Real Estate

How to Prepare Your House for a Sale Without Breaking your Budget

I have sold many houses as an agent, and investor over the last 20 years. I have learned a lot about what helps houses sell and what does not. I have also learned what to spend money on and what not to. If you plan to sell your house, and you want to get the most money you can, you need to make it look as appealing as possible without breaking your budget.

How important is curb appeal?

First impressions matter but they may not matter as much as many people think. When we watch HGTV all we hear about is curb appeal. I think curb appeal is mentioned so much because it is an easy catchphrase to remember and it is easy to see the differences on TV. TV is not always reality.

When I sell houses I want the property to look good on the outside but I do not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars installing custom landscaping. if the yard is dead on a house we are flipping we won’t install sod and then sprinklers because we will never get that money back. Now if you live in the home and can nurse a yard back to health with little money definitely do that.

We will add mulch, trim or remove dead trees, repair fences, etc, but we usually aren’t adding fences or adding trees. If the house needs paint we will of course paint it, especially if there is peeling paint as that can stop a buyer from getting financing. The reason we don’t do a lot of yard work is that most buyers feel they can do that work themselves. It can be hard work but not complicated work.

Decluttering and staging a home

Most of the homes we sell are vacant so we do not need to declutter. However, many of you reading this may be living in the home and have your stuff, maybe a lot of stuff in that home. Homes look their best when there are very few personal items in the home and no mess. It might sound weird, but leaving pictures up distracts buyers. It distracts me. I see them and I think do I know them, have we met, how many kids do they have, when I should be looking at the house! This is for a seasoned investor! Take down all the personal photos and remove as much clutter as you can. Make sure the home is as clean as possible and smells good!

If the house is vacant we sometimes stage it and sometimes don’t. It depends on the size of the home, the market, the feel of the home, and many other factors. When we do stage, we hire a company to add furniture and a few decorations. The worst thing you can do is add one table and chair with a bottle of wine. If you are going to stage, do it right. If you don’t want to stage that is fine but don’t make it obvious you wanted to stage but got tired and quit.

What repairs should you make when selling?

I can write an entire article on repairs and have done that because a lot can be said. I also have videos that I will link to after this section because repairs are tricky. The two biggest questions to ask when thinking about what to repair and what not to are can the buyers get financing and does the house look good?

For FHA to finance a home, it needs to be in livable condition which means the roof is decent, the windows aren’t broken, the major systems work, there is no peeling paint, and there are no safety hazards. Some people may say well we will just sell to a buyer not using FHA. Except, most owner-occupied loans will use the same guidelines as FHA. If you want to sell to an investor you will most likely get much less money than selling to an owner-occupant. if you need help figuring out what repairs to make for financing talk to a local agent or check this out.

Once the house qualifies for financing you need to make sure it looks and feels good. Cosmetic repairs go a long way like paint and flooring. You do not need to go crazy spending $100k on kitchen and bath upgrades. Stick to the affordable repairs if your budget allows it and if the home is in decent shape you might not need to make any repairs.

Price the home right and be easy to work with

If you price your home too high, it doesn’t matter how good it looks or feels. Pricing is the most important part of selling a home and you need to get it right from the start. If you price too high and lower it over time, you will most likely get less than pricing it right the first time. Again, I would use an agent to help you figure out what to price it at based on the condition of the home.

It is also important to be easy to work with. If you need 48 hours for a showing, that will deter many buyers. Have the home ready to show at all times and be ready to get out of there or let it be shown if you are at work. You may want 2 weeks after closing to move out but that will deter many buyers as well. be very clear about what stays with the home and what you are taking as far as appliances or other items that may be attached to the property.

If you get an offer remember you are not fighting the buyers or trying to win, you are working with them to come up with a win/win scenario.

When should you sell the home?

Many people say you should always sell in the spring because that is when most buyers are looking. That is true but that is also when most sellers are selling as well. If you are ready to sell your home, I would not wait for the perfect time although I would avoid a few times of the year if possible. Fall is usually the slowest time of the year because kids are going back to school and everyone is super busy. The Holidays are also tough because people are distracted and busy. Most any other time of the year works and buyers are always looking.


Selling a house is not rocket science but many things that go into it. Getting your house prepared to sell can net you tens of thousands of dollars more than simply listing it and hoping. It is easier than ever to sell by owner now with online marketing tools and social media but I would always use an agent personally. Yes, I am an agent but even buying or selling out of state where I am not licensed I always use an agent. They can help you price the home right, and give you ideas on staging and repairs, they also handle the showings and will expose the property to more buyers.

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