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A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Sell a Home Without Using A Real Estate Agent

Step 3: Prepare the Home


Step 3: Prepare the Home


The first impression that a home leaves on a prospective buyer is critical to that buyer’s decision to make competitive offer.  Therefore, no matter whether a homeowner chooses to hire a real estate agent or decides to sell a home as a “For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) property, he or she should take care to ensure that the home is clean and attractive, both inside and out, before showing it to prospective buyers.  Nestseller suggests that FSBO sellers consider each of the following steps (as summarized on the Nestseller “Home Cleaning Checklist”) to prepare a home for sale in an effort to maximize its appeal to prospective buyers:

Organize and Depersonalize the Home

Sellers should turn a critical eye to their homes and donate, sell, or dispose of items that will not be moved to their new home (as outlined in the Nestseller “Home Cleaning Checklist”).  Sellers also should organize or store all non-essential items in rooms, closets, and cabinets, such as extra books from bookcases, furniture, toys, knickknacks, and clutter that could detract from the home’s appeal or make the interior of the home seem smaller in size.  Moreover, sellers should strive to make a home neutral and non-offensive so that prospective buyers can imagine themselves living in the home as if it were theirs.  In doing so, sellers should disassociate themselves with the home, removing all family photos, personal artifacts, religious items, and “unique” decorations that may be distracting or distasteful to prospective buyers.


Given the likelihood that prospective buyers will comb through every part of the home, the process of organizing the home also should involve clearing off kitchen counters, organizing kitchen drawers, neatly folding and hanging clothes, arranging closets, stacking up pots and pans, lining up shoes, cleaning out storage areas, neatly displaying shampoos and soaps, and tidying up attics and garages.  The bottom line is that a prospective buyer will be much more likely to believe that a seller who has taken care to organize a home also has taken good care of the structural aspects, operational systems, and appliances found in the home. 

Place Excess Items in Storage

Homes often are more appealing to prospective buyers when they appear larger in size.  Sellers thus have a financial incentive to place furniture and other large objects in offsite storage during the sales process.  There are two types of storage unit options: traditional self-storage units and portable containers.    


Portable containers typically range in size from 7’ x 7’ x 8’ to 16’ x 8’ x 8’.  The benefit of this type of storage is that the company brings the container to the seller, delivers the container to a secure and climate-controlled location offsite, and returns the container at the end of the process.  Portable containers typically are rented for a minimum of one month, which gives sellers time to pack and unpack at their leisure.  The disadvantages of portable containers are that they cost more on average than the costs associated with traditional storage and that sellers may need to obtain a permit or lease space in order to place the unit outside of the home.  Access to the unit at the company’s storage center also can be somewhat more difficult compared to traditional storage.


Traditional self-storage units typically are rented on a monthly basis and often range in size from small lockers to giant rooms.  Like portable container storage centers, traditional self-storage units are secure and climate-controlled.  Aside from prices that typically are favorable to portable containers, the benefits of traditional self-storage units are that many provide round-the-clock access and often allow clients to use their moving trucks and furniture dollies for free.  Among the disadvantages of traditional self-storage are the additional hassle, time, and effort spent loading and unloading at the storage center.

Repaint Walls and Surfaces

Sellers should consider repainting all walls, doors, trim, and other surfaces that need to be touched up or that prospective buyers might find distracting to the overall appearance of the home.  Nestseller suggests painting with fresh, neutral colors such as tan, beige, or gray that are potentially less offensive and have more universal appeal. 


Among the painting tips that sellers should consider are prioritizing painting the first room that a buyer will see upon entering the home, emphasizing the appearance of the front door and trim when working under a tight time frame, ensuring that surfaces are repaired and cleaned before painting, and considering the structural materials of the home in choosing a paint color.

Stage the Home with Appropriate Furniture and Decorations

After organizing, repairing, and repainting the home’s interior, sellers should consider staging a home to make it more attractive to prospective buyers.  When staged properly, a home will look bigger, brighter, and more inviting than an unstaged home.  Moreover, homes that are not staged tend to idle on the market longer than homes that are thoughtfully showcased. 


Staging typically involves methods of arranging furniture and artfully displaying features of the home to draw attention to its selling points.  Staging is more of an art form than a scientific method; however, the following items often can be part of the staging process: plants, flowers, couches, throw pillows, ottomans, afghans, bed spreads, mirrors, lamps, area rugs, fresh towels, scented candles and soaps, wine bottles, and uncontroversial artwork.  As part of the staging process, sellers should ensure that interior lighting is sufficient to emphasize the home’s selling points.  The exterior of the home also may necessitate a certain degree of staging, including purchasing potted plants and flowers, arranging outdoor tables and living spaces to appear more inviting, and washing any vehicle parked in the garage or driveway.  Finally, sellers should consider seasonal staging ideas for both the home’s interior and exterior.


For sellers who do not have the time or artistic eye necessary for the staging process, professional staging services are available in most locations.  Fees for these services typically range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the square footage of the home and the number of rooms to be staged. 

Clean the Home’s Interior

Perhaps the most important item of Step 3 of the Step-by-Step Guide is to clean the entire house (as outlined in the Nestseller “Home Cleaning Checklist”), including carpets, furniture, hardwood floors, closets, windows, and living areas.  Nestseller recommends using a house cleaning service prior to showing the home to prospective buyers to ensure that the interior of the home is spotless.  The home should be kept spotless for the duration of the FSBO sales process, meaning that repeated use of a house cleaning service may be necessary and appropriate in certain circumstances. 


Alternatively, sellers who are contemplating cleaning their homes on their own need to consider renting a carpet steam-cleaning machine, vacuuming frequently, waxing hardwood floors, cleaning appliances inside and out, washing the interior and exterior of all windows, cleaning all mildew near windows and bathroom areas, cleaning all curtains and blinds, bleaching and scrubbing bathroom surfaces, cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer, mopping and sweeping all floors, polishing woodwork, dusting all furniture and fixtures, cleaning all kitchen and bathroom cabinets, emptying trash cans and recycling bins, keeping baseboards clean and dusted, polishing chrome surfaces, cleaning all cobwebs from ceilings and storage areas, and deodorizing musty-smelling areas and pet odors. 

Clean and Improve the Home’s Exterior

Sellers should not forget to focus on the home’s curb appeal (as outlined in the Nestseller “Home Cleaning Checklist”).  Nestseller recommends using a landscaping cleaning service prior to showing the home to prospective buyers to ensure that the exterior of the home is in pristine condition.  The exterior of the home should be maintained in this fashion for the duration of the FSBO sales process, meaning that repeated use of a landscaping service may be necessary and appropriate in certain circumstances.


Alternatively, sellers who are contemplating improving the exterior of their homes on their own need to consider ensuring that the front door and trim are visually attractive, keeping the sidewalks are clean and clear, painting faded outdoor trim, pressure-washing exterior features, painting the mailbox, painting or re-staining fencing, painting shutters and window ledges, planting flowers, removing unwelcome visual nuisances, polishing door handles and knockers, keeping the lawn mowed and maintained, removing rust from railings, trimming and manicuring all bushes, cleaning leaves out of gutters and downspouts, replacing missing or crooked shingles, sealing cracks on the porch, removing standing water, securing railings, straightening antennae, storing pool and lawn equipment, and making sure that the house number is clearly visible. 

Go to Step 4: Price the Home
Step 3 Premium Content
•   Home Cleaning Checklist
•   Offsite Storage
•   Donation, Sales, and Disposal Options
•   Seasonal Staging Ideas