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How to prepare your house for sale at short notice

By Emma Smith

Article written by MEGAN BLANDFORD from Domain

Preparing your house for sale seems manageable if you have lots of time up your sleeve. But what if it’s a rush?

When I asked a real estate agent to sell my house quickly, I didn’t quite expect the whirlwind pace that ensued. Sitting in my home on a Thursday afternoon, the agent said he could have potential buyers in on the Saturday. My husband and I had less than 48 hours to get the house ready.

Although this made for a big day-and-a-half, it’s possible for such a situation to work well. “The more time you have, the more you can procrastinate, so a short timeframe can be beneficial and motivating,” explains Kylie Harding from Styled to Sell.

Here’s how we handled the rush – and how the experts advise you could do the same:

Make ALL the lists

I’m a list-maker from way back, so the first thing I did was write down the things we needed to focus on.

This idea gets a tick from the professionals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so break your tasks into smaller chunks. “Have a plan of what needs doing, write and down and then physically do the work,” says Harding. This includes prioritising: if you’re preparing the house for photos, then you can store things in a room that won’t be photographed and then sort it out before people come through the home.

Leave no trace

The more effortless a home looks, the more appealing it can be to buyers. For example, our agent suggested we invest a big chunk of our short timeframe into cleaning the roof gutters and pulling weeds, as he didn’t want people considering all the work it takes to live in that tree-laden area.

While we took his advice, we also decided to spruce up the verandahs which had faded over time, giving the timber a quick stain. This isn’t ideal, as it turns out; it made the whole place smell. Things like painting should be avoided, suggests Harding, unless you can use a low-odour paint. If it’s too obvious that you’ve just painted, she says, “can make it look like you’re trying to cover things up”.

Edit and declutter

One of the most important steps in preparing for sale is to declutter, and for me this was focused on the one room in our house where everything got thrown. (We all have one of those, right?)

“Get out everything that you don’t think is necessary,” advises Harding. This includes furniture, decorations and ornaments, and additional things stored around your property. For the latter, Harding suggests, “put additional things in your garage or ask your neighbours if they have extra room in their garage, and perhaps friends and family could store some boxes for you.”

At this stage, don’t worry about boxing things up for your actual move. Instead, it’s about quickly creating space in the home; you can always go through it all more thoroughly during the settlement period. This helps to create a fresh look and allows potential buyers to feel a sense of flow around the house and garden.


It’s time to face the fact that you can’t do everything yourself in a short time. Outsource the things that others could do, so that you can focus on the tasks you’re needed for. While my husband and I did all the work ourselves to prepare our house for sale, we did outsource our children for the day – everyone knows it’s impossible to clean and declutter with little mess-makers under your feet!

Cleaning is particularly important and should be a major focus, as it can make a big difference in photos and first impressions, and this is easily outsourced. You could call in a professional or even ask friends and family to help you out, with a good old-fashioned working bee often an effective way to get many hands to work both inside and outside.

If you have a short timeframe that’s over a day, you might like more professional help. “Someone like me can get a painter in within a day, or clean windows while you’re packing up some bits and pieces,” says sale stylist Harding.

Cross your fingers

When it all comes down to it, once you’ve put the effort in you just cross your fingers and hope for the best. “What you put in is what you get out of it,” says Harding. “They’ll be long days but it’s well worth it.”

This was absolutely true in my case. From our initial meeting with the agent on the Thursday and the first open for inspection on the Saturday, our house was sold by the Monday. We may have followed some pieces of advice and digressed from others, but it all worked out in the end.

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