How to Get Your House Ready to Sell: A Complete Checklist


|13 min read

Are you preparing to sell your house? 

Selling a house involves more than simply putting up a “For Sale” sign or sharing photos online. You need smart planning and preparation to get the best sale price. 

Our step-by-step checklist will instruct you on how to get your house ready for sale. Whether aiming for a quick sale or maximizing profits, these practical tips and actionable advice will help you achieve your goals.

Understanding the Local Housing Market

Before listing your home, you need to know your local housing market. Understanding your market will help you set expectations and decide the right price to effectively attracts buyers.

Start by reviewing recent sale trends and median sale prices. Local real estate agents often publish hyper-local market updates that can be informative. Analyze recently sold properties in your neighborhood. Look for comparable properties in size, condition, and location to get an idea of their selling prices.

Next, research seasonal trends. The real estate market is influenced by factors such as weather, school calendars, and economic conditions. This data allows you to strategically time your listing to maximize its exposure. It’s important to choose the right time to sell your home.

Keep in mind that the market value of your home is determined by what buyers are willing to pay in today’s market rather than just construction costs or sentimental value. If you recently invested in renovations and updates, that can raise your sale price, but it doesn’t guarantee you will get a return on your investment.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

Selling a home may seem challenging, but when you team up with a real estate agent, you’ll have an expert advisor to guide you through the entire process.

Start your search with FastExpert to compare experienced top local real estate agents and read verified reviews from past clients.

Consider interviewing real estate agents before making a decision. This allows you to assess their knowledge and expertise.

During the interview, consider the following factors:

1. Network

An experienced real estate agent’s vast network of contacts, including potential buyers and industry professionals, enhances your chances of finding qualified buyers quickly.

2. Negotiation Skills

Selling a house involves negotiation, and a skilled real estate agent knows how to advocate for your best interests. They are trained in negotiating sales terms, handling counteroffers, and ensuring you get a fair deal.

3. Marketing Strategy

A successful sale relies on effective marketing strategies. A good real estate agent will have a well-defined plan to effectively market your property, utilizing various channels to attract potential buyers. Ask them if they engage a professional photographer, if they use staging, and what kind of marketing materials they use.

Choosing the right real estate agent is an investment in the success of your home selling journey.

Depersonalizing Your Space

When preparing your house for sale, create a neutral and inviting environment that allows potential buyers to envision themselves living there. 

1. Remove Family Photos

While your family photos hold sentimental value, they can be distracting to potential buyers.

You want your buyers to be able to envision themselves living in the house and not as guests. It’s easier to picture living in a space if the current inhabitant’s personal photos are not present.

2. Minimize Personal Items

Short sale fraud involves situations where a financially struggling homeowner gets lender approval to sell their home for less than the mortgage during a real estate downturn.

Fraud would be suspected if a family member were to step in and purchase the property at a low price, resulting in a loss for the lender.

3. Neutralize Color Schemes

Bold or unconventional decor choices may not appeal to everyone and can be distracting to buyers.

Consider toning down bright paint colors, loud wallpaper patterns, or unique design elements. Opting for a more neutral palette will help attract a broader range of buyers. This process might be as simple as swapping out your linens.

Depersonalizing your space creates a blank canvas that allows buyers to picture themselves living in your home and helps them form an emotional connection with the property. Emotional connections motivate buyers to submit more competitive offers.

>>DISCOVER: Why Isn’t My Home Selling?

Deep Cleaning and Decluttering

When you’re getting a house ready to sell, you must prioritize cleanliness. And don’t just focus on the main living areas alone. Pay special attention to often overlooked spaces like the garage, attic, closets, or basement. Buyers will look everywhere, and you want to anticipate and resolve any potential objections.

A clean and clutter-free home makes a positive first impression on potential buyers. Furthermore, clutter can make rooms feel smaller than they actually are, so by removing items, you’re helping your space appear larger. 

Declutter and organize your belongings to create an impression of spaciousness that attracts buyers.

Deep Clean Overlooked Areas

Cleaning is a part of regular home maintenance. However, there any many areas that often get overlooked. These include spaces like the garage, attic, basement, shed, or closets.

But also consider smaller spaces like kitchen cabinets, kitchen drawers, bathroom drawers, and other storage spaces. These can often go years without being properly cleaned and, with a little elbow grease, can appear good as new. You’ll be surprised by what buyers will take note of.

If you have excessive furniture or personal items that contribute to clutter, consider temporarily storing them in a rented storage unit during the sale process.

Give these spaces a thorough deep clean and declutter them to showcase their full potential as functional and usable spaces. As a result, buyers are able to see each room’s full potential without feeling crowded by possessions.

Repair and Maintenance

Deferred maintenance and obvious items in need of repair will impact buyer interest and your selling price. Don’t let small projects cost you thousands in your achieved sale price.

Address both minor repairs and major maintenance tasks to keep your house in top shape.

Here are some key areas to address before listing:

  • Minor repairs like squeaky doors, leaky faucets, loose cabinet handles, and cracked tiles.
  • Major repairs such as a leaking roof, faulty electrical wiring, or plumbing problems.
  • Deferred maintenance such as clogged drains or gutters, air filters, or gardening.
  • Broken appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens, or HVAC systems.
  • Cracked windows or gaps.

Home Improvements and Upgrades

Strategic home improvements and upgrades can help you maximize the resale value of your house. However, it’s important not to over-invest as you may not get the return on your investment that you are looking for.

Here are some suggestions to help you get more money for your home:

1. Remodel Kitchens or Bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms are key selling points for many buyers. Consider updating outdated fixtures, cabinets, countertops, or appliances in these areas to give them a fresh and modern look. This can significantly enhance the overall appeal of your house.

2. Finish Unfinished Spaces

If you have an unfinished basement or attic, don’t let these go to waste. Adding new rooms or creating a versatile area within these areas, such as a playroom, home office, or guest room, not only adds valuable square footage but also enhances the functionality of your home.

3. Update Flooring

Flooring is another aspect of your house that can greatly impact its perceived value. Consider replacing worn-out carpets with hardwood flooring or installing new tiles in high-traffic areas. Changing or adding new flooring enhances aesthetics and provides durability and ease of maintenance.

4. A Fresh Coat of Paint

You’d be surprised by how much fresh paint can impact a space. It can make it feel cleaner, brighter, and more modern.

Before embarking on any major renovation project, research local market trends to determine which improvements offer the highest return on investment in your area. Additionally, a real estate professional can guide you on the right home upgrades.

While home improvements can increase resale value, balancing costs with potential returns is important.

Staging Your Home for Potential Buyers

Staging your home helps a potential buyer envision themself in the space. Through considerate staging, you create a visually appealing and inviting atmosphere.

According to the NAR, staging can add 5-14% to a home’s sale price.

Professional Staging vs. DIY

When selling a home, you can choose professional staging or a DIY approach. Professional staging offers expertise and access to quality furnishings, creating an inviting atmosphere for buyers.

DIY staging is more cost-effective and allows for personalization. Consider your needs and budget to decide which option is best for maximizing your home’s appeal in the market.

Furniture Placement

Proper furniture placement helps create flow and highlights the functionality of each room. 

Arrange furniture in a way that maximizes space and allows for easy movement throughout the house. Remove excessive furniture or oversized pieces that can make rooms appear cramped.

Neutralize Decor

Opting for neutral decor choices when staging is best, as it appeals to a broader audience. Consider how you can brighten a room through color choices. This enables potential buyers to envision their own style and belongings within the space without being distracted by personal preferences or bold design statements.

Staging is not about completely transforming your home but rather enhancing its best features and creating an inviting ambiance that resonates with potential buyers.

Curb Appeal: First Impressions Matter

The first thing buyers notice is your house’s curb appeal. Captivating can creative curb appeal can sell your home.

A positive and inviting exterior significantly impacts their overall impression of your home.

Here are some key aspects to focus on:

  • Landscaping: Keep your lawn well-groomed and tidy by mowing regularly, removing weeds, and trimming overgrown shrubs or trees. Add colorful flowers or plants to flower beds or pots to add vibrancy and visual interest.
  • Exterior Paint: A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for the appearance of your home. Paint the exterior walls, trim, and front door if they show signs of wear or fading. Choose colors that complement the style of your house to create an appealing look.
  • Front Door Refurbishing: Your front door serves as a focal point for curb appeal. Give it a thorough cleaning, repair any damage, and consider repainting or refinishing it for a fresh and inviting look. Don’t forget to polish the door knob or replace it if necessary.
  • Maintaining Neat Lawns and Gardens: Keep your lawns well-maintained by regularly cutting grass, raking leaves, and removing debris to improve curb appeal. Ensure that pathways are clean and free from obstructions. 

Professional Photography for Your Listing

Make a great first impression online by having a scroll-stopping listing. You want to make sure you have the perfect real estate listing photos.

Professional photography is not just a luxury but a strategic move that helps you attract more buyers and sell your home faster and at a higher price.

Virtual Tours and Drone Footage

Virtual tours and drone footage have taken the spotlight in real estate.

They provide an immersive experience for potential buyers, allowing them to virtually explore your property from the comfort of their own homes. 

Professional Lighting and Composition

Professional photographers have the expertise to use appropriate lighting techniques to highlight your home’s best features. They understand how to properly compose each shot, capturing the right angles and perspectives that make your property visually appealing.

Improve Online Presence

Listings with professional photos tend to receive more views and generate increased interest compared to those with amateur or low-quality images. Nobody likes a blurred image!

Investing in professional photography helps your online listing stand out from the competition, enticing potential buyers and generating more inquiries.

It creates a visual representation of your home that accurately reflects its true beauty and increases the likelihood of attracting serious buyers.

Pricing Your Home Right

Don’t overprice, but don’t underprice. Find the sweet spot that attracts buyers while maximizing your return on investment. 

Comparative Market Analysis

At the beginning of the selling process, real estate agents conduct a  comparative market analysis (CMA) to estimate your home’s market value and determine a competitive listing price.

If you have made significant upgrades or renovations to your home, it’s important to factor these improvements into the home appraisal process.

Highlighting the added value these improvements bring justifies a higher listing price.

Pricing is dynamic and may need adjustments based on market conditions and buyer feedback. Stay open-minded during negotiations while ensuring that you prioritize achieving a fair selling price based on the estimated payoff amount and market conditions.

Home Inspection Preparation

Preparing for a home inspection fosters a smooth selling process. However, doing a pre-listing home inspection allows you to address any potential issues. 

Pre-Listing Home Inspection

Performing a pre-listing home inspection is a proactive approach that identifies and allows you to fix any issues in advance.

If issues are identified during the buyer’s inspection, address them promptly and transparently. Consult with professionals, such as contractors or repair specialists, to assess the severity of any problems and determine appropriate solutions. 

When you’ve had a pre-listing home inspection done, providing the inspection report to potential buyers can offer reassurance about the condition of your property. It demonstrates your transparency and willingness to provide full disclosure.

Preparing for Open Houses and Walk-Throughs

Create a great first impression at your open houses and walk-throughs with the right preparation. Remember, when selling your home, you should aim for it to stay ready or nearly ready for an inspection at any point.

While you know when there’s an open house, impromptu showings are common. Ensure your home is clean, tidy, and presentable at all times. Keep clutter to a minimum and maintain a clean and inviting atmosphere throughout the house.

Creating an Inviting Atmosphere

Create a welcoming atmosphere through scents, music, and lighting. Have subtle scents or fresh flowers to create a pleasant aroma in your home. However, be mindful of strong or overwhelming scents that may deter some individuals.

If possible, do a quick clean-up, including wiping down surfaces, sweeping, mopping, and putting away personal items.

Leave the House

Don’t be home during an open house or inspection, as it can be distracting for buyers.

It is recommended that sellers leave the house when potential buyers are present. This allows interested buyers to explore freely without feeling like they are intruding on personal space. Additionally, it will enable them to have candid conversations with their real estate agent or discuss any concerns they may have without hesitation.

Concluding Checklist and Tips

To help you get your house ready to sell quickly and for top dollar, here is a short checklist of the steps:

  1. Understand the local housing market: Research seasonal trends and analyze recently sold properties.
  2. Find the right real estate agent: Interview experienced agents with a strong network, negotiation skills, and effective marketing strategies. Start your search with FastExpert now.
  3. Depersonalize your space: Remove family photos and minimize personal items to allow potential buyers to envision themselves in the home.
  4. Deep clean and declutter: Deep clean and declutter your home. Don’t forget about commonly overlooked areas like the garage, closets, attic, or basement.
  5. Address repairs and maintenance: Fix minor issues and tackle major repairs before listing your home for sale.
  6. Consider home improvements and upgrades: Remodel kitchens or bathrooms, finish unfinished spaces, or update flooring for increased resale value.
  7. Stage your home for potential buyers: Consider professional staging to create an appealing atmosphere that highlights your home’s strengths.
  8. Improve Curb Appeal: Add flowers for colors, update the paint, and make necessary repairs. A positive and inviting exterior significantly impacts their overall impression of your home. 
  9. Invest in professional photography for your listing: Virtual tours, drone footage, and high-quality photos enhance online presence and attract more potential buyers.
  10. Price your home right: Seek guidance from professional real estate agents to conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA).
  11. Prepare for a home inspection: Consider pre-listing inspections, address issues promptly, and provide necessary documentation when needed.
  12. Prepare for open houses and walk-throughs: Keep your home clean at all times, create an inviting atmosphere with subtle scents if desired, and leave during showings.

Last-minute tips:

  • Keep utility bills available to provide potential buyers with information about average costs.
  • Consider temporary housing solutions if you anticipate a quick move-out after selling your home.
  • Stay flexible throughout the process by being open to negotiations and adjustments based on buyer feedback.

Get Expert Guidance with Fast Expert for a Smooth Home Selling Process

Adequate preparation is key to getting top dollar for your home. The home-selling process doesn’t have to be complicated and overwhelming, but it should start with careful consideration and planning. 

Start your journey by connecting with experienced real estate professionals who will provide valuable guidance tailored to your specific needs. FastExpert allows you to compare professionals and find top local agents.

With the right expertise and support, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and resources to navigate the selling process confidently.

Take the first step towards a successful sale, and connect with an expert local real estate professional with FastExpert.

Kelsey Heath

Kelsey Heath is a real estate content specialist with an extensive background in residential, industrial, and commercial property. She has been involved in the industry for a decade as a professional and personal investor, gaining a deep understanding of the market and trends. With a passion for written communication, Kelsey loves helping people understand the sometimes-complicated concepts behind real estate and is now a sought-out guest and ghostwriter.

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