When someone comes to look at your home, you have very little time to make a good first impression. It's said that, within the first minute of entering your home, most buyers may have already made a decision not to buy based on some things that seem trivial in the larger scheme of things. In this article, we'll look at five cheap fixes that will help you get them past that critical first minute and closer to buying your home. (For more on selling a home, read 7 Ways To Improve Your Home's Sell-ability.)
TUTORIAL: Buying A Home

Focus on the Approach
Potential buyers need to walk up to your house before they see the inside, so the outside needs to match the quality of the inside. Some low-cost steps to increase the curb appeal include:

  • Repainting the outside window trim
  • Repainting the front door
  • Straightening, cleaning and securing the eaves and downspouts
  • Clearing and maintaining the yard
  • Placing some plants along the walk up

With the exception of plants and paint, the costs of raising your home's curb appeal mostly involves time and sweat.

Combat any Odors
The smell upon entering a home is very important. You don't want your place to be remembered as "the smelly place" or "the cat house." Ideally, you want it to be odor free, if possible, or at least have a pleasant scent if odor free can't be achieved. Some steps to take are:

  • Cleaning everything from top to bottom
  • Getting rid of items that have trapped odors
  • Placing air fresheners or scented candles in areas where odors remain

Decluttering costs nothing, in theory, but it's vital if you're going to make your home attractive. Potential buyers want to fill it with their stuff, and that's hard to visualize with all your stuff in the way. Some cheap solutions include:

  • Buying storage bins for clothes, toys and so on
  • Installing shelving to clear floor space
  • Emptying medicine cabinets and sink surfaces and storing items in a box beneath the sink
  • Clearing the kitchen of rarely used appliances like blenders and toaster ovens
  • Taking the pictures off the wall
  • Throwing out some of the furniture you plan to get rid of in the move, sooner rather than later

Pay Attention to Details
Although a fully renovated entryway, kitchen or bathroom do usually pay off, there are lower cost ways to get by with what you have. These include:

  • Updating the light fixtures, switches and plugs
  • Replacing handles on cabinets, internal doors, closets, etc.
  • Doing small touch-ups where paint has peeled or chipped, flooring has worn or wear and tear is otherwise visible.

Copy the Pros
Perhaps the most valuable experience for anyone looking to sell their home is to go and visit showhomes in the area to see what professional designers are doing. You'll want to note:

  • The colors being used for paint. These will likely be neutral tones that are popular at the moment.
  • The furniture layout. This will give you an idea of the mix of furniture people will be expecting to see, and how you can lay it out to create the illusion of more space.
  • Design touches. Artfully placed plants and paintings make a difference. Note your own feelings in the showhome and try to source them to things you can create in your own home.

The Bottom Line
Although there is a science to presenting your home in the best light, it is not too difficult to pick it up. Try to see your place with fresh eyes or, failing that, ask a friend or family member to walk through with you; to bring problems you've grown used to back to the forefront. Remember, potential buyers are looking for a long-term home, so they are going to look at even the small details with a critical eye. If you can fix some of the cosmetic flaws before they see them, then your chances of selling fast - and at the price you want - will increase. (For things to avoid when selling your home, read The 5 Biggest Mistakes Home Sellers Make.)

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