Make the entrance more welcoming by painting, polishing, or replacing the door, knob and knocker. Replace or repair locks that don't operate smoothly. If the real estate agent has to drop what she's holding to fiddle with the door, the entry doesn't present an image of convenience and gracious living. Some homeowners have their houses inspected before they put them on the market, in order to get a professional opinion about what needs to be fixed and to schedule repairs. Keep your broker posted about any upcoming improvements or maintenance, so he or she can pass on the information to buyers. "Remove objections before they exist," says Jean Leidy Veto , sales associate at Prudential Connecticut Realty in Greenwich, Conn. "If you plan to have work done, be sure to say so."
Inside, the house should be spotless from top to bottom, including inside the refrigerator, microwave and closets. Barb Schwarz, CEO and founder of StagedHomes.com , advises keeping the home "Q-tip clean," using the tiny tools to wipe around the edges of baseboards and the tile at the base of toilets. Windows should be washed regularly, inside and out, while the house is on the market. Declare war on clutter. As Veto points out, rooms look smaller when they're full of books, magazines and collections. Anything personal should be put away -- into storage if necessary. The goal is to help buyers to understand what the house has to offer, rather than impressing them with your personal taste or possessions. For example, they should notice the wood molding on the fireplace mantel, not the cute babies in the cluster of photos you have displayed on it, or they should see that you have installed new windows, rather than fixating on the idea that the color of your drapes doesn't go with their couch. "People bring virtually no imagination when looking at a house," Gilligan says. "Anything out of the ordinary -- red paint, a bed angled in a corner -- will throw them off." Be honest with yourself about the condition of the interior, and consider replacing anything that looks worn or shabby. "Dual working families don't have time to come in and do renovations, so they want a place in move-in condition," Veto points out.