There are ten simple things home sellers can do to improve their prospects for a faster, cleaner, bigger offer for purchase.

Last week, we looked at the first five, including fixing the small, annoying things that are wrong with your home; not lying about the condition of your home; not thinking you can outfox the home buyer’s home inspector; choosing an agent who matches your home-selling temperament; and not being a pig when it comes to accepting an offer.

This week, here are another five suggestions that should help:

  1. Get rid of all the clutter

Go through your home and clear off every countertop. Take everything off the floor of your closets and under your bed, and organize underneath every sink.

Home buyers want to feel as though there will be enough room for them and their stuff in your house. That’s not going to happen as long as you’re holding onto your 8-track cassette collection.

  1. Paint your interior white (or some neutral shade)

Many people, like Martha Stewart and the editors of Architectural Digest, like color in a room. They’ll think nothing of painting walls red, white, and blue – just in time for the Fourth of July.

You, on the other hand, should stick to white, or some neutral shade like oatmeal or gray, especially if you hope to sell your home quickly. Why? Because most home buyers have a difficult enough time visualizing living in your home. If you give them more psychological obstacles to overcome, like 20 feet of canary yellow paint, they may never be able to get beyond it.

A fresh coat of white paint goes a long way toward making your home seem fresh and bright. Studies have shown it offers the largest payback of any single home improvement when you sell your home. So, do it!

  1. Clean or replace your carpets and floors.

Nothing turns off a prospective home buyer than filth and stench. Dirty carpets and floors make your whole home seem dirty and dingy.

Before you make the decision to replace every floor in your home, examine the less expensive alternatives: Consider buffing and waxing wood floors, or stripping off the old polyurethane and restaining them. Try steam-cleaning your carpets and using stain remover to bring back their old brightness.

If that doesn’t work, investigate inexpensive but attractive carpeting. You might also put down new, and inexpensive, vinyl tiles.

  1. Turn on your lights during showings.

Too many home buyers turn out the lights when they leave their home before a showing. If you’re doing that, stop now! Instead, turn on every light in your home. (And while you’re at it, replace all of the burned-out bulbs!)

Home buyers who walk into dark homes generally find them unappealing. It’s one thing to walk around a home you’re not familiar with, but it’s much worse to walk around in the dark.

How much better, then, to walk into a home where every light is lit. The home feels bigger, brighter, and much more spacious than when shadows cross a dimly-lit space. From a home buyer’s perspective, a well-lit home is a happier, more inviting home – and that’s precisely the sentiment that will generate an offer for purchase.

  1. Keep your animals clean and locked up.

Many home buyers (not to mention real estate agents) are not animal lovers. If you own a pet, be sure you keep it clean and do something to clean up the animal smell that has undoubtedly permeated your home.

If you can no longer smell your pet, ask your neighbor, relative or friend to be perfectly honest with you about how bad your home smells, and where the scents are located. If you have a cat, you may have to replace your rugs or repaint your walls (even if they are white) just to get rid of the smells.

It should go without saying that your pet should be invisible during showings. Farming your pet out to a relative, friend or kennel is a great idea. I’ve been to showings where the listing broker is afraid to open the front door – she’s afraid the huge attack dogs the owners keep ("Don’t worry, he’s just a pussycat," they say) will lunge and maul the home buyers.

It shouldn’t be an issue. If no one can get into your home, then all the time, effort and cash you’ve spent following these ten suggestions is for naught.

Don’t let that happen to your home sale.

Published: Feb 18, 2002