Ten Tips for Selling Your Home

By Kate Riley March 13, 2012

It seems it’s “tips” week here at CG and today we’re talking about some general suggestions for selling your home.  When I say “we” I mean I’ve invited Matt to share some tips with you since he’s the guy with all the knowledge on this subject – he’s a real estate appraiser and broker (yep both!) with over 25 years experience.  I asked him to contribute some of his knowledge so he was kind enough to write up this article for you today. Matt’s taking the helm here to share his ten best suggestions for selling your home quickly and achieving top dollar at the same time.  Here he is:

“Kate asked me to share some of my suggestions for maximizing the value of your home when you decide to put it on the market (and she’s going to add some pictures to illustrate too.)  First know that these recommendations depend on a variety of factors such as price range, time of year, region, and location, and this list is by no means all inclusive.

For first timers, the process of selling a home can be stressful, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the anxiety of the sale and secure the best sales price too. Most people buy the home they feel the most emotionally connected with – the one they can envision living in. Your goal as the seller is to give that feeling to the best of your ability to any potential buyer that comes through your door.

Ten Tips for Selling Your Home

1. First Impressions Matter.  The exterior of your home gives potential buyers the first impression and you want it to be looking its very best.  Start by power washing your home to get rid of any cobwebs, dirt, or grime. Rid your driveway of any oil stains and move any old cars off the property. Focus attention on an attractive and inviting entry with a new welcome mat, potted plants, and flowers. If your front porch light is old and/or broken spend $30 and give it a facelift with a new fixture. Spruce up the landscaping, mow the grass, prune the trees and shrubs, and replace or replant where needed.

inviting front entry

2. Inspect the Exterior and Make Obvious Repairs.  Repair any peeling exterior paint or damaged siding, especially in the front of the home.  Make sure the front door hinges and hardware work perfectly, and the doorbell too since one of the worst first impressions is a non-working doorbell.  If for some reason you can’t get it to work, place a note over the doorbell that reads “Please Knock”.  Sliders and doors all need to be oiled and working smoothly including the sliding screen doors too.  You want that smooth transition from room to room and from indoor to outdoor living.

3. Get a Pest Inspection.  This next suggestion is optional but is proven to prevent future headaches with the sale of your home. I recommend hiring a pest inspector to examine your home for termites and water damage and provide you with a report of any active problems with the property. Any future buyer will want the property inspected and you may end up with an inflated estimate for repairs from a potential buyer’s inspector so spend the money to hire your your own inspector.

Once you have your report, clear all (Section 1) problems that are actively  causing any problems. Hire a contractor or professional to make the repairs if necessary and have the inspector return to clear the problems in the report. This inspection can be given to any buyer who makes an offer on your home.

4. Empty the Garage.  This is my favorite recommendation for sellers because it’s one of the best tips for selling your home much quicker. A garage is typically the man’s space, but both guys and gals always want to see if they have room to store their stuff and they will always look in the garage. A clean and empty garage is always attractive to future buyers, so rent a storage unit and take everything in the garage and put it in storage for a month or two. You can also use the storage unit for the decluttering, which is the next step.

5. Clear Out the Clutter.  Difficult as it may be for any homeowner, it’s very important to declutter and depersonalize the entire house. Buyers need to be able to visualize their furniture and their possessions in your home and if you have too much of your stuff hanging around they won’t be able to do this. Less of your stuff in your house makes the room cleaner and larger and everything seems much calmer. A staged home is a good example of how much of your personalized possessions should be present – which is not much, especially in the main living areas.  Less clutter enhances the architectural details or unique accents in your home too.

decluttered bedroom

6. Interior Sprucing.   Fresh paint on the walls is probably the best thing you can do to add appeal to the interior of the house for future buyers. Saturated colors on walls are less attractive than neutrals so as much as you love your lime green bedroom, consider painting it a gray, tan, or white so future buyers can envision their own color and art on the walls. Touch up the baseboards and trim too since dirty trim and scuffed up baseboards make a home look dingy.

Clean the whole house including the windows and the carpets to rid the home of dust and odors and keep them fresh and clean until escrow closes. Hire a professional window washer or carpet cleaner if necessary.

7. Price it Right.  Resist the urge to overprice your home especially in the current real estate market. Your personal attachment to your home may cause you to list the home for more than it’s worth, but you must be realistic about its true value. The ideal time for an offer is within the first 30 days, so setting the right price is key. If it’s priced too high, the home may not get showings, and you’ll be forced to reduce the price to leave buyers wondering what is wrong with your home.

The best way to obtain the true market value of your home is to hire a real estate appraiser who can give you a good idea of a listing price based on comparable sales in your area, and they may know even more about the real value of your home than your agent or broker.

8. Hire the Right Agent.  Find a real estate listing agent or broker who has experience in your market, who responds to your calls right away and communicates with you in a trustworthy manner. Once you have selected your agent, make sure that he or she is aware of all the selling points of your home such as upgraded appliances, air conditioning, new fixtures, modern technology, home alarms, etc. Your agent should also be aware of details about your specific neighborhood, including the schools, parks, and proximity to public services for marketing purposes. Be sure to indicate the best time of day for showing the home as well.

9. Insist on Good Marketing Photos.  To be frank, most real estate agents and brokers underestimate the importance of good marketing images of a home. Good images will attract more buyers, poor images have the opposite effect. The pictures of your home don’t need to be magazine quality, just bright enough to show off your home at its best. Go over the photos with the agent and make sure they look how you want them to look and are taken from the best angles.  Raise all the blinds, turn on the lights, and don’t be afraid to retake the photos several times to get them right.

good marketing images


10. Show It Well (No Pets or Bad Odors)  Having a pet in the home isn’t always the best idea when showing the house to new buyers since they can be distracting. You want your buyers looking at the home and not worrying if it’s okay if the cat goes outside or if the dog is friendly or not. Pets need to be kept away from the showing, whether you take them on a walk, place them in a room away from buyers, or take them to a friend’s house while your home is on the market.

Also be sure your house doesn’t smell like your pets either. Clean surfaces and carpets are important and air fresheners are always a good idea. Fresh flowers on the dining room table or a bowl of fruit in the kitchen make your home’s living spaces feel fresher and more appealing.

clean surfaces no odors

Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to minimize anxiety in the process, reduce your home’s time on the market, and secure the best sales price too.

All the best in the sale of your home,


images: istockphoto; Aly’s Beach via CocoCozy; Rejuvenation; Country Living


If you’d like to pin this article for future reference, just click on the “pin it” button below.  We hope you picked up a few helpful tips for the next time you need to sell your home!





  1. I’ve never sold a home, but we’ve bought a house two years ago. I was smiling during the whole article because what makes a house sell is exactly why I didn’t make an offer on some of the houses I saw.

    I hate it when houses are so obviously renovated on the surface, just for selling. I’ve visited many houses where the floors had just been recovered in the cheapest tiles possible, just to make the space feel clean, thus resulting in tiny steps from one room to the other. Those renovations don’t let you see the bones of a house, and that the main selling point for me. Plus, a neutral color on the wall isn’t necessarily something I’d want myself.

    The house we finally bought was in a awful state: paint was hideous, the kitchen was dirty and dingy, and the owners obviously never cared about renovating or even maintaining this house. As a consequence, they thought they knew exactly how much the house was worth: not much, despite the 120+ square meters. We fell in love with the lovely, totally untouched wooden arches from the 1930’s, with the fair size of the rooms, and couldn’t care less if we had to repaint it all. We were going to repaint anyway. I love to cook, and no kitchen I ever visited was adapted to my cooking (and to our heights, the counters were all too low for us tall people), so we were expecting to build a kitchen anyway. We were happy not to tear down a brand new extremely cheap white Ikea kitchen. It would have been heartbreaking to pay for that.

    There was only house that I wanted to buy on the spot. It had flowers in the dining room, but the whole house was so clean and homelike that I know it wasn’t staged. The owner opened every built-in drawer, every closet, and we saw how neat she was, despite her three children. It was natural for her. In the end we didn’t buy the house because it was slightly out of our budget and had no garden at all, but we considered it for some time. Then we saw our current house and decided that some love was required to make this lady glorious and homelike again.

  2. Number 9!!! Insist on good marketing photos. The common failure to follow this rule – one that should really be a no-brainer – always, always blows my mind. It seems to me, the laymen, that one of the most important hats a realtor wears is his/her marketing hat. And then so many put up these photos that look more like they were taken of a crime scene – I’ll never understand that.

  3. Thanks Matt & Kate for this share of pro info! I am in process of putting a house on the market so your timing was great. I think the most important thing you noted is “Most people buy the home they feel the most emotionally connected with – the one they can envision living in.” That is the tricky part–balancing “selling updates” and staging with “home”. Each time I go through the process of getting a house sold, in retrospect, I realize its an *intangible* factor that was the tipping point for the sale–the emotional connection. To maximize emotional appeal, I try to identify my pool of potential buyers–then go with subliminal messaging :-)

  4. Hi Kate & Matt,
    My husband and I own a Real Estate Brokerage in Alberta Canada for 12 years. The same tips apply here for selling. Professional photos and virtual tours are a must. The market has changed a lot over the years and many buyers search online and not the newspaper when looking for homes. You must have great online exposure. Clearing out all the clutter is also a big one as well as pricing the home right. You need to have your home in the market and not just on the market. This is a hard one for some people as they are emotionally attached to their homes and lots of times think their homes are worth more than they really are. A good Agent can show them all the comparable s from their area to give them an accurate pricing strategy. I have pinned this to my pinterest as it is great tips.

  5. I’ve been a seller 4 times in the last 12 years and I think these are all fantastic tips!! I’d say even clearing out the closets in addition to your garage space is a good idea too. I’m so glad he put #9 in there too – good pictures are SO important! Great advice – I’d love some tips on buying a home too – if he doesn’t mind. :)

  6. A couple of years ago we put our current house on the market. Thankfully it didn’t sell because as it turned out moving would have been more than we could financially handle. We did learn a few things though. One was the value of a great real estate agent. Ours really didn’t invest the time into selling our house like we though she should have. We don’t plan on using her next time. We also learned the importance of great pictures. I think next time I will just take the pictures myself and give them to the agent to use.
    I’m glad we were finally formally introduced to your husband and that he was willing to share his advice with us.

  7. I would like to point out as a buyer that if I go into a home that has the plug in air fresheners that is a huge negative for me. I feel like they are trying to cover something up and they also make me sick.

    • That’s true Pamela, anything way too scented with those pungent cheap air fresheners does seem like a “masking” trick. A light deoderizer (even baking soda) or just clean fresh air from the outside, is a good idea right?

  8. Great tips! We are in house number #5 from So Cal to Nor Cal. My tip… Roast in the crockpot. Lol! I’ve sold every home that way. ;)

    • Fantastic tip Jennie, Matt says freshly baked cookies work great too.

  9. Yes, many of these items are a pain to do, but it AMAZES me how many people don’t bother to do them, especially in such a tough market.

    The only thing I would disagree with is the air freshner. If you have a bad odor in your home then you need to address the odor directly. Air freshner isn’t covering anything up and often times just makes it worse. Open your windows to air things out, use baking soda to neutralize, or even consider an ionizer.

  10. Great post and tips! We don’t own a house to sell, but will file this away under “someday”!

  11. Having recently sold a house and am now searching to buy one again, I can tell you ALLLLL of this is true.

    I’m always surprised when people ignore any of these types of tips then are frustrated when they don’t sell! Thanks for posting!

  12. Well, this made me smile b/c my brother-in-law’s name is Matt. And his wife’s name is Kate. :)

    Great tips! I used to manage listings and sales for a Real Estate office, and the broker had the hardest time with home owners who wouldn’t clear the clutter! It’s hard for buyers to walk in your cluttered home b/c they start imagining all their stuff inside the home…alongside of your stuff!

    Thanks for taking the time to share! Even if your home isn’t for sale, some of these are applicable to those of us who just need to spruce. ;)

  13. Great tips here! I’m in the process of buying a home, but I know we will be selling someday after we make many a cosmetic repair. Ha!

    Thanks for the great advice, I also heard baking cookies helps…….is that true or just silly? I guess it depends on the season. If it’s winter you probably want candles, the smell of cookies, etc.

  14. Great tips from your hubby, especially 7-10!! You wouldn’t BELIEVE some of the crazy things I’ve seen as a broker (one story in particular which should never be written down, ha!). And agreed, there is no excuse for terrible photos – there are companies here in Dallas that take amazing listing photos for as little as $100 (and in my opinion, that should be included in the marketing expenses covered by the broker). There is no doubt that having your home on the market is a huge pain and inconvenience – but following these tips can definitely reduce time on the market and therefore reduce your headaches!

  15. Great post!! As someone who is currently looking at houses, it would be a great help if everyone followed your advice!

  16. I have a tip as well: If you’re selling your house, talk to your neighbors about theirs. We walked away from a few houses because the neighbors had dirty yards or giant RVs in front of their house or tons of cars in the driveway. We picked a neighborhood where the majority of the houses looked well kept (except the disaster down the street) and yards were free of clutter.

  17. This goes with sprucing up… WASH YOUR WINDOWS! This goes a long way to making your house look clean.

  18. Well none of these are new to me, but they are all definitely right. My mother is in the process of selling her house. Unfortunately her contract fell through a week before she was supposed to close, and after she’d already sold most of the furniture she wasn’t taking with her. It’s a lot harder to sell an empty house.

  19. My Husband and I have been looking to buy a house, so when I read this I was going back in my head an evaluating the sellers of the homes we saw…the one we have and offer on was not up to snuff, obviously we looked past it, but I will say that all the tips you mention that they didn’t do I definitely noticed…(like sticky countertops…:)

  20. Thanks for the advice – will keep it in mind for when we sell! Quick question – is that your house in the 1st photo of the front entry? I am looking for similar planters, but more rectangular to put in the front of our porch between two sets of square pillars….almost like a railing, but we can’t do a railing there. Wondering if you made them or know where you purchased them or where someone could purchase? Thanks so much for any help you can give!

  21. i’ve always thought that i would try to sell my house first with it all fixed up and darling…..with the bookshelves styled, etc, and then pair down if that didn’t work at first. of course, i pretty much live in a magazine ready to shoot house as my husband says, since i don’t let one thing hit the floor before it’s scooped up and put into place. he calls it the museum occasionally. i guess i like my pillows perfect on the chairs all the time and not just at selling or photo shoot time. :)
    and yes to cookies or food cooking….makes the house feel like a home instead of just a building.

  22. Great tips. I also like to recommend professional home staging for my clients, since home staging maximizes the value of your house and show off its greatest assets. A staged home will sell for 17% more than an unstaged home!

  23. Great idea Mallory, I’ll talk him into another post on that topic!

  24. We attempted to sell our house a couple of years ago and it didn’t work. One thing we learned, and won’t repeat this time around, is to not let the Realtor insist on overly produced photographs. We had a fire added to our fireplace, the grass touched up to leprechaun green and the spaces stretched to look bigger. I think it actually hurt us in the long run, as did the crashing economy!! Also, we had a stager that brought in some really odd items that didn’t fit our house or our style at all. They seemed so distracting & faked.

    One thing that helped when we were looking was for the homes to have heat. We looked at more than a few that were sooooo cold we couldn’t wait to get out. I know its costly to heat an empty house but brrrr…..

    Thanks for the tips. We are starting the process again and hope to have much better results this time around.

  25. So nice your husband did a post, Kate! Great tips and advice on selling a home. My husband and I love to pop into open houses on Sundays and we’re always amazed at the condition some homeowners leave their house in and expect to spike interest and or an offer. Big pluses for me are clutter free, clean and fresh smelling! A nice fresh vase of flowers in the entryway or kitchen is always a nice welcome. Great post, Matt!

  26. Very timely post for us as we are relocating from Nashville to Las Vegas in about 80 days. We’re looking to get our house on the market next month, but are no where near ready to do so. What advice do you have for folks who are making big moves and don’t have the time to invest in many of these steps? For example, there is no where to take our two cats once the showings start.

  27. Great article and I second the request for an article on buying. We are doing both — buying a larger home and then selling our current one. We’ve looked at about a dozen+ 2-story homes in our neighborhood and what struck me was only 3 of them had the upstairs floor plan flowing well. I am amazed at how some of them do not make sense at all. For example, a 5,600 SF home was advertised as having 5 bedrooms, with a master down. We look at it and there really were only 2 functional bedrooms upstairs — they counted a game room in the center off of which you access one of the bedrooms and an “extra” room that was long, narrow and had no windows.

  28. This is a great article and will be very useful to those planning to sell.

    I just want to point out that we should be doing #1-5 for our homes whether we’re planning to sell or not. Our spaces should be beautiful and pleasing to us, not because we’re trying to sell but because we live there. If things are broken, they should be fixed. We should take pride in our homes!

  29. Great article Matt! And Kate, remember in the final episode of SATC when Carrie’s cell phone rang and the caller ID said, “John”?? Your “mister” finally revealing his name is like finding out Mr. Big’s name after all those years! :)

  30. My mom totally baked cookies each day their house was on the market…10 total. In those 10 days, they had 18 people come look. It was CRAZY. But they really worked hard on getting everything looking nice and spruced up (I spent many a day helping to de-clutter), and it was so worth it.

    I bought my house 3 years ago, and I absolutely could not believe some of the houses and the way they were presented. I wanted to just die. People can be such slobs, but when you KNOW people will be looking at your house? I just don’t understand it.

  31. As someone that has sold 4 houses in the past 9 years due to relocation, the one major turnoff for me when buying another house has been when it’s heavily de-odorized….candles or the plug ins! Please think about whether giving a potential buyer a migraine is really a wise choice in trying to sell your home.

  32. I staged homes for 3 years and all of the points are so important. It’s simple common sense. Amazing when sellers ignore the obvious. Nothing trumps a competitive price. Look at what homes are actually selling for. Not what others are listed for. Good luck!

  33. I stage homes for my personal business and I address a lot of these issues. Number one thing I do is take out “stuff” from people’s homes. They are going to have to pack it up to move anyway, so it’s motivational on both ends. My favorite places to pack are closets (half the toys, clothes meant for the opposite season, and extra shoes not regularly worn are the easiest to tackle) and kitchen cupboards! Even a small kitchen seems like it has extra storage space if you keep a limited amount of needed cups in them and box up the gadgets that don’t get used a whole lot.
    Not sure how long your home will be on the market? Stick the plastic bin of the toys or shoes in the closet it’s self if you don’t want to move it to a storage unit.
    Also, a $3 bin to corral cleaning supplies under a sink or across a shelf makes a big difference! Besides, you can carry the bin(s) with you as you clean from room to room. :)
    On an added note, a pile of mail or bills will make buyers think that the home is hard to afford with all the other bills and remind them of stress. Stick them in a binder or pretty shoe box.

  34. It’s nice to meet your “mister,” Kate! And his tips are really good ones. We followed most of these when we sold our last home, and it sold the very first day we showed it. What a relief it was not to have to go through months of showings! The other homes we’ve sold have been on the market for one week and three weeks. Having a good realtor is absolutely essential, if you ask me! I’d also recommend to people that they find a good realtor and follow his/her suggestions BEFORE the listing goes active.

    One way I diverge from expert advice: I don’t believe that you need to remove personal items nearly to the degree that most experts suggest. Of course, personal items that are gaudy or unattractive should be removed. I used to get tickled at Designed to Sell when the experts would tell homeowners to remove the tacky photographs from the walls by saying that they needed to remove “personal items.” I think they really just meant “Those are ugly; take them down.” On the other hand, some lovely personal items make a house look more like a home, and I think buyers like that.

  35. Great tips Matt. Any time I’ve sold a house I’m always left feeling very sad that we finally got it all fixed up just in time to sell the home and not for our own benefit. I”m trying to get things done for us in this house though.

  36. as a new agent, i love reading different perspectives on home staging. i think the tips people can implement with minimal expenses are so important!

  37. My husband and I bought our first house in September, and I just had to put in my two cents from my point of view. We live in the DC area and we like historic homes. So we were guaranteed to see an eccentric slice of the market – in an expensive area working with a budget, we weren’t looking at the priciest magazine-ready places, and old homes offer a greater range of options for odd conditions. For the same reason, there were a lot of things we were willing to be sporting about. Here’s what I found, admittedly in a pool of possibilities that didn’t contain anything picture-perfect (so there was nothing pristine to tempt us away):

    -we only saw one home that was close to staged condition (and I refused to buy it because the living room wouldn’t fit a full-sized sofa and the location didn’t work). As between “way too much crap” and empty rooms, empty rooms win hands-down.
    -bad paint colors don’t help, but dirty walls are way worse.
    -the house we bought had the worst color scheme I have ever seen. But there’s no paint color on earth that I hate the way I hate beige. I might not REFUSE to buy a house because it had beige walls, but it would be a hurdle. But I may be a minority…perhaps.
    -people should kill the spiders in their basements, and any other critters. I had to go in the attic and the basement if I was considering buying the house, and I HATE spiders.

    And one actual “tip” I can pass on: realtors, manage communications with your clients. Before we got our own realtor, we were calling listing brokers to show us houses. (Of course they’ll oblige – they want to sell us the house.) We looked at one place that had suffered from major neglect for DECADES. The realtors must have known it was way overpriced (the homeowner was emotionally attached because his late mother raised the family there), but they beat the drum about not dropping the price at all (and sold it for way under listing – not to us). We had some serious questions about what was going on with the place. (One of these was why there was an empty gallon jug hanging on a makeshift hook from an exposed water pipe in the upstairs bathroom. My theory was that the homeowner was filling it from the sink because the toilet wouldn’t flush otherwise.) So I sent my list of questions to the realtor. He forwarded them without reading them. Should I have worded them sweetly (rather than clearly) so they would be palatable to the seller? Sure. I was blunt because the realtor was one of those hand-wave guys – oh, no, these cracks in the plaster don’t mean anything, that’s just “character.” Turns out the gallon jug was there for some sort of eco-friendly gray-water reclamation project; I learned this from the seller when he emailed me back. He was obviously deeply offended. He had overpriced his house a lot, and to sell it to anyone, he needed to be disposed to negotiate. At that point, he was definitely not disposed to negotiate with me. Had his realtor called him to relay my questions (minus my explanation of why I thought they were serious enough to get actual answers), things might have gone very differently. He ultimately sold the house (it took a few more months), but I thought that was phenomenally stupid of his realtor.

  38. If you’re going all in, you could hire an inspector to inspect the entire house instead of just getting a pest inspection. The 30+ year old home we bought was in immaculate condition and the owners showed off their pride in their home by paying for a full inspection from one of our area’s top inspectors. The report was neatly contained in a binder, complete with pictures, suggestions for repairs, and any actions taken after that report was completed.

    That was just the icing on the cake – talk about giving buyers confidence that they are buying a good home!

    The great thing is that our inspection report (by our inspector) perfectly matched the other one. That was very reassuring.

    P.S. I agree with the above advice to ditch the scented candles & stick with the fresh fruit & flowers. My mother-in-law looked at a house and had to run outside because she was having an asthma attack brought on by the candles! Never good! Plus, heavily scented candles made me feel like there were odors that needed to be very covered up.

  39. Great post. I’m getting ready to put my house on the market, and this is just what I needed. I love your blog, and it just keeps me coming back!!! Keep up the great work!

  40. Thank you for this article, I would like to add a small tip while buying a home which is asking about future plans. Do research about the area that you’ll buy your property in or ask your agent because real-estate agents are aware of any future plans that will happen in any area they’re selling property in because they use it as an advantage for the villa or apartment to increase its price. Future plans may be a hospital, bus station, or even a supermarket that is planning to open.

  41. One thing that I’d love to see more realtors do, is include a floor plan in your listing. A rough sketch – anything! I’d love to see the general floor plan of a home before a walk through. The purpose of this for me is, I can like architecturally/style/etc, but if its not the right flow/layout, I wont be interested anyway.

    Virtual tours give you a glimpse (if they are done right) of the floor plan, but I’d like a hard drawing of a floor plan.

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