9 simple tips Realtors recommend to get top dollar for your listing

Selling a home in today’s market certainly isn’t as difficult as in years past, but agents still want to be sure their sellers are putting their best foot forward. From simple upgrades to easy tasks and repairs, we asked Realtors for their tips for getting the best offer for their sellers in this historic market. 

Taking a thorough walk through the home and the property before listing and noting what needs to be done is something Realtors we spoke with do each and every time. The first thing Barbara Alavi, an agent with William Raveis, does is go through the entire property and create a punch list of what needs to be done to get a home ready to sell. 

From making minor fixes to curb appeal issues and everything in between, here is what the experts we spoke with suggest for getting the most out of your listing. 

Exterior curb appeal: One of the first things potential buyers notice is the exterior curb appeal of the house. It’s their first impression of your property. Alavi suggests mulching the flower beds, cutting overgrown bushes and shrubs, seeding the lawn and even adding seasonal flowers or plant arrangements in planters or adding cute accent solar lights by the walkway.

Declutter: Clutter can be a major turnoff for potential buyers and can take away from all a home has to offer. From removing personal items to taking bulky things out and putting them in storage, decluttering is key before listing a home. 

Alavi says “less is best.” From clutter on kitchen counters, in the closets, in the cabinets or in the basement she says “get rid of it.” “I always say, ‘Pretend you are going into a furniture store when you go into a room that is staged,’” she said. “That is what you want your property to look like. Like no one lives there.”

Jill McTague, a Realtor with REMAX/Andrew Realty Services and Deb on the Web Realty Group, says you want the buyers to come in and want to live there. 

“I always say the number one thing is to have a clean house and I tell people you have to declutter,” she says. “Take the personal stuff away; rent a storage unit to take bigger items out. The goal is to make the room look bigger, and if you have a ton of furniture in it, it won’t work. The old expression ‘less is more’ is true. The less furniture in a room the better.”  

Make the most of outdoor areas: If you have a nice backyard, deck or patio, Alavi says stage it with outdoor furniture to make it inviting. “Get nice cushions and planters to make that space look really nice. Maybe add some accent lighting or string lighting to create a welcoming environment,” she said. 

McTague says you can have two houses right next door to each other that are identical, but if one is clean, decluttered and spruced up, it will sell for much higher than the one that isn’t. “People just get anxiety going through a house with too much stuff,” she said. 

It’s also important to make sure the exterior of the home is also decluttered. 

“The yard is a big deal, and it doesn’t take a big expense to rake and throw trash away,” McTague said. “Be sure to declutter the yard as well. If it’s something you want to put a little money in, that is one of the things you’ll see a return on.” If the yard isn’t in the best shape and it’s too big of an expense, McTague says stage it. “Even if the grass is terrible add a little seating area out there.”

A fresh coat of paint: Tracy Spaniol, Realtor with RE/MAX Encore says a fresh coat of paint is a must before listing. “It makes the home feel clean and new,” she said.

Alavi suggests always painting the ceilings and getting a neutral color on the wall. She also suggests removing wallpaper if necessary. 

Make basic repairs: Don’t forget to take stock of basic repairs from a ripped screen door to leaking faucets or an off-track closet door. “These are basic things people look at,” Alavi said. “I recommend if anything is peeling — a garage door, window trims, deck — sand or stain or paint them. It just looks bad and that’s what the buyers will see.” She also suggests fixing any loose roof tiles, cleaning the gutters and having some masonry work done if the home has any loose bricks or stonework. 

“If you have a new roof but had a leak previously and never fixed the ceiling, you want to paint that,” McTague said, adding that these minor repairs are important because it’s the small things like a loose railing, loose floorboard, chipped paint that make people think the house hasn’t been taken care of. She also suggests cleaning the grout in the tile or regrouting the tile in the bathroom. 

Service all the systems: “I always say service all the systems,” Alavi said. “Make sure the air conditioning, furnace and water tank are all working properly. Get them serviced and have the current records attached to that equipment. Buyers love that. That’s what I always recommend.” 

Remove carpeting: If the home has wall-to-wall carpeting over beautiful hardwood floors, remove it. “Get rid of it, it’s worth every penny and you’ll get your money back all day long,” Alavi says. 

Security systems and smart thermostats: Consider installing a wireless security system. Alavi says people love the Ring Alarm systems, and since they are low-cost, it’s easy and it’s something buyers would love to see. She says buyers also love smart thermostats, another inexpensive install. 

Bring in professional cleaners: Once everything is done, get your listing ready to roll by bringing in a professional cleaner to make sure everything is sparkling and ready for its next potential owner. 

For more on getting a home ready to market, see our post on the 5 main areas agents focus.

5 areas agents focus on when getting a home ready to market

Agents helping clients get their homes ready to sell, focus on several key areas to help them get the most out of the home selling process. From paint colors to flooring and everything in between, we spoke with some agents to find out what they tell clients when getting their homes ready to market. 

Paint Color 

Paint color is important because dark colors can make a home feel smaller and it’s too personal, according to Mona DeRosby real estate broker at LAER Realty Partners. DeRosby, who also has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, says she tries to have her clients use neutral grey beiges from Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore to Edgecomb Grey and Light Pewter — she says these are her go-to colors for light grey beiges. 

“Paint and floors in general change an entire house when deciding whether to update or not to update because it gives you a sense the house is clean and you can move right into it,” she says. 

DeRosby says new paint and flooring are inexpensive ways to transform an entire house. 

“Most people looking at single-family homes are families and they don’t want to move into their house and paint the walls, plus they’re usually moving from another house and need to move right in,” she said. “Doing floors and walls are the two biggest things you must do before you sell. With neutral colors, they can later paint the bedrooms the color they want. At least for now it looks good.”

Dark wood is also not in unless it’s an antique home, she says. “Painting everything white for trim is the way to go,” she says. 

DeRosby says wallpaper is also making a comeback, but only as an accent wall in a bedroom behind a headboard or in a bathroom on the sink wall. People are also using paintable wallpaper to add texture. 

Tracy Spaniol, Realtor with RE/MAX Encore also believes neutral colors are best and that a fresh coat of paint is important for getting your client’s home ready to market. 

“Bright or specific colors can be very off-putting to a potential buyer because it immediately makes them feel that they have to move in and do work,” she says. “Bold colors may look nice in the seller’s eyes but be hated by potential buyers. A seller’s best option is to stick with a basic tone, we are seeing lots of light gray tones right now. Keeping it light and neutral gives the buyers the ability to picture the home as a blank canvas. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way in making a home feel fresh and clean.”

Declutter and Depersonalize

If a client does nothing else, they need to declutter to enable potential buyers to envision themselves in the home rather than envisioning the sellers living there, Spaniol says. 

“I always tell sellers that they need to make their home look and feel like no one lives there,” Spaniol says. “This is not an easy task but I always recommend that they start to pack up and either put their things in storage or find a spot in the basement or attic where they can keep it.” 

Spaniol also suggests her clients take all personal pictures and belongings off the walls and furniture.

“Less is more, again giving buyers a blank canvas to work with,” she says. “If a buyer is walking through a house loaded with furniture and tripping over things they are going to feel like the home has less space than it actually does.”

Curb Appeal

It’s not just the inside of the house that agents recommend cleaning up before putting a home on the market. The outside of a home is its first impression to a potential buyer. DeRosby recommends mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes and mulching because it can go a long way. 

“When you have a yard that‘s not well kept, it stresses people out,” DeRosby says. “They haven’t made it to the house and are already thinking about how they’re going to clean up this yard.”

Minor Repairs and Fixes 

Both DeRosby and Spaniol say making sure all the little things are handled is also important. Both say walking through the entire property with their client is key to finding anything that needs to be fixed before putting it on the market. 

“I typically go through the entire property with people to see if anything stands out, things like deferred maintenance, if there’s a leak, if there’s rotted wood,” DeRosby says. “These are cheap fixes for people. People who live in their homes don’t realize the things that stick out, like outlet covers, light bulbs, etc.”

Spaniol has the same philosophy that sellers should make minor repairs and fixes. “For example, I think there is nothing worse than when I walk through a home with buyers and there are missing electrical outlet covers or light switch covers. That shows me that a seller does not take pride in their home,” she says. “If a seller wants top dollar for their home, they need to make buyers feel like it is worth it. If they can’t put out a few dollars for an obvious inexpensive repair, what other big repairs did they not do?”

Spaniol says sellers should also be careful not to spend too much money on big-ticket items right before listing their homes. 

“In most cases, they will not get back dollar for dollar,” she says. “I like to walk through a potential seller’s home with them and make suggestions on a case-by-case or item-by-item basis, discussing the pros and cons of any work they are considering doing to get their home ready to list. For example, if a roof is on the older side but still has some life left in it, that would be a different conversation than a roof that has an active water leak in it.”

Pet Areas 

For her clients with pets, Spaniol suggests keeping litter boxes, dog beds and animal cages in an area where they are not going to be smelled. “Pet smells can be an immediate turn-off to buyers walking through a home,” she says.

Further Reading

For more on preparing a home to perfection, AgentEDU has a two-part course on preparing a listing for the market. Get this and all of our 70+ video training courses for just $19.99/month!