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Cleaning & Neutralizing to Increase Marketability

In making our houses into homes, we arrange them as an outward expression of our inward tastes. But when it comes time to sell a home, the goal is to create the opposite, which is a clean, neutral, blank page upon which many prospective buyers can envision starting their next chapter.


Remove clutter from your home, basement, garage and yard. Not only does decluttering provide you and your family an opportunity to remove items that are no longer used, operating or needed, it also allows potential buyers a chance to envision their own belongings in your space. The easier you make it for potential buyers to picture themselves comfortably living in your home, the better your chances of selling your home quickly. This includes the basement, garage, attic, yard and any outbuildings on the property.


Create a fresh palette inexpensively by simply cleaning and neutralizing your home before putting it on the market. Neutralize the color palette of your home’s interior as much as possible.


Clean bath tile with mildew cleaner, wash or replace shower curtains, recaulk around the tub if necessary. Make sure all soap residue is removed from the tub and sink, clean the toilet inside and out and top to bottom. Countertops, water fixtures, floors and mirrors should all be immaculate. Remove toilet brushes and cleaners from view.

Because open blinds and draperies allow natural light in during showings, have all of the windows cleaned prior to listing. If lights are dim in any given room, increase the bulb size. Combine indoor lamp lighting with natural light for warm, cheerful rooms. Remove and broken blinds and wash any dusty curtains.

All floors in the house must be impeccably clean, including tile grout. If any flooring is worn or damaged, consider replacing it or offering an allowance in the sales price for replacement cost. Replacement is preferred, especially in the case of carpet, as your home will benefit from this improvement in the presentation. Choose a neutral shade when selecting replacement carpet and notice an immediate transformation.

Clean and paint walls neutral colors, like eggshell white or beige. Do not forget to clean baseboards and door trim. Touch up any nicks that you discover as you clean. When paint is touched up, or entire rooms repainted to gain a neutral atmosphere, remember to leave labeled paint cans for the new homeowners to reference. Any surfaces that can’t be cleaned should be painted prior to listing.

The kitchen is a primary selling point in the purchase decision. Appliances and countertops must sparkle, and if needed, purchase new stove burner pans to help achieve this goal. Clean the oven, especially if appliances are included in the sale, because potential homeowners look at and in everything. Look closely at your cabinets, not with the eyes of the current homeowner, but with the eyes of a potential homebuyer. Are they scuffed or in need of repainting? If so, make time to repaint or refinish. Tuck away trash containers so they are out of sight. Clean and empty underneath the sink and put away any stained or dirty kitchen objects, including small utensils. An inexpensive finishing touch in the kitchen is an investment in new kitchen towels.

Potential buyers are sensitive to bad smells and will be suspicious of any house with a peculiar odor. Subtle, pleasant smells such as potpourri, mild candles or wax melts fare much better than air fresheners, which just compound odor problems. The first step to eliminating a smell issue is removing the source. If you smoke, have pets or cook with strong smelling ingredients, ask for feedback from an honest third party on the severity of the odor. Carpet that has absorbed pet bathroom accidents will likely need to be replaced, as this often soaks into the carpet pad. Smoke residue must be cleaned from the walls and the odor absorbed from the air using agents such as vinegar and baking soda, rather than sprays that mask the smell.

Not to be forgotten, pay close attention to the outside the house, the first impression all potential buyers have of your home. Use deck wash or mildew cleaner as needed, and make any repairs before they are called to your attention by a Realtor or potential homebuyer. Mow the lawn and keep pet droppings or any litter that falls into the yard picked up daily. Trim bushes, clean out flower beds and add fresh mulch. Purchase a new door mat that compliments your entryway.

It seems obvious that a house should be cleaned before listing it for sale, but surprisingly, many people skip this important step. An immaculately clean house is a sign of a well cared for house, and that is the kind of house most buyers seek out. Clean, paint and neutralize to allow potential buyers an opportunity to envision themselves in your home during open houses or private showings, keeping in mind that the goal is to reach buyers emotionally, which results in selling your house promptly and profitably.

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