Making an example of myself: What matters when preparing your home for sale.

We have had a flurry of clients recently who, in anticipation of their listing “coming out” party, have recognized the need to do a little preparatory sprucing up. And one of the most frequent questions we get from selling clients is, “What things should I do to maximize my sale price?”

Good question, that one. After all, that’s our job — to help our selling clients see the greatest return on their sale. And the idea of preparing a home for sale is to make it as attractive as possible to potential buyers without making the staging process a losing proposition. In other words, you want to spend money on only those things that will result in an equal or greater return – and, in more extreme cases, those things that, left undone, will keep your home from selling at all.

On that note, and in the spirit of transparency, I thought it would be fun to make an example of myself and my own digs. I’m not selling (which is a good thing, since the deferred maintenance at Chez Berg makes the Parthenon look like new construction), but if I was, here is my personal list of highest priorities.

Who killed my grass?

Bad Grass

In my case, the culprit is one very dumb yet lovable golden retriever. Try as we might to impress upon Simon that he has a designated “area,” he does what he does wherever he wants to do it. If I had a few weeks before the photographer was scheduled to show up, a large U-Haul full of grass seed would do the trick. If my listing were a more urgent matter, however, I would be calling 1-800-ResodMe.

Just pick a color, already!

Bad Paint

We need to repaint. At the 10-year mark, it’s time. And, knowing this, I boldly tested a few warm candidate colors on random walls throughout my home – in 2009. I did this hoping that walking past the inkblot test every day would be the inspiration I needed to get with the program. Alas, my walls with acne are now an ever-present testament to my inability to make a decision. If I were planning to sell, I would need to make this little objection go away and fast. As it stands, we just don’t entertain, at least not anyone with a pretty home or better than 20-60 vision.

I think that was my great-grandmother.

The personal photos would have to go. It’s a distraction. I don’t notice them when showing homes, but then I’m a trained professional. Buyers do, and they tend to spend more time discussing the seller’s gene pool than they do the special features of the home itself.


This particular piece depicts five people I am somehow related to. I think I know who they are, but I am not 100% positive. In any event, I do know that they do not look happy (probably because they are dead), and I do know that they will be scowling at the rear wall of my garage the minute I decide to start showing my home.

She made the Dean’s List!

And the other one got A’s. And here is a recipe for something we made three months ago and didn’t even like. Time to clear the treasures from the refrigerator, because the buyers don’t care. While I am at it, I need to dispense with the “junk pile.” There is a charming and quite utilitarian desk under there, beneath the candy, the senior photos, the Frazee paint colors paddle, the Dave and Busters shot glass (unused because it doesn’t hold enough) and, of course, the wind-up royal family.


Who changed their oil in my hallway?

Carpeting, even the finest carpeting, does not live forever. I know, because I have tested the theory. Downstairs, the carpeting is newer, so a cleaning should do the trick. (Try as I did to choose a color that matched the dog, Simon’s favorite resting spots look like a police crime scene with his outline carefully preserved for investigators.) Upstairs is another story. Thanks to two children (Note to parents: Always blame the kids), only a blowtorch will restore this area to its former glory.

We’ve been meaning to fix that!

In fact, we’ve been meaning to fix that since the Clinton administration. In our case, “that” is the leaking faucet in the laundry room, the broken blinds in our bedroom, the chunk of grout that fell off the guest bath sink the day we closed escrow in May (of 2000), the mangled window screen from the time I locked Steve out on the second floor balcony before heading out to an appointment, and, well, you get the idea. That last one, by the way, was an accident, and I am sticking to my story. But the point is that if you can see it, they can see it, which will leave the buyer wondering what it is that they can’t see.

My housecleaner comes once a week.

The problem here, aside from the fact that she really doesn’t clean anything, is that my house cleaner is not 20 feet tall. And a casual glance toward the far reaches of my dramatic, vaulted ceilings will reveal a chapter from Charlotte’s Web. As nonthreatening as my webs are, taken independently, they are collectively suitable as a backdrop for the remake of Amityville Horrors. If that isn’t scary enough, these cobwebs presumably come with very industrious spiders that convey. Fortunately, the painter has a big ladder. When I summon him, I will add this to his scope of work.

Not Funny Bear! He’s special!

Clutter is typically the biggest demon to exorcise. We all have it. Clutter screams “Not enough space here!” My own clutter screams in expletives.  And it’s not that my home is not big enough; it’s just that it’s not big enough to hold all of the unnecessary, non-essential crap I have amassed over the years.

I started the de-cluttering process most recently with Daughter #2’s room in honor of her impending departure to the halls of higher learning in pursuit of a degree in something to be named later. (See “Always blame the children” above.) As a result of this particular “trash out,” I am told that Hefty had to double production of those big, black bags usually reserved for gardeners and landfill operators. And what I found would have sent the most plucky of deal-seeking would-be buyers running for the next, more manageable fixer opportunity.

Sure, each of the eighteen years of her rich and full life was chronicled under her bed – and behind the dresser, and in the closet. Kids do that stuff. But we “big people” fall victim to collectable tendencies too. While sifting through the rubbish and to my own sentimental delight, I encountered Funny Bear.


Funny Bear got his name because he used to reside atop an armoire above the changing table. He provided an essential diaper-changing distraction for both girls. He made them giggle. Here is the scary part.

Funny Bear was born at the San Diego State University Book Store. For some twisted reason, I thought he would look whimsical in my dorm room. That was in 1977, making this stuffed treasure, the one with the hang tag warning to “surface wash only,” 33 years old. And for the record, I don’t recall ever even attempting to wash the adorable plush pal who now channels Bob Marley, on the surface or otherwise, which makes me fear that the nice folks from the Center for Infectious Diseases may storm my house if word gets out. It’s time for Funny Bear to take a road trip.

In summary, if you are planning on selling your home, leave yourself some time to get your house in order. Ask your agent for advice on the things that need to be done. Their own house may be a hovel, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know better.  It just means they have children.

Get your Instant Home Value…