Have you ever wondered why it is that two homes in the same neighborhood, with virtually the same amount of space and similar floor plans, often sell for dramatically different amounts of money? Prep and Staging make the difference. 

The National Association of Realtors provides a helpful guide for homeowners with helpful tips, prudent advice and a checklist of items to improve your chances of quickly selling your home.

If you are planning to place your home on the market, you want it to sell quickly at the highest possible price. Cara Ameer, Broker Associate and Realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida advises, “Take care of any needed areas of repair and deferred maintenance — start from the outside because if you can’t get them in from the outside, they won’t look at the inside. ”

Preparing your home prior to putting it on the market helps gain a fast sale. A bit of professional “sprucing-up” can make the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in the net sale price. Remember, you only have one chance to make a terrific first impression.

Establish Emotional Distance

A major move can be a traumatizing and disruptive process. No matter your motivation for selling your home, it isn’t easy to pack up years of memories, let go and move ahead in a new life direction. For many persons, establishing emotional distance is the hardest yet most necessary step in the moving process.

If you maintain an attitude of clinging sentimentality towards the home, you can’t objectively arrive at a fair market value or take the steps necessary to bring about a satisfactory sale.

Disassociate yourself from the property by telling yourself, “I am over it – I am moving on!” Create a mental image of the fast and easy move you wish to accomplish. Picture the sold sign in the front yard. Think of the property as unnecessary baggage, nothing more than a commodity to be disposed of at the highest value.

Arrange For Off-Site Storage

Consider renting a storage space or a portable storage pod to hold personal property off site while you prepare your home for showing to the public. When you put the home on the market, you don’t want the garage, basement, attic or other open space clogged by packing boxes or years of accumulated minutia. PublicStorage.com offers clean, safe and climate-controlled storage units in 2,200 different locations nationwide.

Remove Personal Property

  • De-personalize the property. A potential buyer needs to be able to picture the home as “their space”. That’s impossible if your bowling trophies are on the mantle, and personal pictures are all over the nightstands. Now is the time to pack up all family heirlooms, photos, diplomas on the wall and the artwork and magnets on the refrigerator.
  • Don’t forget to remove other distracting personal items such as golf clubs, musical instruments, home office décor, hobby supplies, sports memorabilia and home exercise equipment. Pack-up books, CDS and video games. Shelves, bookcases, closets, cabinets, counter tops, tables, and drawers should appear clear and welcoming to the new owners belongings.
  • Remove off-site any valued paintings, artwork, mirrors or lighting fixtures that you do not intend to sell with the home. Remember to take photos for insurance purposes before you pack things up and check with your insurance carrier to make sure your valued property is protected while in storage.

This depersonalizing process will help you sort out and pack your special treasures and dispose of the debris. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment you feel as you take another step ahead in the moving process.

Get Rid Of Clutter

  • Clear the entire house, room by room, of all the clutter you may have gathered. Whether it’s the stack of magazines you haven’t found time to read, an accumulation of knickknacks and collectibles or too many houseplants, clutter makes living space feel cramped and unwelcoming.
  • Go through the house, a room at a time, disposing of everything that you are not taking with you when you move. Get rid of anything in your life that is stagnant or doesn’t bring you joy. “Lighten your load” by passing on the items you no longer need to someone who could benefit from their use.
  • If you have furniture, clothing or knickknacks that you are holding on to because of sentimental attachment, but they no longer fit in your life, take photos. Photos are easily stored, and you will always have the memory allowing you to repurpose or dispose of the item.
  • You may want toplan a garage sale, arrange a donation to a worthy charity or rent a large dumpster.
  • Clean every cupboard and closet in the house. Make some hard choices. If you haven’t used an item in more than a year, it is unlikely you will want to haul it around with you. Pack up selected seasonal items and clothing for storage. Keep out only what you will wear between now and the move. Get rid of the rest.
  • Empty all cupboards and closet of all but the most necessary items. A potential buyer cannot picture a place for all of their “stuff” if all the space is crammed with yours.
  • Shine and polish the cupboards, cabinets and trim. Put in fresh shelf paper. Repair drawers that do not close smoothly or cabinet or closet doors that do not close properly. Inspect and replace any missing hardware.
  • Colored coded plastic storage tubs are helpful packing boxes good in keeping property organized by room, person or season.
  • Apply the same de-cluttering process to basements, garages, storage sheds, and outbuildings.
  • Remove excess items such as children’s toys and playground equipment, a boat, recreational vehicle or other sporting or gardening equipment off the property. You don’t want the place to look like a junkyard.

Clean, Clean and Clean Some More

  • Start outside. Remove leaves and debris from gutters and make any necessary repairs. Pools, hot tubs, fountains or other water features should be clean and sparkly; free from algae and debris.
  • Mow the grass, weed the flowerbeds, and trim trees and shrubbery.
  • Scrub down the patio furniture and clean barbecue grills and fire pit. Pack up patio furniture and décor and move off-site if you do not plan to include these items in the purchase price of the home.
  • Rent a pressure washer to clean garage floors, sidewalks, stonework, pools or patio. Patch or replace any broken tiles or other areas of visible wear or damage. If the garage floor is oil stained, clean and paint a neutral gray with concrete paint.
  • Wash all windows inside and out. If the height or the size of the windows prevents you from safely cleaning them yourself, call a professional window washing company. Make sure all screen or storm windows are sparkly clean and in good repair. Awnings or shutters should be repaired or replaced as needed.
  • Clean ceiling fan blades and mini-blinds.
  • Shampoo carpeting, wax hardwood floors and shine tile. If flooring is damaged or stained, consider replacing.
  • Hire a professional chimney sweep to clean fireplace or other wood stove chimneys.
  • Pay attention to noxious odors. Look for mold and mildew around pet enclosures, laundry areas, basement drains, and septic tanks or cesspools. If you even think you have an odor problem, find the source and remedy the problem before you go about putting the house on the market.

Restore And Repair

  • If you have “gone a little crazy” in your decorating attempts, strive to “neutralize” the atmosphere. Consider painting that passionate purple bedroom a neutral dove gray, take the dated velvet wallpaper off the dining room wall and remove the pink plastic flamingos from the front yard.
  • Repair leaky faucets and slow running drains.
  • Make sure all appliances and fixtures that stay with the home are sparkling clean and in excellent working order. This includes burglar and fire alarm systems, garage door openers, air conditioning and heating systems, sprinkler systems as well as kitchen and laundry appliances.
  • Clean and polish the refrigerator and clean the oven and stovetop. Don’t forget to shine up the microwave and clean the stove exhaust vents.
  • Patch nail holes in walls, replace any burnt-out light bulbs and apply fresh caulking to showers, tubs, sinks and plumbing fixtures. Bleach stained tile grout.
  • What can you do to “brighten” and “spruce-up” your home? Look around. Something as simple as replacing discolored plastic light switch covers and outlet covers with updated bronze, or brushed aluminum can relieve a tired look.
  • When you have completed all your household repairs, arrange for a professional building inspection as well as a termite inspection. Make sure the building inspection includes an evaluation of the condition of the roof electrical wiring and hot water tanks. It is best to find and repair a problem now, rather than have it become a “red flag” that could nix a sale.


  • Pay special attention as you pull into the driveway or walk up the sidewalk. Are refuse containers out-of-sight? Does the home seem welcoming and inviting? If the approach to the home looks dark and gloomy, add subtle landscape lighting to provide safety, visual interest and curb appeal.
  • Walk into each room and absorb the presence of the room. Is it airy and inviting? Does the room smell good?
  • Evaluate your home’s curb appeal. A fresh coat of paint or varnish on the front door can make an entryway sparkle. Does the faded trim need painting? Buy a new welcome mat for the front door. Make sure the doorbell works.
  • Make sure the house numbers for the property are securely in place and clearly visible. If you have a curb or driveway mailbox, make sure it is freshly painted, strong and sturdy. A leaning or sagging mailbox signals neglect.
  • If it is seasonally appropriate, plant colorful bedding plants in window boxes, hanging baskets or lining a driveway or sidewalk. Petunias and Marigolds are inexpensive and add vibrant color all summer long.

You might say that prepping and staging seems like it will take a lot of time and may cost a lot of money. Why not just put it up for sale and hope for the best?

It takes less time than you think. You have to pack anyway, why not go about it in the most efficient manner? If it all seems like too much energy to invest, hire a professional house staging company. The money expended will be most certainly recovered in the net sale price. A clean and well-maintained home is a saleable property.