Frugal Ideas To Help Your Home Sell

Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright 1909

We recently put our home on the market to sell. Man, do we have a lot to do to get the place in ship shape!  We have been busy for the past couple of weeks doing what we could to make the place look more appealing to a potential buyer.  Living there for so long we didn’t realize how much stuff we had and how many little things could be fixed.  I’d be lying to say we weren’t concerned about getting a good price in today’s market!

Our goal is to make our home look as clean, big, and attractive as possible without breaking the bank!  Fortunately there are many things we can do to help achieve this.

These are inexpensive ideas to help sell your home:

  • Paint (@MoneyMatters) – We hired someone to paint most of the place for us.  It wasn’t that expensive and it’s made the place look so much bigger and brighter!  We used light, neutral colors that would be appealing to most (our prior colors were great but too dark for most people’s tastes).  This could be done yourself to save more.  We just didn’t have the time to do it ourselves (and we got a great deal on a local painter).
  • Replace Light Fixtures – We replaced our dining room, bathroom, and the bedroom’s light fixtures.  We bought them at Home Depot and they weren’t that expensive.  Combined with the new paint job, the apartment looks much bigger than before.  Add to that we used fluorescent lights so we can tell prospective buyers that the light costs will be lower.
  • Remove Clutter (@nomorespending)- We’ve already removed all of our CD’s and their shelves as well as our books and bookshelf.  It’s really opened up the place (I have a LOT of CD’s).  Remove, give away, put in storage whatever you can.  Get down to the bare minimums to make the place look as big as possible and let a buyer step in and imagine it as theirs.  This will also help you when you move as you will have less to box and bring with you.
  • Clean Carpets/Wax Floors (@thepassivedad) – Renting a machine for the day to clean your carpets can be inexpensive.  Same is true for a floor buffer.  There’s also less expensive cleaners you can use that may require more elbow grease but can be as effective.  If you’re able add no base board molding.  Basically give a buyer the thought that they don’t have to do any work on the floors if they don’t want to!
  • Landscaping (@misformoney)- If you have a garden or lawn space do what you can to spruce it up and make it lively!  New plants don’t have to be expensive and can make the front of your home look much more inviting!
  • Take Great Pictures (@pffirewall) – Your home will most likely be online somewhere for sale and you will need photos of it.  Make sure the photos are good quality taken at the time of the day the light is the best.  Wait until you have everything ready and use a good camera.  If you have a friend who’s a photography buff ask him to come over and take a few shots for you.  You want big and clean!  I’ve seen people post photos of cluttered rooms that make me instantly go to the next listing on the site.
  • Re-Grout Wall and Floor Tiles – This sounds like more work than it really is.  I’ve discovered it takes some elbow grease but doesn’t cost too much.  And new grout will make your tiles look almost new again.  Go ahead and take a close look at how dingy they may be…  I’ve been slowly re-working the tiles in our bathroom!
  • Replace Old Sinks, Cabinets, Faucets – You can go crazy replacing these items and spend thousands for sure.  But sometimes if yours are beat up and old an inexpensive replacement will look much better than what you have.  New usually equals clean and that helps a buyer!
  • Replace Outlet Covers and Light Switch Covers – Over the years these can get beat up and dirty.  But they cost little to replace.  Put these in after you have painted to keep them clean.
  • De-Personalize Your Home – Put away all of your photos and pictures.  You can leave a few up to display but you want a buyer to walk in and imagine the place as theirs.  Seeing your face all over doesn’t help that.  It also helps remove the clutter too!
  • Read Magazines/Watch TV (@nodebtplan)- No, I’m not saying you should sit around and be lazy.  What you can do is look at what homes look like in advertisements and shows.  There are also plenty of home shows on TV these days to give you ideas as well.  You can get a good idea of what a model home should look like.
  • We Need More Light! – When you are showing the home turn on the lights to make the place look bigger even if it’s during the day!
  • Bake Before a Showing – This one is a bit cliche but you would be amazed how well it works!  We had friends over and one was helping me install a new dining room light.  At the same time my wife happened to be baking a cake.  It smelled amazing and really made the place feel “home”-ey. (And really how much do those instant bake cookies cost?)
  • Build a Website – A friend mentioned that when he was selling his Manahttan apartment he put up a quick website with some pictures and contact forms. Six months hosting isn’t very expensive and a lot of hosting companies will give you a free domain name and web site kit.  He ended up selling the place himself!  You can also list your home on Craiglist.
  • Clean, Scrub, Sweep, Repeat – Clean like a madman.  Then go do it again.  Then ask a neighbor or friend to point out what still seems dingy and hit the cleaners again.  Make the place sparkle!  The cleaner the better.  A clean place tells a buyer that you take care of the home (and it makes it look great).
  • Empty Those Closets – As best you can clean out the closets.  Again, live with the bare minimum that you need and get those closets looking as big as possible.  Buyers will want to see how much of their stuff they can put in them not how much of yours!
  • Visit Other Homes In Your Area – Take an afernoon and go visit the open houses in your area.  See what their homes look like and what they offer and the price they ask.  If you see a similar place as yours take note; this is your competition and you want your place to look better!  Is it cleaner? Newer?  You may be surprised to find out it won’t take much to make your place look nicer.
  • Replace the Toilet Seat – Seriously!  People will notice that it’s sparkling clean which will get you big points.  Either they don’t need to get a new one themselves or they believe you keep things super-clean, you win.

Yes, it takes some work on your part to do these things. But if it will help you sell then it will more than pay off!!  A couple of years ago you might have had a bidding war for a home that wasn’t all done up.  But in today’s economy you have to put your best foot forward just to get the sale!  Don’t let something small keep a buyer from wanting your place.

Any other ideas?

Creative Commons License photo credit: mach3

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Published or updated August 21, 2016.


  1. Miranda says:

    You are brave to try and sell in this market! At any rate, good luck. These are some great ideas that can help your home look more attractive to potential buyers.

    Miranda’s last blog post..Will You Be Able to Afford a Student Loan?

    • Glen Craig says:

      @ Miranda – That’s why we have to do what we can to improve our chances at selling! Besides, it’s also a great market to buy if your finances are in order. We may not get a chance to buy a home at these prices a few years from now. And we have the fact that we’re in NYC which still has some demand left which helps.

      @ Mr Plastectomy – We’ve already removed a lot of our family pictures! We’re trying to de-personalize it as much as possible. It is a lot of work getting things in order but if we can sell in our asking range then it will all be worth it.

      @ JC – I think we’re going to pick up a few indoor plants. We’re also going to put some little trinkets like a vase with q-tips out as little accessories. As for our impending little one, if we can get a new place before the due date then that would be great but we’d be happy to just be finishing up the selling part. We live in a co-op so a buyer needs to get approved by the board on top of all other things. Wish us luck!

      @ CC – Sounds like a good tip. Not sure if we can start messing with how the closet is organized but maybe an attractive basket or such could help make the place less cluttered (was actually thinking something like that for our computer desk).

      @ Emily – Thanks! Might have to stop by your site more often for some home ideas!

  2. Mr Plasectomy says:

    You could spend a small fortune on trying to sell a home. It is amazing how complacent you can become with your home when you have lived there for a few years. Small dings in walls, unfinished projects, torn rug, chipping paint all things that my wife and I have said we would fix later. Like you we are thinking of selling our home, but man looking around and seeing everything needs to be done makes my head spin. The lack of time with 3 small children it may be awhile.

    One our great tip I would suggest is to remove your family photos on the walls, countertops, and anywhere visible. Potential buyers generally do not want to see how your life is in the home, but rather they want to envision theirs.

    Good luck in selling and I hope your market is better than many of the others around the country.

    Mr Plasectomy’s last blog post..It feels WEIRD!

  3. Mr Plasectomy says:

    Whoops, the post above should say

    “One other great tip I would suggest…”

    Mr Plasectomy’s last blog post..It feels WEIRD!

  4. Wow! Great list FFB! I remember when a friend’s parents were selling their home. She got some inexpensive plants to make the place look brighter and full of life. I think it would also help the air quality. I think fresh flowers before showing would probably be a nice touch, too. Although now you have me in the mood to bake.

    BTW, congrats on the new addition! Are you hoping to be moved before you’re a family of 5?

    JC’s last blog post..What’s your tipping policy?

  5. anther tip is to go to an organization store and get a few things that are inexpensive and attract buyers (ie: closet organization system, kitchen cabinet sliding baskets, etc.) It will make the house look less cluttered, organized and easy to use and move right into

    ColombianCoffee’s last blog post..Marriage and Money

  6. I had a reply typed to you on twitter yesterday but must’ve gotten distracted before it sent. This is a great list. Thanks for linking to my pretty bathrooms post 🙂

  7. Emily@remodelingthislife says:

    And, of course, good luck with selling your house!

  8. Paint has to be the best and cheapest way to really spruce up any room. It can easily make a house look newer. I have stumbledupon the home and gardening channel before where they’ve had episodes like this and your tips are dead on.

  9. Absolutely! Other ideas my parents have tried:

    -Storing extra junk with family, temporarily, to free up more space.

    – Putting fresh flowers/potted plants in the bathrooms and kitchen

    I definitely agree that it’s worthwhile to have a friend come by and really be critical (in a helpful way!).

    Good luck!

    • Glen Craig says:

      @ Kacie – It’s so good to have fresh eyes look at the home. It’s easy to be blind to the actual condition of the place after living there for so long.

  10. Good stuff. We are looking to sell our home but I have to wonder why I didn’t do all of those things you listed up there while I lived in the house. 🙂 It would have been a much more pleasant place to live.

    • Glen Craig says:

      @ Karen – Funny thing is the place looks great now. So much space and so cleaned up. We should have done a massive purge a long time ago! We do get rid of things a few times a year but now that we are selling we’ve really taken the effort to remove those things we don’t need. Makes me think that in a new house we have to remember this and keep vigilant to make the place clutter-free.

      @ Jill – You are correct in that! I’m sure in some areas of the country real estate has really dried up. One thing we have in our favor is we’re in NYC, though demand has gone down, there are still a lot of people looking to buy. We still have to put out best effort out there to attract a buyer. We don’t expect to sell quickly. If it happens then great but if not we’re ok with. We’ve also left some wiggle room in our price that we can lower it if there are no bites.

  11. As a former realtor, these are great suggestions. However there’s really only one thing you can do after you get your home looking like a magazine: price it right. Nothing else even comes close to predicting a sale.

    We’ve had our condo on the market one month with exactly one showing. It’s professionally video’d, photographed, staged, priced lower than the realtor is comfortable with (and we’ve lowered it since then), one year old with all new professionally decorated everything, and you know what? If there are no buyers, there are no buyers!

  12. Good luck selling your home FFB 🙂

  13. Great note about removing personal photos. When we were looking at homes, I recall being kind of weirded out by photos, like I was invading their privacy even though they were out in full view. Removing photos takes away that whole voyeurism guilt.

    • Glen Craig says:

      @ Tim – Never thought of it that way but I guess it’s true. Other people’s photos keep you from thinking the place could be yours.

  14. The baking idea works great! If no one in the house is a baker do this- put some vanilla in a pan and put it in the oven before showing. Same effect and little mess! Cheers, good luck on the sale FFB.

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