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10 steps to preparing your home for sale

May 12, 2023
Craig Gibson

10 steps to preparing your home for sale

Selling your home and wanting to maximise your chance of success? Then creating an excellent first impression and helping potential buyers to fall in love with it are key. 

How can you do that? The simple answer is prioritising your property's presentation. 

The way your home is presented to potential buyers through photos and open inspections can greatly influence their emotions and overall impression of the property. You'll need to pay attention to every little detail and view your home from a buyer's perspective. 

This doesn’t necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg. Instead, if you invest your time, energy and money wisely, you'll be best placed for a standout result. We'll walk you through 10 practical steps to take when preparing your home for sale. Tick these boxes and you can attract as many potential buyers as possible and maximise your chances of achieving the highest possible sale price. 

1. Understand the cost of preparing your home for sale

When preparing your house for sale, proper budgeting is critical. Start by walking through your property with fresh eyes and make a list of everything that needs TLC, no matter how big or small. This could be anything from replacing dead light bulbs and leaky taps to pressure cleaning pavers, sprucing up the garden or giving your living room a fresh lick of paint. 

Separate all the tasks on your list into those you can do yourself and jobs you will need professional help with. You can then get quotes from tradies for the larger, more complex or time consuming jobs like internal or external painting, landscaping and electrical repairs. If you need to spend a little more than you expected, flexible new ways to finance these costs are available.*  

2. Make the best first impression possible with zero clutter

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and property is no exception. With buyers viewing multiple properties on their search for ‘The One’, you need to make sure your home stands out from the competition. This starts at the entry to your property, which could be your front yard or driveway. 

These areas need to be clean, sparkling and inviting. You may need to fix up any steps or railings, high-pressure hose pathways, and clean any dust, dirt or cobwebs away. You're also guaranteed to make a great first impression with a neat and tidy front verandah, blooming flower beds and manicured shrubs before they even set foot inside. 

When they do move indoors, everything needs to be pristine and clutter-free. Every surface should be cleared and cleaned, unnecessary items or furniture should be moved out of the way — there should be absolutely no mess in sight. You want your airy, open and depersonalised living space to invite buyers to mentally ‘move into’ your home. This helps to build an attachment to the property that could ultimately generate more competition.

3. Keep things neutral

A big part of preparing your home for sale is appealing to the broadest cross-section of buyers. This means being largely neutral and removing all the personal elements in your home, like family portraits and wedding photos. It’s actually better to pack these away and swap them out for some generic artworks. You can do this yourself or hire a home staging service to take care of all this for you. 

If you're thinking of repainting, it's usually best to keep things simple and avoid overly bold or unique colours as you don't want to turn any potential buyers off. That means no bright purple feature walls or peach coloured ceilings. The safest options are neutrals like white, light grey or beige. You can then add colour with accessories like rugs, artworks and soft furnishings — but again, play it safe with these. 

4. Apply a fresh lick of paint

We've mentioned this already, but just about any real estate agent will tell you that a fresh paint job is one of the best bang-for-buck options to reinvigorate your home. It's not always the easiest job, though, as it can be more time consuming and expensive than you think. You need to do all the prep work, have all the right gear and a technique that results in a perfect finish. You also need to know which paint is the best for which surface. 

Smaller rooms or select walls can be a simple DIY project. If you're looking to fully repaint a whole house or do the exterior, it's generally worth calling in a professional. Depending on the size of your home this can cost upwards of several thousand dollars — but again, it's often well worth it. 

If you know your property could benefit from a cosmetic refresh but you don’t have the funds upfront, a sale cost funding solution* may help you cover these costs. 

5. Brighten and freshen up

It can't be overstated how much people value natural light and walking into a fresh, clean and airy space. Older homes often have a combination of dark paint or wallpaper, gloomy drapes and curtains, and dark furniture. This is usually not an ideal combination, and it can easily turn potential buyers off. That's where a light shade of paint can work wonders, as will removing outdated window treatments and replacing them with something more contemporary that doesn’t block out the natural light. 

Be sure to open all your curtains and blinds (these must be cleaned first!), wash all your windows, prune any plants or trees that might block light out, and think about replacing heavy or dark drapes with some lighter ones. You can also use mirrors to reflect natural light into the darker areas of your house. Lastly, switch on some floor and spot lamps to make all the rooms brighter and feel more welcoming.

6. Make the kitchen sparkle 

There are two rooms in your home that buyers will prioritise when they do a walk-through: the bathroom and the kitchen. Kitchens are the heart of the home and somewhere the whole family will spend a lot of time, so it's critical to get the presentation here spot on.

You can add a lot of value by making minor repairs in the kitchen and concentrating on some of the more inexpensive cosmetic changes. Start by scrubbing every millimetre of the whole kitchen (yes, even the ceiling) so it sparkles. You can also paint tired looking or old-fashioned cabinetry in white or neutral shades and update the knobs and handles on all the cupboards and drawers. 

If you do have a larger budget, more substantial renovations can add a lot of value. You might consider replacing outdated or chipped benchtops, swapping out worn flooring, installing new cabinetry or retiring a tired old stove. 

7. Scrub the bathroom clean from top to bottom 

If your bathroom is looking uninviting in any way, giving them serious deep clean can work wonders. Tiles, basins and the base of shower cubicles are prime areas to focus on. The same applies for contemporary bathrooms — buyers won't be impressed with dirt, grime and soap scum no matter how modern your space is. 

A grout pen for touching up discoloured grout lines and redoing any silicon work will also go a long way. You could also spend a little to change out fixtures and fittings and buy some fresh new fluffy towels. These are all low-cost, high-impact options. 

If you have the budget for a more significant bathroom refresh or renovation, investing in a new shower screen is money well spent. Look to install semi-frameless or frameless designs which not only look great but are easier to clean. Frameless shower screens are more expensive, so a semi-frameless shower is a good option if you want to save a little but still want a modern feel. 

While home upgrades and renovations can boost your property value, we understand that not everyone has these funds at the ready. A sale cost funding solution may help you to defer paying certain costs associated with preparing and selling your property until it actually sells. Find out more about it here.

8. Don’t neglect the exterior 

Bearing in mind our ‘fresh eyes’ approach to preparing your property for sale, take the time to review your exterior spaces. This includes your balcony, courtyard, verandah, decking, pool area, and front and backyards. Focus on fixing gates and fencing, pressure cleaning paths and pavers, and removing any old junk lying around outside. For an added touch, you can also sand and oil wooden decking and any timber outdoor furniture.

Get the lawn weeded and trimmed, prune old plants and add some news ones, and throw fresh mulch on garden beds and pot plants. A relatively small spend on landscaping could mean the difference between watching your house sell fast or wither on the vine. If you have the budget, more extensive landscaping can add significant value to your home — just be sure not to go overboard.

9. Decide if you should stage your home 

Wondering if home staging really gets results? Although, there is no promise of a return on investment, on average you can expect to see a 7.5 to 12.5% increase on your final sales price. Ultimately, home staging can help you achieve your desired sale result by making your property stand out from the crowd. 

Max Klimenko, an agent at Ray White Touma Group in Inner Sydney, explained, “we always say you get 10 times return on your investment [with home staging]. If it's costing you $4,000 on styling, you should be getting $40,000 in return, because that creates competition."

Tristan Tomasino from Buxton Inner West in Melbourne agreed, saying home staging is "absolutely crucial. It could mean the difference between getting $20k above your reserve, or getting those extra two or three buyers that love your home that maybe wouldn't have looked at it if it wasn't styled, and next thing you know you've got $200k above your reserve."

You can choose what level of styling you want, from some simple decluttering and interior styling, to the full service where even your furniture is replaced. 

If you want to make your property stand out with professional styling but don’t want to pay upfront, sale cost funding solutions may help cover the upfront costs of staging your home. 

10. Invest in a great marketing campaign

Last but not least you need to prioritise marketing your home and get your head around what a typical marketing campaign involves and costs.

The first step is to confirm with your agent what advertising formats are included in their sales commission. A typical campaign involves an online listing that requires professional photography and videography, an accurate floor plan, and possibly even virtual 3D 'walk-throughs’ or a drone flyover. 

Then there’s the creation of leaflets, open house brochures and the traditional ‘for sale’ sign that goes up on the street. You also may want to target specific audiences, either via listings in the mainstream press or in niche publications. If you're going to auction, an auctioneer will have to be booked in advance, which is an additional cost to budget for.

For a rough idea, the cost of marketing a property valued at $750,000 could be anywhere from $3,750 - $7,500, depending on the location and how many marketing channels you opt for. 

Worried about the costs of selling? You may be able to access funds upfront, for peace of mind.


Doorsteps Solutions Pty Ltd ACN 654 334 246, the holder of Australian Credit Licence 537369 (Doorsteps Solutions). Doorsteps Finance Pty Ltd ACN 648 541 879 (Doorsteps Finance) is a credit representative (no. 531036) and Doorsteps Solutions are wholly owned subsidiaries of OpenAgent Pty Ltd ABN 93 161 595 679 (OpenAgent). 

*ListSure Retail Finance Pty Ltd (ACN 655 912 977), holder of Australian Credit Licence No. 536827 (ListSure) is the credit provider of sales cost funding solutions, Pay Later and Pay on Success®. ListSure will provide credit provider and service type activities for Pay Later and Pay on Success®.Doorsteps Solutions and OpenAgent are distributors of the ListSure products. Any credit application made through ListSure is subject to approval, terms and conditions, fees and charges. 

This article is written expressly for education purposes and content is based on the opinions of the authors or as otherwise cited. All information is current as at publication release and we take no responsibility for any factors that may change thereafter. Doorsteps Solutions does not accept any liability or responsibility whatsoever to any error or omission or any loss or damage of any kind sustained by a person or entity arising from the use of this information. This article is not making any suggestion or recommendation about any particular product. It does not constitute legal, tax or financial advice and you should always seek professional advice in relation to your individual circumstances.

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