How spring cleaning can help sell your home

Spring Cleaning for Home Sellers

by Lynn Bulmahn


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People used to make a big production out of "spring cleaning," getting their homes sparkling clean once the weather warmed up.

If you have, or plan to put, your home on the market, spring cleaning is the most frugal thing you can do to sell fast and make a profit.

Little things make a big difference. They may not cost much money, but will help you sell for as much as possible.

Here are some frugal make-ready ideas sellers shouldn't overlook:

  • Curb appeal - Your home's exterior (everything passers-by can see) must look gorgeous. Replace that rusty mailbox and those old, dull house numbers. Is the fence missing pickets? The window screen torn? Paint peeling or faded? Fix any flaws you see.
  • Landscape - Once the snow melts, the lawn should be lush and green. Plant blooming flowers, trim shrubs, and be sure the grass is always mowed and watered. Is the "for sale" sign obscured by tall weeds? That happened to one house after its owner moved away. The real estate management quit properly maintaining the yard. That cost everyone big bucks; the house languished on the market and its value plummeted.
  • Hardware - Is the paint peeling from a grille? Are there smudges around every light switch? Have the cabinet handles seen better days? Are the chrome towel racks or light fixtures too dated? Replace these items! When I needed to sell my 1950s "starter home," the first thing the realtor saw was a return air grille that had rust spots. He said a potential homebuyer would get the impression that the entire house was in poor shape and might subconsciously decide not to buy, just from seeing that one little flaw. A quick trip to the hardware store enabled me to replace the grille with one painted powder white. It made the entire room look new and fresh, yet the upgrade took less than five minutes and cost well under $20. (And my house sold within three weeks.)
  • Sooty siding - The same house had vinyl siding. Over time, spring rains, dust storms, and smoke from the neighbors' chimneys gave it a grungy coating of dirt and mildew. I was advised to pay for pressure washing by a "pro." Instead, I did a DIY job. I first soaped the outside walls with liquid detergent and then scrubbed with a push broom. Using the water hose and a hand sprayer set on full blast, I rinsed the suds off well. I got sopping wet as I worked, but the results were worth it. The realtors thought I'd painted my house; the siding looked clean and new. Yet, my biggest cost was store-brand detergent.
  • Related: Renewing and Restoring Vinyl Siding

  • Flooring - Even old flooring should look new. Mop hard surfaces. Steam cleaning works wonders. The best carpet cleaning company in town cleaned the carpet once my furniture was moved out. It looked like I'd re-carpeted the front room.
  • Paint - New paint gleams and helps sell. Make sure the color scheme appeals to potential buyers; someone wanting a home office won't appreciate your daughter's lavender and pink bedroom walls. If you can do it yourself, you'll save big bucks. Or get help. I once bartered with a professional painter, trading him my late father's van for his services. A friend hosted a keg/painting party to redo her kitchen over a three-day holiday weekend.
  • Ceilings - Cover water spots or hairline cracks. Redo popcorn ceilings, replace damaged ceiling tiles, or simply repaint.
  • Lights - Sure, you want to save energy when you're living in a house, but when you sell, it's a different story. Install the biggest, brightest wattage your light fixtures can safely handle. Buyers need to see every nook and cranny.


  • Furnishings - Most needs to go, if possible. Erase your style for a quicker sale. Realtors advise that potential homebuyers must be able to imagine their furniture and pictures in the home or they'll bypass your house.
  • Supersize storage spaces - Rooms and closets filled with "stuff" look smaller. Clutter kills the sale. No homebuyer wants a place that's cramped and crowded, but that's the impression they'll get if they see piles of junk.

Complete your spring cleaning and you're good to go. Put that sparkling clean house on the market and say goodbye to the neighbors!


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