What I Did to Sell Our House in 2 Days
Use these tips to get your house ready to sell whether you’re selling it by owner or using a Realtor. Just a little time, effort, and sometimes money will get your house looking its best.
I spent 9.5 years improving, beautifying, and tweaking our home. I know our house may be more updated, renovated, or ‘prettier’ than your house. But I believe these tips will help any house look better and sell faster. Heck, you may even want to follow these tips even if you aren’t planning to sell. I know I loved how our house looked after I staged it. Some of the things I’d been meaning to do for a while anyway. Kind of shaking my head that I didn’t do them sooner so I could enjoy them more.
No matter what the current state of your house looks like, the underlying theme to remember when selling your home is ‘clean and tidy‘. When your house goes ‘on the market’, you are marketing it to potential buyers. You are not showcasing your style, personal taste, or design choices. You want to remove anything that blocks the potential buyer’s eyes from seeing the best of your home.
Do what your time, budget, and space allows. Anything you do to ‘stage’ your home is better than nothing. My main motivator was making our house an easy ‘yes’ to potential buyers. You know about impulse shopping, right? I wanted someone to walk through our house, overlook any negatives that may be missing from their ‘dream home list’ and want to put in an offer on the spot.
Pare Down Wall Decor
One of the first things I feverishly did was to remove half of the things hanging on our walls. I worked on 2-3 rooms at a time and packed anything I took down into boxes so it was ready to be moved to the new house. Of course, removing pictures, etc means there are nails and screws left behind. So fill any visible holes and touch up wall and trim paint as you go. Again, working a few rooms a time seemed to work well for me.
For example, in Gus and Mary Helen’s shared room, there was a gallery wall on one wall, shelves on another, baby pictures with sconces, and a framed canvas print. For everyday living it is cozy and lived in. For selling a house it is clutter.
So I removed all the gallery wall frames, half the stuff from the shelves (but left the shelves themselves), and the canvas print. I did add a large piece of framed art we already had in storage to one wall to give the room a little life. One large picture is way less clutter than 10 gallery frames. Of course, I don’t have a photo to illustrate this exact point. But here is how it looked in the photos and for showings.
I don’t believe the old thought about removing anything personal. We left plenty of family photos on the walls and such. It’s more about eliminating the amount of stuff versus what the stuff actually is.
Remove What You Want to Keep
I put a lot of heart and soul into our Master Bathroom Addition. And most of it has to be left behind, understandably. But before any buyers ever saw it, I removed and replaced those special things I wanted to take with us to our new house-a mirror, DIY shelves, and a light fixture.
I loved the brass bamboo mirror we used in our bathroom. I paid $30 for it on Facebook Marketplace and it’s so unique and charming. I couldn’t let it go! I replaced it with a store-bought gold mirror for $70* before our first showing.
Also in our bathroom I had hung shelves I made from the cedar tree that was in our front yard when I purchased the house. So I may be a little sentimentality attached to them. But they are also a small way I can take a little of my first house with me to the new house.
I patched and painted the holes left behind from the shelves and hung a simple framed piece of art with 3M Command strips* above the toilet instead.
Lastly in this same toilet room, we had a fun light fixture I had found on deep clearance. I had saved it for many years before we actually had it installed in our bathroom. It was actually too big for the room and sometimes the door hit it when opening and closing.😆I didn’t want that happening to any potential buyers, plus I thought we’d have a good place for it at the new house. So I replaced it with an inexpensive flush mount fixture* in a few minutes.
So, if you have special touches you’ve put into your house that you may want to take with you, take them down, replace them as needed and put them away before you receive any offers.
I mentioned removing items from shelves in the kids’ bedroom. This was the next layer I focused on in other parts of the house too, like our sunroom. We had our TV hung on the wall within the built-in. We also had a lot of stuff on the shelves above and around the TV. So again, I removed about half of these things.
For example, you can see we have 6 things on the shelves above the TV. Previously we had 10 things. So much visual clutter that could distract a potential buyer from noticing the built-ins in the first place. We also had a photo hanging on the wall on one side of the TV and some framed quotes on the other! (This is something I wish I had done sooner for my own benefit!). We also had some books and a photo on the counter under the TV. So. Much. Stuff!
And if you’ve ever had multiple kids, you know our toy storage under the windows is NEVER that tidy! We moved half of the toys to the new house and only left behind the toys that fit in those baskets and ones that didn’t have a ton of tiny pieces. That way it would be easy to tidy up for last-minute showings!
Along the same lines of decluttering is kitchen counters! Kitchens are a workhorse and tend to have things on the counters at all times.
Take a step back and look at your kitchen from an outsiders’ perspective. Too many things can make the kitchen look junky and smaller than it actually is. While our baby bottle drying rack is ‘cute’, it’s not something that adds any features to our home. So it got tucked in a cabinet. Along with our regular drying mat, piles of papers, and who knows what else. This room had more things hidden that we use everyday than any other room in our house.
One or two things on your refrigerator door is fine. But remove anything more than that! Show off the clean stainless steel, whether your fridge stays with the house or not. Again, a clean and tidy space helps your house’s best features shine.
Our hall bathroom is another example of decluttering. I loved the shelves I added in here a few years ago. They made the room feel more open and are definitely a feature of this room. But when they are full of stuff, they can make the room feel closed in and crowded. So they were pared down to our daily toothbrushing necessities and a faux plant for warmth.
Don’t Forget Closets!
A big selling feature of our house (in my mind at least!) was our master bathroom addition that included a new master closet! I wanted people to be free to open the closet and check it out. Well, we normally keep a laundry basket in there for our dirty clothes. Gross! No body wants to think about dirty laundry when they are excited about buying a house!
My closet is also where I store off-season clothes and all of our duffel bags, beach bags, etc. AKA clutter! So I removed half of the stuff from the top shelf, tidied up my shoe rack, and put the laundry basket in the back of my car. Then I was able to say, ‘Sure! Go ahead and open that closet!”
Technically, our laundry room is a closet too. And let’s just say it’s not kept in perfect condition all the time…so it got some major tidying too. I emptied the kids’ clean clothes baskets into their dressers, washed as many clothes as I could so our dirty clothes hamper in there was empty. I put away my clean hanging clothes and eliminated some of our extra hangers so the hanging bar was fairly empty.
I removed more for the listing photos than was there in real life for showings, but the point is to make your home look cared for and well-maintained. A pile of laundry, whether clean or dirty, does not give off “Hey, this house is taken care of” vibes. A house that has superficial maintenance issues probably has some deeper issues the buyer doesn’t want to discover later.
Style It for Them
One change we made that didn’t cost a cent was to style our dining room ‘the right way.’ We typically had our dining table up against the wall. Our baby is still in a high chair, which has a pretty wide stance. To keep us from constantly tripping over the legs, we pushed the table against the wall and it worked for our family.
However, we were selling our house to other people, not ourselves. So I pulled in a rug from the kids’ bedroom to make the room feel cozier than just a wood table on wood floors. And we turned the table sideways and extended the drop leafs. Boom, now this dining room can hold a full dining table and chairs and look more ‘legitimate’ for buyers.
This is another one of those things I wish I had done sooner for me to enjoy more. But like I said, it just didn’t work for our family during this stage of life. But I sure enjoy looking at that picture.
Mow and Tidy Yard
Don’t forget your house’s outside spaces! Mow your grass, edge the sidewalk, and remove or replace dead or sickly plants.
Not pictured here, but we had an area in our backyard that had been taken over my Bermudagrass. Which is not the grass we planted in our yard. It was on our list for ourselves this summer to remove the bad grass and re-lay Centipede sod in its place. Before we were under contract on buying our new house, we had sprayed the Bermudagrass to kill it and make it easier to remove. Well, by the time it was dead and brown, we were under contract at our new house and needed to get our old house ready to sell. Whomp whomp!
So Brandon spent many hours outside digging up the dead grass. We bought a pallet of sod and placed it in the dirt left behind. Might seem unnecessary in some people’s eyes. But what’s $100 worth of grass if it means a buyer is impressed with how good the yard looks and is willing to offer a little more in their initial offer to purchase.
Again, I was going for an immediate, “Yes! I want this house” attitude. Not a situation where they need to weigh pros and cons and future expenses like lawn rehab.
We also had a few plants in our yard that we had previously transplanted or pruned that did not do well. So we removed them and replaced them with inexpensive plants to fill the voids in the landscaping. You definitely don’t want a big brown spot in your otherwise healthy yard.
While you’re outside, also consider replacing any visible rotten wood. We had some deck boards that needed to be replaced for our own sake. One was almost rotten completely through right at the back door, basically a hazard. So we prioritized their replacement before we showed our house.
Back inside, I also completed a quick and inexpensive repair-replacing the caulk where our countertop meets our kitchen backsplash. It had deteriorated some and was moldy behind the faucet. So I dug out the old and refilled it with a tan grout caulk that matched the grout we used when the tile was installed. Then she looked as good as new and not a potential eye sore!
Play Up House Features
We’ve been talking about playing up your house’s features throughout, but let’s be a little more specific with our garage as an example. Our garage is detached. But it’s a legitimate one car garage with a 10’x20′ storage room next to it.
But it was kind of full of large outdoor kid toys, random home improvement materials, and just stuff. It wasn’t feasible for us to have the storage area completely empty. But we did what we could like throwing out the broken and deteriorating garden cart, straightening up the random stuff that had accumulated on random shelves, sweeping the leaves that had creeped in and moving some of the larger kid toys like their 12V jeep car to the new house.
This helped show off the fact that this house has a one car garage, which is a rare find in our particular neighborhood! Plus the size and location of our garage would not be allowed with today’s building codes. But since it’s original to the house, and we only had to update it, it’s grandfathered in. And let’s not forget storage! An important accommodation for a house from the 1940s without a lot of closet space inside.
The same principles applied in our living room. It’s not the most spacious room, but it can hold plenty of furniture. In order to make it look it’s largest, though, we sold our coffee table and relocated a simple bench so they weren’t crowding the sofa and making the paths through the room feel narrow.
Since the rug we had in there is so large, it helps the room look larger. But we also wanted to show off as much of the hardwood floors as possible. So our solution was to shimmy the rug under the couch as much as possible to find a happy medium between showing off the floors and enhancing the size of the room.
After we had completed all of the removal of items, paint touch-up and cleaned the house one last time before putting it on the market, we polished the floors with something I’ve heard about for years but have never used, Rejuvenate*. It is not a floor cleaner, but it actually fills in minor scratches on hardwood and seals it. It’s like a fresh coat of wax because you can’t walk on it for an hour after application or you’ll leave a footprint on top of your floor. Ask my husband how I know.
Turn on the Lights
If you are showing your home yourself and doing for-sale-by-owner, here’s a quick tip that Realtors know and love. Turn on all the lights! Lights make your house look alive, bright and happy.
Overhead lights, lamps, and kitchen task lighting should all be turned on to illuminate your home and create a welcoming environment for anyone coming in.
And don’t forget about daylight too! Open all blinds and window shades to show your house off in the best light possible, natural daylight!
Speaking of For Sale By Owner…That’s how we marketed our house. I posted to a local Facebook group before adding it to Zillow. We also had a basic website that spelled out all of the amenities, showed off pictures of our house and had contact info for showings. It’s not the route for everyone but it worked for us.
So to wrap up my tips for getting your house to sell fast, here is a quick review checklist:
- Declutter shelves, walls, and closets
- Touch up wall and trim paint
- Remove what doesn’t enhance features
- Replace dead plants in your yard
- Complete quick and obvious repairs
- Turn on all lights
- Clean, clean, clean!
Here is what we spent to get our house ready to sell:
- $25 bathroom light fixture
- $70 bathroom mirror
- $100 sod
- $20 touch up paint
- $60 house cleaning
- $75 pine straw
- $50 replacement plants
- $9 grout caulk
- $20 floor sealer
As you can see we spent under $500, and about 2 months of nights and weekends to get her there. An investment that was clearly worth it in my eyes because of the huge payout in the end.
We showed our house to 7 people in 2 days. 4 people put in offers, 3 of which were over our asking price. One of the buyers upped their offer to well-over asking price.
I realize our home is in a hot area that always sells well. Plus it’s been renovated and updated to 21st century standards. But I also know these tips helped our house shine her brightest and best to make our sale possible. And you can guess who we ended up selling to.
I REALLY hope this helps you sell your home fast and without spending a lot of money to get it ready.
Thanks for Checking In! ~Chelsea
*This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from your purchase without increasing the price for you!*