Open House! How to Get Your Home Ready for Sale

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Posted June 1, 2017

While a lot of the work can be delegated out to home service companies and realtors, you’ll want to make sure you create as impressive a home as possible. Get your home ready for sale with our helpful tips & tricks.

This is where attention to detail and perfectionism comes in, so if you tend to overlook the small things, consider hiring someone with a detached view of things to take a look, such as an interior designer or professional home seller.

In addition to a perfectionist point of view, you also want to make sure your home’s utilities and other important systems, such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC are running in top shape.

Don’t worry about spending money on fixing things like the kitchen and bathroom plumbing, your electrical system, or any other fairly expensive renovations. The money will come back to you two or three-fold.

Making sure your home is up-to-code, uncluttered, and perfectly clean will make it a lot easier to get your home sold at, or close to, your asking price. If not, your home might sit on the market for months without ever receiving an enticing offer.

There are obviously factors that are out of your control, such as location, trends, schools, and house design, however, there is a lot that is under your control. Heeding the tips below will mean the difference between a frustrating a drawn out selling process or a quick sell at the price you’re asking.

When is the best time to sell a house?

According to a recent study by Zillow, May is the best time to try to sell your house. Homes listed May 1-15th sold about 18.5 days faster than homes listed outside of that timeframe. The study also found that homes listed in May tended to sell for around 1% more compared with the average listing.

Here are the ways you can quickly sell your house:


First impressions are everything. When your prospective buyers come to see your house, the first thing they will see is the front of the home. If you have brown grass, overgrown bushes, chipping paint, and other eye sores, it will knock thousands of dollars, if not more, off of your selling price.

The first step for getting your home ready for sale is to make sure the landscaping is up to par:

  1. Make sure the grass is green and cut short (use the 1/3 rule—don’t cut more than 1/3 of the blade height at any one time). Click here for more lawn mowing tips.
  2. Remove any weeds, dead plants, and debris from around the home. If you don’t have a compost bin, contact your city waste pickup for information about yard and tree disposal (there may also be a yard waste drop-off site nearby).
  3. If you have landscape lighting, make sure all of the bulbs are working. If you don’t have landscape lighting, consider calling your local electrician to see how lighting can improve your home’s curb appeal. By strategically accenting the best areas of your home, your home can be presented in its best light. Landscape lighting also adds safety and security elements to your home, an attractive feature for any prospective buyer. Learn more about the benefits of landscape lighting.
  4. In addition to removing plant waste, you also want to clean your gutters, remove any bird’s or wasp’s nests, and wash dirt off your patios, walkways, and exterior. A powerful pressure wash can quickly restore your home’s exterior. While it’s possible to rent a pressure washer from your local home improvement store, you may want to consider hiring a power washing pro to get rid of the dirt and grime for you.
  5. Inspect your downspout and gutter system for leaks. Extend downspouts to prevent basement flooding.
  6. Nail down any loose boards and fix and seal your driveway. If you are selling your home in the winter, make sure all walkways and patios are clear and de-iced. You don’t want anyone slipping and falling.
  7. Consider adding a fresh coat of paint and new hardware if necessary.
  8. Replace old welcome mats if they are beat up.
  9. Consider making landscape improvements now so that everything looks green and lush when you list your home in the spring. If you are selling your home in the winter, there’s little you can do to improve the looks of your grass and plants.


Here are few tips and tricks for making your windows look like those in the Windex commercials.

  • If you have screens on your windows, consider removing them so that they look a little cleaner and clearer.
  • After removing the window screens, make sure you spend some time cleaning around your windows, inside and out. If there are windows that are near-impossible to reach, consider hiring a professional window washer.
  • Don’t forget about your basement windows. They are often the dirtiest.
  • If you have old or worn caulk and weatherstripping, replace them to improve the aesthetics and insulation of your windows.
  • Test that windows open and close easily.


If you are storing a lot of things in your garage, consider renting a storage unit for the time being. This way, prospective buyers can see the full space and capabilities of your garage.

For the items that are in your garage, make sure they are clean and organized. Sweep and mop the floors and create neat piles and storage areas.


Obviously, you want to clean and declutter your home as much as you possibly can. Here are some tips for dealing with all your stuff:

  1. Seriously consider renting a storage unit to hold all of your excess items. You want to make your home look as empty as possible so your prospective buyers can see the full utility of your spaces. Get inspiration for your house with these professional showroom-style photos from HGTV.
  2. While you may not think about cleaning the insides of your closets, cupboards, and shelving, attention to these details will make a huge difference.
  3. If you have full closets, consider removing around half of its contents. Replace your wire and plastic hangers with nice wooden ones (same brand and color) and make sure there is ample space between the hangers. Get everything off of the floors and consider using baskets or other storage containers for your shelves.
  4. Declutter your kitchen counters by taking everything off of them. Leave a clean espresso machine or other “pretty” appliances out on display. Leave the items you will need for cooking, but get rid of anything extra, such as coffee makers, blenders, and other bulky items.
  5. Apply a similar minimalist mindset to your cupboards. Remove anything that makes them seem cluttered. Get rid of all your “ugly” dishware, mugs, plates, etc. The cupboards should seem as spacious as possible. Showcase your china and silverware if you have them and put the rest in storage.
  6. Get rid of knick-knacks and other Regardless of your adoration for your Mickey Mouse collection, your mantels and shelves should only have the essentials. Start thinking of your house as a model home or showcase, not your “home.” Illusions sell.


Should you hire a stager or interior designer? YES!

While your realtor might take care of this aspect for you, if they don’t, you’ll want to hire one out of your own pocket. They will be able to bring a fresh perspective, telling you how potential buyers may view your space.

Recommendations will include new furniture arrangements, fresh paint, wall decorations, and other ways to maximize the capabilities of your space. While you don’t have to follow their suggestions, it will be in your best interest to listen carefully to what they have to say. If for some reason you just don’t trust what they have to say, consider hiring someone for a second opinion. If you hear the same things from a second person, it’s best to trust their judgement and defer your own.

Here are some things to keep in mind when redesigning your home for sale:

  1. Get rid of all personal touches, such as family photos and other decorations specific to you and your family’s tastes. Don’t be offended if the stager/interior designer recommends certain changes. Home buyers want to be able to picture themselves in the home, not you and your family. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to keep the furnishings in your home to the bare essentials and as neutral as possible. This includes getting rid of sports memorabilia, religious/political references, and other personalized touches.
  2. All the items in your home that haven’t been put into storage should be neatly organized. Think baskets, containers, shoe organizers, and neat drawers. Nothing should just be lying around. Find a neat storage area for any excess wires, chargers, remotes, clothes, shoes, etc.
  3. Potential buyers love to snoop and open up drawers and closets. Keep this in mind when decluttering. Expect people to open your cabinets, drawers, vanities, and other out-of-sight areas. If you have any furniture that can be locked, these will be the safe areas where you can house all the stuff you don’t want potential buyers to see.


You know all those things you’ve been putting off; now’s the time to get them done. This includes nonworking outlets and switches, flickering lights, loose door knobs, missing handles, holes in the wall, etc.

Here are some additional things to fix around the home:

  • Find and seal air leaks. Replace worn and cracking weatherstripping and caulk.
  • Test all light switches and bulbs. Fix or replace as necessary. You don’t want to run into the awkward situation when a prospective buyer tries to turn on a light but nothing happens.
  • Seal small holes in your walls the right way with Spackle, a putty knife, paint, a small brush, a plastic knife, towel, water, and a sanding brick.
  • Magic Eraser can get rids of most scuffs on walls, baseboards, doorways, basically anywhere. If you need to patch up any areas on the wall, hopefully you have leftover paint that matches the color. If not, either let it be or repaint the walls. Ask the stager for their recommendation.
  • Hire a professional cleaner for a deep clean. After you declutter and clean the home as best you can, schedule a deep cleaning a couple days before you put your house on the market.
  • In addition to a professional cleaning, we also recommend a professional carpet cleaning. At the very least, rent a steam vac and DIY deep-clean your carpets.

For anything you can’t handle, reach, or otherwise accomplish on your own, call a professional.


Speak with your agent first, but it’s important that you schedule a professional home inspection. This includes the roof, foundation, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. While there are home inspectors that claim to be able to inspect all of these aspects of the home, we recommend scheduling them by specialists in that area. Regardless, make sure all inspections, repairs, and replacements are done by a licensed professional.

Keep in mind that once an offer is made on your home, the buyer has a certain timeframe in which to conduct their own home inspection. You want to make sure their home inspector doesn’t find anything. While your agent may recommend some home inspectors, this is only a convenience. You can choose whomever you want.


If you are selling your house, the HVAC systems comes with it. Here are some things you want to do to make sure your HVAC system looks and feels great:

  1. Most importantly, schedule a professional tune-up of your heating and cooling system within a short timeframe of listing your home. Your technician will not only inspect the system for any major problems, but they’ll also conduct a full cleaning, making even old systems look fresh.
  2. You may also want to consider scheduling professional duct cleaning and sealing. While you should definitely clean in and around your HVAC vents and registers, if you hire a professional for duct cleaning, they’ll do this chore for you. In addition to making your vents and registers look brand new, the clean interior of your ducts will produce cleaner and stronger airflow in your home. Any improvements to the home, such as professional duct cleaning will allow you to raise the asking price and highlight these changes to your potential buyers. Learn how to inspect, clean, and seal air ducts here.
  3. If you hire a professional for an HVAC tune-up, they will clean the outdoor unit for you. Even so, inspect the outdoor unit to make sure there is a 2-foot clearance around the entire unit. If you recently scheduled HVAC service, consider spraying your outdoor unit with a garden hose to clean off any grass clippings, dirt, and debris.



  • Schedule an electrical safety inspection. Your technician will make sure your electrical system is running safely and efficiently. This includes testing all smoke and CO detectors, AFCI and GFCI protectors, and electrical panel(s).
  • Don’t try to repair any electrical problems yourself!
  • Ask your electrician to replace the outlet and switch plates. This small detail makes a big difference. If they still look new, just give them a good wipe down.


Okay, so you’ve deep cleaned your home, followed recommendations from the stager, replaced or repaired all the necessary things, and put the extra clutter in a storage unit. Is there anything else? Not much:

  • Once the house goes on the market, always be prepared for showings.
  • Be prepared with a place to stash dirty clothes and other unwanted items quickly. You can use your car if you want. Large empty baskets and hampers can do the trick as well.
  • Remove all shoes, remotes, food, and anything else just lying around.
  • Before the guests arrive, do a quick inspection inside and outside your home for anything amiss. You want everything to be spotless.
  • Leave all, or most, lights on, even if it is daytime.

Follow these tips (yes, it’s a lot of hard work) and contact Hiller for your home inspection. With a little luck, you’ll be rewarded with a quick sale at a high price!

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