Selling Your Home? Here’s What You Need to Know

Thinking of listing your home soon? So are we. After reading many, many sources online, talking to our realtor, and a little personal experience, we came up with a list of updates to consider when preparing your home for sale. These ideas are not market secrets; in fact, most are plain common sense, but common sense is usually the first thing out the door when dollar signs start crowding our vision.

Fix any ceiling and wall repairs, including water damage

Discolored rings on the ceiling indicate water damage. First, make sure there is not a larger underlying issue, like a needed roof repair or plumbing leak. If a water stain is isolated, you can make a repair. If your ceiling has more texture than a simple knock-down, you may want to enlist the help of a professional drywaller to mud the patch.

Otherwise, you will need stain-blocking primer. There are several varieties, but a simple rattle can of Kill-z or Rustoleum should do the job (if you don’t prime with a stain-blocking formula, the discoloring will eventually show through the new paint). Once you allow the primer to dry, use a roller or brush with the stippling technique and paint over the primed area. Touch-ups  may take up to two coats, and don’t forget to feather out the new paint to reduce the noticeability of the touch-up.


If you (or someone you know) can paint, updating colors or turning to a monochromatic scheme can modernize and open up a space. Gone are the beiges of the 90s and early 2000s; instead try a light grey and carry the same color throughout the house. If grey is not to your palate (although that shouldn’t really matter; you are selling the place), stick to something light to maximize the size in the rooms. If you don’t paint, consider the cost of hiring a professional. Professional painters charge anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000, depending on the size of your home and whether there is drywall/ceiling repair.

You can try touch-ups yourself if you have the original paint and there are only minor scuffs on the walls and trim. Trying to match new paint to what is existing can cause headaches and actually bring more attention to the area you are trying to fix, especially if the area is well-lit.

Fix appliances/HVAC

A no-brainer, but potential buyers will want a home that functions properly. Furnace troubles? Air conditioner not keeping up with the dog days of summer? Appliance issues  need to be addressed before you sell. While most wallets groan at the mere mention of HVAC, many repairs are actually pretty simple. Most newer appliances have blinking codes that indicate the source of the problem. Once identified, the fix is usually as simple as replacing a sensor or removing debris from a furnace intake.

Organize your bathrooms and kitchen

Potential buyers are nosy. They open cupboard and drawers. So the medicine cabinet that houses half-used toothpaste tubes and outdated prescriptions will be noted.

Consider keeping meds  somewhere else, like a night stand or under the bed. Organize everything else in medicine cabinets and other storage  and wipe down shelves before replacing everything. The same goes for the kitchen. If you are anything like us, sometimes unloading the dishwasher involves tossing dishes into the cupboards haphazardly. Take an afternoon to re-organize your kitchen utensils in order to maximize space. Have a waffle-maker, but can live without waffles for several weeks? Start packing things you won’t need before the move.

Replace stained carpet

If, like us, you have pets, consider replacing the carpet. Carpet is relatively cheap and something new and neutral is much better than musty and worn in well-tread areas of the house.

When considering replacement, keep in mind installation costs, which usually run per sq. ft. Most big box stores offer free installation after you purchase a certain amount. The key here is to find something that compliments the wall color and is light. Avoid dark carpet or anything with patterns. The new owners will most likely replace it eventually, so don’t try to anticipate their taste.

Deep clean

This should go without saying, but you need to deep clean your house before you even list. Potential buyers will see in areas you tend to avoid: behind the toilet, the shower, closets, etc. People walking through your house  will also notice general cleanliness: rust rings, cobwebs, and dust. A weekend spent scrubbing the tub can make all the difference in world.

Consider a pre-sale inspection

Nothing can derail a potential sale faster than electrical, foundation, or other major issues. Hilary and I were enamoured with a house in East Lansing until we realized the engineering grad student who we imagined lived there had wired the entire basement themselves. Just because it worked for you does not mean it will work for the next owner.

Clean the exterior

Before you go crazy with a power-washer, , make sure you home doesn’t run the risk of lead-based paint. almost 90% of homes built prior to 1940 have lead paint and nearly 25% of homes up until 1978 contain lead-based paint. If you own a newer home, or a house with vinyl siding, you probably don’t need to worry.

Keep the yard neat.

It’s not called curb appeal for nothing. Keeping your lawn mowed and the driveway/approach neat will go a long way toward making a great first impression on potential buyers. Repaint shutters, spruce up garden beds, and make sure to remove leaves and other lawn debris regularly.

If you have pets, clean up after them daily, because you never know when the house might be shown. If you have brown spot in the grass, find some cheap seed at your local gardening center and patch the lawn.

Keep your comps in mind

As a seller, try not to abandon your logic during this process. It will be difficult to keep emotion out of the equation, especially if you are selling your first home. Walking through with our realtor and listen to her questions and concerns was an ego blow. We have great taste. I chose awesome paint colors. I made that! Those thoughts and more bounced around my head, but at the end of the day, remember you’re selling your home. One day, the space around you will belong to someone else.


This Old House

Max Realestate

The Balance

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