Plan on spending at least two weeks preparing your property before placing it on the market. Making a bad initial impression to a potential buyer will kill the sale every time. To start - get an outside opinion of your home. A good real estate agent is an excellent source of advice. If you ask a friend, neighbor or family member, chances are that they will have the same blind spots as you do. Worse yet, they could sugarcoat the truth to spare your feelings.

Your real estate agent will look at your house with a fresh pair of eyes, spotting the flaws you no longer notice. As a real estate professional they know what sells. They will look at your house the way the buyer will and be able to offer tips on preparing your home with great buying appeal.

Here are a few M. Newhouse Realty, Inc. prepping tips:

The Curb Appeal : Most buyers drive by the property listed before inquiring. First impressions are hard to shake. If the prospective home buyer doesn't like the house from the outside, they won't inquire at all. To get them past the front door you need to add some curb appeal. Curb appeal is key.

Here are some great exterior enhancement tips:

Painting: Painting the exterior of your home will give you the biggest "wow" for your money. Stay with a color that blends well with the rest of the neighborhood. Now is not the time to try that wild fuscia color that you saw in Homes & Gardens. Stick with neutral colors - white, light gray, soft tans, etc. If your house doesn't need a complete paint job, at least touch up the front door, window frames, front shutters, gutters and mailbox.

Lawn: The quickest fix for a well-maintained appearance is a freshly mowed and neatly trimmed lawn. Make your grass look extra lush by fertilizing it in the appropriate season. Don't leave anything out in the yard to take away from this effect- i.e. put away toys, gardening tools, lawn equipment, etc.

Shrubbery & Flowers: Add a little color and charm...the inexpensive way. Fill your flower beds and replace dying trees and/or shrubs with new ones. This is a sure fire way to brighten up your home and give it more curb appeal.

Sidewalks: Sweep your driveway and sidewalks daily. Besides having a clean appearance, you will avoid potential buyer accidents such as slipping on an icy driveway.

Sparkling Windows: Make sure to clear all your windows of cobwebs and fingerprints. Curious buyers will peak through windows when you are not home.

Repairs: Missing roof shingles, driveway cracks,oil stains, broken windows & stairs, torn window screens, broken fences, defective doorknobs, etc - These are all fixes that should be made for maximum curb appeal.

Quick... hide the clutter! Eliminate or hide any excess clutter. Especially garage clutter... A clutter free garage looks bigger and more impressive (and ready to fill!) A trusted neighbor is an excellent source of extra storage during this marketing process. Keep the front of your home free of toys, gardening tools and automobiles. Remember, you want them to envision living there with their belongings. Having your stuff lying out will only hinder the buyer's imagination... and interest.

Interior Selling

Bottom line: Curb appeal attracts, interior features sell. So clean up, clear out and make minor cosmetic improvements. Here are a few tips:

Clean up! Before you put your house on the market, do a thorough cleaning of your home. Do you remember those apartment days? If you wanted to get your full deposit back you better make it look like new. The difference - you will be getting a lot more than a few hundred dollars back. So pull out those rubber gloves- it's time to do some serious home cleaning. Clean, scrub and polish everything- appliances, bathrooms, floors, walls, sinks, etc. Buyers are very meticulous and pay close attention to detail. Don't just throw it in the closet - they will look there too. Put as much personal memorabilia out of sight. Remember, less is more. Buyers walk through your home envisioning placement of their own furniture and collectibles.

Make sure that the house smells pleasant and inviting. Discard any bad smells like cigarettes or uncleaned kitty litter boxes. As the homeowner, you will probably not notice these smells on your own. Get a trusted second opinion. Nothing will deter a buyer faster than a smelly house. Use an air freshener or potpourri to keep your house odor free. If you want to accent your home with inviting scents, try fresh flowers, scented air freshener, or baked goodies.

Additional things to keep in mind are temperature and light. Make sure that your house is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. People have no patience in viewing a home if they are uncomfortable. Open all the windows and let the sunlight it. A well-lit house appears more spacious and inviting. If there is not enough sunlight make sure that each room is well lit - turn on all of your lights, even closet lights. The last thing you want is a buyer groping around for a light switch.

Major Repairs

You may have been told that it is best to repair everything before selling. However, there is no need to spend big bucks on major improvements. Let the buyer know that it needs to be fixed and give a credit in escrow to cover the repair cost. This way they can have their own contractor do the repairs their way and if the buyer has problems down the road you are not to blame. To prepare, get several quotes from contractors in your area on the repair so that you don't get totally snowed by the buyer's bid.