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Thinking Of Listing Your House For Sale? Here's What To Do First!

Elaine Falkenberg of William Raveis Real Estate offers advice on listing your house for sale.
Elaine Falkenberg of William Raveis Real Estate offers advice on listing your house for sale. Photo Credit: Contributed

DARIEN, Conn. – It can be daunting to think about putting your house on the market for sale, especially if you have been in your house for many years. Where to start? And how much really needs to be done? Why not just put the house on the market as it is?

The difference in sales price can be as high as 10% and the market time can be significantly shortened if you put in the effort to get your house ‘show ready.'

Keep in mind that the first impression a buyer has of your home is the online photos. Buyers don’t want to see someone else’s personal pictures, memorabilia, or specific type of decorating. They want to be able to see themselves there with their own fresh start.

The best pictures will show a clean, neat, neutral, non-personalized home that looks ready for a new buyer to move into. So think about how each room would look if it were to be photographed for a magazine. If you cannot picture your room in a magazine, it probably needs some staging help. Read on to learn where to start and what to do first!


Yes this probably means getting a dumpster and starting to throw away all that stuff that has been sitting in the attic and basement for way too many years. Remember the old rule about getting rid of something if you haven’t worn it in two years? If you have grown kids, give them the chance to clear out any of their things. There are also estate specialists who can help sort through items that may be of value.

Now look at each room in the house and check for knick knacks, candles, vases, CDs, appliances and photographs. Did I mention knick knacks? Away! Bookshelves as a rule should have 50% fewer items then when you started. All shelves, tabletops and counters should have few if any items left at all. Too much artwork on the walls and any pieces of standing art should be removed. ‘Remove’ is the big word. Less is more. Again, imagine the room in a photograph in a magazine.

Box up anything you are not sure what to do with or not ready to part with yet that shouldn’t be left out and put it in the now cleared out basement or attic. You will be moving anyway, so think of it as a head start on packing.


Go around the house and look for things like peeling paint, loose gutters, ripped screens or doors that aren’t working properly, scuff marks, loose railings, etc. You may need to hire a handyman to make some major or minor repairs. The exterior of the house may need to be painted if it is in major need. The interior may need to be painted if it requires more than just a ‘touch up.'

Are the hard wood floors in bad shape? They may need to be redone. There are less expensive and easier methods to redo wood flooring like sandless refinishing.

Is the deck in need of power-washing or staining? Does the patio need power-washing?  Do the bushes need to be trimmed or the lawn mowed or fertilized? Is the driveway in good shape? Is the fence falling down?

This is when the eyes and advice of another person like your realtor come in handy. We see things that you may not even notice.


The goal is for the house to appeal to as many buyers as possible. The more specific and personal the decorating, paint colors, wall finishes or window treatments are, the smaller you make the audience which your house will appeal to. Why can’t people see through my decorating? Because 90% of people just don’t. They get an immediate impression upon walking in the door. A ‘feel’ for the house. It is not rational, it is the first impression.

Some people will get past it and see what they can do to change the house, but it will reduce what they are willing to pay for it, and it will take longer for that buyer to show up.

Walls should be painted in a neutral color, such as a very pale gray or linen white and any old wallpaper should be removed.

Floors should be clean and clear, with any old wall-to-wall carpeting or excessive area rugs removed to reveal the hard wood underneath.

Excess furniture should be removed, along with those personal items you have already taken out. Right?


Now you should be ready for the final refinement and your realtor and stager can come in and rearrange furniture and even possibly add certain elements like pillows. They might change out heavier colored rugs with lighter sisal rugs. It is amazing what just rearranging the furniture in a room can do, or moving a piece that doesn’t work in one room into another room that you never would have thought of for it. Adding a mirror in the entry or elsewhere to reflect light can make a huge difference. There are many things a good stager can do to help the home present its best light in photographs and for buyers to see.

The stager or your realtor can also come in earlier if you need help deciding what needs to be removed or kept and what needs to be fixed in the declutter and repair stages.

I think one of my stagers, who also does personal decorating when clients move into a new home, says it best, "Decorating is personalizing. Staging is depersonalizing."

And don’t forget the reason you are doing all this rather than putting your home on the market as it is: higher sales price and less time on the market dealing with people traipsing through your house.

Contact me for more information on decluttering, staging and getting your house ready for the market to sell quickly and for the best price. I can be reached at (917) 941-5362 or via email at More info is also available on my website .

Daily Voice produced this article as part of a paid Content Partnership with our advertiser, William Raveis Real Estate Elaine Falkenberg

We are highly selective with our Content Partners, and only share stories that we believe are truly valuable to the communities we serve.

To learn more about Content Partnerships, click here.

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