Selling a house is a lot of work! I compiled this list of ways to get your house ready to sell based on my own experience this summer. There’s a lot to do when it comes to cleaning, staging and showing your house–here are my best tips!
This summer has been a whirlwind at our house! Earlier this spring, we decided to make a million life changes all at once (we may be insane!) and that included moving to a new city. So while we both started job hunting, we also began whittling away at a list of home projects in anticipation of listing our house for sale.
You know what I learned? Selling a house is a lot of work! We spent most of our free time earlier this summer wrapping up home projects, taking care of little maintenance items, cleaning the house from top to bottom and staging it for showings.
Once we both had new jobs lined up, we put our house on the market and anxiously waited for it to sell. I didn’t really know what to expect in our town of 9,000 people, and am so thankful we had a lot of showings right away and accepted an offer within 20 days of it being on the market. Twenty days is about as short as I expected in a small town!
This is the first time we’ve sold a house, so I did a ton of research on ways to get your house ready to sell. I compiled everything we did, from cleaning and staging to prepping for showings, into this huge list of tips. The list got pretty long, but I hope you find it helpful!
34 Ways To Get Your House Ready To Sell
Cleaning & Maintenance
1. Make A Master List
Once we decided we were going to sell our house, I typed up a massive list of projects and tasks that I wanted to complete before we put the house on the market. This list included maintenance items that we put off forever (like fixing a broken door handle). It also included some decorating projects that were either in progress already or that I felt would be worth the effort to show our house at its best. Our master list also included a lot of cleaning/decluttering tasks (like organizing the pantry and cleaning out the garage).
We had a couple months of lead time to work through our master list and did our best to check a few things off each weekend. Edit and prioritize your master list according to how much time you have before you’ll be putting your house on the market.
I decluttered my way through every single room, particularly all closets and cupboards. I definitely recommend breaking up this task over the course of a few weeks if you can! I pulled everything out, cleaned the shelves and neatly arranged our belongings. I tried to use pretty bins with labels to corral items so each shelf appeared as clutter-free as possible. I also purged a ton of things to give the impression that there’s plenty of space for all of our things despite this being a small house.
3. Purge, Purge And Purge Some More
Now’s the time to get rid of as much stuff as you possibly can. As we decluttered and cleaned each room, I threw out so many things. Some were trashed, others donated and a few nicer things sold through our local Facebook for sale groups.
Not only did this make our house cleaner for showings, but it also meant we had a lot less to sort through when it came time to start packing. There’s no sense in moving items you no longer want or need, so take the time to meticulously purge every inch of your house before it’s listed. You’ll thank yourself later!
4. Get A Head Start On Packing
You know you’ll be packing eventually anyway, so go ahead and box up belongings that you won’t need for a while. Our spare bedroom closet was overflowing with our huge board game collection, so we boxed all of our games and neatly stacked them in an empty corner of our basement. It helped declutter the closet and was one less thing we had to pack later.
5. Deep Clean Every Room
I made a checklist of every room in the house and we worked our way through them one by one. I stocked a caddy with cleaning supplies to make this easier. This included dusting baseboards, waxing wood floors, shampooing carpets, washing out cupboard shelves, cleaning windows, washing curtains, etc. My goal was to clean each room from top to bottom so all we’d have to do is basic cleaning to maintain things while the house was on the market.
6. Boost Curb Appeal
Everyone knows curb appeal is important. First impressions are everything! Our little house doesn’t have the best lawn and the bushes are out of control, but we did what we could to make it look nice and neat.
We mowed the lawn, trimmed the bushes, pulled weeds and raked up old leaves. We power washed the siding and patio to remove dirt and debris. We ripped up the brittle old carpet on our front steps and gave them a makeover. I sprayed the mailbox and house numbers with a fresh coat of black spray paint. I also added a bit of mulch and big pots of flowers by the front door.
7. Don’t Overlook Small Maintenance Items
I think everyone has those small maintenance tasks that are easy to overlook in our houses. They aren’t big enough to really cause problems, so we tend to just push them off for “later” and eventually we get so used to them that they get forgotten altogether. Now’s the time to take care of those things!
For example, the outside handle on one of our basement doors broke off over a year ago but we never fixed it since we don’t use that door anyway. But we knew buyers would likely be going in and out of that door to our backyard. Another one of our many small maintenance tasks was the squeaky front door. It’s been squeaky for years, but a little WD40 did the trick.
8. Touch Up Paint And Re-Caulk Cracks
I did a quick audit of the paint in each room and made a list of any touch-ups that needed to be done. I filled old nail holes, re-caulked the seams along baseboards and touched up paint.
9. Do A Sniff Test
We’ve all been in houses that have a distinct smell, but we don’t usually notice the smell of our own homes. I was extra conscious of the odor of our house because our puppy has had her fair share of accidents on the carpet. I opened up the windows for several days to air things out and borrowed a carpet cleaner to shampoo the carpet.
Once you think your house smells clean and fresh, invite a neighbor or friend over for an outside opinion. You want your house to smell pleasant but there shouldn’t be any overwhelming perfumey scents when they walk in.
Decorating & Staging
10. Make A Good First Impression
First impressions are everything, so I did my best to make the front of our house inviting. I created a cozy seating area on our front patio, added big pots of flowers on each side of our front steps, hung a hanging basket of flowers by the door and added a pretty wreath to the front door.Even though our patio isn’t covered and I wouldn’t normally leave small decor items out there, I styled it with pretty lanterns, blankets and throw pillows for the photos we used in the MLS listing. I wanted to make sure the photo of the front of the house caught buyers’ attention as they were scrolling through listings.
Even though our patio isn’t covered and I wouldn’t normally leave small decor items out there, I styled it with pretty lanterns, blankets and throw pillows for the photos we used in the MLS listing. I wanted to make sure the photo of the front of the house caught buyers’ attention as they were scrolling through listings.
11. Clear The Counters
Our realtor advised us to remove as much as possible from our kitchen counters. This is especially important in a small house where counter space is limited. We packed up or hid away all of the small appliances that were normally on our counters. I also removed most of my decor from the kitchen counters. Same goes for bathroom counters. Oh, and this isn’t exactly a counter, but I also completely removed everything that was hanging on our fridge.
12. Add Light
A couple of rooms don’t get a ton of natural daylight, so our realtor suggested we swap out the light bulbs with brighter bulbs. I also added some lamps that could be switched on during showings to lighten up darker corners.
In general, your house will appeal to the most buyers if it’s fairly neutral. I don’t think you need to completely remove your personality from your home, but do keep in mind that not everyone shares your style. I didn’t do a whole lot here, but I did remove some of our family photos and painted over a bright blue wall in the dining room with a more neutral gray.
14. Set The Table
You don’t have to do anything fancy or elaborate, but staging the table with a centerpiece and table settings can make the house feel homey. We honestly left our table set the whole time the house was for sale and just ate dinner in the living room every night.
15. Add Cozy Pillows And Throws
I always have plenty of throw pillows and blankets in the living room anyway, but I think this one is worth mentioning in case you don’t. A pretty throw blanket draped over the back of a chair and a couple pillows on the couch will add color and a cozy factor to the room.
16. Give Every Space A Purpose
If you have any awkward spaces or unused rooms, give them a purpose through staging. Your goal is to show buyers how they could use that space. Add a small desk to a nook or stack a few document boxes in that odd-shaped closet.
For example, we hadn’t touched the concrete patio slab in our front yard, but I knew I wanted to give it a purpose before we sold the house. With the addition of a bit of furniture and some styling, I helped buyers imagine how they would use that slab of concrete.Another example is the random cement-floored room in our basement. I turned it into my studio when we moved in which helped our buyers imagine themselves setting up a similar creative space or workshop down there. Much better than when we were touring this house as buyers and the room was an empty cement space with a hideous red floor.
Another example is the random cement room in our basement. I turned it into my studio when we moved in which helped our buyers imagine themselves setting up a similar creative space or workshop down there. Much better than when we were touring this house as buyers and the room was an empty cement space with a hideous red floor!
17. Get Your Realtor’s Opinion
An experienced realtor can give you suggestions for showing your home at its best. They walk through houses with buyers for a living, so they know what buyers are looking for and what will stand out to them. Ask your realtor to do a walkthrough and give you suggestions before your house goes on the market.
18. Take Pictures & Assess
If you feel like you aren’t the best decorator, it may be helpful to take pictures of the staged rooms. Then pull them up on your computer and analyze them. Do things look too cluttered? Should you move that chair over a couple feet? Sometimes it’s easier to notice those types of things when you’re looking at a still photo instead of standing in the room itself.
19. Do A Final Walkthrough
Once you feel like your house is cleaned, staged and ready for buyers, grab a notebook and do a complete walkthrough starting with pulling your car into the driveway. Try to look at things from a buyer’s perspective. Listen for squeaky doors, look for dark corners, pay attention to cluttered areas. Remember that buyers are nosy and will be looking behind every door. Make notes of any final tasks that you want to complete before the first buyers step foot in your house.
20. Get Amazing Photos
Good photos are crucial to catching a buyer’s attention when they’re sifting through listings. While we were house hunting, I was shocked at how many listings had just two or three poorly lit, horribly staged photos. Make sure your listing includes tons of great photos of your house.
Many realtors take their own photos and most do a good job, but check out examples of your realtor’s photography beforehand. It may be worth hiring a photographer to get eye-catching photos that will grab attention, especially if you are trying to sell your house in a very competitive market. That first impression online is crucial to getting buyers in the door for showings!
21. Make a Checklist
I made a checklist of all the little things to do to prepare for each showing. The checklist helped us remember everything when we were scrambling to get the house ready on our way out the door to work in the mornings.
22. Always Leave The House In Show-Ready Condition
Because we’re both currently commuting an hour to work until we move, we tried to always leave our house in show-ready condition so we were prepared for any last-minute showings. Our realtor told us we’d have a 24-hour notice, but there were a few times where someone wanted in that same afternoon and it was nice to know the house was ready for them since I was an hour away during the day. The last thing I wanted was to delay anyone from touring the house!
23. Open Curtains & Blinds
I opened every blind and curtain in the mornings to let in as much natural light as possible. This included our bathroom and bedroom blinds which we rarely open normally.
24. Make The Beds
We got in the habit of making our bed every morning and I taught David exactly how to place the decorative throw pillows so it would always look pretty. We have white bedding in our bedroom already, but if you don’t I’d recommend picking up a neutral white comforter for showings. White looks clean, luxurious and hotel-like which will appeal to more buyers than a distracting pattern.
25. Maintain A Spotless Kitchen
While our house was on the market, I got into a routine of doing the dishes as we dirtied them. I can’t say we’re normally always that caught up on dishes, but I’ll admit it was a nice habit to get into! I made sure the counters were spotless and the sink was empty every morning. If we had a showing scheduled that day, I ran the dishwasher in the morning so buyers would see clean dishes if they peeked inside. No one wants to see your dirty dishes!
26. Keep Up With Laundry
We did our laundry regularly and made sure it was always put away. We keep a big laundry basket in our closet for dirty clothes, so I checked that in the mornings to make sure all the clothes made it into the basket (rather than on the floor) and that there wasn’t any dirty underwear in view. With just the two of us, we don’t have a ton of laundry and sticking to our regular weekend laundry day was fine. But if your family’s laundry always piles up, you may want to try doing more loads during the week to keep up.
27. Clean The Bathroom
I store cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink to make it easy to keep clean. A quick wipe down of the sink, counters, mirror and toilet was all we needed day-to-day. I tried to clean the shower once a week to prevent it from getting grimy.
28. Take Out The Garbage
We took the trash out on showing days so there wouldn’t be any gross odors coming from the trash cans, particularly in the kitchen.
29. Clean The Floors
I am horrible about vacuuming and sweeping on a regular basis, but clean floors are so important during showings, especially with the dog hair in our house. We vacuumed the living room almost every night before bed and swept the rest of the main floor in the mornings as needed. I also kept an old broom in our entry closet so I could quickly sweep our front steps and patio.
30. Get Rid Of Cobwebs
Not sure if you’ll have this problem, but it seemed like there were always cobwebs appearing around our front steps and windows. I used an old broom to knock them down in the mornings. It’s not something we normally notice, but I figured buyers probably would. We also ran a broom along the ceiling and corners of our unfinished basement every couple days to keep the cobwebs at bay.
31. Water Plants
I’m normally horrible at watering plants, but I hid a watering can on our patio so I could quickly water our potted flowers in the mornings. In the hot summer sun, they would start wilting by the afternoon without some water.
32. Turn On The Lights
I turned on all the lamps before showings. Lamps help light up darker rooms and corners and make the whole place feel cozy. Some of our basement lights are on a switch, but there are some odd light bulbs here and there that have to be turned on individually with pull chains. I wanted our unfinished basement to look as bright and clean as possible, especially by the laundry area, so I always turned on the lights that have pull chains so they’d already be on when the buyers came down the stairs.
33. Plan For Pets & Kids
Don’t forget to make arrangements for getting everyone out of the house during showings. If your kids get home from school before you do, where will they go on the afternoons you have showings? We moved our puppy’s wire crate into the corner of our dining room where it was out of the way as much as possible. She normally gets free reign of the dining room while we’re at work, but we crated her on days of showings. I’m assuming she probably barked like crazy, but at least she was contained.
34. Stash Odds & Ends
Keep a laundry basket or plastic storage bin by the front door. As you’re rushing around the house before showings, throw any odds and ends into the basket and put it in your trunk when you leave. This is a good way to quickly declutter if you have a last-minute showing and need to make a quick getaway. I can see it being handy for cleaning up toys in a hurry.
Do you have any advice for ways to get your house ready to sell? It’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end! Not only did these things help us sell our house quickly, but they resulted in less cleaning, purging and packing once the house sold and we started getting ready to move.
Happy house selling!
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