Remove Personal Photos
People can be very photogenic, but many clients are distracted by portraits of the sellers, and miss out on key selling points of the home. As an amateur photographer, I love displaying my work, but if I'm selling my house, art will be displayed without people in it. No matter how nice the display, personal photos are just that: too personal.
Accentuate the Positive
My clients usually know what they like best about their home. It's usually what they saw that made them want to buy, or it's something that they added to make the home particularly special. Whether it is a staircase, a great view from the kitchen sink, stunning built-in bookshelves or a three-car garage, do something to make the buyers linger in that magic space.
Ditch the Kitsch and Hide Your Opinions
My favorite example of unnecessary and unwelcome kitsch is the pink pig sitting on the fridge door asking if you're eating again. It oinks when your potential buyer opens the refrigerator. This and other comical quips are great fun when you're living in your home, not when you're trying to sell it. Especially avoid politically-charged material that expresses strong opinions. You don't want a potential buyer to dislike you for your beliefs, so remove all questionable material out of sight.
Clean Up Your Act
If you are selling your house, cleaning is a no-brainer. And clutter is a killer. Get a head start on packing, and begin boxing up extras that are taking up space on your mantel, table surfaces, etc. Clutter makes a house look smaller, and if you have a small house, it makes it feel claustrophobic. Not advantageous to a quick or profitable sale.
Embrace the Quietude
When showing a home, music is not necessarily a bad thing. If you don't know the potential buyer and their taste in music, don't push yours. If you are going to play music, be sure it doesn't have vocals. Avoid niche music; not everyone loves hard rock or country and western. If you are set on having music playing in the background for viewings, opt for soft jazz playing at a low level. Unless you have the music-only channels, keep the television turned off. It's a distraction.
Smells Like Home
I've heard of many real estate agents bringing in a toaster oven to bake cookies or fresh bread. One colleague joked about keeping an Easy-Bake oven in the trunk of her car. I usually opt for a few plug-in air fresheners. I like using vanilla in the kitchen, fresh scents in the laundry, apple cinnamon in the living room and such. Specific aromas add a theme to the tour, even when it's not an open house.
Paint the Story
A coat or two of paint is always a good investment. If you decide to make the effort, consider flat paint in areas for resting and relaxing. You can add some colors, but neutral is always best. Satin paint is great for common areas and places where there is a bit more action taking place. It's also easier to clean if someone spills some tomato soup on the wall.
Pet-Proof the Pad
If you have pets, especially indoor pets, make sure that during your listing period, you are particularly fastidious in cleaning up after them. Ask a very good friend (or your real estate agent), who will tell you the truth, to come by and give it the sniff test. Also, if you have pets and are trying to sell your home, the purchase of a few air purifiers may also be a great investment. Consider buyers with pet allergies.
Show Off the Goods
Consider placing laser-printed cards on items that remain with the home. Such things could include high-end appliances, dumbwaiters, laundry chutes, built-in sound systems and other goodies. These inexpensive cards are an under-utilized way to bring attention to such selling features. Don't overdo it though; no more than 5-10 cards in an average-sized home. Be sure to lock up or take jewelry and other valuables with you.
No buyers want to discuss your home while you are standing there. On average, my clients spend about 20-30 minutes in a home that has some promise; very few stay more than five minutes in a house with the seller in earshot. If nothing else, go outside on the porch or in the yard, and let the home speak for itself.