When considering these questions, its good to remember that most
prospective home buyers are an unimaginative lot. Your house may be immaculate but
if the rooms are cluttered, crowded, and dark, they may appear to be less clean and much
smaller than they really are. Picture this: an old, seven-piece mahogany
dining room suite plus a rocking chair and seven boxes of books packed in anticipation of
your move are wedged into a dark green room with a brown rug and a window covered by heavy
velvet drapes. Why is this decorating scheme a mistake? Its because most
people are unable to imagine how big and beautiful the room would look if painted
off-white, everything removed but the dining room suite, a pastel tablecloth and a fresh
flower centerpiece on the table, curtains stripped from the window, the rug removed, and
everything spotlessly clean. In the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, you must
"make it so"; otherwise, it might take you a very long time to sell your house
and the offers to buy will not only be slower, but lower.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Your best friend when cleaning your house for resale will be tri-sodium
phosphate (TSP) or its equivalent. TSP is one of the home products that top the list
of must-haves, and its not expensive. Roll up your sleeves, put on your rubber
gloves and scrub your walls and ceilings, and anything else that needs your elbow grease.
Unless you can afford professional cleaners, theres no way out of this one.
Carpet cleaning is another must and there are home products for the
do-it-yourselfer or you can hire a cleaning company to take care of this job. If you
have shabby rugs scattered throughout the house, forget cleaning them; its probably
better to remove them altogether.
There are home products to clean things that require special care
ceramic tile, porcelain, stainless steel, wood cabinets, aluminum siding, etc., and
you can find whatever you need at your neighborhood hardware store. Ask questions
and read labels. When using commercial cleaning products, wear gloves and a mask.
Its wise to be careful.
Paint for a Pristine Finish
As thorough as your cleaning job is, it wont have much impact on
sagging, faded wallpaper, gouges in the walls, or cracked and peeling paint.
Repainting is the solution, and interior painting jobs start with stripping off old
wallpaper, attacking cracks and gouges with filler, and then getting to work with your
roller and brush. This is also the time to do all the small repairs that need your
attention: hammer in nails; repair the broken step; replace the broken glass.
When selecting paint, the best colors for your walls and ceilings are
white, off-white, cream, creamy off-white you get the picture. A light, cool,
neutral color can fit into everyones decorating scheme. (You want that young
couple to see your home as the perfect setting for their red plush love seats.) If
you have recently painted one or more rooms in quite dramatic colors, leave them as they
are. As long as the walls and trim are clean and fresh, prospective buyers
wont mind a bit of repainting if they want to change the colors the main
thing is not to overwhelm them.
If you need to paint the outside of your house, its not necessary
to restrict yourself to neutral colors for exterior paint; however, a bright color is not
a good choice. Something fairly subdued is better, but be creative when painting the
front door; a dramatic touch might be needed to make your house memorable. Its
easy for a buyer to repaint a door if he or she doesnt share your love of Christmas
red or purple passion.
Remove the Clutter
Its time to say goodbye to your high school chemistry notes, the
clothes you outgrew five years ago, the playpen your twelve-year-old no longer needs, and
everything else your family will never use again, read again, or wear again. Be
tough! Do it! Take it to the dump; hold a garage sale; donate it to your
favorite charity. Dont let it take up any more of your storage space
youre going to need it all to store the things that are currently stacked on shelves
and floors and cluttering up counter tops throughout the house.
Important home products that can help you deal with this part of your
preparation are closet organizers. They come in every size and style imaginable, and
you are sure to find something suitable. When you have everything neatly stored in
your closets and cupboards, walk through the house and pick up and put out of sight
everything else on your counters and table tops that dont need to be there.
"Clutter-free" means clutter-free and it wont kill anyone in the family to
have to reach under the counter for the dishwashing detergent or the toothpaste for the
next few days or weeks.
You probably dont think of furniture as "clutter," but
clutter is anything that unnecessarily crowds a room, a doorway, or a hall. If your
home has very small rooms and you can manage without some furniture items for awhile,
arrange to use a friends garage or basement to store them. It will "open
up" the rooms and make your house appear larger and brighter, and thats a good
Let There be Light
Sunlight is a friend to the house seller, and you should try and let as
much of it into the house as you can. Wash windows inside and out and wash or
dryclean the window coverings: curtains, drapes, and blinds. Before showing
the house to a prospective buyer, replace burned-out light bulbs, turn on the lights, open
the windows, lift the blinds, and pull back the drapes.
Ask a non-smoking, non-pet-owning friend to come into your house when
you have finished cleaning and painting. Are all the pet odors and smoking odors
gone? If the house passes the sniff-test, place some potpourri in open dishes to add
a fresh, clean scent; otherwise, get back to work.
Finally, step outside and see what a prospective buyers first
impression of your yard is likely to be. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges and bushes,
weed the garden, edge the flowerbeds, and sweep and clean the walkway, deck, or patio.
Your yard is another selling feature of your house, and must be clean and tidy, too.
Home products can help make your house appear big, bright, clean, and
ready for a prospective buyer to move right in, which is exactly what you want.