Judith A. Wakefield
Indian River County Extension Service

House for Sale! Tips for Getting It Buyer-Ready

When a house is for sale, the goal is to make it as attractive as possible to potential buyers. The most cost-efficient way to spruce up the home is to clean it thoroughly, according to The Soap and Detergent Association.

First get rid of clutter. Many potential buyers may not see past dirt and clutter. If the house is crowded with the ownerís "stuff," they will assume that the house is too small for their possessions. Too much clutter also poses a safety - and buying - hazard! A person who trips over items left on the stairs is unlikely to have a good feeling about the house. In addition, a clean, clutter-free environment is more attractive than a crowded, untidy one.

Begin by purging the house, including the garage, of items that are no longer needed. Things that are in good condition can be sold or donated to a charity. The remainder can be thrown in the trash. Rooms will appear more spacious, closets will look bigger and shelves will look roomier to potential buyers if they are not crowded.

Clear off the kitchen and bathroom countertops, sorting and storing non-essentials in boxes.

Even if you donít have acres of kitchen storage space, make it look like you do. Donít have boxes of cereal lined up on top of the refrigerator, etc. In the bathroom store often used items in baskets, not lined up or grouped on the counter. Wipe all surfaces clean. Anything that will go back on the countertop should be wiped clean too. In the kitchen, keep out only those appliances that are used every few days.

Donít let newspapers and mail pile up. Sort every day and discard what isnít needed. Place a few bakets in strategis locations around the house. When the real estate agent calls, the clutter that is an inevitable part of daily life can be quickly scooped up into the baskets and hidden away. And, get in the habit of making a nightly "sweep" just before bedrime.

Once youíve de-cluttered, itís time to clean. Focus on the rooms that potential buyers are most interested in - living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom. Look at each room as a potential buyer might and see what catches the eye first. Make that the starting point for the cleaning process. Then, follow the top-to-bottom, left-to-right rule for cleaning each room. That way, no surface is overlooked.

Give major attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. Check the labels on cleaning products to make sure they are appropriate for the surfaces to be cleaned. Abrasive cleansers provide extra cleaning power for hard-to-remove soils like food particles and grease residues in sinks. However, they may be too harsh for surfaces that are easily scratched, such as laminate or solid surface countertops. In general, liquid and gel cleansers are less abrasive than powders.

Spray cleaners are easy to use for small areas, such as countertops, while powders or liquids mixed in a pail of water are more efficient for larger areas, such as walls and floors. Floors can become cloudy from cleaning solution residue, making them look dirty when theyíre actually clean. To prevent this, use a no-rinse product or rinse the floor well after each cleaning.

Spray glass cleaners on a cloth instead of directly on a mirror or picture glass. This will keep the cleaner away from the frame and prevent it from seeping onto a picture. Avoid using rags that have been subject to fabric softener in the laundry; they may leave a lint residue.

Dust wood furniture using a clean cloth with a little bit of furniture polish on it. Dusting with a dry cloth can scratch and dull the finish. The furniture polish will trap the dust so it can be removed better than just scooting in out into the air to settle elsewhere.

Mold and mildew are especially problematic in bathrooms. With all the publicity concerning the illnesses that mold can cause, prospective home buyers are more sensitive than ever about its presence. Use liquid household bleach or cleaners with bleach to remove mildew stains from shower doors, shower curtains and grout between tiles. Avoid mixing cleaning product which contain chlorine bleach with products that may contain ammonia, they cause dangerous fumes.

Use a non-streaking cleaning product, such as a glass or glass and multi-surface cleaner, for shower doors and mirrors. A regular routine, including rinsing the tub after bathing, using a small squeegee on shower walls after each use, and drying faucets and handles to prevent water sports, will keep things clean. When you are gathering towels and wash clothes to wash them, use them first to wipe off the bathroom surfaces.

Donít forget to wash the windows, vacuum carpets and drapes and dust thoroughly. Vacuum regularly, using long straight strokes.

If repainting is not in the budget, carefully clean surfaces to remove dust, grime and fingerprints. Painted surfaces are usually washable, but test the cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first. Use a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner. To avoid streak marks when cleaning large vertical areas, start at the bottom and work up, overlapping areas and using a circular motion.

Keeping on top of the cleaning chores will make your home look its best. And, once a buyer is found, itíll be easy to have the house "broom ready" for that final walk-through before closing day.