Preparing your house for sale

So, you're finally ready to sell your home! The big decision has been made and now you can sit back, relax and wait for the buyers to roll on in, right? Ah, not quite – almost every single home going to market needs some attention, probably including yours. There are a number of things to consider once you've decided to sell, but initially there are three stages to preparing your home for sale:

The Clean Up

The key to preparing a house for sale is to make it look cosy and homely, but also as if nobody with an everyday life lives there! This process depersonalises the home so buyers can more easily imagine it as their own. Begin by moving through the house and putting away anything that's lying around – shoes, coats, cleaning products, towels etc. Then do it again, but this time with an eye on the less superficial layer. Simplicity is key, so really think hard about how many buyers will respond positively to your fridge magnet collection or your sewing room, heaving with quilts and fabric scraps. Tidy book shelves, ruthlessly deal with pets and their unruly habits, and make sure that everything on display is tidy and presentable.

Once your home has had a layer of everyday life removed from it, head outside and do the same in the garden, the shed and around the perimeter of your block. Empty buckets and disused tools should be disposed of or hidden away, as should children's bikes, toys and play equipment. Get a gardener in, if necessary, or just deal with the weeds, mow the lawn and sweep the paths yourself, so everything is tidy and in order.

You may also want to get professional cleaners in to thoroughly clean wet areas. It's worthwhile to get carpets, window dressings and soft furnishings professionally cleaned if you have been living there for some time. This will depend on your makeover plans of course, but an external cleaner will always see things you have lived with for years. Smells you've become accustomed to will vanish, leaving a fresh and inviting fragrance for newcomers.

The Makeover

Now that you have removed that unsightly layer of everyday life from your home, it's time to give it a shiny new makeover ready for its photo shoot. Give tired walls and window frames a fresh coat of paint and take a good look at your current furniture and room configurations. Can things be arranged to present your home in a more attractive way? The junk room needs to go and that space should be turned into a spare bedroom, a home office or an elegant reading room. Then make some decisions about your existing furniture and decide if it needs to be cleaned or replaced temporarily with rental furniture.

If you have some interior design skills you could do this yourself but a professional 'home stager' is well worth the investment too. They will advise you on what should stay and what should go, what colour schemes might be useful for repainting and even they may even coordinate rental of furniture, whitegoods, plants and other items for decoration. Home staging can be a costly exercise but, when done well, can add tens of thousands onto your sale price – so get some advice from your sales agent and see if they can recommend someone to give you a quote.

Don't neglect the exterior of your home and its street appeal either. Go across the road then approach your home with fresh eyes. Maybe the fence needs painting or replacing? Broken outdoor lighting needs to be dealt with and shabby gardens should be given some much needed attention. If in doubt, ask your agent or a trusted friend to give you an honest opinion and call in the experts for the stuff you can't manage yourself.

The Showcase

Now that your home is sparkling clean and dressed to its best, the marketing campaign will kick in. If you hired a home stager they can be involved in this and it is pure madness to not invest in professional photographer for your photo shoot. The first interaction the majority of buyers will have with your home will be your photographs, so they need to be impressive and alluring. They will be used online, in print media, on signs outside your property and for various other marketing materials. If you are going to restrict your budget anywhere, it should definitely not be here!

The photo shoot – the session, the photographer, the stylist and the post production of the images – is usually included in your marketing budget with your chosen real estate agency. Make sure you go through this with your agent and understand what's included, making sure you get approval on final choices where relevant. Be sure you're getting everything that was promised to you initially and that the budget is being used wisely to showcase your home at its very best.

In addition to the visual marketing, you need to impress the buyers further when they come to inspect the property. Fresh flowers, cookies baking in the oven and a spotlessly clean and tidy home are all great ways to keep them interested. Many buyers will be turned off at even a hint of a bad smell, dampness, mould, peeling paint, dirty pet bowls or litter trays, or last night's dishes in the sink.

The work required may seem overwhelming at first but, if you can mentally translate the hours spent preparing your home for sale to a dollar figure, your motivation will be boosted considerably. A well-prepared home can achieve a much greater sales result when it is clear the seller has put some tender loving care into the property and buyers will respond accordingly to the effort you made. For more information see our handy Home Sellers Guide.


The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.