Getting ready to put your home on the market can be a stressful time, but if you're willing to put in a little time and elbow grease, it doesn't have to put a strain on your bank account.
First, look at your home like a potential buyer. Outside, first impressions count. If your front door looks tired, give it a fresh coat of paint. Be sure the doorknobs open correctly. Clean and sweep the porch, and keep cobwebs to a minimum. Spend a few bucks on a new welcome mat.
Outside, flowers sell. Realtor Eric Rogers suggests planting some fresh flowers in front of the house. Go for rich colors, such as red, purple and blue. If you need an easy fix, impatiens are hardy, pretty and inexpensive. If gardening isn't your thing, hang baskets and potted flowers on the porch to create a warm and inviting entry. If you have garden beds with mulch, add a few new bags on top for great visual improvement.
Homeowner Brad Davis is considering selling his home, so he recently removed the unruly shrubs from his yard and built a raised block flower garden out front. "I did it all myself and probably spent $1,000 on it, mainly because of the blocks. The bulbs and plants were cheap," he says. "And it changed the whole look of the front of the house."
Remember that once inside, prospective buyers want to see the details of your home, explains real estate agent Suzie Duff, so you'll want to make sure they have a great view. You will be packing to move anyway, so starting the process before you list your home just makes sense. Duff advises packing up items you don't use regularly, such as photos, knickknacks and valuable dishes.
Touch up paint where it is needed, and if your rooms are unusual colors, consider painting them neutral hues. Have the carpets professionally cleaned. Polish your light fixtures, and replace burned-out light bulbs. If dated ceiling lights are in very visible locations, take a trip to your local hardware store and purchase new fixtures.
Closets need to look roomy and large. Spend some time sorting through each closet and then donating unwanted items to charity. You can store what's left in plastic stackable totes. Or you might want to invest in a closet organizing system and, if necessary, have it professionally installed.
Kitchens and bathrooms need to look roomy and spotless. In the kitchen, remove all the extras from the countertops. New hardware for the cabinets can dramatically change the appearance of a room without costing a lot of money -- and even the most challenged do-it-yourselfer can do the job.
In the bathrooms, replace discolored or damaged caulking. Fix dripping faucets and leaky toilets. Buy and install a new toilet seat. It's also a good idea to purchase and hang new hand towels and shower curtains.
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, it is difficult to see through the eyes of a potential buyer. In this case, you might consider having your home "staged." Staging is not decorating or designing, says real estate agent and staging expert Jane Hay. "Designing and decorating is personalizing, and staging is de-personalizing and preparing a home for an unknown buyer." Simply put, a professional stager will present your home in its best possible light, ensuring that the focus is on the features that sell, such as a great view and outstanding architecture.
Remember that your goal is to ensure that your house looks as nice as it can and leaves a positive lasting impression on potential buyers -- but you don't have to spend a fortune in the process.