are mismatched (especially in terms of color, but also if the shapes are very different), make sure that they all match.