Selling your home is one of the most tricky parts of owning a home, but it can be deceiving at first. There are always little projects that you meant to get to and didn’t, and things that probably weren’t perfect, but didn’t bother you enough to fix. You can’t possibly do everything to make your house like new before putting it on the market, but there’s a minimum level that most buyers will expect.  At least if you expect to get top dollar.

How many of those things left on your “to do” list absolutely need to become “to dones?”

Getting Ready to Sell

Before you get too serious about selling, it’s a good idea to have your Realtor over for a quick walk through. They can give you a punch list of items they believe should be updated, fixed or addressed in some other way before you sell your home. We also add staging to that list, so you have a room-by-room list of what to keep and what to pack in preparation for photographing your home and putting it's best foot forward.  You never know when the right buyer will walk through the door, so your house needs to be ready to go from the moment you put it on the market. This alone is often your biggest key to sales success.


That doesn’t mean you need to completely gut and remode, but you should make sure everything is in proper working order and ready for a new occupant. That can be a lot to wrap your head around. If you are already overwhelmed, start with the list below.


Entry & Living Room

The moment that door opens, and even before it does, your potential buyers are forming an opinion of your home. What the open door reveals needs to better pack a punch (or at the very last not leave them puzzled or unsure).

Make sure that the windows are sparkling clean to let in as much light as possible (ideally remove the screens and stash them in the garage or storage space), that all your light bulbs are working , the flooring is clean and in good shape, any tile grout is solid and the walls are flawless. A neutral color is always a good idea, Blues, light grays, beige and creams are also all good choices for paint colors.  If you need help choosing the right shade, we can help with that.


Dining Room

Your dining room should follow the same advice as your living room, with one exception. Since there’s probably some amount of eating that happens in this part of the house, you’ll want to check the flooring to ensure there’s no stains or spots under the table, or a noticeable spot where the dog likes to lie in wait for cherished crumbs.

If this area is carpeted, don't cover spots with a rug, this could be considered a “hidden, latent defect.” Basically, it means that you’re hiding damage from a potential buyer. And then what happens?  They start picking up rugs everywhere, looking for more spots.  That then becomes their focus, rather than all the great things about your house you've worked hard to highlight.  Bummer. 

Call a professional carpet cleaner or just own up to the flaw and discuss options for addressing this your agent should a buyer ask for the carpet to be replaced or cleaned before closing.  Planning ahead can avoid additional stress.



This is a busy room that is the most used room in the house. Check all the items on this list, one at a time:

 Appliances that are staying

• Are they functional?

• Do they have an attractive appearance?

• Do they match one another?

• Are they clean?


Kitchen sink area:

• Is the sink free of damage?

• Does it drain well?

• Does the disposal work?

• Does the sprayer work?

• Is the faucet leaking?


Counters, backsplash and cabinets:

• Do the counters have worn or burned spots?

• Are there grouted areas that are needing regrouted?

• Do the cabinet doors open and close properly?

• Is there water damage anywhere?

• Is everything clean and not tacky to touch?

• Do the cabinets have worn finish?


If there's damage or deferred repairs you can't fix before listing, make sure they are disclosed in the paperwork your Realtor provides.



Bedrooms are the next hardest spot to tackle, especially if you have kids. If you’re still living in  the house until you find a buyer, invest in some storage systems — they’ll pay off in the long run. Organize everything as best you can to give the rooms the appearance of more space, clean the windows, using solid colored bins so you can't see what's inside.  Install new lightbulbs, clean the carpets and come up with a plan to keep things need so it's not a stress bomb each time you get a showing request.  If anything can be moved out to a storage unit, do it now.  You'll be packing it anyway!  We have ideas for storage that can make things easier, so just ask.



Bathrooms are alot like kitchens, they have a lot of moving parts. That being said, they also pretty much have the same punch list. The only addition would be the shower or tub. Check the faucets and showerheads for leaks and make sure there’s no mold on your tub or shower surrounds. Clean that stuff within an inch of its life and if you can’t get rid of the stains, recaulk. It’s an easy way to make that tub or shower look like you’ve never even used it.

Trust me, this needs to be a priority.  Buyers don't like dirty tubs and showers, even if their own is in worse condition.



There’s not a lot to do in the garage, but do make sure your door opener is functioning properly, that the wheels on the door are lubricated if it’s making a terrible sound when you open it or close it and that you’ve cleaned up as best as you can. If you don’t really use it, you can dress it up a lot by applying an epoxy coating to the floor. The kits run around $100 and, although they don’t add any value to your home, they’re pretty impressive and beat an old, stained concrete floor.


General Indoor List 

Overall, it’ll help a lot if you run around your house and make sure that all your lightbulbs are fresh, all the windows are cleaned, you remember to leave the blinds open during the day and that the paint makes each room feel bigger. The key is to bring in more light and then use lighter colors to keep it bouncing around the room. A new coat of white ceiling paint won’t hurt your efforts, either.  When decluttering, think "wall space."  I like to say that the more space I can see where the walls meet the floor, the emptier the room will be and the bigger it will look.

 Paint is great for a lot of reasons. It can seal in smells you might have never noticed, as well as giving the house the scent of fresh construction. That smell paints a picture for a buyer that says this house has been taken care of and they can trust that it’s in good shape.


General Outdoors 

When it comes to the landscape, keep the lawn mowed (likely more often than you are used to), trim plants around the house, clean up any projects that you started and never finished (this is a biggie). Landscapers and trash haulers can help a lot.  If you have metal lying around, it's likely you can find a metal scrap hauler who will gladly come and relieve you of those things. You’ll also want to check out your roof and gutters to make sure they’re in good shape because your potential buyers will be doing the same thing during their inspection.  Removing anything you know they might use to negotiate on price with ahead of time is the goal here. 

The first thing a buyer sees is the view from the street, make sure you run out there during the outdoor prep work to check your look. I even encourage my sellers to sit in the passenger seat and drive down their block, looking at each house and then their own to see how it stacks up.  This is what each buyer will be doint.  When you start to wonder if you should actually sell this amazing house at all, you’ve probably got the curb appeal knocked out.


When You Can’t Get It All Done

You don’t have an unlimited timeline, that’s pretty common.  But, your home should be ready to sell if you want to get top dollar. We often advise our selles to contact us at least three months before their target date if possible, as that allows plenty of time to knock down the list.  If it's too late for that, or if you can’t do the work, just call us and we'll help you prioritize with the timeline you have available.

Let's get started!


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