Real Estate

16 Signs Your House Isn’t Ready to Go on the Market

Think you’re ready to sell your home? Not so fast. If you want the best chance for a quick sale at top dollar, address these issues first.
House for sale sign

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Think you’re ready to list your home? Especially if you’ve never sold a property before, there’s some homework you have to do first. Sure, selling your home in “as is” condition is an option, but a little cleaning, maintenance, and home sale prep can increase your asking price and attract more offers.

We asked Rachel Moussa of Blushwood Realty for her advice on how to know if you’re ready to sell your current home. Here’s what you need to deal with before your abode hits the MLS.

1. The Carpets Aren’t Clean

Stained carpet

Dingy, stained—or worse, smelly—carpets can kill the mood at an open house, and fast. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, spring for having it professionally steam-cleaned, or rent a steamer and do the job yourself. Getting rid of pet and kid stains goes a long way toward making a good first impression.

RELATED: 8 Dirty Secrets Your Carpet May Be Keeping From You

2. Some Interiors Need a Paint Job

Gloved hand using roller to paint wall

It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do to brighten a space. But applying a fresh coat isn’t the only important consideration—make sure you’ve picked the right colors. You want to help potential buyers visualize themselves living in your home, so set aside your personal tastes and select paint colors that have mass appeal. Boring as they may seem, neutral colors will win the day.

RELATED: Painting Your Bathroom This Color Could Increase Your Selling Price by $5,000

3. Your Space is Too Cluttered

Living room decor with photos on wall

Get rid of your stuff! Family photos and tchotchkes from your world travels make your home yours, but that’s not a good thing during real estate showings. Those personal touches prevent home shoppers from envisioning how they could decorate the space. Style your rooms with a bare minimum of accents, then box up the rest and put them in storage.

Moussa recommends hiring a professional stager to work with your existing furniture or completely stage a vacant home. “Houses sell faster and for more money when they’re staged,” she says.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Storage Bins

4. The Faucet Leaks

Leaking faucet

Before you put your house up for sale, make a list of minor repairs that you have been meaning to take care of, and get busy crossing them off your list. Fix all those leaky faucets, noisy toilets, cracked floor tiles, and loose cabinet handles that have been irritating you for months. Individually, these nagging issues are minor but collectively, they might signal to potential buyers that you haven’t maintained your home properly.

RELATED: The 25 Smartest and Smallest DIYs You Can Do for Your Home

5. The Windows Are Dirty

Spraying cleaner on window

Sunny spaces sell, but the sun can’t stream through windows if they are dirty. Wash all of your windows, inside and out, before you put your house on the market.

RELATED: 16 Tips for Your Cleanest Windows Ever

6. The Shrubs Aren’t Trimmed

Overgrown shrubs

Potential buyers who don’t like the way a house looks from the outside aren’t going to be excited about walking in. When your house is on the market, curb appeal is key: Prune the bushes, get rid of the weeds, and plant some fresh, colorful flowers. Don’t let a bad first impression be the only impression your house gets to make.

RELATED: 14 Insanely Easy Curb Appeal Projects You Can Do in a Day

7. The Grout Is Cracked

Cracked grout in bathroom floor

While the kitchen is the most important room in your home to a prospective buyer, the bathrooms come in a close second. Ceramic tiles on the floors, walls, and tub surrounds need to look pristine. Recaulk everything, fix chipped grout, and then clean until all the surfaces sparkle.

RELATED: How to Caulk a Shower or Tub

8. The Siding Is Moldy

Siding is moldy

It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but trust us: Spend a few hundred dollars to have your exterior siding power-washed before putting your home up for sale. While you’re at it, clean the sidewalks and patios too. A flawless exterior will make house hunters eager to see what lies beyond the front door.

RELATED: The Mistakes Most People Make With a Power Washer

9. Your Closets Are Too Full

Over stuffed closet

Storage space is a big selling point, especially if your home has a lot of it. However many closets and storage areas you have, show them to their best advantage: Reduce the contents of your closets by half, then cut it in half again. Store the extra stuff with a friend or rent a storage space to keep it out of sight while your home is open for viewings.

RELATED: 21 Ways to Fake More Space Around the House

10. Your Interior Is Too Dark

Dark living room interior

The brighter your home is on the inside, the bigger and more welcoming it will look. Swapping out heavy drapes and curtains, and replacing burned-out light bulbs can make a big impact (while you’re swapping out bulbs, make sure the new ones are efficient LED bulbs). Remember, though, it’s lumens, not watts, that count. Look for the highest number of lumens in the wattage that’s appropriate for your lamps and fixtures.

RELATED: 12 Home Office Lighting Ideas for a More Productive Workspace

11. Your Exterior Is Too Dark

Dark house in the night

“Another thing that buyers lose their minds over is interesting exterior lighting,” Moussa notes. If your outdoor space is lacking in this department, you may want to delay putting your home on the market until you get some appealing, illuminating fixtures in place. Consider motion-sensor security lighting, solar path lights, and perhaps some string lights around the patio.

RELATED: 9 Uplighting Techniques to Illuminate Your House and Landscape

12. There’s an Unpleasant Smell

Man holding nose

Homeowners may be so used to the smell of their home that they don’t even notice off-putting odors, yet these foul smells can be deal-breakers. Moussa attests that she’s had people walk in the front door for a showing and then turn around and leave, merely because the house they’re visiting stinks.

Be sensitive to lingering smells, whether from strong spices, pets, a dirty garbage disposal, or anything else. Have a third party give their opinion on the scent of your home and help you address the sources of any odors. And yes, buyers will know you’re hiding something if you try covering up a stench with air fresheners.

RELATED: Does Your Home Smell Funny? 12 Odors That Could Mean Big Trouble

13. You’re Not Financially Prepared

Person using calculator

There are plenty of financial reasons you may want to delay putting your house on the market. First of all, consider how much equity you have in your current home. Is it sufficient to cover higher interest rates, the down payment on a new place, and closing costs? Remember: If you’re paying Realtor commission and title insurance, those come right out of your pocket if you don’t have equity.

Don’t forget that if you’re selling your place too quickly—in other words, if you’ve lived there less than 2 years—you will have to pay capital gains tax on any profit from the sale.

If you can’t afford these costs, it’s probably not a good time to sell.

RELATED: Solved! How Much House Can I Afford?

14. You’re Emotionally Tied to the Home

Family enjoying kitchen

You’ve lived in your house for decades. It was your first home, your kids grew up there, you got married in the backyard—there are plenty of reasons you may be emotionally tied to a property. If this is your situation, Moussa suggests that you ask yourself if these feelings are connected to good memories or to things you truly love about the house. You can capture photos or videos to remind you of happy times or significant moments, but beloved qualities of the home itself—like good neighbors or a fantastic setup for entertaining—may be harder to give up.

If you’re having difficulty saying goodbye to your home, you need to process your emotions before you’re ready to sell.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Love the Home You Hate

15. Your Older Property Is in Competition With Newer Homes

Older brick house

If you live in an older home, unless there’s something unique about it—for example, it’s an A-frame—you need to figure out how to zhuzh up the appearance of your home before listing it.

Moussa suggests adding some areas of intrigue, such as interesting light fixtures (which buyers love!) or accent walls using a fun but neutral wallpaper. These little touches make a home feel more stylish, which can help your property stand out on the market.

RELATED: The Great Debate: Does Every Home Need a Bathtub?

16. You Don’t Have a Plan

Couple meeting with realtor

What are your reasons for selling? Are you and your family on the same page about where you’d like to move, or what you’re looking for in your next home? If not, don’t spend time and money putting your home on the market. You’re not ready.

Having a plan in place will also save you from wasting money on unnecessary projects. Before you deep-dive into home renovations, find a trusted real estate agent. An experienced professional can give you an opinion on your home’s value in its current state and which updates are worth your time and effort if you’re hoping to get the best selling price.