I’m Breaking All My Own Rules – And You Can Too

Preparing House for Sale Checklist

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My little family is currently prepping to move and we just put our home on the market. Of course, I’m the one selling it since I hold a real estate license. In light of the upcoming listing, I took about a week to prepare the house and yard. I have written about real estate for over three years, and made recommendations to dozens of clients about how to spiff up their homes for a (hopefully) quick sale. Some of my typical recommendations and “must do” tasks include cleaning the house from top to bottom, decluttering, removing all personal mementoes, staging, and investing in professional listing photographs.


Preparing House for Sale ChecklistLet me tell you all a secret. I’m not exactly following my own recommendations. <Pause for a big gasp!> As a working mom of toddlers who has a husband getting ready to depart for his new job in our new city in a matter of days, I have had no time to complete all the typical pre-listing tasks I rattle off for clients. I have done some, which I will discuss in detail, but others have had to fall by the wayside. We had to get our house on the market quickly.  I am doing as much as possible to keep it looking show-ready.  At first, I was terribly disappointed in my efforts and feeling anxious about the tasks I left undone, but our most recent showing gave me some comfort because the buyer’s agent complimented our house and told me how well it presented to her clients.


I thought I’d share what I did (and didn’t do) for all of you considering selling or working to sell right now. I have not been on the seller side of this process since I got into real estate.  While I thought I understood how much work goes into getting a home ready to sell, personally experiencing the process has led me to believe I should’ve given myself a month instead of a week to get everything done. So what exactly did I do to prepare our house to list? Here’s the scoop:


I did clean from top to bottom, but not all at once. I did “surface stuff” for photographs, which involved dusting, vacuuming, cleaning blinds, countertops, mirrors, grime on furniture, and polishing appliances. Before our first showing, I went back and did a better deep clean. I spot-cleaned the carpet, wiped down baseboards, cleaned showers and toilets, mopped the floors, and used a Magic Eraser to clean off scuffs and crayon marks on the walls. Each cleaning session took the better part of a day, but it made the whole process much easier for me and actually allowed me to be more thorough.


I didn’t hire a cleaner. I almost ALWAYS recommend that sellers hire a professional cleaner to deep clean their house before listing. It’s just easier in most cases, unless someone has kept an immaculate home, and ensures the home is in top shape for photos and showings. I didn’t want to pay a cleaner because my last two experiences have not been good when we tried to hire someone to help. I also didn’t want to mess with getting an estimate and cleaning date scheduled, so I just worked on it myself. It’s not perfect, but with a lot of work, everything looked great. If you have some time and don’t mind the manual labor, clean the house yourself and save $400-$500.


I didn’t de-personalize. We have family photos all over our home. I love them and have made my husband spend hours hanging gallery walls and canvases throughout the house. If I took down all of our personal pictures and art, the walls would be bare, so I left them. I read once that Joanna Gaines likes seeing photos and personal items in a home for sale because it means the space is full of love and memories, ready for a new family to fill it with love and memories. I quite agree. I hope potential buyers will see the love and effort we have put into making this house a beautiful home. Maybe it will endear the place to them. I think that if the home is decluttered and staged, family photos and personalized décor are just fine if they don’t distract from showcasing the highlights of the house. And hey, if Joanna Gaines is okay with keeping photos on walls and shelves, I am not going to argue that!


I didn’t use a photographer for listing photos. In fact, didn’t even use our nice camera! I used my phone. <Pause for a gasp again!> I would NEVER use pictures taken on an iPhone to list a home for a client. I got very accustomed to the quality of professional pictures, but at almost $200, I decided to DIY our pictures. I took our photos on two separate days because I wanted sunny, blue skies since those conditions look best on film and highlight natural light in a home. If you want to take pictures yourself, let Mother Nature do some work for you. Plan ahead and take pictures on a bright, sunny day. I have to say that I have a little advantage because I’ve photographed a lot of homes and shadowed real estate photographers. As a result, I knew some of their tricks. Photograph from corners to make rooms look large. Test lamps and lights for glare. Use pops of red to attract the eye. Take way more pictures than you think you’ll need. Lastly, don’t let the floor and ceiling appear in the same picture to give the impression of height in a room. Again, if you have some time to work on this and do a bit of editing on your images, consider trying to take listing photos yourself. If you don’t like how they turn out, hire a professional.



So, there you have it. I have broken some of my most sacred real estate rules and so far everything has been just fine! If you don’t have room in your budget to hire professionals, don’t worry about it. Be thorough and do some of these things yourself. Ask your realtor or some friends for honest feedback and then get ready for those showings!

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