"Curb appeal." They say you can only make one "first impression," and people usually form their first impression within 30 seconds. What potential buyers see when they drive up to your house will be their first impression. This is a good place to spend a little extra time and money. Plant flowers, trim bushes, weed, pick up leaves, repaint your front door, replace tarnished house numbers or a dented mailbox, get a brand-new neutral doormat, park your old car somewhere else.
The entrance. The first glimpse inside your home should give potential buyers positive, uplifting feelings. Make your entryway as light and bright as possible. Leave all the lights in the house on. (Have you noticed that model homes do this?) Get rid of all area rugs. (Even authentic, high-quality carpets should normally be removed since they break up the expanse of floor space, making rooms look smaller.) Limit your cooking to very plain foods so odors don't linger. (No cabbage, garlic, or onions!) On the other hand, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie smells are just fine! (They evoke a homey feeling for almost everyone.)
Kitchen. Kitchens sell homes, so the importance of making your kitchen appealing can't be underestimated. Clean and de-clutter! Anything taking up counter or floor space must go (the only exception would be the types of designer touches seen in model homes). Anything displayed on the refrigerator must go. If your cabinets are old, consider resurfacing them. If your counter knobs are old or out-of-date, replacing them can be a relatively inexpensive "facelift." Get a woodtone touchup stick from your home supply store and fill in any nicks and scratches. Shelves and pantries must appear orderly and very spacious. Put those extra items in your newly rented storage unit or give them away!
Bathrooms. Again, clean and de-clutter! You absolutely must get rid of any mildew/mold. If you have a glass shower door, squeegee it after every shower. A mold-and-mildew remover and a soap scum remover can work wonders. Glass cleaning products do a good job of cleaning windows and mirrors (but be careful if you have brass fixtures since ammonia will cause these to pit). Do not display any personal toiletry items! Remove all deodorant, mouthwash, electric toothbrushes, etc. and put them in your cabinet. (Model homes never, ever display such items!) Pick up all bath mats/rugs. Keep your soap dishes pristine. If you have bars of hand soap, they should look new. Get a new set of high-quality, neutral, fluffy towels and display them. (Model homes always do this!)
Rest of the House. Clean, repair, de-clutter, and de-personalize! You're going for that Executive but neutral look, since almost everyone can "see themselves" in a home like that.
Remove those knickknacks!
Remove enough items from your closet so you can hang a garment without touching the garment next to it - - this could be difficult. (Extra and out-of-season clothes go to your newly rented storage unit.)
Remove area rugs
Remove throw blankets
Remove throw pillows (or replace with "designer" pillows)
If your houseplants are anemic, remove them. Replace with high-quality silk plants or healthy houseplants in brass, wicker, or plain ceramic containers.
Take a hard look at your carpets. Are they stained or worn? Replacing carpets is often an excellent investment because it gives your home that "new" look that everyone wants. (Buyers have notoriously poor imaginations, so replacing existing carpet with neutral carpet is usually a much better idea than offering a "carpet allowance.")
Leave all the lights on (No burned-out lightbulbs!)
Keep wastebaskets empty
If possible, send your pets to stay with family or friends. As much as we love our pets, they can be a major negative distraction to potential buyers.
Leave your home before potential buyers arrive