Preparing Your Home to Sell - Get Top Dollar

Selling your home can be intimidating, joyful or a little of both. For me, it was downright scary!  My husband and I talked about selling our home for months, even years. We bought low and would be selling high. We had a certain number that we wanted to hit in order for selling to make sense financially. This number took into account all that we had done to our home in the short five years we lived there. We made our home lovely with lots of DIY upgrades, but we also put in a pool! That pool cost us a pretty penny, so getting a certain number to help offset that major expense was a must for us. By the way, having a pool was the best part of our home and we do miss it! If you’re thinking of putting in a pool, seriously check out Zier Pools. Best pool company in San Diego hands down!

So why did selling make us nervous? I often worried we wouldn’t find a better home and we were planning to move further from work, which meant a longer commute. Moving back to my hometown made the most sense if we were going to do this. Now that the market was substantially higher than when we purchased in 2012, moving a littler further from the city could get you more bang for your buck. Jumping into the “unknown” was scary and the reason we dragged our feet for a year before we actually “properly” prepared our home to sell. Plus it’s a lot of work & stress to sell a home. It’s way more stressful than buying. With buying, there is at least the excitement of your new home and all the future projects.  (Here is our first project in our new home – Building an entryway wall rack).

We actually attempted to sell our home, twice! We listed right before winter (worst time), we didn’t prepare our home such as repaint baseboards, de-clutter or depersonalize, and we didn’t even put a sign out! I think of myself as pretty smart and I know my family was saying, “they are not actually going to sell, they don’t really want too.” I don’t blame them. It was clear we had major reservations. And we did! We were afraid of moving farther from work, afraid we wouldn’t find a nice home and that interest rates would skyrocket. It would be just our luck! The market was a sellers market with a lack of inventory, so this didn’t help our anxiousness about buying again. Not too mention we would be buying high. Hence, the move farther away.

Why did we move?

We wanted a little more land, not that our property was small, .4 acres, but we wanted a bit more. Ideally, no HOA, a view and an income property. We finally said, let’s get this done! Let’s sell our home and make the move. Let’s take a small risk for once in our lives. The risk – not being happy. But, the possibilities were something we would love much, much more and make money.

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Professional Real Estate Photos

Actually Preparing Our Home To “Really” Sell

The second time around… We were ready and we meant business! The first time we tried to sell, our hearts were not in it. I cleaned the home (not detailed), and that was the extent of our prep.  We had a flurry of people come see our home over the first two weeks. There were no offers. Then we got a random call here and there and we sort of just figured it wouldn’t sell. 135 days later we finally took the listing down. We even lowered our price by 30K and still no offers. Our home was nice, we had done lots of little things, but it didn’t “show” like a home that someone would want to drop more than half a million dollars on.

When we finally got the courage to “really” sell our home and take that money and run to new adventures, we did it right and we DID IT OURSELVES #DIY.  Here are the things we didn’t do the first time around, that sold our home in 24 hours… the second time around! (I was #PerfectlyInspired to sell and it was on!).

De-clutter and Depersonalize

Preparing Your Home to Sell - DIY, Get Top Dollar
Here’s the thing, when you sell your home, you need to detach yourself from it. Potential buyers need to be able to picture “themselves” in the home. It’s a lot easier for them to do that when your kids cute faces aren’t plastered all over the wall, their medals and your Great Grandma Iris isn’t staring back at them. So, take out all the personal photos! All of them. One or two professional shots of your kids is OK, but we only left two. A couple of pro shot of our kids which could have been anyone’s cute kids. They went well with the interior design. Our wedding photos? Gone!

Now, de-clutter. Take out all the excess furniture, wall hangings and patch any holes. Clear off counter-tops. Make the place look like a clean hotel room. Take away all the nick-knacks and store them out of sight. We were lucky to be able to take our furniture to our sisters property, which was in the town we were moving to anyways.  It allowed us to just start packing anything we didn’t need. Even our closets were brought down to bare bones and only the essential clothes we would need remained. This allowed potential buyers to see the space of our walk in closet. You get the idea.

Get a storage unit or box up your things nicely and place them in the garage (just make sure it’s organized). Potential buyers need to be able to visualize their contents in your garage too!

The goal is to make the place look nice. Staged if you will. Keep your best furniture, that has some sort of theme (if possible) and take out the rest. Make it open and inviting. Clean and spacious. I had a coastal, rustic vibe going on, so I kept the things that went best.

Paint Your Walls & Fix Dings

If your walls are not well-painted or in need of new paint, then paint! I had designed my interior to be something I loved & looked like something out of Pinterest. I had “greige” (gray-beige) to blue in the main living areas. My kids rooms had color, but tactfully done and perfect for kids. Even though my colors were not neutral, as some people would recommend, my home looked nice and was “trendy”.  If you have bright orange, red or purple walls, you might want to think about changing those colors. Colors should coordinate and look pleasant to the eye.

We had to touch up paint throughout our home and small dings. We didn’t do this the first time around and I can tell you it was a major turn off and hurt our prospects. Our kids were ages 2 and 4 when we moved in. You can image how many little spots of crayon, attempts at writing ABCs and scribbles of pencil were still left on the walls in odd places.  Luckily we had left over paint in just about all our colors. I went around and touched up all the areas and even had to paint a few entire walls. I used Spackle to fill in areas that had been dinged, sanded and then painted. This small task gives your home a fresh look & makes a huge impact. Leaving your kids work of art on your walls is leaving the personal touch you need to eliminate!

Sentimental Tip: If you’re moving and you have been marking your children’s heights, as they grow, on a wall for many years– take those sentimental marks with you! You don’t have to lose precious moments. We purchased a ready-to-finish wood growth chart at the Home Depot and transferred our children’s heights to this board using a silver sharpie. Now we have a permanent board with memories forever. I even made the board match our farmhouse decor by finishing it to look like old barn wood.

Update Bathrooms & Kitchens

Update bathrooms before selling your home
I know what you’re saying. Why would I go spend 10 to 20K on a remodel to sell a home?  You don’t have too. If your kitchen or bath is so out of date and in bad shape, you might consider it. Otherwise just do what we did. An outdated kitchen and bath could cost you a bit of equity, but a few bathrooms and a kitchen, that just needs some cosmetic updates, can be updated under 2K and yield you up to 30K or more in some areas.

I mentioned that I dropped my home price by 30K when we tried to sell our home the first time around. After, we made small cosmic updates and replaced one vanity in a guest bathroom. We sold our home in 24 hours, with multiple offers, 10K over asking. We got our 30K, instead of eating it. Here’s what we did:
Update bathrooms before selling your home

  • We took down the flat mirrors in all three bathrooms and replaced them with framed mirrors. Check Craigslist or other personal shopping places like eBay and Facebook groups. Amazon sells mirrors for low prices, as does Lowes and Home Depot. Buying a gently used item would save you the most.
  • We had standard white tile in our bathrooms and kitchen. We replaced one vanity entirely in the upstairs kids bathroom, which cost us a few hundred. We didn’t replace any others. Instead, I used grout cleaner to clean the grout and then painted the grout with Polyblend Grout Paint. Then applied a sealer to seal the grout. I made the tile look brand new and this was suitable.
  • I put in new tile backsplashes in two of the bathrooms. This cost me about $50. Here’s how to tile a wall. (post coming soon). If you want to guarantee the potential buyers will be wooed, replace counters with granite or quartz. In our case, it wouldn’t have made sense to spend that much.
  • In or master bathroom, we took down the ginormous wall mirror and put in a rustic wood wall with planks. We updated the mirrors, painted the vanity with gel stain and put in small wood shelves in the open nook. It gave the bathroom a spa like feel. Even with a builder-grade shower and white tile, it was still looked amazing. This project cost us $400.
  • Cleaned all floor tiles with tile cleaner and then re-sealed. Grout can become dirty over time, especially if the sealer isn’t holding up. If your floor grout looks dirty (like ours did), clean them. A heavy-duty tile cleaner and professional sealer will make your floors look brand new.

Clean and paint grout before selling your home

Paint Baseboards & Trim

We painted all the base boards throughout the house. Over the years, baseboards will become dull and dingy. Clean them up with a fresh coat of paint. Make sure to wipe them down before you paint. Also do doors and trim. A $30 gallon of paint can make a huge impact when it comes to finding a buyer.

Detail Clean

You should clean like your life depends on it. Broom clean won’t cut it. Clean everything and dust. Even clean out cupboards and organize them. You can bet that your potential buyers will be snooping around. If they open up cabinets or closets and they’re unkempt or even dirty, they may just wonder what’s under the rest of the hood, just like when you buy car. First impressions are everything, as is the cleanliness of your home. Don’t lose buyers or money because of a messy home. Cleaning is super easy or you can hire someone to clean for you.
Refinish wood before selling your home
We spent a week cleaning. We had someone come into our home and clean with us. We cleaned all the windows, screens, baseboard, walls, cabinets, landscape, etc etc. Nothing was left untouched.  We even cleaned our garage workbench and refinished the top with a fresh coat of stain. The small things matter!

Other Rooms

People spend a lot of time in these little work stations, Laundry Rooms. Make them inviting. It doesn’t take much. We put in a lower-profile cabinet, removing the builder-grade bulky cabinets. We then put in an open shelve next to it and made a wall rack of hooks. We added another shelf on the opposite wall with an industrial plumbing rack for hanging clothes. We painted and added a cutesy “laundry” wood wall plank sign. We had that rustic industrial look going on. Not only did it look great, but our updates made the place feel more spacious. We added a new door with frosted plexiglass and that added to the overall appeal. We spent $300 including the new door.
Preparing Your Home to Sell - DIY, Get Top Dollar
In other parts of your home, you can add small touches here and there. We had a five-bedroom home. In the downstairs room, we converted the closet to a built in desk.  This was just a little wood, stain, paint and time.  Cost, $50. I wouldn’t covert your closet before selling, but this is an example of a little detail that could be done in other areas. These build-ins add an element of character and look like they cost more than they really do, if you DIY.

Over the years we had done other things to the home. We painted using designer paint colors, filled in empty nooks with cabinets, refinished linen closets and build a coffee and wine bar in our kitchen. This really added to the overall character of the home. So take care of your home and do little updates through the years.  The cost for these project over the years, 1K.


Preparing Your Home to Sell - DIY, Get Top Dollar
Clean it up. Get the weeds out and also de-clutter. Make your yard inviting. Add a layer of mulch over dirt to give it a finished appearance. We made a dog run on the side of our home by building our own cinder block fence. You don’t need to do this to sell your home, it was just something that added to the overall appeal of ours, and it didn’t cost much.  The new owners, have 2 dogs and they are their fur-babies. You can bet this appealed to them. Cost $200


Have messy roommates leave before selling your home
If they’re messy, get them out. We had our roommate leave just before we listed the second time. Before this, we couldn’t even show the room he lived in, at least not with confidence. You could barely see the floor, let alone the smell.. I know, yuck! Great person, just a bit messy (OK really messy) and into his games. Get them out, clean it up and then sell your home! Cost – loss of rental income.. No big deal, you’re selling!

Other Things

There are a lot of things you can do, in addition to those already mentioned. But some things may cost you more. For our home, we had enough upgrades, that we could get away with leaving the builders-grade white tile counter-tops and the outdated double wall-ovens. You don’t have to replace these things if it’s not going to yield you more money. If we had replaced these, we wouldn’t have seen the return.

Here’s an example. We had expensive ceiling fans in three of the rooms. We removed these and replaced them with good looking fans that were a quarter of the price. Leaving these fans wouldn’t have changed the sell price, so why leave them? Other than the hassle of taking them out, we took 3K in ceiling fans with us and replaced with $600 worth of fans. We also had a whole house water filtration system. The cost was 3K. We also took this with us. It cost us $300 to take our 3K system with us. Had we left it, we wouldn’t have seen a return. We sold our home for top dollar and we took 6K worth of appliances with us to our new home!

For some homes, replacing and/or leaving these items in an outdated home can yield a significant return on investment. You should analyze your home, characteristics and research the market to compare. If your home is mostly updated, don’t replace things that will cost you more. If you can take some of your expensive items with you, while getting the same amount for your home, do it!

Take Professional Real Estate Photos

THIS ONE IS HUGE! Do not skip this. If you’re not a photographer and/or have a wide angle lens, you won’t be able to take those photos that make a room look like it’s three times as large. A photographer will use the right lighting, the right equipment and they take amazing photos. The fact is, the photos are what people are going to see first and inspire them to come see your home, or not. Many people won’t look at your home without the wow factor first.  We attempted to sell our home with standard photos taken with my iPhone. As you can see from the image below, which one looks better? Right or left.. Right of course.. right?!
Take Professional Real Estate Photos before Listing your home for sell
Get your home ready for picture day. Have it super clean, all the lights on and your photographer will do the rest. We used Preview First Real Real Estate Photography and they had an easy online scheduler. Painless and simple.  And it only cost me a whopping $175 and I got some amazing photos of my work! I think that’s a small price to pay for the ROI…. selling your home and with more chance of selling it faster.

Hire a Professional Real Estate Agent

Before you prepare your home (or even after, if you know what you’re doing), hire a pro to help you sell. A professional Real Estate Agent will guide you through the process of home selling and home buying, if that’s your next move. If you’re not a skilled agent, you may have a hard time selling your home without the proper help. Here’s the thing, an agent will (a good agent will), take the stress off you. They know all the legal jargon and how to sell your home so that nothing negative comes back to you later. A good agent will guide you through the process, inform you of current market values and get your home listed so it’s seen and sold fast.

Since we live in California, specifically San Diego County, we had the pleasure of working with Normando Campos with Dardeen Real Estate. Remember, we sold in 24 hours!

When to List Your Home

If you can, list your home in early May. I read this online and I listed May 2nd. I sold May 3rd! There are a variety of articles giving tips on the best and worst dates to list your home, and May makes the most sense for me, at least in California. If you sell your home in May, that gives your buyers a move in date just after school finishes, right at the start of summer. Perfect timing.


Let’s face it. Buyers are picky and rightfully so. In high dollar markets, buyers expect perfection, especially if you want top dollar and are in the half-a-million and up range.  If your home needs work, expect to price it lower than if you had taken the time to perform small updates and/or cleaned it well. It will be your little secret that your amazing updates only cost you a little bit. Get that money!

P.S.  We ended up getting a great interest rate (they didn’t skyrocket), we added only 15 minutes to our commute, we’re 4 minutes to shopping, love the layout of the home, have amazing views, have over 2 acres and a rental home on site. We found our DREAM HOME..

Our home shots by Preview First

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I'm a daughter, sister, twin, mom, wife, aunt, friend, designer, kitchen gadget craze, tech nut, home improvement enthusiast... I love the many hats I wear. My two kiddos are my world. I love reading and writing. I started writing as a graphic and web designer providing content, then started my own blog JennyLeeBlogs which progressed to Perfectly Inspired.  I'm an Account Manager by day and Blogger/Web Designer by night. I'm your everyday, 9-5, non-frilly, OCD, driven lady who tells it how it is and my posts will reflect this. I am me, as you are you ~ Love and Respect One Another 🙂

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