Top 10 Low Cost Ways to Prepare your Home for Sale

The following guest post is from Jack Simms, a former real estate professional. Jack’s bio appears immediately following the post.

The economic turmoil in the United States is nowhere more apparent than in the residential real estate world. All of that bad economic news that we hear about daily has led to a flood of homes being listed for sale. Americans in record numbers are placing their homes on the market to downsize, to avoid foreclosure and to get out of loans they no longer can afford. In this market where prospective buyers have so much to choose from, making your house stand out can be a challenge.

When the market was at its peak, the concept of “staging” a home, or revamping its appearance as a marketing strategy, had really taken hold, and an entire industry of professional home stagers had emerged. In this distressed market, however, sellers should consider several simple, inexpensive ways to enhance their home’s appearance before listing it for sale.

1. Clean, Clean, Clean. Of course your house needs to be clean when prospective purchasers come through, but you would be surprised at how often homeowners neglect this simple, no-cost tip. We all lead busy lives, but if you really want to sell your home, making sure that the kids’ toys are put away and that the dishes are safely in their spot is a must.

2. Rearrange Things. It’s hard for homeowners to hear that their chosen furniture arrangement needs work, but you must consider the appearance (not necessarily the functionality) of your personal property when trying to sell your home. For example, although most people display furniture so that the television is the focal point, that’s not always the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement. But, fear not, despite a little heavy lifting, following this tip shouldn’t cost a dime.

3. Don’t Forget about Curb Appeal. Most sellers concentrate on the interior of their homes for good reason, but you can’t neglect the exterior. Pulling weeds costs nothing and shouldn’t take much time. If your yard is an eyesore, you may want to invest in some more extensive landscaping, but before you take on any project, consider how much it costs versus how much value it might add to the home.

4. De-Clutter. The #1 complaint of prospective purchasers when they visit homes on the market is clutter. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for some people to see past your stuff strewn all over the room and envision a world where their things look tidy and neat. So, while your home is on the market, put away magazines, kid’s toys, dog beds, litter boxes, etc. A good rule of thumb for most folks is to remove at least a few items from every room.

5. Hit the Thrift Stores. If you’re not the type that needs to de-clutter and, instead, you need to spruce up your décor, you don’t have to break the bank doing so. Consider a trip to a thrift store, a flea market or a yard sale. Because these places can be overwhelming, make sure you go with a mission. If the living room desperately needs a lamp, make that’s your sole priority when shopping.

6. Bring on the Green. Plants and flowers can bring a room to life. But you don’t have to purchase an expensive floral arrangement or a luxurious plant from a nursery. Instead, check your yard for fresh blooms or look for wildflowers.

7. Let there be Light. If you have fussy drapes or other heavy window treatments, consider removing them while the house is on the market, or at least opening them up so light can fill the room. Letting in the natural light and providing a clear view of the outdoors can make a room feel larger and more alive.

8. Don’t be a Closet Case. Unfortunately, you can’t just hide your clutter in your closets. Buyers these days are obsessed with closet size, so be ready for them to take a peak at yours. The more cluttered a closet is, the smaller it will appear to those considering a purchase.

9. Keep it Simple. If you have a flair for the dramatic, make sure you tone it down when your house goes on the market. If you have to splurge on a new coat of paint, for example, opt for neutral colors. The goal is to make your home appeal to the broadest cross section of the population possible.

10. Depersonalize. There’s no need to remove every possible sign that someone does actually currently inhabit the property, but it can help buyers imagine themselves in the home if your family photos aren’t prominently displayed.

Jack Simms has been providing research on issues of interest to home buyers and owners for’s Online Mortgage Rates business for three years. Prior to his involvement with LeadSteps, Jack was a real estate professional providing marketing services to realtors in northern California. Jack’s research for LeadSteps’ Mortgage Rates Website is driven by his desire to better explain the complicated decisions involved in both home ownership and the purchase of a home.


  1. Just making sure it is clutter free is a big deal. Freshly painted is another great thing to do…I know it’s a pain, but the cost is minimal, it’s just labor intensive.

  2. Yep, de-cluttering is so important, and free! When we sold our last house a few years ago, we boxed up over half of our belongings, and stacked them neatly in shelves in the garage. DVDs, books, dishes, pots and pans, clothes, shoes, hobby stuff, you name it. The house looked bigger, cleaner, and more appealing to buyers. The closets looked amazingly spacious and organized. (We didn’t miss most of what we boxed up, either, which was a real eye-opener!)

  3. I agree getting your house ready to sell is huge. We did all the things you mentioned and we sold our house within a month.
    The other thing we did was visit other homes that were in our price range and for sale in our area. We made sure ours stood out from theirs. Surprisingly not many people put much effort into it.

  4. Currently our home is listed for sale and yes, it is a tough housing market.

    I have scrubbed this house until I have no fingerprints left, we have gave a lot of items to charity, tossed some and boxed up plenty. Our home is suprisingly spacious now. lol

    I am confident at some point in the future we will continue to remove “things” from our lives and live as simple as we can. Thanks for the article today.

  5. I would decorate the inside and paint the walls to make it look newer

  6. Can I just add CLEAN one more time? Most people can look past a few magnets on the fridge or some family photos on the dresser. Few can see past grime. Thanks for posting.

  7. When we bought I was surprised how few people cleaned. Twos houses had not had tenants or the owner in it for about 6 month and still they were dirty and had stuff in them. If you moved, why not finish moving your stuff.