Kevin Zen—Getty Images
By Trulia
August 6, 2015

Rushing to get your house on the market? Before you book that real estate photographer, take a deep breath and hit the pause button. If you take shortcuts to get your abode market-ready, you’ll likely have to pay for them later.

Whether it’s those small home repairs you’ve neglected, paperwork that’s in serious disarray, or closets that are stuffed to the gills, it’s well worth taking a few extra days (or weeks) to get your house in order — both literally and figuratively.

It’s trite but true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

1. Kitchen nightmares

OK, so yours is not a gourmet chef’s kitchen. Still, there are things you can do to up the ante on your otherwise humdrum galley. Swap out hardware, upgrade pendant lights, and paint or refinish cabinets — each is a fail-safe way to refresh the look of a dated kitchen.

If most of your appliances are nearing the 10-year mark, consider upgrading one of the big three — refrigerator, stove, or dishwasher — and then making that upgrade part of your sales pitch.

2. Your clutter runneth over

Pretend you’re a first-time visitor and scan your home. Is it brimming with distracting magazine piles and assorted tchotchkes? What’s become everyday to your eye can be distracting to the prospective buyer who favors minimalist decor.

Take the Japanese art of decluttering to heart and be ruthless: Box up the clutter and be done with it (at least temporarily).

3. Overstuffed closets

Don’t just shove those boxes into the back of your closet. Storage space is a top priority for any prospective buyer; if they see a closet full to bursting, they’ll think the space is smaller than it is. If you can, rent a storage space for your extra stuff and then paint the empty closets a light color so they seem airier.

In the bedroom closets, hang just a few strategic items to make the space feel ample and store the rest. If you’re living out of suitcases for a few weeks, so be it — you’ll need to pack all that stuff eventually anyway.

4. Oh, right, the pets

Dogs and cats are lovely companions but not great for home sales — even the faintest wisp of pet hair can ruin a showing. Not only do you need to scrub your home of every last animal vestige, but you also should plan out a pet-sitting strategy before your listing goes live.

5. Oh, right, the kids

Buyers are more forgiving of children than pets, but that doesn’t mean they want to see toys and video games strewn about. Buy a couple of huge and cheap (and opaque) bins for all the kid ephemera, then train your charges to reallytruly pick up after themselves.

6. Hapless hedges

Even if you’ve never claimed to be a green thumb, if your neighbors are master gardeners, you’ll probably need to at least attempt to keep up, curb appeal-wise. If you’re not up for it, you can hire a gardener or lawn maintenance company to properly trim your bushes and add a few strategic front plantings. And if your grass has gone to seed, it might be worth it to lay down fresh sod — a lush lawn especially beckons to city dwellers who have never had their own outdoor space before.

7. Keep it clean

The house can’t just be clean; it has to be cleaner than clean. That means the fridge, the woodwork, the windows, the couches … everything has to be pristine. Before you list, do a deep clean, or hire a professional cleaner who can also handle rugs and upholstery.

If you can handle the upkeep once the house hits the market, great — but be honest about your own schedule and consider keeping the cleaner on a weekly touch-up schedule.

8. That neglected filing cabinet

Any idea where the refrigerator warranty is? The HVAC instructions? Your last few heating bills? Savvy buyers like to know the intricacies of a home, including the exact age of appliances and the monthly cost of upkeep.

If your house files are a shambles, take a rainy afternoon to sift through the piles and delineate your home costs. You’ll also be able to monetize the upgrades you’ve made to the home over the years, which might persuade your real estate agent to up the asking price.

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