How Much Do You Really Need to Clean When Selling?

house cleaning suppliesIf you are getting ready to sell your home, you probably have taken a look around and realize that some extensive household cleaning and de-cluttering is going to be required to make a good first impression with buyers. But how much is really required? Don’t the buyers just realize that you are still living there and overlook your daily messes?

In theory, buyers should take into account the fact that this is your current home-lived in by a real family who makes messes daily, but the reality is that most buyers have a hard time looking beyond your dirt or clutter.

Why? It is one of the first things their eyes notice. It affects their opinion about the house in general and it makes it much more difficult to picture their own family living there- which a vital part of a buyer placing an offer. They have to be able to see their life happening in this home.  Your pile of dirty laundry and toothpaste in the sink puts a big damper on this.

How is a Potential Buyer’s Opinion Affected?

First, dirt and clutter makes your home seem uncared for (if you haven’t kept the bathroom sink clean, did you do bigger jobs like maintaining the furnace or properly protecting the deck from water damage?), and it can easily make the rooms seem smaller. Not the impression you want to make.

Add to this image is the fact that clutter raises questions about if there is adequate storage space in the home. A kitchen counter cluttered with “stuff” sends a message that the kitchen lacks storage space, for example. Clothes and shoes all over your bedroom makes it appear that you lack enough closet space.

How Much Cleaning is Enough? What Should a Seller Do?

Few people love to clean, but if you are going to be showing your home it is an essential step to take in making the best first impression with buyers. Here is a list of what is essential and what buyers will notice. And remember, when cleaning, start from the highest point in a room and move down, so any dust stirred up can be vacuumed or mopped up at the end.

  1. The kitchen: Clean it top to bottom before you begin showing to buyers and do a thorough cleanup before each showing. The sink, drain plugs, countertops and appliances should sparkle. The floor should be free of dirt or grime and swept of any food, crumb or pet hair.
  2. Clean carpets: Hire a carpet cleaning company or rent a hot-water carpet cleaning machine and do it yourself, but clean the carpets. Vacuum before each time you show your home to potential buyers.
  3. Wood, laminate, and tile: All should get a proper cleaning with the correct solvent. A quick sweeping or wet-mop before every showing makes the home really feel clean and fresh.
  4. The bathrooms: Think about whether you would want to use this bathroom if you were a stranger. Would you feel comfortable with your child sitting on this floor? Clean every surface thoroughly until it shines and do an overall cleanup before every showing. Replace used towels with fresh fluffy ones, remove any clothes and empty trash. Put away all toiletries that may be left out on the sink, and clean all mirrors and faucets to a sparkle.
  5. Bedrooms: Make the beds. Seriously, nothing says “this is someone else’s home”, like a bed that appears like someone just crawled out of it. Think of how you would react to a hotel room if that is what greeted you. Clear away clutter and put away clean clothes and dirty laundry.
  6. Clutter, mail, shoes, and coats: Your entryway should be clear and not overflowing with outerwear or piles of mail. It is the buyer’s first impression as they walk through the door. Make it fresh, clean, open space that invites them inside to see more.

All of these steps are important to making a good first impression with potential buyers. If you lack time (or really hate cleaning), consider hiring a cleaning service to at least give the home a good thorough cleaning or maybe even to come in once per week to keep things basically tidy. But, even if you do that, you will have some basic clean-up to do to get things picture perfect before each showing. It is worth every bit of effort to send the right message about your home and let your home’s features be the star of the show, not your dirt and clutter.

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