Conquering Chaos

By Catherine McNulty

May 29, 2015 5 min read

You only have to watch five minutes of HGTV to know that how your house looks has a major impact on whether it will sell and how much you will get for it. Save a lucky few who have homes in markets so desirable they will sell no matter what, the rest of us have to make sure our homes have every advantage to ensure they sell quickly and for a good price. An entire industry has sprung up around making sure homes on the market have curb appeal to get prospective buyers in the door -- they are staged to make sure those potential buyers make an offer.

If your house suffers from CHAOS ("can't have anyone over" syndrome), then it is not ready to sell. What can you do to cut through the clutter and get your house sales ready?

The first thing most experts recommend is to get rid of everything you no longer need or use. It's easy to get used to having junk around, which is what something you no longer need or use is: junk. After a while, you don't even see it; it's just part of the landscape. But think of it this way -- if you're selling your house, eventually you will need to pack and move everything. Do you really want to have to move stuff you no longer use or need?

Of course not! Time to sell -- and sell you can because your junk may be exactly what someone else is looking (and willing to pay) for. Ebay, garage sales, estate sales and consignment shops -- there are so many options. If you can't sell something but it's still in good condition, consider donating to charity or dropping it off at Good Will. That said, if you have a laundry bag full of stained T-shirts, just throw them out. No one wants that (including you).

Even if you need and use everything in your house, it may still appear to be too cluttered for potential buyers. If you have a lot of bulky furniture or overstuffed closets and you can't part with any of it, it's time to get a storage unit. Having less stuff can give a house the appearance that it has more space (including the coveted closet space), which is very appealing to potential buyers.

It's also time to put away any personal mementos: family photos and memorabilia, any specific collections and any fixtures you won't be selling with the house. Remember, you're selling a house, not your life -- you want it to be impersonal so that potential buyers picture themselves living in it. And if there are fixtures you're taking with you (antique doorknobs, drawer pulls, etc.), make sure those are gone, too. Otherwise, a potential buyer might assume those come with the house.

Assume that anyone coming to see the house will snoop, so if there's something you don't want to be seen, don't have it in the house. Plus, the devil is in the details. It may seem like overkill to sort your Tupperware and make sure all of your dishes are clean and stacked neatly, but a potential buyer (who is going to go through your cabinets) will see someone who is organized and on top of things. That means the house was well-cared-for.

One of the quickest ways give the rooms of your house a clean, uncluttered feel is a fresh coat of paint and clean windows. It's easy to overlook how dirty walls and windows can become. Even if they're not streaked with dirt, accumulated dust and grime can dull both. Fresh paint and clean windows will brighten any room and make it feel cleaner and more spacious.

A lot of the time, small fixes such as that can really help sell a house. Bleach the grout and the tub in the bathroom. Completely wipe out any kitchen cabinets, drawers and shelves. If a door squeaks when it closes, make sure it doesn't when you put your house on the market.

Speaking of the kitchen, it is by far the most important room in the house. Major repairs and updates don't always pay off in other rooms, but almost always do in the kitchen. So if you only have the budget to fix one room, make it the kitchen.

Remember, only you can prevent CHAOS in your own house. If you're feeling overwhelmed, start small: Clean out a drawer; put away all the dishes. Good luck!

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