What kind of house appeals to you as a buyer? Clean? Dirty? Cluttered? Uncluttered? Light? Dark? Maintained? Needing work?
For most buyers, the answers are pretty simple. Clean. Uncluttered. Light. Maintained. The exception is when the price is so good (meaning low) that the buyers feel they can benefit by buying a house and doing some work themselves.
But let's assume that, as a seller, you want to get the best price you can get and sell in the quickest time possible. After all, how many homeowners enjoy the process of cleaning the house every time they get a call to show their home or carting the family out of the house for a showing? Quick is better. High price is better. So let's think about some things that will help you to sell your house.
Near the top of the list has to be clean. Nobody wants their own dirt, and certainly not somebody else's dirt. (Other people's dirt just somehow seems dirtier, doesn't it?) So, one of the simplest and cheapest improvements to make to your home is to make sure it is absolutely spotlessly clean from top to bottom. If you can't or don't want to do it yourself, hire a professional. But do remember than once it is clean, it needs to stay clean, and that doesn't happen by itself.
Next is the problem of clutter. The old saying of "Less is more" certainly applies here. Go through the house and take out things that are unnecessary. Don't overwhelm potential buyers with things that reflect your personality and preferences (for example, lots of family photos). Give them a fairly clean slate so that they can imagine themselves living in your house. And if you have too much "stuff", don't just put it in the closet. Buyers want to open a closet and see that it will have space for storing their things when they buy the house. Get some things out of the house. It may mean getting rid of some things. It is possible to find a home for things you no longer need by donating, selling through an outlet like CraigsList, or renting a storage space for things that you want to keep long term but that don't fit in the scheme right now. And don't forget the trash can. Some things don't need to be kept.
And let's stick with clutter just a bit longer. Too much furniture or furniture that is too big, even beautiful furniture, can have the negative effect of making a room feel smaller and more crowded. Thin some things out if needed. If you're not sure, ask your Realtor or ask a professional. A little effort up front can pay big dividends.
Turn up the lights. Light has a powerful psychological impact. So, turn on the lights before your potential buyers arrive -- even in daytime. Replace those low watt bulbs with brighter bulbs. Consider taking down those heavy drapes, or at least opening them wide.
A little undone maintenance can cost you big dollars. Many Realtors say that that a dollar of required maintenance or repairs can cost a seller three dollars in sales price. While that relationship may vary depending on the work required, common sense will tell you that you will get more if the work is done. A majority of today's buyers are busy people and don't have the time, talent, or inclination to take on projects, so they are likely to discount a property on which they have to do work.
Properly prepare upfront, and reap the benefits at the closing table.