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Preparing Your Building for Sale

By John M. Hardin, vice president, office sales and leasing, CCIM

3125 Independence Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209

In today’s competitive commercial real estate market, it’s important to make the most of your building asset when preparing to sell. Investing in some minor improvements and paying close attention to details can increase the value of your building, set it apart and quickly attract potential buyers.

Below are some improvement options sellers may want to consider when preparing their building for sale.

Main Entrance

The front door is the entrance to a new opportunity for the buyer. It is important to keep the front door and the entrance area clean, clear and free of clutter to make it appear attractive and inviting.

Curb Appeal

Curb appeal and the view from the street is what brings the prospect to the front door, so always keep this in mind while you are preparing the building.


A fresh coat of light-colored paint can often take off years of a building’s appearance. If a new coat of paint doesn’t make economic sense, consider pressure washing the outside of the building and sidewalk to ensure the building is as polished as possible.


Restrooms are one sign of a building’s overall cleanliness, so it is important to make sure they are in tip top shape for prospective buyers. Use your current janitorial company or hire a cleaning company to regularly tend to the restrooms and ensure they are extremely clean for prospective buyers.

Exterior Windows

Thoroughly clean all of the exterior windows. This makes the building feel and look cleaner and boosts overall curb appeal.


It helps tremendously to clear out old shrubs, cut back tree limbs, mow, rake and edge. You can also add color to the building’s landscape area with seasonal plants and evergreen shrubs. Cleaning up  landscape not only makes the building more visible from the street, it also enhances the space so it will be noticed by those who pass by it regularly.

Building Signage

If you have a monument sign, cut back any landscape and bushes around it so it can also be seen well from the street. In addition, you might consider adding a coat of fresh paint or pressure washing the sign to make it look clean and new.

Interior Image

If you are still occupying the building, clear out half of your furniture and other belongings to visibly make room for the new owners. If you choose not to do this, consider clearing out all of the “unnecessary” items in the building to make it seem larger. If warranted, rent a storage unit for all of the items you removed. Replace the ceiling tiles where they have been stained by roof or air conditioning leaks. Purchasing inexpensive potted plants or foliage for the interior will also incorporate life and color in the space.

Lighting will make the space seem larger, so you should replace any burned out light bulbs throughout the building, including in closets and storage areas.


It is very important to keep the utilities on during the sale process, especially the electricity. No prospect likes to tour a very cold building in the winter or very hot building in the summer.


If there are roof issues, have them fixed prior to putting the building on the market. The roof is the one area of a building most buyers focus on and suspect could pose a problem in the future. Buyers usually want to know how old the roof is, so it is important to know the roof’s age and any roof warranty information prior to meeting with the prospect.

Operating Expense History

Create a spreadsheet showing the building’s expenses for the past two to three years. This will give the buyer an idea of anticipated building operating costs after the purchase.

On-going Cleaning and Landscape Maintenance

If the building is unoccupied, have a cleaning crew come at least once a month to clean the building while it is on the market. We find many of our clients cancel the janitorial and landscape maintenance service once they move out. This common mistake can bring down the value of the building and make it harder to sell.


It is important for a building owner to understand that the value of their building asset is reduced as soon as they move out. The building continues to drop in value the longer an owner is not occupying it. With that in mind, if you have made the decision to sell your building, it is best to put in on the market while you are still occupying it.

Parking Lot

It’s always best to keep the parking lot clean. If it is in your budget, you might consider re-surfacing and re-striping the parking lot. This is strictly a curb appeal matter, but it makes a significant difference and is less expensive than you may think.