First impressions matter. We’re taught never to judge a book by its cover, but we’re only human. The truth is most of us have made up our minds about people, places, and objects within mere seconds of seeing them. Of course there’s always much more to the story than what’s on the surface, but to get people to see what’s on the inside, you need to get them interested by making a good first impression. This couldn’t be truer in the real estate business. Buyers make snap judgments based on curb appeal and the condition of the exterior of a home before they even exit their cars. You don’t want them to turn around and leave before they have a chance to see everything your home has to offer. So before you put your home on the market, first cut your emotional ties; step outside and try to look at the house through unbiased eyes; and then follow these tips to make the right first impression with prospective buyers.

Ramp Up the Curb Appeal

Start with the exterior of your house. Give it a fresh coat of paint if needed, or just touch up the trim work and paint the front door. Wash your windows, even if you don’t think they really need it. Chances are it’s been awhile since they had a bath. Clean out the gutters, remove leaves and limbs from the roof and lawn, and freshen up the shrubs and flowerbeds. Put away anything personal, like lawn ornaments, outdoor toys, and lawn maintenance tools. Pressure wash the driveway, sidewalks, and front porch or stoop. You’d be surprised at the big difference this little detail can make! Plant some colorful seasonal flowers and put out a neutral yet welcome doormat. If your mailbox is rusty or loose, repair or replace it.

Fix What’s Broken

Take a trip around the house, inside and out, and make a list of all the little repairs you’ve been meaning to do but just haven’t gotten around to. Check for leaks throughout the house. Tighten door handles and hinges that have come loose. Replace old caulking around sinks, tubs, and windows. Replace any light bulbs that have burned out—it keeps buyers from wondering whether the light doesn’t work due to electrical problems or just a burned-out bulb.

Declutter and Depersonalize

The less “stuff” there is in the house, the less distracted the buyer will be. When a house has too many personal items—photos, collectibles, clothes, and toys, for example—it’s harder for the buyer to picture themselves living there. It’s harder for them to really get a feel for the house when someone else’s furniture and other belongings are everywhere they look. Don’t completely empty out the place, though. You don’t want it to be a sterile environment. Empty rooms can actually look smaller than those with a few key pieces arranged with good flow in mind. And those rooms with highly personalized paint colors? We highly recommend repainting them with more neutral shades.

Give the House a Little Facelift

There’s usually no need to do a major renovation before you sell unless something’s in really bad shape. But a little facelift and refreshment can be a great selling point. Focus on areas that buyers pay the most attention to: bathrooms, kitchens, and flooring. If anything is particularly worn out, think about replacing or revamping it. For example, a new coat of paint for kitchen cabinets makes for a nice little makeover that looks more expensive than it is. Little things like replacing faucets, cabinet handles, drawer pulls, and light fixtures are also small upgrades that make a big difference visually. Give flooring a boost by having rugs and carpets professionally cleaned, or if you have hardwoods that have seen better days, think about re-staining them.

Appeal to the Senses

Home buyers don’t just shop with their eyes. Together with your Realtor, come up with a strategy that appeals to all the senses. During showings, you might want to play soft music, brew coffee or bake cookies, light a candle or diffuse essentials that aren’t too overpowering, and decorate with fluffy, furry throw blankets and pillows.

Keep Things Ship Shape

You might have to endure weeks to months of showings and open houses before your home goes off the market. During that time, there will be lots of people in and out for showings, and if you’re still living in the house while it’s on the market, signs of day to day living will eventually make themselves known. Just make a concentrated effort to keep everything tidy and inviting for prospective buyers.

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