Getting Your Home Ready For Sale

When you’re selling your house, don’t take the lazy route and hope that buyers will see past the surface to the beautiful construction of your home and imagine what a lovely life they could make in it. But the truth is that most homes could use a little bit of a lift before you invite people to walk through and want to make an offer on it.

So what do you need to do, exactly, to get your house into perfect shape, and keep it that way throughout all the showings and events? Here’s a complete room-by-room guideline of the steps you need to take in order to make and keep your house not only picture-perfect — but open-house perfect.

Getting started

There are a few steps you’ll want to take throughout your house in order to get it ready for deep cleaning and make it presentable for showing.

Start by walking through each room and eliminate items that you’re not using. Minimizing the stuff in your house will make it much easier to keep everything clean throughout the selling process.

Don’t forget about furniture! Removing furniture from a room can make it look more spacious. If you don’t want to get rid of anything, rent a storage unit where you can stash your larger items until the closing.

When you’ve removed at least one-third of the furniture in your house, rearrange what’s left to create inviting flow through each room. Visitors should be able to easily walk around everything.

You’ll also want to store away about 99% of your personal items and knick-knacks, including any prominent family photos. The idea is to invite buyers to imagine themselves living in your house, which is hard to do when your kids are staring at them from the walls. Leave your personal taste at the door. The goal is to build a vision for perspective buyers, so that they can see themselves living there. 

You’ll also want to pack up and stash any books, clothes, appliances, equipment, or other things that you don’t need or want immediately. It’s fine to keep a few back — nobody lives in a completely empty house — but remember that less is more.

It’s in the details!

Having small pieces of art on every wall is not effective. One strong piece of artwork in each room is a better way to go — two if the room is really big.

Where you aren’t replacing art, repair any holes in the walls and paint over them. In fact, if you’re going to give any rooms in your house a coat of paint, now is a great time to do that.

Adding a dramatic houseplant or two resonates with today’s buyer Like artwork, one or two plants per room is probably a good balance; you don’t want to create a jungle aesthetic.

Maintain houseplants so that they look healthy, and free of dead leaves.

Dark rooms do not “show” well. A well-placed floor or table lamp or two can take any room from gloomy to soft and relaxing, so think about where you could use a little light help and add it.

While you’re looking at the lighting, check out the light switch plates and outlet covers in each room. If any are looking grubby or fingerprinted, spend a few minutes wiping them down.

Finally, smell is the number one complaint from buyers who house hunting. If you have pets and your nose might be sensitized to odors, then ask a friend to give you an honest opinion about how odiferous the place is. First address the source of the odor, if need be — if you’re a smoker, you’ll need to take it outside until the house sells, and cats may require a more rigorous litter box cleaning schedule. Attempting to mask any smells with scented candles or plug-in air fresheners sometimes has the opposite effect. Deep cleaning is a must!

The kitchen

If you haven’t already decluttered the kitchen, start with the cabinets and work your way down. Box up and store any dishes and kitchen appliances that you don’t need. Organize your pantry, your cabinets and other kitchen storage spaces – buyers look everywhere, and if cabinets are over-crowded, the subliminal message is that there’s not enough storage.

Remove everything from your countertops and deep clean them, making sure you scrub the backsplash and pay attention to any tile grout. 

If there are any corner dings or cracks, repair them.Spend some time cleaning all of your appliances — oven, stove, fridge, microwave. Replace any worn burner pans on your stove, and remove any personal items you’ve secured to your fridge door with tape or a magnet, like kids’ drawings or phone number lists.

You can make your kitchen sink gleam with a little bit of a polish; you can use window cleaner or stainless steel polish on stainless steel sinks, and baking soda and bleach can work wonders on porcelain sinks. Detail clean your sink, too, by using an old toothbrush around the faucet handles and spout. 

Store cleaning supplies (including mops and brooms) where they aren’t in plain sight. And make sure you empty the trash in the kitchen every time you leave for a showing.

Avoid cooking before a showing!

The living room

Clearing off surfaces. Remove ashtrays from coffee tables, remove them while your house is on the market and find somewhere else to smoke; it makes a big difference in how your house is perceived by buyers.

Clear bookshelves of any mementoes or unnecessary items, clean and dust the tables and bookshelves, then do your best to keep those surfaces clean and dust-free. 


Confine kid’s toys to bedrooms or invest in a toy chest or bin where you can quickly toss them and keep them out of the way.

Make sure any fireplaces or wood stoves are in good working order, and clean off and dust any mantles. Only replace items that aren’t too personalized, and make sure that mantles aren’t crowded with knick-knacks.

Think about adding new and relevant pillows and throws to couches or chairs in order to make it feel a little bit more homey.

The dining room

Clear off the dining room table, and then keep it clear throughout the showing process.

When the table is cleared, remove any extra leaves (if your table has leaves) and extra chairs. Keep four to six chairs at the table, but try not to leave any more than that. Then polish it up and add one centerpiece that will be the focal point of the room.

Make sure that any chandeliers are dusted and clean, with fresh light bulbs, and keep the dining room as pristine as you can while you’re showing the house.

The bedrooms

Think spa-like! White bedding is best. Fluffy duvets are an absolute. Old bedding looks like old bedding, and there is not a single buyer out there that would opt for this choice.

Make the bed every morning, as though nobody has slept in it. 

Next, clear off all the surfaces in your room — bedside tables, dressers and any other surfaces — and clean them thoroughly. Make sure you’ve purged any personal items and keep any additions minimal and dust-free.

One tip: Don’t just shove everything in your closets. Buyers look in there, too! So organize your closets, discard old shoes and clothes that you haven’t worn in a log time. Chances are that you won’t miss them!

The bathrooms

Once again, you’ll want to clear off all of the surfaces in your bathroom, including the back of the toilet. Deep-clean your countertops and all appliances/shower/bath tub. The last thing that buyers want to see is your “products”. Remove EVERYTHING. Buyers do not want to see any “personal history”

Make sure you’re paying special attention to any drawers and cabinets. You can use your storage space to keep your day-to-day toiletry items if you’re able to free some up, and then your counters will stay clear with less effort.

Towels should look new as though they are a part of a clean spa. 

Replace any cracked caulking around your shower, tub or toilet, too, and if it looks like time to replace the shower curtain, do so.

Store any garbage cans and cleaning supplies under the sink so they’re not out and obvious. Remove any other “extras” in the room, like magazine racks or fuzzy toilet covers, and either refill your soap dispenser or display a nice, fresh bar of soap in a dish for visitors.

The laundry area

The main surfaces to address in this room are the washer and dryer. Remove any stray clothing that’s landed in the laundry room and tackle the washer and dryer, polishing the tops and sides. Keep those surfaces clear while you’re doing laundry. If it’s possible to store any soap or other laundry supplies so they’re out of sight, stash them in cupboards or cabinets.

The garage

This is one of the most important spaces to store anything you don’t need, including recreational equipment and tools, so start by giving your garage another sweep to remove anything that isn’t essential while you’re showing the house.

If there are cabinets or other storage spaces in the garage, organize them, and clear off any workspace surfaces. Power washing the floor is not a bad idea.

The exterior

Speaking of power washers, you’d be surprised how effective they are at removing grime, pollen and dust from a house’s exterior. Consider power-washing your exterior and any fences to free them of cobwebs and dirt.

If the house needs a paint job, now’s the time to address it. But first, assess your needs — sometimes you really do need a full coat everywhere, but oftentimes you can just spruce up the trim and the whole place looks neater and cleaner. Re-stain any wood decks or fences that need it.

Wash all your windows inside and out; overcast days tend to be better for minimizing streaks.

Sweep all your porches, decks and walkways, removing old leaves and whatever else has been lurking in the corners. Place the outdoor furniture so it looks inviting, using it to create lounging or eating spaces. You can also consider adding a few extras, like outdoor pillows, outdoor rugs and ottomans.

Don’t forget about your yard! Weed, rake dead leaves/plants and branches. Prune bushes, plant flowers in beds and pots to invite buyers into the home. The approach to the home is the 2nd showing

Does this seem like a lot of work? Well, it is, but when it appears that you love your home, buyers will fall in love as well. 

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