7 Home Improvement Tasks to Complete Before Listing Your House

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated October 28, 2021
Woman tidying up decoration in living room
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A spotless house brings all the buyers to the yard—and sells for more, too

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Ask any real estate agent, and they’ll tell you the hardest part of selling your home is the weeks and months of cleanup ahead of the first open house. Before the big reveal, you’ll spend plenty of time preparing to wow buyers. These home improvement tips will push your property above the neighborhood comps and help you earn more money on the sale.

1. Depersonalize and Declutter

This task can be challenging for some homeowners, but the vision of a happily lived-in and spacious home is the ultimate goal. You don’t have to tuck every framed photo or piece of home decor into storage boxes because a staged house sells faster and for more money, but showing off the size of the home is one of the most important pre-sale jobs. Plus, depersonalizing the house lets buyers envision their favorite collection sitting on the mantle and their precious photo gallery along the stairway.

Showing a home with stacks of books, papers, and odds and ends gives off the vibe that the house isn’t well-taken care of. You don’t want buyers wondering if you’ve been hands-off with maintenance and repairs issues, too.

2. Clean From Top to Bottom

Woman cleaning window with a cloth
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Let’s be real. After getting rid of the clutter and packing away personal items, you might need a little help getting the house spotless because “house-selling clean” is several notches above “everyday clean.” A local house cleaning company can knock out in a day or two what it could take you weeks to accomplish. Take a look at some of what needs to be done before your open house:

  • Packing unnecessary items for a storage unit

  • Changing burnt-out lightbulbs

  • Vacuuming corners from ceiling to floor

  • Sweeping floors

  • Shampooing the carpet

  • Dusting and cleaning walls, baseboards, and windows

  • Degreasing kitchen appliances, countertops, and cabinets

  • Sanitizing bathrooms

  • Adding new paint colors or touch-ups

  • Staging for visual interest, such as with flowers and new linens

Don’t forget—buyers will notice any unpleasant odor. Pet, food, smoke, and mildew smells are some of the biggest complaints from potential buyers. Decluttering helps to reduce odors, so remove stacks of papers and books (they absorb moisture and can smell like mold and mildew), old pet beds and toys, and any furniture that can’t be professionally cleaned. 

Bad smells often linger in fabric like rugs, curtains, and throw pillows. Clean or throw these items out. For the all-clear on the odor front, ask a ride-or-die friend to come over and tell the truth.

3. Fix Nagging Maintenance Issues

Every house has a few items on the permanent to-do list that you hope will magically fix themselves. But buyers won’t appreciate the quirkiness of a squeaky door, a temperamental toilet, a wonky stair rail, or a leaky faucet. So take the time to remedy these minor but problematic issues. It’ll pay off later.

4. Invest in Small Updates

When you’re showing your home to potential buyers, small touches make a big difference. Easy changes like fluffy bathroom towels, updated kitchen cabinet hardware, and fresh paint in the guest bathroom don’t cost too much. But added together, they make a big difference to the overall appearance of the house.

5. Use In-Demand Colors to Paint the Interior and Exterior

Bright stylish apartment with white walls
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If you’re the kind of person who likes a lot of interior paint color personality, there’s a good chance your real estate agent will recommend going neutral to attract more offers. Homebuyers love envisioning their stuff in your space, and for some, it’s hard to do if the walls are your favorite shade of eggplant purple. Consistent neutral colors also brighten and lighten every room, making them look bigger. 

With your agent’s help, run the return on investment (ROI) numbers for using the best exterior paint for your space. Curb appeal is a huge factor for selling a home quickly and for the best price, but sometimes, the numbers don’t add up if you pay for an entire exterior paint makeover. Just make sure your color picks reflect the overall neighborhood style. Buyers look for communities with cohesive looks or specific aesthetics.

6. Take on Landscaping and Curb Appeal Projects

Now that everyone’s favorite hobby is scrolling through real estate photos, there’s no hiding the state of your yard. You probably don’t have to invest in a complete landscape overall to draw in home shoppers, but you will have to tackle some projects, like:

  • Mowing

  • Weeding

  • Edging

  • Removing dead plants

  • Adding new plants in flower beds

  • Power-washing the house exterior and driveway

  • Sweeping walks and porches

7. Spruce Up the Front Entry and Foyer

Every homebuyer wants a charming house—and the charm factor starts at your front door. To maximize sale potential, literally begin at the front door. Is it outdated or unsafe? Should you install a new exterior door, or does it just need a coat of pretty paint? 

After fixing the door, start with a clean slate by clearing cobwebs, leaves, and other yard debris from the entire entry, maybe even power-wash the area. Then, move on to showcasing the details that will make your house stand out, such as:

  • Fixing broken safety railing and light fixtures

  • Upgrading the address numbers and the mailbox

  • Adding potted plants and an outdoor rug or two

  • Staging a seating area for buyers to see the potential of the porch

The charm effect doesn’t just stop there. It extends into the foyer or hallway. Spruce up the first area buyers see by vacuuming and putting away all coats, jackets, shoes, dog leashes, and anything else you normally dump in a pile on the table by the door. You might want to invest in some organization baskets or bins to control everyday clutter, too. Adding a vase of flowers never hurts.

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