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25 Tips for Preparing Your Home for Sale in the New Year

By Thomas O'Shaughnessy | January 18, 2024

Anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the new year has been holding their breath to see which direction interest rates are headed. 

Soaring rates in 2022 and early 2023 nearly paralyzed the market. Homeowners with low rates are hesitant to sell and take on a new mortgage at a higher rate. Buyers are discouraged by the effect interest rates have on their budget (and the available housing stock). 

But with inflation slowing and the Federal Reserve hinting at rate cuts in 2024, many homeowners are putting their homes on the market. If that sounds like you, here are 25 tips for preparing your home for sale in the new year.

1. Set Goals

Setting goals at the beginning of the new year is natural, and selling your home is no different. Define specific objectives, including the sale price, the timeline for the sale, and any improvements or changes you need to make before your home hits the market. 

2. Start Outside

In wintertime, the first impression won't be of a healthy lawn and beautiful landscaping. Bare trees and wet or snowy conditions can damage your curb appeal. But that doesn't mean you can't make the outside of your home beautiful. Decorate in neutral tones for the holidays, and ensure shutters, gutters, and downspouts are all in good repair. Repainting your front door and adding visible, classic house numbers will also help. 

3. Make Your Home Accessible

Keep driveways, walkways, and sidewalks free of snow and ice while your home is on the market. This makes it more inviting and keeps potential buyers safe. 

4. Declutter 

One of the first things your real estate professional will tell you to do when listing your house is to clear the clutter. It can be challenging when seasonal preparations and winter gear are needed over the holidays. But be sure to remove any clutter to a storage space and keep your home tidy as much as possible. 

5. Remove Personalized Decor

This one might hurt a little. Family photos and controversial art make it difficult for potential buyers to see themselves in your home. Remove any personalized decor before photography or viewings. 

6. Paint 

One of the quickest ways to spruce up your home in the new year is by painting the interior with neutral colors. Painting brings more light into dark rooms — a bonus in the colder months. 

7. Deep Clean

Before your listing hits the internet, scour your home. Spend the most time on the kitchen, the bathrooms, soft furnishings, and carpets. Add new welcome mats and mud control systems near the entryway to keep from tracking winter weather indoors. 

8. Consider staging

Professional home stagers know how to decorate so that the best parts of your home stand out. In many cases, a professional stager can utilize your home furnishings in a different arrangement or with a few special touches. 

9. Invest in Photography

Professional photography is what gets buyers into your home. Invest in photographers with experience in capturing the beauty of a home in winter. 

10. Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection

Inspections are generally the buyer's responsibility, but investing in an inspection of your own can uncover potential issues and help you set realistic expectations regarding price. 

11. Make Repairs

If the inspection uncovers minor maintenance issues, addressing those can go a long way to boosting your sale price. This includes fixing things like leaky faucets, broken tiles, or spotty electricity. 

12. Add or Improve Lighting 

Lighting is crucial, especially when potential buyers are walking through on a dark, cold night. Make sure all rooms have plenty of light by cleaning the windows, updating light fixtures, and selecting high-wattage bulbs. 

13. Remodel Selectively

If you plan on making improvements to increase the sale price of your home, select your remodels wisely. Kitchens and bathrooms are generally the best places to spend your limited money when remodeling for a home sale in the new year. Adding new fixtures, toilets, and appliances helps breathe new life into your old home.

14. Organize Closets

Remember that decluttering you did at the very beginning of this process? Part of that includes organizing your closets to highlight ample storage space. This might mean investing in closet organizers, or it might mean emptying closets in central locations. 

15. Clean the Garage

A garage can be a critical selling feature in areas with cold and snowy wintertime weather. If your home has a garage, don't stash all your decluttering there. Clean the garage and remove excess belongings to a storage space. 

16. Be Eco-Friendly

Energy-efficient LED lighting and smart thermostats are big draws for home buyers. These minor improvements can add up to significant savings in utility bills and attract eco-conscious buyers. 

17. Make Seasonal Improvements 

Consider small winter touches or early spring flower arrangements if you list your home in the new year. This sets a scene and tells a story of why your home is the one buyers want.

18. Get Clear on Your Home’s Value

There is sentimental value that reflects your precious family time in the home, and then there is market value. Make sure you are clear on your home's actual value

19. Price Competitively

All the improvements you've made and the photography you've invested in will only mean something if your price is reasonable. An inaccurate price will put off traditional buyers and deter those looking to negotiate a cash sale

20. Develop a Solid Marketing Plan 

Marketing is what gets buyers in the door. In bad weather, no one drives around a neighborhood looking for houses for sale. You'll need a comprehensive internet and social media plan that gets your listing in front of buyers. Real estate professionals will work over the holidays to help bring your listing to life. 

21. Create a Welcoming Entryway

The space behind the front door is critical. Add thoughtful touches like a vase of seasonal flowers or a place to hang coats and umbrellas. The lighting should be warm, and the vibe should be welcoming. 

22. Keep It Warm

Turn up the heat when a showing is scheduled. This gives buyers the impression of moving into a cozy space from frigid weather outside. 

23. Remove Odors

Homeowners are notoriously nose blind to their home's unique fragrance. If your realtor tells you something smells off, pay attention. When possible, remove pets from the home well before the first showing and take steps to eliminate any off odors. 

24. Set the Stage

When you have advanced notice of a showing, take the time to set the stage. Light candles, bake cookies, and have soft music playing. 

25. Relax

Preparing your home for sale in the new year can be a stressful addition to end-of-the-year family gatherings and celebrations. With a little effort and careful consideration, it's possible to relax and enjoy the process.

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