How to successfully prepare your home for sale for maximum return

You’ve heard it before: “Time is money.” This is especially true when it comes to preparing your home for sale. Just like when you drive a new car off the lot, each day that your home spends on the market, it loses value. In order to reduce the time spent on market and to get the greatest value for the home, sellers must make careful preparations before listing their home for sale. Transitioning from a homeowner to a home seller requires one to be objective and to put themselves in the shoes of the buyer.


Do make investments in the property

Gone are the days when you could sell your home ‘as is’ and get market value. Today’s buyers have little appetite to renovate old, out dated kitchens and baths. If they have to hire the contractor, they’ll make expensive personal choices - and then make you pay for the inconvenience. A savvy seller will make smart, economical renovations that buyers can appreciate.  

Do create the lifestyle for your buyer

When a buyer sees your listing, they are evaluating more than simply the walls and floors. They’re envisioning the lifestyle - the one they’re hoping to have in their new home.  What will entertaining be like?  Family time?  Relaxation and recreation?  Romance?  Try to figure out the lifestyle of your most likely buyer, and see if your home is currently compatible.  If it isn’t, enlist the help of a professional home stager who specializes in lifestyle designs.  

Do hire a professional photographer

Nowadays, your online listing can make or break your home sale. The quality of your photographs in your listing have a direct impact on the quality of foot traffic you can expect to have.  Unless you own a wide-angle, high-resolution camera, leave the pictures to the professionals.  

Do remember that you’re selling, not dwelling

Many sellers make the mistake of forgetting that their family home is now a product. If your home is on the market for sale, make sure that you are willing to sacrifice your personal tastes, style, and daily routines for the benefit of the sale. Make short-term concessions for the long-term gain of getting your home sold for the right price.

Do prepare a simple floor plan

A floor plan helps buyers understand the flow of your home and how the rooms fit together in a way that photographs can’t.  They should be included in your online listing and as marketing collateral in the home. There are a few programs online that allow you to do them fairly easily, but even a carefully hand-drawn sample can be useful and informative. Just remember to put the caveat that dimensions are approximate, not guaranteed, and for marketing purposes only.  


Do not set your initial price too high

Of all the information contained in this article, this is probably the most important.  Sellers often fall into the trap of chasing their “white whale” and trying to obtain an unrealistic price. Discuss your home with an experienced real estate professional and decide what the home is worth. And then price it at exactly that number, and not a penny more. Savvy buyers will sense real value and you might even find yourself in a bidding war!  

Do not expect buyers to finish your To-Do List

You know that ceiling patch you’ve been meaning to paint?  Or that closet door that sticks but you haven’t found the time to repair? Do it now, or else the buyers will have to do it for you, and they’ll make you pay for the hassle.  

Do not forget to use color


Beware of putting buyers to sleep with overly neutral decor. 

Don’t be afraid to take chances with pops of vibrant color - with rugs, throws, pillows, and especially art. They will make your photographs sing, and make the space feel more alive in person. If you’re afraid to commit to a scheme, get a professional to help.  Our most successful clients' homes aren't Plain Janes.  On, the contrary, they are conspicuous!  They are exciting, full of life, and most importantly - memorable.

Do not expect buyers to appreciate your high-end customizations

Did you have Italian marble installed in your garage? A built-in cigar humidor in the hall closet?  Perhaps you didn’t go to such extremes, but many homeowners have made expensive personal touches to their home.  Unfortunately, most buyers won’t appreciate them and won’t be willing to pay for them, either.  Sure, some day in the distant future, years from now, the buyer who loves the same things as you do might walk through your door, but do you really want to wait for them?  

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Selling your home successfully takes careful preparation and discipline. In order to get the most for your property, all factors must be considered: price, presentation, condition, lifestyle, and marketing. A well priced, well prepared home should get quality offers in the first 30 days. If you find yourself on the market for longer than one month, take a long, hard look at the do’s and don’ts above to discover what might be holding you back. If you’re not quite sure where to start, contact a home staging professional who will offer objective advice and formulate a game plan to get your home sold.

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Photo Credits: At Night © Jay Hart & Sold with Style - special permission; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Jay HartCEO, Sold With Style, Inc.

Jay Hart is CEO of Sold With Style, Inc., a boutique supplier of elite furnishings, accessories and marketing insight to builders, investors, and homeowners. Look for him in an upcoming episode of HGTV's "Selling NY," due to air in 2013. S...

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