What To Do Before Selling a House

Over the years many clients have asked me what to do before selling their home. Who wouldn’t want to be prepared for their home sale? Right?

Now that you have decided to sell your house, the hard work begins. No matter how much deliberation went into the decision, the effort is nothing compared to prepping your home for the actual sale.

What you do before the for sale sign goes on your front lawn is as vital as when it finally arrives.

This is why it is so important to make a list of things to do before selling a home and start as soon as possible.

It will take some time to get your home ready for the market and the buyers that will hopefully come pouring through your door.

Fortunately, if you do everything right, you should have a leg up on the competition.

Over the years the clients that have asked me what things to tackle before selling their house and then proceeded to do them are the most successful!

Here are my best tips for getting your home ready.

Ten Things to do to Help Your Home Sell

Before putting your home up for sale get yourself organized and pay attention to what is essential. Taking the time to prepare for a home sale is critical.

For most people selling a home is one of their largest assets. When you take the necessary time to get it spruced up, you will increase the odds that you will realize the maximum return possible.

1. Get your paperwork together

One of the most important things to do before selling a house is gathering important paperwork. This may seem like a tedious first step, but it is surprisingly relevant. Whoever buys your house is going to be coming into a complex system designed for comfortable living.


There is a lot that goes into a modern home, from HVAC systems, utility bills, plumbing systems, electrical systems, and numerous appliances.


Keeping it all up and running well is usually not too difficult if you know what has been done before and how it was done. If you don’t, though, it can be a real headache.
Buyers want to know about maintenance schedules, who you used to do the maintenance, what your utility bills have been throughout the year and anything else that pertains to the home. Not only does it show how the house functions, but it also makes it easier for the new owners to take over the reins.


This list should include the following:

  • Original blueprints (not always available but a great bonus)
  • Real Property Report or Surveyors Certificate
  • Utility Bills for prospective buyers to project expected expenses
  • Past home inspection
  • Manuals and Warranty information for any appliances, HVAC and plumbing units

2. Check on the little things


The longer you live in your home, the easier it is to get used to things as they are, even if the way they are is unappealing. Also if you are on an extremely tight budget, you should take a day and look around your home for the little things that are out of whack and easily fixed.


This should include some basic repair.  Make sure doors, locks, windows, and light switches work properly.

Lights should be working and have appropriate bulbs.Try to see things as a buyer would and fix the things you can adjust.

Even things like touch up paint can go a long way in making the buyer feel like they have less to do to get the property feeling like their home.

3. Erase evidence of pets

While we all love our pets, you need to make it look like you never had a pet if at all possible. As pet owners, we all become accustomed to the smell and mess that our dogs or cats create.

New buyers will not have this immunity, though. They will smell the smells and notice the fur, stains, and wreckage left behind by your animal.

Do whatever it takes to eliminate these signs, including shampooing or replacing carpet, repairing sod and fences and keeping the dog at a friend’s house during showings.

4. Clean up the landscaping

You do not have to be a professional landscaper to clean up your yard. Trim out dead branches and plants, cut the grass and pull weeds from where they do not belong.

You can also plant some flowers and lay down some mulch if you want to go the extra mile. This is the first thing buyers see, so it’s worth fixing up.

If you have a sprinkler system and are out of the cold weather season, get it up and operational.

Not only do you want your grass looking healthy and green but it is a great feature to show off to a buyer seeking to purchase.

In the winter, make sure that driveways, walks and steps are cleared of snow.  We are wanting to bring the public to your home.  The last thing we want is for someone to have a fall on your icy walk.

5. Make things less personal

It may seem weird at first to erase your personality from your home. Think about how customers will feel when looking at the property, though. Will they be able to see themselves living there, or is the “feel” of the place overwhelmed by your love of model cars, personal pictures, figurines or whatever else you love?

Give them a clean slate to work with, and they will be more likely to buy.

If you are the type of person that has a thousand family photos scattered throughout the house you need to cut back and make the rooms slightly less personalized.

You need to go overboard, however, and remove all existence that you are part of a family like some home stagers will tell you to do.  People don’t expect sterile anymore than they want to look at a ton of photos of your kids. It is, after all, a home not a house!

6. Gather estimates on repairs and replacements


Unless everything in your house is brand new, you can expect a bit of bargaining from buyers and their agents over the replacement of necessary components of your home.


Anything that is aging or in need of repair will be on the table, including your HVAC system, appliances and any rooms that need serious renovating – such as the bathroom or kitchen. Getting your estimates on these costs will allow you to bargain more efficiently.

One of the most common home inspection items that can become a bone of contention is your roof. The roof is an area you will want to pay closer attention to.

If your roof is getting up there in age, it may make sense to have your roof evaluated by a qualified roofer to see how much life you have left. It there is not much getting an estimate will be important, so you know what you are dealing with financially.

7. Remove the clutter

For most people, space invites clutter. Your garage, basement and perhaps even your bedrooms or living room all may be filled with junk.

One of the things almost any Realtor or home stager will tell you is to get rid of your clutter. Now is the time to go through it all and donate, sell or throw away. Anything left over should probably be taken to storage if possible.

Keeping the home filled only with the essentials will make it seem bigger and provide visual room for buyers to fill with their belongings.

There are a couple of ways you can approach getting rid of your clutter. Some people like to do it themselves and just rent a large dumpster that they can toss it all into, and others would rather pay someone else to do it.

8. Clean! Clean! and Clean some more!

There is no greater return on investment than cleaning your home before a sale.  Of all the things to do before selling a house, cleaning should be the easiest and least expensive. There is no way around this one. No one intends to buy a dirty house.

Whether you do the cleaning yourself or hire someone to do it – it needs to be done. Before listing your home for sale is the time for deep cleaning.

The carpets, windows, floors, garage, basement, bathrooms, kitchen, yard and any other space or surface in your home, it all needs to be cleaned as thoroughly as possible.  If cleaning a home is not your thing then be sure to hire a professional. 

9. Hide the kids


Children can do a substantial amount of damage to a home – something the buyer will probably be aware of.   While many homes are meant to have and raise a family, yours shouldn't show how hard your family was on the home.  Crayon drawings on the walls, the extra little dings and dents should all be touched up.  


In the yard, trampolines, play structures and sandboxes that may be staying should be maintained and in good and safe working order.


10. General Maintenance

When you have everything cleaned up and looking nice, make sure your basic maintenance is on point.  Put a fresh filter in your furnace and air exchanger.  Make sure your downspouts are all attached and your eaves are clean.  This all shows that you have that pride of ownership that helps put a nervous buyer at ease. 

All of the above items are important considerations to tackle before selling your house. Scratch each one off your list for better results.

Use this advice before the sale of a home to increase the chances that you come out on top both financially and emotionally. What you do before selling a home will go a long way towards your bottom line.

Tim Chicilo
Phone: 1 (306) 539.0085
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