The 15 best things you can do before selling your house

Thinking of selling your house? A little upfront work can pay off (literally). There are many things you can do before selling your house that can help you sell it faster, for more money, and with less stress.

Here’s a great checklist with useful tips on preparing to sell your house

Need a handy checklist? Check out our printable: 15 Things To Do Before You Sell Your House

15 things to do before you sell your house

1. Find a real estate agent

Finding a real estate agent made the #1 spot on this list for a reason.

Selling your home is a huge financial decision, but it’s an emotional one too. Which is why it’s so important to hire an agent that’s a good fit for you and your situation.

A great real estate agent will be there from the beginning and help you every step of the way. They will offer help and advise you on every aspect of the selling process (including many of the other items on this list).

While it’s useful to get referrals from people you know, it’s even more important to talk to agents before you hire them. Call them, meet with them, and ask them questions.

You can “interview” agents to see if they’re a good fit for you. Ask:

  • Do you have experience?
  • How available are you?
  • Are you knowledgeable about my price range and local market?
  • Do you have a recommended list of service providers? (Lenders, contractors, inspectors)
  • Can you help me find my next home (if needed)?

Trust your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably never will. But if the agent is responsive, communicative, answers your questions and you feel like you would work well together, he/she is a good fit.

2. Run the numbers

It’s essential to get familiar with the numbers before you even begin the process to sell your house. Finding out the value of your home, cost to sell, moving costs, and mortgage payoff are a good place to start. You certainly don’t want any big surprises when you’re already too far into the process to make changes.

Here are some numbers you should know (at least have an informed ballpark figure):

  • How much is your house worth today? Get a market analysis of your home. Your real estate agent can do this for you – at no cost.
  • How much will selling cost?
    • Real estate commissions
    • Repairs
    • Storage
    • Fees
    • Taxes
  • What’s your mortgage pay off? Find out how much you still owe on your house. The principal balance doesn’t necessarily reflect the payoff amount. Call your lender for the exact amount.
  • How much will it cost to move? Will you pack and move yourself? How much does it cost to rent a truck? How much is it to hire movers?
  • Where will you move to (and how much will it cost)?
    • How much do you want to borrow for your next home? What is the payment? Talk to a lender to make sure your credit score and down payment are adequate.
    • If you’re renting, do you know where you will go? How much is rent?

3. Make a plan

Listing your house for sale isn’t as simple as putting a sign in your yard. The more you prepare your house (and yourself) for showings to buyers, the more quickly and smoothly everything will go.

Have a plan and a list of “to-dos” to help you stay organized and sane throughout the process.

Talk with your agent about what repairs, maintenance and/or improvements they suggest. And don’t forget about decluttering, cleaning and staging! (Read on for suggestions) It’s a lot to do!

4. Improve curb appeal

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first thing buyers notice is the outside of your home. Put some time and thought into what you can do to make the exterior of your house more attractive.

Here are some areas to address:

  • Scrape and repaint areas with peeling paint
  • Repair and fill cracks in stucco, brick or concrete
  • Remove and dispose of dead, overgrown plants
  • Trim trees and bushes
  • Pull weeds
  • Paint the front door
  • Add a layer of new mulch
  • Put tools/toys away
  • Pressure wash the house, driveway
  • Clean and declutter the front porch
  • Clean windows, gutters, and window wells

5. Declutter

If you’ve been putting off this task, now is the time to do a complete cleanout! If your house is cluttered, buyers won’t be able to see it for what it really is. Take the time to clear out so you don’t turn anyone away because of clutter.

Aim to reduce 30-50% of your stuff. Donate and throw away unwanted items. If you still have too much stuff, consider renting a storage unit or asking friends/family if you can borrow some space in their garage or basement temporarily.

While it can be tempting to just throw stuff in your own closets, garage, attic, and/or basement, this isn’t a good idea. Buyers want to see spacious storage areas with plenty of room to store their own things!

6. Remove personal items

When buyers view your home, they picture themselves living in it. It’s hard for them to picture your home as their own when they are surrounded by pictures of your family and your personal mementos. By removing your photos and other personal items, buyers feel more comfortable and at home, improving your chances of making a sale.

7. Paint the walls

Freshly painted walls make a room feel more updated, clean and maintained. Paint is a cheap and easy way to completely change the look and feel of a room. Choose your colors with care! The wrong color could make your house harder to sell. Go with neutral colors, such as lighter shades of beiges and/or grays.

8. Limit furniture and rugs

Create an inviting, clean, organized space. The less furniture you have in a room, the more spacious it feels. Think balance here. While you don’t want too many pieces of furniture, you also don’t want your rooms to feel cold and vacant.

9. Clean off counters and table tops

Put away all small appliances in the kitchen and personal care items in the bathroom. Also, keep side tables mostly clear. Clear off all the clutter, like magazines, pens, and small knick knacks. It’s okay to have a few of items on a side table (one group of three is a good rule of thumb).

10. Make repairs/upgrades

Talk to your real estate agent to see if they have any recommendations for repairs or improvements you could make prior to listing. Sometimes spending a little money on a few items can more than pay off in the sale of the home.

Some smaller things you can update that can make a big impact:

  • Lighting. Update older lighting and/or ensure all lights are in working order.
  • Faucets. Consider updating if needed. Ensure they aren’t leaking.
  • Hardware. Update door handles and other outdated hardware, such as towel rods.
  • Window treatments. Update or add window coverings.

11. Clean, clean, clean

When your house looks, smells, and feels clean, it lets potential buyers know that you take pride in your home. Give them the confidence that your home has been well cared for and maintained.

Here’s a short list of cleaning tasks:

  • Deep clean the flooring (don’t forget the baseboards, corners, and behind furniture!)
  • Consider having carpets professionally cleaned
  • Clean the grout in the bathrooms, kitchen and floor tiles
  • Clean and/or recaulk the areas around the sinks, tubs, and countertops
  • Deep clean the bathrooms and the kitchen – these are very important areas to buyers
  • Dust everything, everywhere (don’t forget the vents and ceiling fans)
  • Eliminate all odors – nothing turns away buyers more than pet odors!

It’s easy to overlook areas that collect dust and grime when you’re living with it from day to day. Look in places you generally overlook – behind and under furniture and appliances, in closets and cabinets, doors and windows, paying particular attention to the bathrooms and kitchen.  

12. Make a plan for pets

Not everyone has the same affection for Fido and Tabby as you do. It’s commonly advised to remove pets from your home prior to showings. If you won’t be able to take pets out of the house for showings, make prior arrangements with family, friends, or pet sitting facilities.

13. Gather a list of updates/improvements

If you’ve done updates to your home in recent years, let buyers know exactly what has been done and when. This is particularly important information for the more expensive upgrades, such as HVAC, hot water heater, roof, siding, and windows.

If you’ve made improvements, it’s a draw for home buyers that want to avoid costly repairs of these items in the initial years of homeownership.

14. Make a plan for showings

Ideally, you will have several hours notice before showings. But it’s important to have a plan in place for those last minute showings. Though it can be frustrating, try to have patience and prepare for this. Maybe your house wasn’t on a buyers list and they decided that they’d just stop in and take a look after they drove by. Who knows? Maybe that’s the buyer!

Make a daily to-do list to keep your house presentable at all times. Have another short list to do if you have time before showing (like turn the lights on, pick up all toys, wipe down faucets and countertops, etc.). By the door, keep a special bag with snacks, drinks, and toys for kids to grab on the way out. And don’t forget to keep Fido’s leash close at hand.

15. Plan your move

Even before you list your house, you need to think through what will happen after you accept an offer. Do you know where you will live? Will you need to find a new house? Will you pack and move or hire it done? What about schools – would your kids have to change schools?

There you have it! These things will ensure you’re ready to sell your house. And you’ll probably do it more quickly, for more money, without the hassle and stress of all the last minute tasks.


Whether you’re selling or buying a home, the process can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. At Coluzzi Real Estate, we answer all your questions and simplify the process. We’re there for you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Image credit: Pixabay


About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo. You can read more of her writing at whywemoney.com