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Preparing your home for sale

Toss, donate, store & keep it

"Neatness counts," our mothers told us. And when it comes to selling your home, Mom was right. Most home buyers are attracted to neat, orderly houses. In today's busy households, maintaining order can be a challenge. As you prepare to put your home on the market, consider that the effort that the family puts into cleaning and removing clutter will bring big economic returns.

Presenting your home

The way a family lives in a home is different from the way that home is presented for sale. When buyers walk in, they envision themselves living there. Buyers are purchasing a dream, an image of they way they would like to live. Clean, uncluttered homes look larger and brighter; also, they offer buyers an opportunity to visualize the property with their furniture and accessories.

Preparing your home for sale need not be difficult or expensive

Much of the weeding through possessions and packing what you're taking is work you were going to do anyway. By tackling these jobs before putting the house on the market rather than after the house is sold, you increase the salability of the property. Enlist all of the family members; let everyone participate the planning for the move.

Start with your stuff

Look at your possessions. Do you really want to move all of them? You're moving on! Weed through clothing to see what never gets worn and what's worn out. Hand-me-downs ready to be handed down? Are there shelves of unread books or stacks of National Geographic magazines? Are there games with missing pieces? While many of the possessions may have economic value, they may not have economic value to you. Perhaps they can be turned into cash by selling them at a garage sale. If you aren't interested in holding your own garage sale, hire a professional to do the job. Take more valuable items to a consignment store -- childrens' resale shops are a boon to parents. Alternatively, arrange for a charity to pick up what you don't want and take a tax deduction for fair market value.

Sorting, Phase Two

You've winnowed through your possessions. Now analyze what's left and box up items you won't need until you're settled in the new house. Armed with supply of cardboard boxes and a marking pen to label the boxes, you'll probably find that you can pack up about half of the things in your closets, on table tops and in toy baskets and bookshelves. Keep family photos to a minimum so that buyers picture themselves in your home. Ideally, you will store the boxes away from your house, perhaps at a neighbors' or in a rented storage facility. If need be, put them in the basement or garage. Better to have the garage full of boxes than the house cluttered.

Organize and straighten what's left

Learn from the retail trade: Have you noticed the impact of a well merchandised store? In the soft goods department, sheets and towels are neatly folded and grouped by kind. Clothing. too, is grouped, and hangers all face the same way. In the toy department, stuffed animals live together, as do Legos, toy trains and dolls. A handy way to store the stuffed animals is in a "hammock" in one corner of the child's room.

The nth degree: kitchen organization that includes "facing" labels:

like kind goods are put together and all labels face front. Don't forget medicine cabinets: buyers usually open them, so you may want to remove prescription medication and anything else you wouldn't want Joe Public to see. Baskets -- available at minimal cost and in a variety of styles and sizes -- are a handy way to store things.

It makes sense

The steps outlined above are much like sprucing up your car before selling it. To get the best price for the car, you'll wash it, clean out the trunk, vacuum up the Cheerios and wash off the smudges on the windows.

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