For many Australians, purchasing a home represents the most momentous financial decision of their lives. Arguably, this explains why such a sharp focus is placed on things like comparing home loans to find the right one, and making sure that there are no surprises hidden in a home's property report.

For the vast majority of people however, those considerations are just a part of the equation. That's because around 66% of Australians already own a home - either outright or under a mortgage - which means they also have to tend to the critical task of listing and selling their current home before they can complete the purchase of a new one.

This part of the process gets much less attention. Perhaps that's because it's much more exciting to be on the purchasing side of the deal - attending open houses and experiencing the thrill of bidding at a home auction. For the seller, though, there's quite a bit of work that must be done to ensure that their home sells for the highest possible price, so they can get on with the fun part of shopping for a new home.

While some sellers opt to leave much of this work to professional home stagers or real estate agents, it's a much less expensive option to tackle the job themselves. To help, here's a guide on what a homeowner should do to prepare their property for sale - no real estate training required.

1. De-clutter and spring clean

The first thing you should do to prepare your home for sale should come as no surprise: clean it up!

The best way to approach this typically massive undertaking is to start with a top-to-bottom de-cluttering of the home's major spaces. The goal should be to:

  • Get the home looking as neat and tidy as possible
  • Open the space up
  • Allow potential buyers to imagine themselves living there

De-cluttering can involve getting rid of personal items like trophies, ribbons, and picture frames, or even rearranging or removing extra furniture that may be crowding a room.

In the process, it's also a good idea to give your home a thorough clean, both inside and out. You can bring in a cleaning service to take care of the dirty work, or you can put on the rubber gloves yourself. If your carpets need a good steam clean or you need your windows washed (particularly the tall ones on a two-story house), it may be best to call in the professionals.

Messy floors, dirty bathrooms, stained bed sheets, and cluttered cupboards can detract from the appeal of a house and make it less attractive to buyers.

At the end of the day, you want potential buyers to leave with a positive and welcoming impression.

2. Create neutral spaces

The second thing to do to prepare a home for sale is to take steps to make the home's rooms look as neutral as possible. This means making sure that your current design choices don't make it impossible for a potential buyer to imagine how their own personal style might fit in the home.

When it comes to doing this, the first step is to repaint any of the home's rooms that feature bold colours and to reset them back to shades of whites, tans, and greys. That will give them a sharp, clean look that a prospective buyer can use as a mental canvas as they consider how they might decorate the space.

The right paint job can refresh, revamp, and revitalise your entire home. It is a simple yet effective makeover that may increase your re-sale value.

The same logic applies to the home's furniture. If the home features couches, ottomans, or chairs with unusual or worn upholstery, it's best to remove them or cover them with neutral-coloured fabric. If it seems necessary, look into engaging a furniture rental service that can temporarily re-populate rooms with sharp, stylish furniture to create a lived-in, showroom-style look.

3. Refresh the exterior

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When it comes to a home, that impression is made the moment the potential buyer starts walking up the path to the front door.

You want to make sure the landscaping is appealing from the front. This means fixing up any visible issues you can see from the street.

Make sure to high pressure clean the home's walkways and driveway to remove any built-up dirt and grime. If there's any loose or peeling paint, take care of it with a fresh coat. Other fixes may include:

  • Prune unruly shrubs
  • Clear away dead leaves and weeds
  • Invest in new soil
  • Mulch any flowerbeds
  • Freshen up your street numerals
  • Swap over your front door light (or add one in)
  • Change the letterbox
  • Add lighting around the yard

The goal should be to create a positive first impression on the visitor that will put them in the right mood to see what lies beyond the entryway.

4. Make essential repairs

One of the biggest turn-offs for buyers is wear and tear such as stained carpets, scuffed paintwork, loose and squeaky hinges, cracked windows, dated and broken fixtures, and other signs of damage. Any of these can alert buyers there is work to do on the property which may deter them from offering a higher price or even buying the property entirely.

Here are the simple (yet beneficial) repairs you can make to your home to increase your re-sale value:

  • Change your oyster lights for LED downlights
  • Change your light switches
  • Replace door and cupboard handles throughout the entire home e.g. bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen
  • Fresh coat of paint over cracks etc.
  • Tighten up any loose door hinges
  • Remove and replace broken and old fly screens
  • Replace any worn or musty smelling carpet
  • Replace any outdated window furnishings with new modern alternatives

Before making any minor renovations, talk to your real estate agent to ensure you're increasing appeal without over-capitalising.

5. Have a second pair of eyes take a look

The last part of the home preparation process will require you to bring in a second pair of eyes to go over what you've done. There's a good chance that a neutral third party will notice plenty of things that are still calling out for attention. Doing this helps you to see a space you've grown accustomed to through the eyes of another, which is, after all, the point of the whole home sale process.

It's important to make sure to open up the home's curtains and shades when conducting this walkthrough - as that's how the home will be staged when it's time to open the doors to potential buyers.

Go through every part of the home with the person and solicit feedback about each room. Take steps to address any real issues (not those of taste or style, mind you) and bring them back once everything's fixed. With any luck, the home will then be in tip-top shape and ready to make potential buyers fall in love with it - putting thousands of extra dollars in your pockets in the process.

6. Sell at the right time

The timing of your sale can be the difference between selling at your dream price or not quite meeting expectations.

While the best time to sell is not the same for every property seller, we've all heard the saying that spring is the best time of year to sell a house. So is this the truth or simply an old wives' tale? The basic premise is that after the cold months of winter, there is a larger pool of homebuyers getting out and about to look for properties. In turn, this means more competition for properties, which drives prices up.

If you are considering selling in spring, keep in mind you won't be the only homeowner with the same idea. You will likely be competing in an oversupplied housing market - will your property stand out from the rest or be left in the shadows?

When working out the right time to sell, consider the following:

  • What is the current market doing? Is it a buyer's or seller's market?
  • Your personal and financial circumstances. Are work obligations requiring you to sell and move suburbs/cities? Do you need more space for a growing family? Are you looking to find something more affordable?
  • The location of the property. For example, a beach-side home will often sell for more in summer compared to the winter.

Talk with your real estate agent about your reasoning for selling and a timeline for the sale - they will help you decide when it's the right time to sell. From there, they will likely perform a comparative market analysis to evaluate the comparable properties that have been sold in the past 6 to 12 months in order to determine an asking price for your property.

You can head here for your free property report to begin your research journey and see what other homes have sold for recently in the area.

The information contained on this web site is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. If you or someone you know is in financial stress, contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.