Pack away all personal items from shelves and the walls, such as photos, trophies, and certificates. You want potential buyers to imagine their own items in the house. This also helps to unclutter the walls, making rooms appear larger. Be sure to patch any little holes left in the walls from nails (white toothpaste works great!), then touch up with a dot of paint.
A good rule of thumb is no more than two wall hangings per room, preferably just one in smaller rooms. Abstract art is your best choice because it doesn't depict anything that could be offensive to buyers. Don't spend a fortune! Instead, create your own (or let your kids help) by painting canvases purchased at any hobby shop.
Pack up three-fourths of the kids' toys. Have the kids select only what they absolutely cannot live without for a few weeks, then put the rest in storage. (Once you're done with this list, most of your items will be already packed for the move and you won't be as overwhelmed on moving day!)
Pack away most of your books. If you opt to leave a bookshelf in a room, put just a few stacked books of varying sizes on each shelf, accenting with a neutral knick-knack here and there like a small vase or statue. Be sure to dust and polish anything you're leaving in the house. Pack away the rest of your knick-knacks.
It's best to have an off-site storage unit, but if you must store boxes or extra furniture on your property, opt for a locked shed in the backyard instead of stacking boxes in the garage, because a neat and clean garage is a big draw for male buyers. Pack away garage tools and bikes. Sweep and wash the garage floor.
Pack away extra furniture pieces to make rooms look larger. Bedrooms should have a bed, a dresser or nightstand, and maybe one small book/toy shelf. Optimally, a family room should have a sofa and one chair, plus a single table. Bare essentials help the buyer imagine their own items in the home. Dust and polish any furniture you're leaving in the house.
Clear off your kitchen countertops. Pack away all those small appliances you only use once in a while, then put the ones you use often inside a cabinet. Scrub the kitchen clean! Then set out a small bowl of fresh fruit. If your agent is having an open house, a plate of fresh cookies helps potential buyers remember your home's delicious scent and warm hospitality. Also, set the dining room table as if expecting guests.
Clean, clean, clean. Clean everything! Wash down doors and baseboards, dust the upper corners of the ceiling to remove cobwebs, wash windowsills, and clean both inside and outside of your kitchen appliances. Remove everything from the front of the refrigerator. Hang a single towel (with a pop of color) on your oven handle or kitchen towel rack.
Put away personal items in the bathrooms. Stow toothbrushes under the sink or in a drawer. The bathroom countertops should be clear, except for maybe a pretty candle or small vase of fresh flowers. Make sure clean towels are hung nicely on the towel bar. Layer the towels with a washcloth on top of a hand towel, on top of a bath towel.
Scrub all stains out of the bathroom sink, toilet, and bathtub/shower. Shine up the fixtures. Make everything look new. It's much cheaper to clean, than to have the buyer talk you down in the price of the house because they think they need to replace old-looking bathrooms. Kitchen and bathroom conditions can make or break a home sale!
If you have rooms painted in dark colors, like black, dark blue, or red, you should paint them a neutral color. Buyers don't want to have to paint. Soft, light colors make rooms appear larger, where dark colors tend to close in a room. Each room should emit brightness, cleanliness, and roominess. If you already have neutral colors on the walls, but the walls appear tired, save time and money by simply painting the baseboards a bright white and it will make the whole room look fresh again.
Wash the window curtains, wipe down slatted blinds, and wash the windows both inside and out. Make sure to open all the curtains to let in natural light during home showings. Opt for white curtains instead of dark curtains. Or go for the no-curtain look.
Tidy up your closets because buyers will be looking to see how much storage is in the home. Pack away clothes and shoes that are out of season or seldom worn, to make closets look bigger. Pack the extra clothes in the suitcases and put them in storage. Arrange remaining clothes nicely on hangers. If it looks like your items won't fit nicely, buyers will assume the home isn't large enough for their own items.
Clean the carpets. If you don't own a carpet cleaner, you can rent one for a small fee. Dirty, stained carpeting turns buyers off instantly. Keep carpets vacuumed and floors swept while your house is on the market. Don't forget to clean the fireplace front, hearth, and inside.
Make sure each room has a contrasting pop of color. Whether it's a turquoise vase in the bathroom, a red throw pillow on the sofa, or a folded bright yellow blanket at the foot of the bed, make sure there is something to tell buyers your house has style. A small pot or vase of flowers can spruce up even a laundry room.
Don't neglect the front and back patios. Invest in a new welcome mat for $20. If you have lots of patio furniture, put some in storage to make the gathering area look bigger. Put up anything rusted, broken, or showing age.
Mow and edge the lawn. Weed the garden beds and add some new mulch on top if yours is looking old and tired. Cut off low-hanging tree branches. Plant some pretty flowers in a flowerbed near the front door, or in a flowerpot near the front door.
If you have pets, you have a pet smell in your house. Buyers will notice. Choose cleaning products that combat pet smells. Put away pet beds during the day. Keep litter boxes (and backyards) cleaned up daily. Be sure to double-check before house showings!
Whether you have pets or not, freshen up the air in your home with scented candles, oil diffusers, plug-in outlet fragrances, or candle tart warmers. Choose a citrus fragrance like lemon for a clean smell, or choose a fresh baking scent like vanilla to appeal to buyers.
Lock up your valuables, jewelry, weapons, and important paperwork. Turn off all your electronics (tvs, computers, etc.) before showings. Leave lights on in the living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms right before showings. The message you want to give to buyers is "Welcome to your new home!"