When selling a property they’ve called home for years, home sellers have the impossible task of objectively viewing the property from a buyer's perspective. The elements of the space that may have annoyed a homeowner originally go unnoticed, which could cloud the seller’s judgment of how to properly prepare the house for sale.

By recruiting an unbiased home stager, real estate agent or friend to assess the house’s condition, it allows the seller to visualize his or her home as a product. When sellers can detach themselves from their home and become proactive early on, they recognize their responsibility for creating a win-win situation. This mindset doesn’t allow outside factors, like the market’s condition or a competitor’s lot size, affect the deal’s outcome.

[See: 13 Things to Know About Selling Your Home in Fall and Winter.]

Mind Games

In some cases, selling a home may be a difficult task for sellers facing a divorce, death or financial woes. Despite those family hardships the seller must remain a proud owner, rather than be bogged down by negative stressors. By remaining in control of the situation, sellers are able to take on more responsibility, stage their home and take ownership of their most prized possession, while providing outstanding quality to potential buyers during an open house.

Home Maintenance

When it comes to maintaining a staged home, a seller can be proactive by following checklists, schedules and even disperse chores to family members. It’s important to keep clutter at bay, by removing items not regularly being used while on the market. Adopt creative storage solutions to quickly hide clutter out of sight.

A home on the market needs to be kept clean and odor-free, which can be easily obtained if the seller constantly cleans up after themselves daily, rather than weekly or monthly. It’s important to make the property feel as fresh as possible in order to compete with neighboring properties and new-construction homes.

With that in mind here is a checklist to use up to one day prior to an open house:

Outside the Home

  • Keep entry and walkways clear
  • Mow the lawn
  • Make sure potted plants and flowers are healthy
  • Clean glass on front door
  • Remove garbage, toys and pet debris
  • Store trash cans out of sight
  • Close garage doors
  • Unlock front door (if applicable during an open house)
  • Park cars away from driveway
  • Set up a seating area on front porch
  • Clean pool or patio areas

[See: From the Front Door: Making a Welcoming Entryway in Your Home.]

Inside the Home

  • Clean the entire house from ceiling to floor (at least vacuum and wipe down surfaces)
  • Get rid of all dust bunnies
  • Store all misplaced items (toys, clothes, paperwork)
  • Remove pet(s) and pet items (pet food, litter boxes, toys)
  • Turn off TV
  • Put music on low (adult alternative or Top 40 station)
  • Turn on lights throughout the home
  • Light candles (make sure not left unattended)
  • Light a fireplace (if appropriate)
  • Refrain from smoking in the home
  • Open all curtains and blinds (unless you’re trying to hide a negative view)
  • Open windows if temperature is right to let in fresh air
  • Empty all trash cans
  • Fluff couch and bed pillows (strategically place decor pillows and throws)
  • Make sure all beds are made
  • Secure valuable items, including cash and jewelry
  • Hang fresh towels in bathroom
  • Close all toilet seat lids
  • Display fresh flowers throughout the home
  • Add lifestyle displays (reading area, coffee nook, entertain area, etc.)
  • Offer light refreshments and bake cookies

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]

A Step Above

Proactive home sellers put a list together of what’s been done to update the home during their ownership. Make sure to include the month and year the updates were completed. Add this information to a housing packet handed to each person who enters the home.

Inside the packet, supply a fact sheet of the property (amenities, features, room measurements) with contact information for you or the real estate agent, along with general information such as what time the mail typically comes, the name of the utility companies and other details a buyer may find useful. Don't forget to include the average cost of the electric bill, gas bill and water bill. These are things potential buyers may ask about when deciding on purchasing the home.

Also ask that buyers sign a guest book and leave contact information for further inquiry. Request buyer feedback as well. Print a buyer questionnaire ahead of time and have visitors fill it out while looking at the home – this will help determine what changes and tweaks still need to be made to the property.

Another way to be proactive when selling is being a team player with your real estate agent to get the home sold. Keep in contact with your agent and ask for feedback after every showing. Find out if they’ve received any calls about the home. What are people saying about it? Do they think the price is too high? Get involved in the process and communicate with the agent about your goals and end results.

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, existing home sales, pending home sales


Tori Toth is a best-selling author, DIY and lifestyle expert, award-winning home stager and lifestyle authority. She can show anybody how to add more value to their home by giving the tools needed to prepare and showcase any home for sale. She works with consumers, real estate agents, or anybody else who wants to make their home look its best quickly and easily. Home staging is a strategic marketing tool for the biggest return on investment of a home, focusing on renovation and creative design. By creating a lifestyle that buyers will find aspirational, Tori Toth will demonstrate methods of rearranging, organizing and in many cases, adding or editing furniture and home décor. The best, clearest, most helpful information of how to stage a home with and be an immediate success can be found in Tori’ best-selling book "Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell."

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