Prepping Your Home

Get Your Home Ready For Sale



Staging is the art of preparing a home for sale.  Staging can be as simple as rearranging your existing furniture or as involved as removing all of your furniture and replacing it with “staged” furniture.

Staging Benefits

A study of local homes compared the sales price and time of sale of homes that were staged versus those that were not.  Staged homes sold for approximately 5% more than those that were not staged and sold within half the period required for the non-staged homes.  Given that the average home in Palo Alto sells for over one million dollars, this is a $50,000 differential.

Staging Costs

The costs of staging vary proportionally to the level of staging offered.  If the seller does not want to pay for any staging services, their Realtor should assist them in utilizing the existing furniture and lessening clutter.  Another partial option is to pay for a stager to consult on an hourly rate and guide the staging of the sellers’ furniture.  The fees for this generally run around $800.  The best option is to have the stager partially or fully furnish your home.  This can result in a set-up fee ranging from $2,000 - $4,000, and a monthly furniture rental rate ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.

Staging is generally considered to have a greater than 100% return on investment.  You will generally get at least your money fully returned to you from the staging, and usually quite a bit more, from the increase in the price of your home.

Whether you utilize a stager or not, the following recommendations for each room will improve the appearance and final sales price of your home.


General Guidelines:

  • ELIMINATE CLUTTER! Removing knick-knacks and unnecessary furnishings will make your home appear more spacious and attractive. Generally, about ½ of a seller’s furniture should be removed to make the home appear larger and less cluttered. To help remove these items you can hold a garage sale, store unused items, or prepare to move before your home goes on the market.
  • Use neutral colors, finishes, and styles. The goal is to have your home be a blank canvas where potential buyers can imagine their own belongings.
  • Clean or replace all carpets. This relatively inexpensive act makes your home show much more beautifully and has over 100% return on investment.
  • Do not over-improve your home relative to the neighborhood.
  • Have your home inspected prior to making large improvements. For example, you do not want to have your newly installed floor have to be ripped up due to water damage being found below.
  • Remove or open curtains and blinds that block natural light. “Light and bright” homes are cheerful and sought after.
  • Remove personal items such as photos, postcards, and religious and political material. Otherwise, potential buyers’ will focus upon who the seller is instead of the house.
  • Rooms should have one function. The combination office/exercise room/children’s playroom confuses buyers and makes the house feel short on space.

Studies indicate that buyers consider the kitchen to be the most important area in the home. While a major kitchen remodel will not add more value than its cost, the minor aesthetic improvements suggested below will make your kitchen shine without costing you a great deal.

  • De-clutter the kitchen countertops by removing appliances.
  • Re-paint dark cabinets with light paint.
  • Install new knobs on kitchen cabinets.
  • Replace badly worn linoleum floors with a neutral colored flooring.
  • Clean fans and vent hoods.
  • Replace an old towel rack with one of brass or oak.  Replace old towels with clean and fluffy towels.
  • Place an air freshener in a discreet place.
  • Place all bodily care articles out of sight.
  • Remove toothbrushes, combs, and grooming supplies from the counter.
  • Clean all mirrors, counters, and toilets.  Eliminate all soap scum, mildew, and stains from bath, sink, and toilets.
  • Keep all toilet seat lids closed.
  • Consider replacing old sink faucets or other plumbing fixtures with new fixtures (usually brushed nickel). 
  • Organize closets to increase their perceived size.  Store unused clothing.
  • Throw away unused hangers.
  • Mirrored closet doors can make a room appear larger.
  • Avoid oversized beds in rooms that are too small or cluttered.  Small rooms should have a twin bed and a nightstand, but no bureau.
  • Remove televisions.
  • Use mirrors whenever possible to enhance the size of the room.
  • Sweep the fireplace clean.  A warm fire can create warmth on a rainy, winter day.  During summer, dried flowers or fresh indoor plants in the hearth can add decoration.
  • Keep the garage somewhat neat and uncluttered to show its true size.
  • Hang up gardening tools.
  • Clean oil stains.

Repairing and Improving the Right Items

Major repairs, such as adding a new wood deck, adding a room, or completely remodeling your house, generally have under 100% return on investment. It usually takes years before the expense of these items is recouped, if ever.  The major improvements that come closest to having 100% return on investment are remodeling kitchens and bathrooms and possibly the addition of a second bathroom or a third bedroom.

In contrast, minor repairs that improve the appearance of your home can be done with little expense and offer over 100% return on investment. These minor repairs should be undertaken before you sell your home, as you will typically get more money back for each dollar you spend on them.

Many examples of these repairs include:

  • Replacing all light bulbs with the highest wattage allowed to bathe the house in light.
  • A fresh coat of exterior and interior paint.
  • Flowering plants bordering your entryway and by your doorway.
  • Trimming hedges.
  • Replacement or cleaning of carpets.

Improvements that cannot easily be seen, such as upgrading the electrical or plumbing system will very rarely to never yield anything close to 100% return on investment.

A “clean” property inspection report increases a home’s desirability in the minds of potential buyers, many of whom are too busy to focus upon home improvement.  The following repairs will be relatively cheap and result in a higher selling price:

  • Directing water away from the house’s foundation.  The addition of drainage taking water from the downspout and directing it away from the foundation is good for resale and a good preventative measure.  Flexible and cheap drain piping is available at Home Depot.
  • Repair all leaky sinks and toilets.
  • Properly strap the water heater with the 2 - 3 seismic straps now required.
  • Clean the leaves out of roof gutters.  This is always mentioned in property inspection reports if it is not done.
  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom.
  • Have a wrench by the gas shutoff valve, to turn the gas off in an emergency.
  • Our handyman can generally assist with these items.

A buyer’s first impression of your home is the most powerful and lasting. If your home lacks “curb appeal,” potential buyers may continue driving past your home without even entering.

The following measures can improve your home’s curb appeal for a small investment of money and time, which will yield large returns. Any improvements done for resale should have over 100% return on investments as the following recommendations do. 

  • Plant colorful flowers to spruce up the landscaping.
  • Trim bushes away from the house and entryway.  Consider removal of trees that block light.
  • De-clutter the yard.  Store lawn equipment, children’s toys, and other outdoor items.
  • Have your lawn cut every week while your home is on the market.

Repaint the home’s exterior if the paint is over 5 years old.  Painting with a neutral and bright color such as yellow, tan, or off-white works well.  Painting provides an excellent return on investment.

Power-wash the exterior if the home was recently painted.

Clean windows both inside and out to give your home a “light and bright” feeling.

Install new house numbers that are visible from the street.

Install new hardware such as the lock and knob on the front door, if they appear dated.

In the front of the house, put out a new welcome mat and a clay pot or wooden box filled with blooming flowers.

Landscaping, painting, and the minor improvements mentioned above will improve the potential buyers’ first impression of your home and will generally have a greater than 100% return on investment.

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