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Home Selling Checklist: What To Do Before Selling Your House

8 minute read

Devon Taylor

By Devon Taylor

Selling your house is all about maximizing its value. And that means taking steps to ensure that your house looks its best. You want it to stand out from the crowd. The more appealing your house is to prospective buyers, the more they’ll be willing to pay for it. That means a bigger return on investment for you, the seller. Here is a home selling checklist comprised of some essential steps you should take before listing your house on the market.


It might be your precious belongings, but to outsiders it amounts to nothing more than extra clutter. And clutter can be a real turnoff. When it comes to selling your house, less is always more. Go room-to-room and declutter your living environment. Clean off counters, windowsills, tables, and all other visible areas. Don’t forget about closets, drawers, and cupboards too.

Prospective buyers can (and will) look everywhere in a house they are considering buying. If the house is overflowing with stuff, it starts to look small in their eyes. They will worry that the house doesn’t have enough space for their belongings. They may also feel the house is messy and unkempt. No one wants to buy a dirty house.

Do yourself a favor and preemptively declutter your house. Deal with your excess stuff, whether you donate it, sell it, throw it out, or pack it up to be stored offsite. Not only will clearing clutter help your house look more appealing to buyers, it will also help you once it’s time to pack-up and move.

Repaint (Using Neutral Colors)

You might love that orange accent wall. However, if it’s your potential buyer’s least favorite color, it would be a turnoff. Repaint in neutral colors that are more appealing to a wider array of people. Also, lighter colors enable buyers to envision what the walls would look like with the color of their choice.

That said, many people don’t want to buy a house if they feel they’ll have to repaint it themselves. Most home buyers aren’t looking for a renovation project. So it’s best to repaint the house yourself, before listing it for sale. The sweat equity you put into painting will increase the value of your house. Also, remember that it is the seller’s job to help buyers picture themselves in the house.


Touch Up Scuff Marks

You may hardly notice them anymore. Just a few “character” marks of a house well-lived in. However, those scuff marks will jump out at potential buyers. So even if don’t do a full-on repainting, be sure to touch up scuff marks on walls, base boards, and around door frames. Whether this simply means an extra cleaning effort or a full-scale patching of holes in the drywall, it needs to be done.

Selling a home can be tricky. Selling a home with lots of small repair needs can be downright difficult. When buyers walk into an open house, they want to fall in love. They don’t want to make a mental list of small repairs that need added to their to-do list. To impress buyers, fix up your house before putting it on the market. With a home that is fixed up, you’ll be more likely to attract multiple purchase offers.

Stage The House

Another great move is to stage your house. It will help make your house feel homey and cozy. It can also update your house and help it to feel less dated. After all, nothing invigorates a house like some new furnishings or a perfectly chosen mirror. You can do the staging yourself, but it might be best to bring in a professional.

There are plenty of home staging services on offer. Just Google around or ask your real estate agent (it might even be included in their fees). They might recommend you buy or rent some items. Or they might just reorganize your knickknacks and bookshelves in a new way. In extreme cases, they will empty your belongings into temporary storage and stage your house with high-end designer furniture. Prospective buyers will be blown away. Whichever route your take, proper staging can help make your house more attractive and raise its value.


Make Small Repairs

Repair or replace broken and outdated hardware throughout your home. This can include installing new door handles, faucets, towel bars, and curtain rods. These are the fixtures that are readily visible to home buyers. They are also fairly small repairs that are relatively inexpensive to fix.

New hardware in the bathroom, kitchen, and on windows and doors also improves the functionality and safety of your house. Again, for a little money and time, you can improve the appearance and functionality of your house by a lot. When combined with the rest of the steps on this list, it will raise the selling price significantly. Don’t underestimate the power of small stuff. The little things really do matter.

Update The Lighting

Few things are more responsible for creating the mood in your house than the lighting. When people enter your house, the lighting instantly creates an atmosphere. So be sure to replace any decorative light fixtures that no longer fit your home’s cleaner, fresher look. Install new bulbs with the appropriate lighting for specific areas.

For example, use ambient, low-key lighting to fill a room. On the other hand, directional or task lighting works better in areas like a reading nook. Use accent lighting to highlight focal points in a room, such as the artwork above a mantle. Lighting can also be used to draw a buyers’ attention to certain features or selling points within your house. Don’t neglect the lighting.


Remember Curb Appeal

It’s not only the inside of your house that attracts (or repels) buyers. The outside of your house makes an important first impression. Like it or not, buyers do tend to judge a book by its cover. It’s therefore important that you ensure the first impression of your house is a good one. It also helps to encourage buyers to stop by the open house or look twice at the online listing.

Think of the outside of your house as the bait. You want to hook those buyers. So you need to make sure the outside of your house has what’s known as “curb appeal.” That means people find the outside of your house, including the yard, attractive. By investing some effort in relatively easy fixes (like planting colorful flowers, weeding the lawn, or repainting your front door), the outside of your house can attract prospective buyers. A little landscaping can go a long way.


Last but certainly not least, be sure to clean your house! Cleanliness really is next to Godliness when it comes to selling a house. Clean and clean, and then clean some more. Get into all the cracks and hidden areas. Make your house sparkle.

You should also pay attention to your home’s smell. If needed, use plenty of air freshener or scented candles. Make sure your property is spotless from top to bottom. You’ll want your house to look its very best in the online real estate photos. You’ll want that ultra-clean look to carry over to in-person open houses, too. When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy throughout the entire sales process. It may be difficult (especially if children live there too, but it’s nevertheless important to get top dollar for your house.


Market Research

Now that you’ve prepared the physical condition of your house, it’s time to focus on the logistics. That means pricing research, preparing for paperwork, and (potentially) finding a competent real estate agent to help you get the job done.

In order to get the most value out of your house, you need to price it appropriately. If you’re lucky enough to live in a market where bidding wars are the norm right now, you don’t have to worry as much. Your house may sell well above the asking price no matter what. On the other hand, if the housing market in your area isn’t quite as scorching hot, you’ll want to figure out how much to list your house for. Look at other houses in your area that are for sale and pay attention to the asking price.

Try to compare to apples to apples, so look for listings that are similar in square footage and features. For example, don’t think your plain, small, run-of-the-mill bungalow will sell for as much as the two-story around the corner that has hardwood floors, a finished basement, and an inground pool in the backyard.

Appraisal and Inspections

If you want a professional opinion, go ahead and get your home appraised by a pro. They will give you an expert analysis on the value of your home, using a number of different factors in their criteria. You should be aware, though, that professional appraisals can sometimes tend to be conservative. Your home may be appraised at $500,000, for example. However, other indicators might dictate that it would easily sell for $600,000 or more. Regardless, it’s always better to have knowledge about any financial transaction of this size.

While you’re getting an appraisal, it’s probably also worth the money to get a professional home inspection done. If the inspector finds nothing wrong, you can add that as a strong selling point. And if the inspector does point out a few flaws, you have the choice of repairing them before you sell or disclosing them to a potential buyer. Either way, your due diligence and transparency will mean that you won’t end up sued by a disgruntled buyer who later accuses you of lying about a major house issue.


Find a Real Estate Agent…

If you’re not an experienced real estate veteran, selling your house can be a complex deal. There’s a lot of paperwork, with both financial and legal requirements needing to be met. That’s why it’s almost always recommended that you find a competent real estate agent to help guide you through the process.

A good real estate agent will do a long way to help prevent unwanted surprises. They will help you navigate the entire process — from the first open house, sorting through offers, collecting payment, and finally handing over the keys. Selling your home is likely to be one of the largest financial transactions of your lifetime, so it’s often worth it to pay for the help of a professional. If you’re not sure who to hire, ask your friends or family for referrals.

…Or Not

On the other hand, there has been a drastic rise of “do-it-yourself” real estate companies popping up recently. For a single flat fee (as opposed to a percentage commission), these companies will do the basics — list your house online, provide a ‘For Sale’ sign for your lawn, and give you template paperwork to fill out. After that, much of the responsibility to complete the deal falls on you.

If you’ve sold a handful of houses previously, you may feel comfortable in the process. That can make paying that hefty real estate agent commission a little tough to swallow. If you’re sure that you know what you’re doing, you can totally save a few bucks by selling your house yourself (or using one of these DIY house selling companies). However, please make sure that you’re not getting in over your head by skipping the professional help.

The Last Word On Selling Your House

Selling your house is a lot of work. Nobody said it was easy. However, cleaning and repairing your house to ensure that it looks its absolute best is necessary if you want to get as much money as you can. Step back and take an honest look at your house. Make a list of what needs to be done to get it into shape. If you can afford it, bring in professional cleaners, painters, and repair people. If not, roll up your sleeves and make the needed improvements yourself before listing your house for sale.

House with Red For Sale SignShutterstock
Devon Taylor

Managing Editor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, camping with his family, and playing video games.


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