10 Best-Kept Secrets for Selling Your Home

Tricks of the trade to help you get top dollar when selling your home.

Home Selling Primer 04:34

A real estate expert shares essential selling tips to the homeowners.
Similar Topics:
Neutral Home Exterior With "For Sale" Sign

Neutral Home Exterior With "For Sale" Sign

HGTV's Buying and Selling offers up the industry's best-kept secrets to help you get top dollar when selling your home.

HGTV's Buying and Selling offers up the industry's best-kept secrets to help you get top dollar when selling your home.

Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right
Find out what your home is worth, then shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market.

How to Sell Your Home: Tips & Tricks 9 Videos


Expert Home Selling Pointers 04:23

Ready to sell their home, a couple gets advice from a real estate pro.

Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets
Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

Selling Secret #8: Light it up
Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.

Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field
A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.

Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters
You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.

Selling Secret #5: Don’t over-upgrade
Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.

Selling Secret #4: Take the home out of your house
One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.

15 Home Staging Secrets

See All Photos
Get expert advice on how to highlight your home's strengths.

Bye, Bye Clutter

The most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to get rid of clutter. Make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. One of the major contributors to a cluttered look is having too much furniture. When professional stagers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half the owner's furnishings, and the house looks much bigger for it. You don't have to whittle that drastically, but take a hard look at what you have and ask yourself what you can live without.

Furniture Groupings

There's a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn't the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger.

Musical Furniture

Give yourself permission to move furniture, artwork and accessories among rooms on a whim. Just because you bought that armchair for the living room doesn't mean it won't look great anchoring a sitting area in your bedroom. And try perching a little-used dining-room table in front of a pretty window, top it with buffet lamps and other accessories, and press it into service as a beautiful writing desk or library table.

Room Transformations

If you have a room that serves only to gather junk, repurpose it into something that will add to the value of your home. The simple addition of a comfortable armchair, a small table and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform it into a cozy reading spot. Or drape fabric on the walls of your basement, lay inexpensive rubber padding or a carpet remnant on the floor and toss in a few cushy pillows. Voila - a new meditation room or yoga studio.

Home Lighting

One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. As it turns out, many of our homes are improperly lighted. To remedy the problem, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. Don't depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

Make It Bigger

To make a room appear to be bigger than it is, paint it the same color as the adjacent room. If you have a small kitchen and dining room, a seamless look will make both rooms feel like one big space. And make a sunporch look bigger and more inviting by painting it green to reflect the color of nature. Another design trick: If you want to create the illusion of more space, paint the walls the same color as your drapery. It will give you a seamless and sophisticated look.

Neutral and Appealing

Painting a living room a fresh neutral color helps tone down any dated finishes in the space. Even if you were weaned on off-white walls, take a chance and test a quart of paint in a warm, neutral hue. These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens. As for bold wall colors, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces.

Color Experiment

Don't be afraid to use dark paint in a powder room, dining room or bedroom. A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic and cozy. And you don't have to go whole hog - you can paint just an accent wall to draw attention to a dramatic fireplace or a lovely set of windows. If you have built-in bookcases or niches, experiment with painting the insides a color that will make them pop — say, a soft sage green to set off the white pottery displayed within.

Vary Wall Hangings

If your home is like most, the art is hung in a high line encircling each room. Big mistake. Placing your pictures, paintings and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. Art displayed creatively makes it stand out and shows off your space. So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping.

Three's Company

Mixing the right accessories can make a room more inviting. When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, odd numbers are preferable, especially three. Rather than lining up a trio of accessories in a row, imagine a triangle and place one object at each point. Scale is important, too, so in your group of three be sure to vary height and width, with the largest item at the back and the smallest in front. For maximum effect, group accessories by color, shape, texture or some other unifying element, stagers suggest.

Raid Your Yard

Staged homes are almost always graced with fresh flowers and pricey orchid arrangements, but you can get a similar effect simply by raiding your yard. Budding magnolia clippings or unfurling fern fronds herald the arrival of spring, summer blooms add splashes of cheerful color, blazing fall foliage warms up your decor on chilly autumn days and holly branches heavy with berries look smashing in winter.

Serene and Inviting

Create a relaxing bedroom setting with luxurious linens and soft colors that will make a potential home buyer want to hang out. Bedroom staging trick: If you don't have the money to buy a new bed, just get the frame, buy an inexpensive air mattress and dress it up with neutral-patterned bedding. And remember to declutter. By cleaning out your closets, you're showing off your storage space, which sells houses - it always ranks high on buyers' priority list.

New Faces

If you can't afford new cabinets, just get new doors and drawer fronts. Then paint everything to match and add new hardware. And instead of replacing the entire dishwasher, you may be able to get a new front panel. Check with the manufacturer to see if replacements are available for your model. If not, laminate paper, which goes on like contact paper, can be used to re-cover the existing panel.

Repaired Wood

Unfinished projects can scare off potential buyers, so finish them. Missing floorboards and large cracks in the sidewalk on the way to your door tend to be a red flag, for example, and they cost you less to fix than buyers might deduct from the asking price.

Prim and Polished

Having tile professionally painted can make a bathroom look brand new. And accessorizing can make buyers feel like they're in a spa. Put out items like rolled-up towels, decorative baskets and candles. It's a great way to create a polished look, and it doesn't cost much to do.

Selling Secret #3: The kitchen comes first
You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated. The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

See All Videos
Update the look of your kitchen with these pro tips.

Selling Secret #2: Always be ready to show
Your house needs to be "show-ready" at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.

Selling Secret #1: The first impression is the only impression
No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.

Curb Appeal Tips

See All Videos
See how to make the all-important first impression.

Next Up

13 Home Staging Secrets

Highlight your home's strengths, downplay its weaknesses and appeal to prospective buyers with these secrets.

Top 10 Rules for Staging Homes from The Stagers

Matthew Finlason gives his home staging tips to help you get ready for a home sale.

Sellers: The Benefits of Staging Your Home

Professional stagers are paid to bring out the best in your home. Don't take it personally.

Top 10 Home-Staging Dos

Mother-and-daughter real estate pros Donna and Shannon Freeman break down the best ways to stage a home to sell.

Top 10 Home-Staging Don'ts

Mother-and-daughter real estate pros Donna and Shannon Freeman of Designed to Sell and Secrets That Sell explain why some home sellers miss the mark when staging their homes.

10 Best-Kept Secrets for Buying a Home

Get the most out of your money with these handy home-buying tips.

30 Can't-Miss Home Staging Tips

Designed to Sell designer Lisa LaPorta shares some of her best home staging tips.

Staging Secrets from 'Designed to Sell'

Quick staging ideas from our real estate experts.

Drama-Free Real Estate: Top 10 Ways to Sell a Home Without All the Drama

It's easy to get caught up in all the drama of selling a home. Minimize the stress with these 10 action steps, strategies and insider secrets, from real estate expert Tara-Nicholle Nelson.

Designing to Sell From Design Star Challenge 2

For their second Design Star Challenge, the remaining nine contestants split into three teams of three and were challenged to design rooms in a house that's been on the market for eight months!
More from:

HGTV Moving Guide


Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.