Listing your house takes time and costs money; there’s no way around it. However, prepping your house for sale should be seen as an investment.
Lucas Puente, an economist on Thumbtack, wrote, “Sellers should remember that by taking care of these projects (prepping a home for sale), they can get a solid return on their investment and may be more likely to sell their home for the highest possible price.”
There are ways to prep your house on a budget if you spend the time. The investment you’ll make comes back full-swing in the form of selling your home quickly, getting a higher return on your investment, and reducing your stress.
So, do you have what it takes to list and sell your home—the right way—in three weeks or less?
Find The Right Listing Agent (2 Days)
Before you list your home, you’ll want to start by putting an agent in your corner with your best interests in mind. You’ll want to find an agent before you do anything else because they can advise you along the way.
Conduct online research, compare agents to determine which ones are effective using the AgentStory MatchIndex™ score feature, and make a list of candidates. Once you’ve compiled at least three high-quality candidates, make some calls. Interviewing agents should be brief and standardized. You’ll want to use a list of prepared questions and write down their answers. You’re interviewing someone for a job, so ask for specificity. Try to formulate questions that reveal experience, personality, and character traits.
Here are a few basic interview questions to get you started:
- What are some of the specific marketing strategies you use to sell homes?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your client; how did you handle the situation?
- How many homes do you sell, on average, per year?
- How many clients do you currently have?
- Are you a full-time real estate agent?
- What is your preferred method of communication with clients?
Finding the right real estate agent will take you roughly two days. Consult with trusted friends and family and sleep on your decision. When you wake up refreshed, hire the real estate agent who matches your specific needs.
Conduct Minor Repairs on Your Home (2-3 Days)
If you’re weeks out and want to list your house without pause, handling repairs is a necessary evil. It’s easy to overlook the projects you’ve been putting off, but buyers will surely recognize them. Buyers tend to assign minor repairs a higher price tag and will remember those repairs before making an offer.
Tackling all of your minor repairs starts by taking inventory. Walk through your house with an unbiased eye (or bring a friend) and take note of problems you can easily fix. Next, make a list of the materials you’ll need for each project. Take a trip to the hardware store and pick up everything you need. Go down the list and make repairs where possible. If you do have significant repairs, consider outsourcing the work to a professional. Consult with your real estate agent before making major repairs and ask for his or her advice. Some repairs may not be necessary, as a buyer may not mind doing the work themselves.
Some examples of minor repairs that are cost-effective include:
- Minor drywall patching
- Replacing bathroom tiles
- Recaulking small areas of your home like bathtubs and windows
- Unclogging gutters
- Repairing broken fencing
- Minor flooring repairs
- Replacing anything simple that adds cosmetic value
Depending on the severity of repairs, minor fixes should take two to three days. If you have more extensive repairs, consider pushing back your listing date.
Take on Paint Projects (3-5 Days)
Selling your house when an entire bedroom is maroon and the paint job in the kitchen resembles egg yolk isn’t easy. You should keep your personal preferences muted when deciding on your home’s interior color. Buyers want homes to resemble a blank slate so they can make personalized changes right away.
If any room in your home doesn’t resemble a hotel room’s color scheme, you might consider a fresh paint job. Try using a beige, off-white, or light gray color for the home’s walls, keeping the overall look elegant and straightforward. If the trim also needs a touch-up, try a semi-gloss bright white to make it pop.
Take a look at the front door, too. Prep and paint as needed. Curb appeal (more on this later) goes a long way with prospective buyers, and the front door is the focal point of their homebuying adventure.
Paint projects should take three to five days to complete. If you’re not a seasoned painter, these 24 tips will help you avoid mistakes so you can stay on schedule.
Pack, Store, and Eliminate Clutter (3-4 Days)
Liquidating unnecessary items is the next step before listing your home. Go through each room and determine which items you can remove before selling. Personalized photographs, statement art, and non-decorative items should be packed and stored. Consult with your real estate agent and send pictures to get their input on specific rooms and big-ticket items. You can also search for the top listings in your area to compare and prepare your property.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should pull everything off the walls and put the living room couch in the back of the truck. Attempt to tastefully open up each room by removing nonessential items and storing them for your next adventure.
Enhance Your Curb Appeal (2-3 Days)
Feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment in our homes is an American tradition, and there’s no better way to make a good first impression than keeping your landscaping prim and proper. Imagine pulling up to a house with beautiful plants, mulch, rock walls, fountains, a beautiful colored door, and lights that line the walkway. Curb appeal encourages homebuyers to make offers, so tending to yours before selling is essential.
Allocate two or three days to address any landscaping sore spots such as:
- Trimming bushes and trees
- Adding potted flowers and plants by the front door
- Mowing the lawn and weed whacking
- Power washing the exterior of your home
- Changing out the old welcome mat
- Removing any dead plants and debris from your property
Do Some Deep Cleaning (2-3 Days)
The next step is to break out the green scrubbing pads and clean as if you mean it. You’re at the peak of the selling process, where every nook and cranny of your home will be on display for the new owner to see. Best practices include a thorough cleaning that leaves a visible sparkle to nudge prospective buyers in the right direction.
There isn’t any room that’s exempt from the cleaning process. And yes, you know how to clean, so we’ll hold back on the commentary. However, if you plan to skip drawers, the fridge, baseboards, and other commonly missed sections of your home—you shouldn’t. Jon Porter, a real estate agent from Pima County in Arizona, says, “Most buyers respect the seller’s privacy during the showing. There are a few that dig a little deeper than others, and for that reason, I always recommend cleaning everything in reach.”
Stage and Photograph Your Home (1 Day)
Once you’ve made all the preparations, it’s time to utilize your real estate agent’s expertise on staging your home to sell. Some standard practices include allowing as much natural light as possible to penetrate the interior of your home and using citrus, fresh-smelling candles, and ample airflow to enhance the buyer experience using a nose-friendly environment. Arrange furniture and do another quick cleaning to ensure nothing is left out while buyers are browsing. Address unspoken needs by showing off storage space, particularly how well it can be optimized and organized.
You’ll want to stage the home while you live in it without interfering with the arrangement. At this point, either hire a professional photographer, ask your agent, or use this guide to take unforgettable photos. Staging your home to perfection means very little if you can’t get anyone in to take a look. Showcase the beauty of your home in your shots by using plenty of natural light, a DSLR camera, a smartphone with an attachment, or another device that can take high-quality photographs.
Many sellers will list their homes before staging and photographing the space. This is fine as long as you take excellent photos. Consider retaking your listing photos while everything is set to perfection if you didn’t get the perfect shot the first time around.
The Bottom Line
If you approach this pre-listing prep with enough vigor, you’ll likely have a picture-perfect house in three weeks or less. It’s easier to sell your house for the most money possible when you make the time for cleaning, decluttering, and making minor repairs. During a showing, your home is a reflection of how well you’ve taken care of it throughout the years, and the buyer will undoubtedly take notice. There’s no easier way to instill confidence than to showcase your home at its best.
Make a list of projects, aesthetic and functional, and tackle them before listing your home. Check in with your real estate agent along the way to gain useful insight into local market trends and get ready to move into your new place.