- Remove clutter. Clear off counters and pack unnecessary decorative items. Put extra furniture in storage, and remove out-of-season items. Don’t forget to clean out the garage, too.
- Let it shine. Cleaning windows and screens will help bring more light into your home. Replace burnt bulbs, and consider higher wattage in low-light areas. Clean the walls or brush on a fresh coat of bright, neutral paint. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones and show off your view.
- Keep it clean. A deep clean before listing your home will make upkeep easier. Consider hiring a cleaning service to help.
- Maximize comfort. In summer, shut A/C vents on the first floor so more air will get upstairs. Reverse the process in winter.
- Perform a sniff test. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate odors. Open the windows to air out the house. Consider potpourri or scented candles and diffusers. For quick fixes in the kitchen, cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract or orange juice can instantly make the fridge a nicer-smelling place. Boil lemon juice in your microwave, then add it to your dishwasher to eliminate odors. You can also run lemon rinds through the garbage disposal for a similar effect.
- Take care of minor repairs. Sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, or a dripping faucet may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression that the house isn’t well-maintained.
- Tidy up outdoors. Cut the grass, rake the leaves, add new mulch, trim the bushes, edge the walkways, and clean the gutters. A pot of bright flowers near the entryway adds great curb appeal.
- Set the scene. A bright afghan or new accent pillows easily jazz up a dull room. Pretty dishes or a simple centerpiece on the tables can help buyers picture themselves living there. Try staging a chess game in progress. If you have a fireplace, lay fresh logs or a basket of flowers there.
- Make the bath luxurious. Make sure your personal toiletry items are out of sight, along with old towels and toothbrushes. Add a new shower curtain and fancy guest soaps.
- Send the pets to the neighbors. If that’s not possible, crate or confine them to one room, and let the real estate practitioner know where they’ll be to eliminate surprises.
- Lock up valuables and medication. Agents can’t watch everyone all the time.
- Head out. It can be awkward for everyone if you’re home at the time of a showing.
Clean windows make a huge difference. Remove window screens and place them outside on a tarp or other clean, waterproof surface. Use a garden hose, an all-purpose cleaner, and a soft brush to gently clean the screens. You don’t need anything special to polish up window glass; just mix a solution of one part white vinegar to eight parts water, plus a drop or two of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Wipe with newspaper to avoid streaks. (Washing on a cloudy day also reduces streaking.)
The fridge is the most common source of kitchen smells. Check the drip tray underneath your refrigerator and wash out any standing water from defrosting. Scrub the inside of the fridge with a baking soda and water solution. Activated charcoal in the fridge can help keep odors at bay.
Think outside the house. It’s amazing the difference a sparkling entryway makes to your home’s curb appeal. Wipe down your front door, give the doormat a good shake/vacuum, and make sure dust and dirt haven’t collected on outdoor furniture. Use a pressure washer to give your driveway and garage floor a good cleaning. The acidity in dark cola drinks can help remove oil, rust, and grease stains, along with a little elbow grease.
Target the Bathroom. For tile floors, apply your usual cleaner and then run a wet/dry vac, which will suck contaminants out of the grout. Pour a quarter cup each of baking soda and vinegar down the drains, leaving the concoction overnight, then flush with boiling water. Clean soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains by tossing them into your washer on the gentle cycle in cold water, with detergent and ½ cup vinegar (if mildew is present, add ½ cup of bleach instead of vinegar). Put a couple of large towels into the machine to act as scrubbers. Allow the curtain to drip-dry on the rod.
Make your bed better. Vacuum mattresses and box springs, and then rotate and flip over. Do the same for removable furniture cushions. This is also a great time to wash or dry-clean the dust ruffle and mattress pad. Add new loft to a lumpy comforter by having two people vigorously shake the quilt up and down to redistribute stuffing.
Wash the walls. Grease, smoke, and dust can adhere to walls and make even the best decorating look dingy. Resist the temptation to spot-clean since it will make the rest of the wall look dirtier. Mop walls using a general-purpose cleaner diluted with hot water. Start at the top corner of the wall to avoid drips. Don’t press too hard, and rinse the mop head frequently in clean water. Use melamine foam cleaner to erase scuffs and stains.