Inventory is low and homes are selling fast. But now is not the time to skip steps. Even little things can mean more money in your pocket. Here are 15 things you should be doing before putting the sign in the yard.

There’s no question – almost everywhere you turn these days, it’s a seller’s market. Low inventory, pent up demand, a growing trend towards remote work, and historic low-interest rates mean that sellers these days are very much in the driver’s seat.

It would be tempting to think this means sellers can get away with skipping the prep work, but nothing could be further from the truth. Because homes are selling quickly, the window to make a strong first impression is shorter than ever. As a seller, what you want most of all, is to make a buyer get emotionally involved. Even small efforts right now can lead to big payoffs when it comes to negotiating offers.

Here are fifteen ways you can put in a little effort and see a lot of returns.

  1. Start at the beginning. Curb appeal is one of the biggest emotional hooks there is. Make sure the entry is clean, tidy, and styled. Landscaping should be well-kept, and don’t forget to clean the garage!
  2. Clear the decks. Countertops need to be clear of stuff. The emptier the better. Kitchens and bathrooms are critical for buyers and they need to appear spacious.
  3. Hide your family. Ok, not literally… but the family photos need to go. Oversized wedding photos are distracting. You want buyers to emotionally move in, so you need to give them space to do that.
  4. Scrub a dub. Buyers are going to look in your drawers, closets, and cabinets. They are going to pull back the shower curtain and inspect the tub. Don’t forget that hidden areas need to be clean too!
  5. Light it up. Make sure that all the light fixtures are working. Change out the lightbulbs for higher wattage and throw open those blinds. Your home should be as light and bright as possible.
floorplanner planning tool
  1. Clear a path. A really good realtor will pull out all the stops to market your home to get the most eyeballs. This will include a 360 virtual tour and an interactive floor plan. If you have a cluttered layout or extra furniture it will make this process harder. Be sure to declutter the high traffic areas and consider storing extra furniture.
  2. Do the homework. You want a buyer to come in and immediately fall in love. A sure way to a buyer’s heart (and added incentive for a higher offer!) is to give them the feeling of security. Have the home maintenance info and appliance manuals on display for buyers to see. Most appliance manuals are available online for download if you don’t have them handy.
  3. Remember the details. Change out the furnace filter, make sure the fridge isn’t flashing that ‘order filter!’ light, and make sure the smoke detectors are in working order. These things will tell a buyer the home has been well cared for.
  4. Ask about staging. Your realtor has access to tools and services that can make your home really shine. Virtual staging can be a great option if you have vacant rooms, or if you need to have large pieces of furniture digitally deleted from photos. This can help buyers more easily picture themselves living in the home.
  5. Pack it up. If you have valuable, sentimental, or breakable décor items – it may be a good idea to pack those up before the house goes on the market. Often large overscale art can make it hard for buyers to focus on the space.
floorplanner planning tool
  1. Get the honey-do list done. Clean the gutters. Fix that broken door knob. And change out that drippy faucet. Every little item checked-off now is one less sticking point for the buyer when it’s time to negotiate.
  2. Ask questions. Choosing a realtor is important. Don’t just hire the one who sent you flyers or your friend’s co-worker’s cousin. Do your research and make sure they are a good fit. Your realtor should be someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to. You’ll be talking to them a lot before the transaction is over!
  3. Do a sniff test. One of the biggest things that can turn a buyer off is smell. You may not notice that your home has a smell, but your buyer’s will. Hint: Order a few activated charcoal air purifying bags online and hang one in rooms or closets where air might circulate less.
  4. Add some plants. Even if you have to borrow them from friends for a few weeks, get some greenery in there. Plants make a home feel more liveable. Bonus – they also purify the air!
  5. Don’t forget the fur-babies. While your pets are loved members of your family, they can be a huge turnoff for buyers. Consider having a family member care for them during showings, and make sure their toys, food dishes, and litter boxes are out of sight, if possible.

There’s no doubt that selling your home can be a stressful process, but with a little prep work and a realtor who utilizes the best tools and strategies, you are much more likely to have a result worth celebrating.