Dress Your Home For Success

Click here to download the PDF version of this information.

When it comes time to sell your house, your goal is clear — you want to get the highest possible price for your property, and you want to sell it quickly.

Staging your house begins with gaining objectivity. That's not easy when it's home. So, get "buyer's eyes" by looking at other houses for sale that are similar to yours in both features and price. How do they make you feel? What negatives do you notice? Stop in model homes and experience "move in condition".

Now, tour your house. Use the checklists on the following pages to make a master list of everything that could be an obstacle to showcasing the full potential of your property.

Start with curb appeal—the first glimpse of your house that forms the most critical first impression. Curb appeal has been known to sell a house before the buyer's even get out of the car! What can you do to improve your all-important first impression?

Next, go through your whole house as if you were a buyer seeing it for the first time. Be on the lookout for subtle signs that say, "There's work to be done here". Remember, if you think it's too much work, potential buyer's will probably think so too.

Dressing your home for success consists of 5 easy steps...

  • Cleaning
  • Repairing
  • Neutralizing
  • Dynamizing

With a little effort and these organized steps, you can get the most of your investment!


When in doubt, throw it out, sell it, store it or give it away! If a house is cluttered—regardless of it actual size—it feels smaller. Send a message of space and organization by removing up to half of the contents of your closets and cupboards. Hold a garage sale or donate surplus belongings to a charity before your house goes on the market.

  • Lawn and garden - fertilize, mow, trim, weed, water; resod any bare spots
  • Walks, steps and driveways - clear away all items; remove weeds
  • Remove lawn ornaments
  • Pet areas - thoroughly pick up all debris
  • Extra vehicles - remove from curb view
  • Decks, patios and backyards - remove excess ornaments and furniture

  • Closets - remove and pack or store extra items; clean or paint interior; organize linens and group like clothing; remove and pack or store extra sporting equipment
  • Bookshelves - remove, pack, store and organize extra items
Interior cont'd
  • Kitchen - clear countertops; put away appliances; remove and pack or store extra dishes; remove notes and magnets from refrigerator; organize "junk" drawers; clean or paint flooring under the sink
  • Bathroom vanities, medicine cabinets - remove, pack, store and organize extra items; remove stained or torn drawer and shelf liners
  • Living areas - remove papers and magazines from tables; remove extra furniture; arrange for openness; remove extra or unhealthy plants
  • Collections - pack and store
  • Children's Play Areas - pack, store and organize extra games and toys
  • Tool, shop and laundry areas - remove, store and organize extra items
  • Garage - organize tools and gardening equipment; remove extra items


Show buyer's that your house has been well cared for. Scrub walls, floors, counters and appliances. A scratch cover or stain/sealer will return the warmth and glow of natural wood. And be sure every room smells as cleans as it looks. Use an odor neutralizer to clean away smoke, pet, cooking and mildew odors. Consider a professional cleaning service.

  • Windows - clean to a sparkle
  • Walks, steps and driveways - sweep and remove stains
  • Siding, brick or stucco - hose off; use restoring product on vinyl or aluminum siding
  • Gutters and downspouts - hose out debris
  • Decks, patios and backyards - use a deck cleaner; hose off patios; wipe down lawn furniture, grills and pool equipment
  • Decks, patios and backyards - remove excess ornaments and furniture

  • Floors - remove old wax; scrub and wax to a shine
  • Carpet - clean thoroughly
  • Walls - remove fingerprints and marks
  • Baseboards - remove dust & build up
Interior cont'd
  • Woodwork , lighting, windows, mirrors, glass cabinets, doorknobs - clean and polish
  • Draperies and curtains - launder or dry clean
  • Kitchen - clean and polish cupboards; clean and deodorize vents and exhaust hoods; clean appliances thoroughly; polish and clean sink; clean and deodorize garbage areas
  • Bathrooms - clean and polish vanities; remove stains and mold from sinks, tubs and showers; clean grout; polish mirrors and chrome
  • Basement, garage, attic - sweep or vacuum floors and ceilings; wash furnace, water heater, washer and dryer
  • Pet areas - clean thoroughly and deodorize
  • Odors - scrub all hard surfaces; use an odor neutralizer on upholstery, carpeting and draperies


Making repairs now can save money and negotiation stress down the road. Consider a seller's home inspection to eliminate buyers' objections before they arise. Decide what you can do yourself and what you'll need the pros to handle. Then, schedule projects so everything is complete before your house's debut.

  • Doors and windows - repair screens, glass and door hardware; lubricate hinges
  • Sidewalks, steps and driveways - repair cracks
  • Siding - repair, replace or paint as needed
  • Gutters and downspouts - repair or replace as needed
  • Fences - repair, replace or paint as needed
  • Doorbells - make certain they are in working order
  • Plumbing - repair leaks and make all other necessary repairs
  • Mechanical systems - have inspected and certified (Heating and Air Conditioning, etc.)
  • Appliances - check bulbs; replace broken parts
  • Walls and ceilings - patch cracks; paint as needed
  • Windows - replace cracked glass; re-caulk as needed
  • Grout and caulking - patch or replace as needed
  • Hinges and knobs - tighten or replace as needed
  • Flooring - repair or replace as needed
  • Light fixtures - repair; replace if dated
  • Switch plates and outlet covers - replace cracked or mismatched plates


Create a home for any lifestyle and taste. Neutral paint, décor and carpeting help buyer's mentally "move in", while unusual or dated decorating makes it difficult for a buyer to imagine their furnishings in your house. And remember, many people are allergic to or are afraid of animals. Kennel your pets or take them with you during showings.

  • Siding and trim - touch up or paint if needed
  • Lawn areas - remove any bold decorations
  • Appliances - check bulbs; replace broken parts
  • Walls - remove dated wallpaper; paint a warm, neutral color; avoid cold whites; use the same color in rooms that flow together; choose a warmer, neutral color for bathrooms; polish paneling or, if dated, remove or paint
  • Floors - replace worn or dated vinyl and carpeting
  • Artwork - remove distracting or bold posters and art
  • Family photos and collections - remove extensive displays
  • Basement - paint floors and walls


Build the essential emotional connection by helping buyer's imagine daily life in your house. When you have completed the basic steps of Dress Your House for Success, take a buyer's tour. From the curb to the basement, evaluate the subtle message that every area sends. Then decide how to set your stage to say "Welcome Home".

Curb Appeal - Choose ideas that add elegance

  • Keep lawn mowed, shrubs trimmed and gardens weeded; set potted shrub or topiary tree with annuals on a stoop or flank front door with pots; add new house numbers and a cushioned doormat; polish or paint the front door; add a fresh layer of mulch; replace or paint the mailbox.

Entryway - Greet buyer's with style and grace

  • Showcase a unique piece of furniture or artwork; add a mirror to brighten the entry; add drama with fresh flowers or a blooming plant; add warmth and texture with an area rug; add a dramatic new lighting fixture

Kitchen - Showcase the heart of the home

  • Open a colorful cookbook on a stand; create a neat, clean look with new burner covers; add a new throw rug; fill a decorative serving bowl with fresh fruit; add a blooming plant where it can catch the sunlight; replace worn curtains with mini blinds or a valance; paint worn or dated cabinets and add new hardware.

Bathrooms - Create a luxurious, relaxing feeling

  • Use plush towels and rugs to soften hard surfaces; tri-fold towels and hang in layers on towel bars; stack guest or hand towels neatly on a vanity; add a fabric shower curtain; highlight tubs or vanities with colorful bath oils and salts; place a new bar of unscented guest soap

Bedrooms - Convey privacy and comfort

  • Roll back a plush comforter to show layers of blankets and sheets; top with decorative pillows; add curtains and valances; add artwork for elegance; stack a few books on a nightstand; arrange toys in kids rooms to show a quiet place to play.

Living, Family and Dining Rooms - Suggest comfortable family times and entertaining

  • Drape an afghan over a chair or sofa to suggest relaxation; add decorative pillows to sofas and chairs; add fresh flowers to a coffee table; add art pieces to a bookcase to suggest multiple uses; showcase a fireplace with candles, pots, blooming plants or fresh flowers.


Keeping a house in ShowTime condition can be easy and fun when everyone participates. Assign responsibilities for weekly and daily tasks. Remember, if you stay ready, you won't have to get ready!


  • Pick up lawn tools and toys
  • Pick up after pets
  • Remove obstructions from curb view
  • Clear driveways and walk areas


  • Do a once-over cleaning - vacuum, sweep and dust; empty wastebaskets; pick up dirty clothes; put away personal care items in bathrooms; clean all sinks and faucets with glass cleaner; make sure rugs are clean and straight; freshen carpets, draperies and upholstery with an odor neutralizer; clean pet areas and remove pets, beds and toys
  • Open shades and drapes; set comfortable temperature; turn on all lights; open windows to freshen rooms; arrange fresh flowers in key areas; play soft music and turn off the television; turn off all work sounds (dishwashers, washers, dryers, etc.); final check every room