The fall market is here! Taking steps to prepare your home for presentation to a bevy of educated buyers and their agents will help you maximize the selling price, ease the transition of moving and avoid unexpected surprises that result in a lot of stress during the process of completing the sale.

When we live in a home for a stretch of time we tend to get very comfortable and lose sight of what we may need to address to appeal to buyers. All sellers want their home to sell fast and bring top dollar. Your preparation will directly impact the ultimate selling price. With careful planning you can spruce up your home and have buyers making you an offer.

The to-do list to prepare can be daunting. Some sellers will do everything to prepare and others either cannot or choose not to take all the recommended advice. If you are limited in what you can do to prepare, consulting a professional real estate agent can direct you in picking which aspects of preparing your home will be most important before selling the home, bringing you the greatest return on your investment.

First impressions have a big impact when trying to sell your home. For a buyer, the search is an emotional and sensory experience. Many buyers have a short attention span and studies show we have only seconds to grab their attention. Almost immediately a buyer will respond either positively or negatively when viewing your home. The following suggestions are made to assist in a successful sale:

Clean Out
The Clutter

Accepting an offer on your home and moving by the closing date is an ambitious undertaking. By cleaning out and beginning to pack ahead of time, you not only show buyers you are ready to move but, it will make moving less overwhelming.

Throw away items that are broken or damaged

Sell or donate items you no longer need or use

Start packing items you want to move with you, but do not use frequently

Clear out the attic, basement and garage

Consider a storage unit if you have a lot you want to keep

Do An Intensive Cleaning

Dust blinds, baseboards

Wash curtains

Wash windows

Clean all surfaces and floors

Make your house sparkle!

Eliminate Odors

Homeowners are often immune to the odors they live with every day. Ask a real estate agent or trusted friend to follow their nose! Ask them to be brutally honest about any odors they detect.

Run your dehumidifier to eliminate odors associated with dampness

Clean any visible mildew inside or outside of the house

Any mold present, consult a professional for removal. This is a huge concern for buyers.

Dispose of trash daily;
place trash receptacles
out of sight

Clean and deodorize your pet’s favorite hangout spots—bedding, rugs, kennels, chairs

Keep litter boxes in an
out-of-the-way location; clean regularly

Open windows and air out

No Smoking

Cigarette and cigar smoke is one of the most difficult odor-causing agents to remove from a home. In addition, removing this odor from a home can be expensive. It is an immediate turnoff to the majority of today’s buyers, stigmatizing a home and leaving it to languish on the market. This often results in a much lower sale price. If you are a smoker, professionally clean the house and then smoke outside only both prior to and during the listing period.

Head Off Home Inspection Issues & Make Minor Repairs

Repair any safety items—broken stairs, loose
railings, broken windows, loose rugs, blown light bulbs, exposed wires, faulty GFIC, et cetera

Inspect your ceilings, walls and floors to look for repairs or water damage

Check for plumbing leaks, drips, et cetera

Check plugs, outlets, loose wiring, smoke & CO2 detectors

Check for broken seals in windows and doors

Inspect for signs of insects, rodents or other pests

Close any open permits on file with the town

Finish any home projects you have started


To appeal to the widest audience, paint your walls in neutral colors that complement the flooring. Don’t forget to repair any nail holes or other damage prior to painting. Touch up trim and ceilings.

Refresh Appliances, Fixtures & Hardware

Replacing dated light fixtures inside and out, faucets, showerheads, cabinet hardware are easy, low-cost ways to deliver a big impact in visual appeal to your buyers. Have matching color appliances in good condition and working order. Replacing old appliances with new can make even a clean, dated kitchen more appealing.

Replace Or Clean Flooring

Treat and remove stains, shampoo carpets or replace the carpet. Hardwoods should be swept, mopped until they shine. Any flooring that is damaged beyond repair or permanently stained should be replaced. Hardwood flooring that is badly scratched or lost all its finish should be refinished.

Step Back And Take A Look—Do You Have Curb Appeal?

Many potential buyers will drive by a property before making an appointment. If they don’t have a great first impression, many will keep driving on, never even coming in the door to consider buying.

Do a yard cleanup: get rid of brush, debris, mow the lawn, put down mulch, trim bushes, weed the flower beds, repair fencing

Make sure the house number is visible (you want buyers to find you)

Freshen up the paint on the front door and entrance to appear welcoming

Tidy up walkways and mailbox

Make sure exterior lighting is in working order

Trim shrubs and dead tree limbs

Stage Your Home

You can hire a professional stager, consult a real estate agent, explore countless websites or watch HGTV, but after all your preparation some fine tuning has proven to bring excellent results.

De-personalize your home: Put away most of the family photos, children’s artwork, craft projects, collections on display, knick-knacks. These items are mostly distractions to buyers. The goal is to assist them in seeing the house, the space and light in the rooms envisioning their own items in the home.

Remove any tired or excessively worn furnishings

Consider replacing any worn bedding, pillows

Display fresh towels, soaps

Put out fresh flowers

Place furniture in such a way as to enhance the room size and functionality

Accessorizing to accentuate the aesthetics of the house

Highlight the home’s best features

Embrace the fond memories you have of living in the house and say good-bye. Begin to emotionally detach and start to plan for your next adventure—when your house is sold! Smile all the way to the bank because your hard work has paid off! 

About the author: Ms. Lyons is a realtor for William Raveis Real Estate in Falmouth.