How To Get Your House Ready to Sell: 5 Tips from the Pros

When your ship comes in and you just have to have a townhouse in the middle of Manhattan, there are only two guys to call, Tom and Mickey. These two gents are far from the pushy and pumped real estate brokers you see on the reality shows. Responsible for more than $2 billion in residential sales, Tom Postilio & Mickey Conlon have been named among the Top 1,000 Real Estate Professionals in the United States. These dudes always seem to be exceptionally happy. I mean, when you are selling $20 million homes, wouldn’t you be?

While most of us aren’t quite at that monied level yet, selling a home is pretty much the same no matter your square footage. We asked the guys to give us some do’s and don’ts on prepping your pad for sale.

“Emboldened by a barrage of HGTV before-and-after montages, a lot of sellers come to us armed with sledgehammers and goggles in order to cash in on their property’s untapped potential. We advise them to put down the remote control and the power tools and to look at the situation as if they were the buyers for their property, ” according to Tom and Mickey. “We’ve become so accustomed to living in our own spaces that it’s sometimes difficult to see our homes the way others might.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Your Home


First, walk into each room of your home, close your eyes for a few seconds, then open them. What do you see? If your eye is landing on the TV, or the rowing machine, or the pile of toys in the corner instead of the view, the grand fireplace, or the custom millwork, remove the attention grabbers that are upstaging your home. Once the clutter has been cleared, it’s easier to identify other common maladies of the well lived-in home.

To Paint or Not to Paint

Second, determine whether a fresh coat of paint is necessary — and it usually is. This is a perfect and relatively inexpensive means of freshening and neutralizing the space. As an added bonus, the faint whiff of paint can be as alluring to home buyers as “new car smell” is to auto shoppers. A fresh coat of paint will accentuate other areas in need of TLC.

Don’t Renovate for Your Buyer

We rarely recommend replacing tired kitchens and baths, as such projects are not only costly, but also extremely time-consuming. Such renovations typically net a minimal return on the investment, if any, so we advise sellers on how they might value engineer their home’s facelift in lieu of reconstructive surgery. In the bathroom, having the grout professionally deep cleaned and, if necessary, having fixtures re-glazed instead of replaced can transform a dated space. If the hardware is pitted or discolored, it might be worth replacing those items to add a bit of extra sparkle. A few hundred well-spent dollars could easily reap exponential returns.

Look into New Hardware

In the kitchen, the same rules apply. Dated cabinetry can be modernized with paint and new hardware. If the appliances are out of date, consider replacing them with high-end professional-grade appliances, if your budget allows. Buyers perceive value in such upgrades, and the boldface brand names can have a halo effect on the entire property, imbuing it with a higher standard that will separate it from the competition.

Give it Your Best Mr. Clean

We’re often asked why any money should be spent freshening items that an end user is going to replace anyway. The answer has to do with the psychological effect of assessing a renovation on a prospective purchase. Buyers assign dollar values to repairs that typically exceed the actual cost of remediation. A little bit of spit and polish can go a long way toward making the task less daunting.

Case in point?  We listed an estate condition townhouse that hadn’t been renovated since the early 1970s, and it looked like it. We gave the owner specific instructions on how to spruce up the home on a shoestring budget of less than $10,000, which included painting in neutral tones, high-wattage lighting, and new panes of glass in broken windows that would surely be replaced by the new owner. At our first open house, buyers marveled at how well preserved the house was. The result? That $9,000 investment yielded a bidding war and sale at a whopping 47% above the list price and broke a pricing record for the neighborhood. Not too shabby for a case of light bulbs and a few gallons of paint!