14 Steps to Prepping Your Home for Sale

Realtor Showing Mature Couple Around Home for sale

Think like a buyer (you will need to abandon all reason) 

Sellers are grounded in the rational dollars and cents world of making a sale.

Homebuyers are buying to live in their ideal world. 

Buyers are thinking about the Instagram posts they will make while doing “Historic Homeowner stuff.” It is important you catch their imagination and give them some reasons to indulge.

They are imagining drinking their coffee on the front porch, reading or soaking for hours in the clawfoot tub listening to jazz, or finally learning to cook so they can use that big beautiful kitchen!

Get organized with these steps to prepare your home for sale. 

Buyers see the life they want to live. If you have set your home up correctly buyers will project their ideal life onto your home. 

Remove your personal items

We want buyers to relax and feel good as they walk through your home. If they don’t relax they will not be able to see themselves owning your home.

The more of your personal belongings buyers see as they walk through your home, the more uncomfortable they become, feeling they are intruding upon your personal space. 

If you are committed to selling your home, you should start by packing up all your personal items.

Remove your family photos, trophies, and collectibles. Anything that has to do with a hobby needs to be out of sight. 

Download this room-by-room guide to objectively evaluate every room and make your home attractive to buyers.

Give them 15 minutes

Even though buying a home is one of the most expensive transactions most people will ever make, many buyers offer after a 15-minute walkthrough. 

This is an amazing concept. Logic is not a factor. Buyers are primarily working off emotion.

Try to understand the psychology of a buyer. In that short 15-minute walkthrough they need to feel that the home has what they need. We need to give them the space to have this feeling. 

Removing some furniture can make a room feel bigger. Packing half your clothes and clearing the floors will make your closet look spacious.

It seems crazy, but buyers often feel like there is no room for their stuff when they are in a cluttered home. Clear your counters, pack up half the bookshelves, and keep the areas around the sinks clear.

It is fine to have boxes and other items piled up in the garage or a spare bedroom. Buyers will understand that you are leaving. 

The bottom line is they have to feel your home is their home. If they don’t they will never offer. 

Boost your curb appeal

Everyone will see the outside of your home first. (Teleportation has not yet been invented.)

Many buyers will drive by your home to find out if they even want to schedule an appointment. They will decide when they look at your home from the curb. 

Put some care into the general appearance of your yard and the front of your house. You may not get a second chance at a first impression.

If you’ve got the time and the energy, download the Total Yard Clean Checklist  to make the outside of your home look as inviting as what’s inside. 

If you’re not ready to dive into the deep end yet, we don’t want this to stress you out. That’s why we created 9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Get your story straight (check the records)

We check the public records for your home well before we list, as a part of our Historic Home Marketing Plan. The buyers will also do this, and we want to know what they will find.

We also dig a bit deeper because we are looking for a way to explain the value of your historic home. 

We look at public records, title information, and permits. We will review any past appraisals you may have. We have access to historic maps of Vallejo going back to the 1800s showing structure descriptions and shapes.

We look at all of this to find the story of your home and hopefully to find a bit of extra value. In the past we’ve uncovered extra square footage or other hidden information that immediately impacted the value of the home.

Get the Road Map

See the entire listing process with the Seller Road Map Infographic. 

This step-by-step infographic illustrates the sales process from prepping your house to accepting an offer.

Feel confident. Print this infographic to know what to do and when at a glance.

What are the inspectors likely to find?

We don’t necessarily need to fix everything before a sale. But we do need to identify what is wrong, and whether we are likely to create a better sale price by fixing an issue. 

For example, it is often best to address significant dry rot before listing. If you don’t, you could end up with a lower sale price or spend more than necessary to fix it fast at the last minute.

On the other hand, cracked paint may not be a serious issue, especially if the buyer might repaint in a different color.

It is a good idea to make a list of things around your home that are wrong before you decide what to repair. We will help do this as a part of prepping your home for sale. 

Find where you sit in the market (position)

It is important to have an idea of what your home is worth and where that value sits in the overall Vallejo market (your position). You can request a valuation here

As a part of our Historic Home Marketing Plan, we determine how many homes sold for more than your home’s value in the last few months, and how many sold for less.

Knowing this information helps us to position your home and get a good estimate of how many buyers we can expect to be interested

If your home is near the top of the market, it may take longer to find a buyer. If the value of your home is in the middle of the market, you will probably have an easier time creating competition.

Finding your place in the market can determine a lot of our marketing strategy. This is an important part of our Historic Home Marketing Plan

Do some of the minor repairs

Take an afternoon and do some minor repairs. Tighten up doorknobs, cabinet hinges and other hardware. Whatever your skill level, there are things you can do. You will feel better getting started.

If you hire a handyman to take care of bigger projects, you may want to be the assistant and help the project along. The same goes for hiring a painter.

Selling a home can be a stressful process. You will feel better once you get a little hands-on experience.

A proper cleaning

Historic homes have been around for a long time and often need a bit of extra care to really shine. 

Your home doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to look and feel clean. This is a higher priority than minor repairs and décor.

Odors are a big turn-off to buyers. Pay attention if you have pets.

Strong odors can reduce the sale price on your home by tens of thousands of dollars. There are special products and techniques for removing strong odors.

Grout often needs a good cleaning. This relatively inexpensive task can really help a bathroom or kitchen shine. 

Soap scum makes clean bathrooms look dirty, but these hard water stains are easy to remove with the right products. The same is true for haze on wood floors or dark colored tile. 

not sure where to start? Download this room-by-room guide to objectively evaluate every room and make your home attractive to buyers.

Think about lighting

The brightness and color temperature of your lighting are important. How your home is lit has a big impact on the way buyers feel as they walk through. 

Even though many people want to live in a home with softer, dimmer lighting, they often don’t want to buy a home like that. 

When rooms are not sufficiently bright, buyers often feel like the sellers are trying to hide something.

Lumens are a measurement of brightness. Generally, rooms should have at least 3000 lumens. Large rooms and rooms with higher ceilings need a lot more.

We suggest you err on the side of being too bright.

There is a difference between the brightness of a room and the color of the light. The color is often described as the “temperature” of the light, and is measured in Kelvins.

Warm light is 3000-4000 Kelvin on the visible light spectrum. It helps to give a home (and the people in it) a “rosy glow”. 

It is a good idea to make sure the color spectrum of your light bulbs matches the room. In general, use warm light. Most buyers feel better in warm light, and will feel that the home is nicer. 

The main exception is in the kitchen and bathrooms. These are rooms where people want to see a lot of detail, and full spectrum “daylight” bulbs are best. These will usually be 5000 Kelvin and up. 

Remember that brightness and temperature are separate things. Light can be bright even when it is warm. Make sure your rooms are bright enough for a buyer to see everything well. 

A little outdoor lighting goes a long way. Even a set of “warm white” LED Christmas lights hung somewhere near the patio or deck can create a big change in feel.

Outdoor lighting can also make a big difference to your curb appeal.

Take stock of your lighting and see what improvements you can make to it. You can easily buy LED bulbs in bulk, but remember that not all LEDs are dimmable.

Lighting doesn’t need to be perfect, but small adjustments can make a big difference. 

Spruce up your windows

Windows are a defining feature for many historic homes. It’s well worth giving them some serious attention. 

Washing your windows is a good start, but you can take it a step further. A bit of fresh paint or stain goes a long way to making your historic windows look their best.

Small problems can seem much bigger to a buyer. If you have a window that is sticky or painted shut, these are easy problems to solve. We’ve made a video for each of these problems:

Here is a video on how to lubricate sticky windows

Here is a video on how to open painted shut windows

Highlight the unique aspects of your home

Buyers of historic homes often say they “want a unique home” or “they want something special”.

Lucky for you, your historic home is special. It is a part of our business process to enhance your sale by finding the unique aspects of your property.

But knowing your home is unique isn’t enough. We want to understand the benefits of your unique home. Why is it so great to live there? 

Can you describe how your home makes you feel? What is it you love and why?

Tall ceilings give a sense of space. Moldings, trim and other classic details can make a home feel timeless. A view or a private back yard can boost desirability. 

To market your home effectively we identify and highlight the unique aspects of your home. 

If you would like to begin defining how and why your home is unique, please download our worksheet for Finding Your Home’s Hidden Value.

Address your biggest fear for why your home won’t sell

Nearly every seller has at least one secret fear for why their home won’t sell. We must address these fears.

Your home will sell better when you feel confident and ready to make the decisions needed to move forward with your life. 

Write your fears down. Put them in order starting with your biggest worry.

Together we will find a solution. 

Putting your fears, concerns, and ideas into words will remove a lot of your fear. We recommend taking the Historic Home Seller’s Quiz as a quick way to relieve stress.

Get the Toolbox

Unlock the Seller Toolbox to take uncertainty out of selling your home. You won’t need to guess what to do next.

The toolbox links each step to the tools you need in the right order, right up to the day you get paid. Verify your email to gain access.



Marketing that works

Not all marketing is created equal. If you have a special home, you need marketing designed to help you succeed. 

We create a marketing plan for every historic home we sell. We do this because we know that it works. 

How you prep your home for sale will be partially determined by how we market your home. Marketing is so important that we consider it an essential step to prepping your home for sale.

Action steps

Ready to start? Download the Prepping Your Home for Sale Checklist

Click here to see Examples of Marketing that Works.

Want every tool and worksheet in one place? Download the Seller Toolbox.

If you have questions, we are happy to Set up a short Zoom meeting.

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Chris Jacobson
Chris Jacobson

I’m Chris Jacobson, a local Vallejo realtor. I love our historic homes.

Office: 707-812-1390 | Cell: 707-805-4014 | BRE 01987892

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