I have taken buyer clients through A LOT of houses over my real estate career and there are some things that can immediately turn off a buyer from your house. There are also things that will create demand for your home.
One thing to keep in mind while you are getting your house ready to put on the market is that a house that has been well-taken care of is more appealing to a buyer than one that they will have to put a lot of work into. A little "sweat equity" will go a long way!
Go out to your mailbox, turn around and look at your house from there. Are your shutters and front door faded and peeling? How does your mailbox look? Is it dented up and falling over? Do you have weeds in your landscaping? Could your driveway, sidewalks or siding benefit from being pressure washed? The outside of your house is the buyer’s first impression. You know what they say about first impressions, right? You only get one!! If a home looks dilapidated from the outside, chances are that it hasn’t been very well-maintained on the inside either.
Let's go inside now. My first tip is to pack as much up as you can. If you're taking your belongings to your next house, pack them up so they risk getting damaged while your house is being shown. If you have things you are not taking to your next destination, get rid of them! If things are still in good shape, there are lots of places that would love donations or you could sell them for some extra cash. If there are some run down things, trash them. The point is to get as much stuff out of your house or at least packed up out of sight as you can. One of the biggest turn-offs to buyers is clutter! Too many knick-knacks, large over-crowed furniture and clutter, in general, can make buyer walk right back out the door.
Pack all of your personal items including family pictures. The buyer needs to come in and imagine themselves living there. They need to feel like your home is large and will comfortably fit all of their belongings. Another thing to consider is putting medication and any weapons you may have away, in a locked closet, but preferably out of the house. I am also a home stager and when I stage a house, the goal is to make it appeal to the most amount of people. You want clean and neutral. There should be just enough furniture in a room so that the buyer knows what to do with it. Each room should have a purpose.
Now that you only have essentials left in your house, CLEAN! Deep-cleaning can go a LONG way. Scrub your floors, windows, blinds, counter tops and appliances. Make sure the bathrooms are sparkling clean. How are your carpets? Can they be cleaned? If not, you may need to replace them. Get the dust off of ceiling fans and refresh the paint throughout the house. Make sure that there is no odor in your house. The buyer will want to see what the closets, electric panel, HVAC and water heater looks like. Make sure that the buyer can easily access these areas.
Finally, do you have unfinished projects or small repairs that need to be made? Finish them up. Don’t leave anything half-done. Do all of your outlets have covers? Is your toilet running? (Ha! Ha!) Do you have a leaky faucet? Change your HVAC filters. Replace any burnt-out light bulbs. Repair or replace ripped or torn screens. These types of things will come up of the buyer's home inspection and then you have to negotiate those items.
Your ultimate goal is to sell your home quickly for the highest amount of money possible, right? If you complete this list, you will have a much greater chance of getting an offer on your house right away. And a higher priced offer, at that. If a buyer comes in and sees tons of things that will need to be done or replaced, they will deduct their estimate of those costs from their offer. And, just between us, the buyer’s estimate for repair/replace costs are often higher in their heads than they are in reality! You can complete the majority of these items with some hard work. That hard work will translate into money at the closing table!