When you prepare to put your home on the market, remember this rule of thumb: If what the buyer can see looks well cared for, he or she will generally assume what they can’t see has also been cared for well.

Making that happen is a simple matter of three steps:

  • Deciding how much to spend.
  • Getting the most out of the exterior of the home.
  • Getting the most out of the interior of the home.

If you’re trying to decide how much to spend to get the house ready, don’t overdo it. Making a few minor improvements, such as a coat of paint or a new light fixture, is better than making a major revision, such as remodeling the bathrooms. If you hire a real estate agent, seek advice regarding specific improvements.

A few areas to consider when working on the exterior of the home:

  • Keep the lawn edged, cut and watered regularly.
  • Trim hedges, weed lawns and flowerbeds and prune trees regularly.
  • Check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling.
  • Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint.
  • Clean and align gutters.
  • Inspect and clean the chimney.
  • Repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
  • If the home is on the market during the winter, keep sidewalks cleared of snow and ice.
  • During the spring and summer, consider adding several appealing potted plans, preferably near the front entrance.
  • Keep the garage door closed.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.

Likewise, there are a number of areas you can tackle to help the appeal of the interior of your home. A few tips:


  • Give every room in the house a thorough cleaning and remove all clutter. This will make the house seem larger and brighter.
  • Hire a professional cleaning service once every two or three weeks while the home is on the market.
  • Remove less frequently used items from kitchen counters, cabinets, closets and the attic.
  • If required, repaint walls a neutral color such as off-white or beige. Also consider replacing worn carpet or linoleum with a neutral color.
  • Check for cracks, leaks or signs of dampness in the attic and basement.
  • Replace broken or cracked windowpanes.
  • Inspect and replace, if necessary, heating, cooling, plumbing and alarm systems.
  • Replace dripping faucets and showerheads.
  • One thing to always try to remember is to look at the home from the buyer’s point of view. Remain objective and be honest with yourself.

Tips to make your home more appealing to prospective buyers viewing your home:


  • Keep countertops cleared.
  • Replace all burned-out light bulbs.
  • Open all drapes and window blinds.
  • Put pets in cages or take them to a neighbor.
  • Make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink.
  • Make sure there’s no laundry in the washer/dryer.
  • Clean or replace dirt or worn carpets.
  • Put on soft music.
  • Burn wood in the fireplace on cold days; otherwise, the fireplace should be clean.
Sources for these stories include: Coldwellbanker.com, Moving.com, Federal Citizen Information Center Home Page, Realtor.com, Homestore.com, homebuilder.com, forsalebyowner.com, San Diego Association of Realtors, Monstermoving.com, Interest.com, Century21.com and Amsouth.com.