How to Prepare a Home for a Quick Sale


No, not the ominous interlude in Law & Order, but equally chilling to many people is the real estate statistic “Days on Market” or “D. O. M.” Many homeowners and real estate professionals fear their property sitting on the market for days, weeks, or even months and years. And for good reason. Data shows that the original list price compared to the sale price is negatively correlated to the amount of time a property is on the market. In other words, the longer your home is listed publicly, the less money you’re likely going to get from a buyer.

There are a few ways to avoid this, and they pretty much all involve working with a trained real estate professional.

Private Exclusive or Non-MLS

If you and your real estate agent go this route, and there are often good reasons to do so, you may sell your home “off-market” in what’s called a “private exclusive” or “pocket listing.” These listings don’t accrue days on market, and you’re able to assess the market’s response to your pricing without public scrutiny. Stay tuned for our next article which dives into this process further.

Selling in a Week

While past sales performance can’t guarantee future success, a trained real estate broker knows what it takes to get a property sold in a day. Hint: it takes much longer than a day.

A classic white mid-country colonial is a recent example:. We teased the marketplace with a “Coming Soon” for several days before going live & starting showings early in the morning on March 13th. By the end of business on the 14th, we had fully executed, non-contingent contracts. In less than 36 hours! But the story of this classic white colonial starts much, much earlier…

The Process


The best transactions involve a great deal of trust between the seller (or buyer) and their real estate agent. Long before anyone considers selling or buying a home, hopefully they are building a relationship with an agent who they trust. (By the way, If you’re in the market for a new agent, check out my last article about common pitfalls to avoid.)

First Impressions

The first encounter with a property is always a unique experience. I seek out (and even “sniff” out, my pet loving friends!) the good and the bad, sorting out how to address any flaws and determining what reasonable updates are needed.

Some houses are empty, with the owners having moved out weeks before. In others the seller is still at home, with a slew of family photographs lining the fireplace mantle, 30 years of school yearbooks lining the shelves, and muddy shoes by the door. The life cycle of a house sale is a momentous undertaking, personally, emotionally, financially, and professionally.

During my walkthrough my team and I make our first checklist of potential partners needed to bring a property to market, such as:

– Moving & Storage
– Estate Sale Manager
– Art Handler
– Yard work and landscaping
– Painting and handyman repairs
– Staging
– Cleaning
– Photography

The planning takes shape as the calls are made and emails sent to contractors, plumbers, attorneys, movers, handymen, and painters. How well their responses match up with the intended timeline of the client is a carefully orchestrated feat that, one can always try and hope, plays out nicely. A well-established broker with a loyal cadre of professionals streamlines this process dramatically!

Deadlines & Due Dates

As the days fly by, the home becomes a more neutral house as the markings of the seller disappear. Coveted family heirlooms, chandeliers, etc might be removed or replaced, and the paintings carefully wrapped, and favorite furnishings may be tagged for temporary storage. Boxes are labeled for the new house. Neat piles are arranged in the hallway: one for things to sell, another with things to donate, another for adult children to collect now “or else!”. The moving vans come and go. A clean palette emerges as the home readies itself for its next chapter.

A Fresh Coat

Presenting and highlighting the best characteristics of a home is something that I have learned to love over the years. A house might appear appealing from the outside, yet the current interiors make it difficult to market without some modern furnishings and paint. Selling is a matter of presentation, always highlighting the best features of a property, and a little paint goes a long way. While walls may appear the same color you think you painted them a decade ago, chances are, it’s faded and will look dingy to potential buyers who are seeing it for the first time.

Each time I pull into the drive, something new has happened. The lawn appears as pristine as a golf fairway with the hedges neatly trimmed and the flower beds carefully pruned. If it is spring or summer, new plantings add pops of color; if it is fall or winter, a neat stack of fireplace logs gives a sense of warmth and hospitality.

Within a week the rooms are fresh and airy, the kitchen appliances gleam, and the hardwood floors sparkle. Walking through the empty rooms, the time has come for staging.

Setting the Stage

With the floors swept and the lights all in working order, the home is ready for updated furnishings. Clearly, empty rooms are uninviting and unappealing, they feel vast and cold, but even just a few additions or edits to a sellers’ own furniture can dramatically enhance the marketability of the home. During these past few weeks my go-to staging company has been busy tweaking furniture layouts and arranging logistics. For me, staging is an absolute must. It gives me control over accentuating the great features of a home while maintaining a cohesive and uniform design.

Staging also lends an appropriate sense of scale. I can tell a potential owner that a California king bed will fit in the guest room, but unless they actually see it, it is hard to actually envision one. All savvy real estate agents have a tape measure handy to settle any size disputes that arise. During a walkthrough, a client will want to sit down for a moment and admire the view from a well-placed chair. Selling a home is about showing buyers where they will one day make their own memories.

The Close-Up

It is the day of the photoshoot. As expected, the house looks crisp and modern, yet still tasteful and appropriate to the style of architecture. The handsome fireplace mantel in the living room is beautifully accentuated by a sweeping mirror. Thick rugs and carefully chosen throw blankets soften any noise and add a layer of comfort.

With a one day turnaround, I am pleased with the photographs. The home itself is complete, ready for its debut, but now my attention turns to the checklist of marketing items to finish, all of which relied on the photographs:
– Website Updates
– Social Media Posts
– Video walkthrough reels
– Open House Save-the-Dates
– Printed Materials

Soon the house will be presented to the world!

The Elephant in the Room: IT’S THE PRICE!

Let’s be honest, no amount of white paint or new pansies will overcome overpricing. Period. The end. The best agent will always tell it like it is—both when it comes to the steps that need to be taken to prepare and de-personalize the home, and the listing price that will bring it the greatest attention. A common practice in the current marketplace is to marginally underprice a property, thereby ensuring a rapid process. As inevitably as water finds its level, the auction-style market of residential real estate sales will bring the best price at the terms which the seller finds most agreeable.

And Just Like That…

There is always a hope that the response is swift and exciting. In this case, the response was immediate: an offer made and accepted all within the first 12 hours. The house is a success on its first day! A hole-in-one! The buyers and sellers are all pleased.

There is a great pleasure in seeing a house sold in a day, knowing that the considerable effort and time invested was worth it. Yet, the next round of work is just beginning, as an accepted offer is still a long long way from the closing table. By the end of the day, I’ve started on my next checklist:
– Contracts Signed
– Deposit
– Loan Application
– Transfer Utilities
– Furniture Removal
– Final Walkthrough
– Closing

Selling a house in a day has the ring of a sales pitch, but the real work took place in the weeks, and even months, leading up to the big debut! Anyone can simply list a home —even a homeowner themselves—but “selling” is another thing altogether. It is an active pursuit, as much art as business, and working with a seasoned and proven professional will always bring you the greatest reward with the least amount of stress.

Julie Knows Greenwich

Team JGB at Compass 

Julie Grace Burke