First impressions matter a great deal in life – job interviews, first dates, and even when selling your home. A buyer’s first impression of a property can form in seconds while clicking through the online listing photos, and quickly change when attending an in-person showing to personally scope it out. To ensure that a home generates the best possible first impression, home sellers must take on the task of decluttering before their home ever hits the market. The task of organizing and packing up an entire house can seem daunting, but with the following four tips, sellers can conquer this critical step.

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Take it one room at a time.

Decluttering is much more palatable when tasks are broken up by room. For starters, give yourself adequate time to pack away personal belongings prior to listing photos being taken, as listing photos make or break a buyer’s interest in pursuing a home. Packing up is eventual and a given when you finally move out, so starting the arduous task prior to hiring a photographer and booking showings is advantageous to you, no matter where you are in the selling process.

To begin, I always recommend sellers remove all unnecessary small furniture pieces, personal belongings and decorations that cramp a room’s space, including small rugs. Rugs obscure a home’s flooring, and buyers will want to see every square inch of their future purchase. Stow away small trash cans, artificial plants (or as I call them, dust collectors) and wall décor such as personal photos. After decluttering, a room should only contain large furniture and bare basics for living. For bedrooms, it is OK to keep a bed, small nightstand and dresser in the room, but sellers should remove accessory items like desks, chairs and bookshelves. Rooms should appear spacious and without a seller’s personal items to help a prospective buyer envision how their belongings might be arranged.

Rent a storage unit or borrow space from someone else.

The decluttering process does not have to entail immediately sorting through belongings to purge. If making decisions about what items to get rid of is slowing the packing process, save it for later and instead prioritize the act of moving everything out of the house. Rent a climate-controlled storage space for the duration of time it takes for you to successfully sell and relocate to a new home.

Alternatively, sellers with minimal possessions or furniture pieces may want to ask a neighbor, friend or family member to store items at their residence until the transaction is complete. This approach is more cost-effective and works well for furniture that is easily disassembled or small enough to fit in another person’s garage, closet, attic or spare bedroom.

Clean out closets and storage.

Storage spaces like closets, cabinets and garages can be major selling points for buyers, as they will want to see a house’s capacity to hold items like out-of-season holiday decorations, shoes, clothing, sporting equipment, tools and keepsakes. Your home’s listing photos should capture every room and amenity of the home, so sellers should not rely on utilizing its storage to hide clutter. Clear shelves, clothing racks, cabinets and drawers before photos are taken, and keep these areas bare during home showings. Your master bedroom’s walk-in closet loses its luster when an interested buyer can only shuffle a few feet inside. It’s hard for people to see past junk, so get organized and let your home’s ‘skeleton’ speak for itself.

Keep it neat until it sells.

Don’t exhale and slack on upkeep after a showing or two – until it officially sells, your home should look just as good, if not better, than the day its listing photos were taken. Much like a dating app misadventure, it’s disappointing for a buyer to feel ‘catfished’ after initially viewing a home’s organized, clean listing photos online, only for their expectations to be subverted during the in-person home showing. I tell clients who stay in the home until it sells to ‘live light’, and clean appliances and surfaces after use to avoid being caught off-guard by a last-minute showing opportunity.

Lastly, prior to buyers visiting, track down the sources of any unpleasant smells, such as cigarette smoke, pet odors and strong artificial fragrances. Scent solutions might entail replacing old carpeting and washing walls, or simply ventilating rooms and scooping litterboxes more frequently.

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Author: Katy White is a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Fine Properties. RE/MAX Fine Properties is a locally owned and operated full-service real estate brokerage with offices across Arizona. To learn more, visit