1. Ask for help.
Even if you don’t get a pro, a second set of eyes that haven’t lived at the property is helpful. They haven’t seen all the changes and improvements you’ve made over the years, and won’t miss the deterioration and disrepair that you experienced over years and didn’t really notice. A fresh perspective will tell you what to focus on.
2. Make breathing room.
Moving things around is free. (Although storing them elsewhere probably isn’t.) Rooms that have a lot of furniture may look cozy to you, but crowded to potential buyers. Spacing things out makes a room look bigger, and lets buyers mentally fill in the gaps with their own stuff.
3. Be sparse, not Spartan.
Perhaps worse than clutter is nothing at all. An empty room is not going to excite anyone, and it will draw more attention to the condition of the walls, floor, and ceiling. While a tidy decor shouldn’t be used to hide defects, it may save you the expense of redoing an unappealing paint job. Think of a pleasant-looking budget hotel room: There are simple decorations that catch your eye, but they’re spaced out. Flowers look nicer than random decorative objects but will require care.
4. Minimize personal stuff.
In the bathroom, clear the countertops and shower of excessive bottles, brushes, and cosmetics and use simple, color-coordinated towels. Take down personal photos, including off the fridge (magnets too). Pack up the knick-knacks scattered across the shelves and dressers. You don’t necessarily need to rent a storage unit for all this: You can keep it in the garage, as long as it’s tidy.
5. Make things shine.
Polish furniture. Clean windows, fixtures, doorknobs, fans, and lights. This is simple and cheap but makes a big visual difference.
6. Think twice about big customizations.
Replacing the carpet or repainting may seem logical, but not everybody has the same taste and the buyer may want to change things again anyway. You should consider a change if age or crazy style are issues. If you do, go for simple, neutral colors.
7. Create curb appeal.
Don’t focus on the inside and forget outside. First impressions matter. Clear out the tools and junk (especially on the patio and front porch), mow the lawn, and trim the hedges. Fresh mulch may spruce things up cheaply, and if you don’t want to paint the whole house, paint the trim, door, and shutters. (Your city may even offer enough free paint for the job; some give away limited quantities.) If it’s in the budget, the next step may be some pro landscaping or a simple garden