Sell Your House Fast: 21 Things You Must Do Before Listing a Home for Sale

Listing your home for sale is easy. How to get your house to sell and making your home sale a success takes effort and elbow grease. Before listing your house for sale, you’ll want to make sure it is properly presented to home-buyers. Even minor imperfections like peeling paint or unsightly landscaping can turn off prospective buyers and make it hard to sell your home fast.

In this Costimates homeowner guide, we’ll share tips for preparing your house for selling. If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comment section at the bottom.

Updated: January 23, 2023

declutter house preparing to sell

What Should You Do to Prepare Your Home for Selling? Especially if You Want to Sell Your Home Fast!

Buyers start evaluating your home as soon as they pull up to it. If the style is what they want, they begin taking a closer look, from the outside of your house to every room and space they encounter. They’re asking, “Can I see myself in this house? Does it feel right? Does it meet our needs, how much work will we have to do?” According to HomeLight, appearance means everything when it comes to selling your home, and spending a little time and money before you list it, goes a long way to closing quickly.

Selling a house involves much more than putting out a For Sale sign, that is, if you’re trying to get the best price. Here is a list of 21 things that will help you do just that.

Start With Your Curb Appeal

house for sale with good curb appeal

The first impression is crucial. It sets the tone for the buyer’s entire visit. No matter how great the inside of your home looks, if curb appeal is missing, buyers will have already judged your home before they walk through the door. Stand outside your house with a buyer’s perspective and take note of everything that needs to be spruced up.

Mow the lawn, pull the weeds, rake the leaves and trim the shrubs. Fix or repair cracks in the drive or walkways. Tuckpoint brick with missing mortar. Repair the stoop or porch if necessary.

Colorful flowers and fresh mulch will add to curb appeal. Make sure that your house numbers are visible. And don’t forget to check your mailbox. Is it clean and attractive? If not, consider purchasing a new one. Check the roof for missing shingles and make repairs. Clean the gutters. Check all of your fences making sure they are in good repair and that the gates work.

Buy a pretty doormat. If you have an outdoor living area, make sure that the furniture and coverings are clean and free of debris. Add a pot or two of flowering plants. You can typically get 100% return on the money you invest into your home’s curb appeal.

Rent, Buy, Borrow or Hire a Pressure Washer

pressure washer cleaning sidewalk to prepare for sale

For a clean fresh look, pressure wash the driveway, walkways, brick and siding, roof and gutters, garage floor, patio and deck. Washing your air conditioning unit will make it appear newer. The bottom line is that a clean exterior will look bright and attractive, an much more appealing to a prospective home buyer.

Cover Old Exterior Paint with New

Take note of all of your exterior painted surfaces. Is the paint chipped or peeling? Even if you can’t repaint your entire house, scrape and paint the areas that are in disrepair. Paint the trim around your windows and the front door, garage trim, porch pillars and other exterior trim. A fresh coat of paint on the front door will beckon buyers to come inside.

Make Your Entry a Welcoming Space

Entryways are important. You use them as utility areas for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it a welcoming space by putting in a small bench or a hall table with fresh flowers. And bring in some light by hanging a mirror or adding a ceiling light if you don’t already have one.

Conduct a Smell Test

Foul odors, even slight ones, can be a deal breaker, and you might not even notice them. Invite an unbiased third party in to try to detect any pet smells or lingering odors from your kitchen or basement. Find the source of the odor and clean or repair the problem rather than masking it. Strong scented plug-in type or other room deodorizers can backfire if they are too strong or the buyer doesn’t like that smell.

Clean, Clean, Clean – Make Your Home Sparkle

cleaning supplies to sell house fast

Cleanliness implies a home has been well taken care of, so deep cleaning can win points with buyers. Buyers scrutinize houses, especially kitchens and bathrooms, so take special care in these rooms. Wash the kitchen and bath cabinet doors, the counters, sinks, back splash and tile.

Scrub the tub, shower and toilets. Clean all of the appliances. Dust everywhere, in all of the hard to reach areas, including the ceiling fixtures and fans and the highest corners. If all of this is just too much to do yourself, consider hiring a professional cleaning company to do it for you. Hiring a cleaning team will pay for itself when you get a faster sale at a higher price for your clean home.

Windows that sparkle make a home bright. Windows covered with grime, dust and your dog’s nose prints look dingy and they won’t let in as much light. So, wash or hire someone to wash your windows, inside as well as outside.

Take Special Note of Carpets

Stained or smelly carpeting will give the buyer a feeling that your home is dirty and uncared for. Clean the carpets yourself or hire a professional carpet cleaning company to brighten the carpet and remove odors. If the carpets are threadbare, consider replacing them but keep the colors neutral, such as beige or a light gray.

Another option to replacing carpet is to state in sales information that you’ll give a buyer cash back at closing to put toward new flooring of their choice.

Declutter and Simplify

Cramped and cluttered rooms turn off buyers by making your house look smaller. Plus, it is all your stuff, and that makes it harder for them to envision living there.

So, less is more when getting your home ready to show. Do a sweep of counters, windowsills, tables, shelves and all visible areas. And then tackle what’s behind closed doors, including closets, cupboards and drawers.

Actually, you can use decluttering as an opportunity to start packing. Box up things you don’t use on a daily basis, including out of season clothes and other seasonal items, excess toys, electronics and books. Remember that buyers want to see the actual home, not your stuff. So, put it in storage, have a garage sale, donate unused items or ask a friend to hold on to them until you move.

Organize Everything, and Tidy Up Storage Spaces

organize shelves and clutter to sell home fast

Make sure everything is neat and tidy. Your clothes should be on their hangers, towels and sheets should be folded and stacked, not hanging off the edges of the shelves. Organize the pantry and the broom closet. Leave some shelf space empty – the goal should be about 50%. It will give the buyer the feeling that there is plenty of storage in your home.

Depersonalize Your Space

Sellers should remove any distractions so that the buyers can visualize themselves and their family living in the home. Remove any highly personal items like family photos, family heirlooms, bold artwork and furniture. For example, it might be difficult for a buyer to visualize their own furnishings in place of the existing zebra couch, bright yellow chair or bear rug.

Depersonalizing and creating a blank canvas makes it easier for a buyer to imagine how the home might look filled with their own items.

Repaint Interiors Wisely

Go with neutrals. Your favorite color might be a buyer’s least favorite, so choose something neutral. A light neutral color makes the room feel larger, brighter and cleaner. If you’ve decided not to do a whole house repaint, then touch up scuff marks and perhaps repaint the baseboards, ceilings, window moldings and doors and the pantry shelves.

Realtors differ on whether the cost to remove popcorn ceilings is worth doing before selling, or leaving it to the new home buyers. Regardless, if you can afford to do it, it will provide great return on the investment as smooth ceilings are preferred. Use our removal cost calculator to get an idea of the cost.

Finish Incomplete Remodeling Projects

unfinished projects wont help sell your home fast

If you’ve started a remodeling project, no matter how big or small, finish it before you list your home. A buyer will be turned off when realize they have to finish these projects themselves. If you do not have the time or expertise, consider hiring someone.

Sweat the Small Stuff – It Matters

You might be surprised by the negative effect little things can have on a buyer. Go through your house and check every light bulb, door handle, cabinet pull and light switch, and fix what needs to be fixed.

Check for leaky faucets, running toilets, squeaky or ill fitting doors and hinges, door locks that stick or broken appliances. Again, if you do not have the time or expertise, research and hire a handyman.

Upgrade and Replace Fixtures Where You Can

Upgrade your fixtures, such as light fixtures and ceiling fans, by replacing outdated or overly decorative fixtures with simple modern ones. This will give your home an updated look.

Replace hardware that dates your home. You can install new cabinet pulls, doorknobs, faucets, towel bars, shower curtains and rods – items that are readily visible to homebuyers – rather inexpensively. New hardware in the bathrooms, kitchen, on windows and doors also improves the functionality and safety of these components.

Enhance Attractive Windows

It is important to have window treatments that complement your windows without overwhelming them, allowing for plenty of natural light. Adjust the window treatments appropriately for the time and conditions of the showing. For example, have them wide open on a cloudy day, closed to block invasive sunlight from the South or West, or partially closed in evening hours to show buyers they can provide privacy when needed.

Tackle the Garage

clean garage to help sell your home quicker

A good-looking garage can be a great selling point. Buyers want to see an open spacious garage where they can park their car or set up a workspace.

If the garage is filled with random items, divide the clutter into piles – trash / donate or sell / put in storage / keep handy. Create storage by adding a peg board, overhead hooks or shelving. You can brighten up the garage with white paint and make the concrete look new with a couple coats of epoxy floor paint. It isn’t costly or very time consuming. Most people can accomplish this in a spare weekend. Make the garage as light as possible.

Replace a single-bulb fixture with a multi-directional LED fixture. These don’t require rewiring; they simply screw into your existing socket and offer about four times the lighting compared to a traditional 60-watt bulb. If you garage doors are in bad shape, consider garage door replacement to assure the homebuyer they won’t have problems too.

Deal With Pet Issues

Did Fido leave a stain on the carpet, does your basement smell like a litter box? Address these issues as these are a major turn-off to buyers. Keep pet beds, crates, feeding dishes and toys out of sight, as much as possible, during a showing.

Dissociate From Your Home

Letting go of your home can be difficult. You’ve lived there possibly for many years, and your home holds many memories. To detach from it emotionally, you must realize that without you in it, the house is just a shell to be filled by new occupants. Look to the future where you will make new memories in your next home. Realizing this will make it easier for you to go through the processes of decluttering and depersonalizing.

Consider Staging Your Home

simple home staging helps a home sell fast

There’s a common belief that a room will feel larger and easier to use if all of your furniture is against the walls. That might be true, but a room doesn’t feel natural with that kind of arrangement.

Instead, arrange your room by floating the furniture away from the walls. Reposition it into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so the traffic flow is obvious.

Not only will this make the room user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger. Be creative and try using furniture pieces in places that weren’t your first intention. For instance, try a small dining table in front of a window. Or an armchair from the living room may look inviting in a corner of your bedroom.

One of the things that make staged homes look warm and welcoming is great lighting. Increase the wattage of your lights and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. Use three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

Get Your Paperwork Together

Obviously the better prepared a seller is for a home sale, the easier it will go. So, don’t forget to have all the paperwork for the house organized and ready – the deed, homeowner’s insurance information, loan information, property tax statements, appliance warranties, title report, purchase agreement and any other information regarding the property such as receipts for improvements.

Research and Hire a Fantastic Real Estate Agent

Do your research, and start about the time you begin sprucing up your home for putting it on the market.

Find out which agents have experience selling homes in your in neighborhood. Ask for referrals and talk to others who have worked with the agent. Interview two or three agents to find the right fit. Make a list of questions beforehand.

There is a lot of information online that will help you develop your list of questions. Hire an agent that has the necessary experience and one that you trust and can communicate well with. Then put up the For Sale sign with confidence, knowing you’ve readied your home to be just what buyers are looking for.