Buying & Selling Houses

10 Must-Dos Before Listing a House for Sale

Expertise: Personal Finance, Business Management
50 Articles Written

Selling your house is exciting! It marks the close to an exciting chapter in your life. And it can take months, so many homeowners are ready to get their house on the market and finish the whole process as soon as possible.

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Don’t rush to list your house if you’re not ready to sell. Unfinished repairs, neglected maintenance, and a bad first impression can all keep your house on the market for a longer period of time.

Use these suggestions as a checklist to complete before you list your house for sale. Some are DIY and some require a call to a professional. Either way, they’ll prepare your home and you for a quicker close at a higher value.

1. Take Professional Photos

Want to reach more potential buyers? Hire a professional to take photos of your home.

Want to sell your home faster? Hire a professional to take photos of your home.

Want to sell your home for more money? You get the picture… (Pun not intended.)

More and more buyers are heading online to look for homes, and if they aren’t impressed with the photos they see, they’re going to start clicking elsewhere. Home listings with professional photos sell 32 percent faster than homes without them.

If your home is valued at over $200,000, professional photos could help you sell for up to $11,000 more. Additional buyers will be looking, visiting, and bidding. It’s a fantastic investment in your property.

man photographer is making arhitecture photography with old film camera in spring,  home and building concept. top view.

2. Make Quick Fixes to Boost Curb Appeal

First impressions are everything—even when selling a house. What will buyers see first when they walk onto your property?

Curb appeal can boost a home’s value—70 percent of NAR members say that curb appeal is “very important” to attracting buyers. Simple fixes like adding shrubs, unclogging the gutters, and staging the front porch could make a home memorable before buyers even walk in the door.

A lot of these quick fixes can be done over the weekend.

3. Stock Up on Light Bulbs

Speaking of quick fixes, put light bulbs on your shopping list. (Many sellers forget this one.) Open houses require all lights to be on throughout the home. Flickering lights are spooky, and lightbulb replacements are an errand that no buyer wants to put on their list.

Have replacements ready to avoid putting buyers in the dark.

4. Call a Handyman for Repairs

You don’t have to call a professional to screw in a lightbulb. In fact, you can probably check a lot of items off your list if you need to tighten loose handles or change AC filters. But it’s important to assess your entire home for any necessary fixes and then do them.

Related: How to Sell an ‘Unsellable’ Home

Clogged gutters, leaky faucets, and squeaky doors only put items on a buyer’s to-do list. Make as many repairs as you can, but don’t hesitate to call in a professional for the rest.

5. Check to Make Sure You Have All Permits

If you did work on your property, you probably needed to get certain permits. If a buyer wants to do some work on your property later, they’ll need to get certain permits. Buyers who plan ahead will probably ask you about those permits.

It’s not only embarrassing to admit that you remodeled your home without the right permits—you might lose a buyer because they don’t want to put more items on their to-do list. Make sure you have all the permits you needed for remodeling that you did in the past and have permits for possible remodeling in the future.


6. Call the Kennel

As much as you love your animals, proof of them in your home doesn’t add value. The right buyer could have allergies or prefer a pet-free life.

Have a pet sitter or kennel’s number on hand for when you’re showing the home. Hide or clean any evidence of your furry friend, including odors.

This might mean calling the professionals for a deep clean of your carpets, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run.

7. Hire a Housekeeper

While you’re at it, hire a professional to remove evidence of your odors, too. Animal lovers aren’t the only homeowners who should consider deep cleaning. After years in your home or on your property, you might not notice certain stains or smells.

Related: Should You Sell Your House or Rent It?

Buyers certainly will. Invest in a professional housekeeper or cleaner who will scrub everything down and shine every surface.

8. Stash Valuables and Family Photos

Buyers want to step into a house and feel like they live there. Pictures of your family remind them that they’re just looking.

This task kills a few birds with one stone. Removing personal photos and valuables sets the house up for staging. Even if you’re not staging your home, stashing away your stuff also prevents theft. You never know who’s popping into your open house and milling around your bedroom.

Packing these items could also save you time once you’re ready to move!

Girl packing books into a box in a brightly lit living room

9. Rent a Storage Unit

You’ll need to put your family photos and pet cages somewhere. Get a storage unit ready so you won’t have to stress about where to put the items that you’ve packed. If you decide last-minute to stage the house with different furniture or decor, this storage unit will be necessary anyway.

And if all goes well, you’ll be needing a place to put all of your stuff before you know it.

10. Make a List of Anything That Is Coming With You

Eventually, everything is going to go. That might mean light fixtures or curtain rods that might normally be left behind.

Make a list of everything that you are going to take with you and give it to the Realtor. If you're not present during an open house, your real estate agent will be able to answer all questions that buyers might have about what stays and what goes.

Is there anything you’d recommend adding to this list? 

Leave suggestions in the comment section below!

Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. His law firm, Royal Legal Solutions, helps thousands of real esta...
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    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied 24 days ago
    When I go to a house, I hate it when all the lights are on. I want to see what kind of natural light the house has, so I go around and turn off all the lights. If the house is blessed with abundant natural light, why wouldn't the seller want to show off this feature?
    David Krulac from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
    Replied 23 days ago
    Scott, good article. There are some additional thing we do to get ready to sell: 1. We get new door mat at front door. 2. We often paint the front door with a contrasting color even if it doesn't "need" painting. 3. Re: light bulbs, we replace with the largest bulbs permitted with the fixture, often 60 watts for enclosed fixtures or maybe 100 watts with open fixtures. 4. We have all the windows and screens professionally washed inside and outside. surprisingly this is very reasonably priced sometimes as low as $10 a window. 5. If carpeting either wall to wall or area rugs not included in the sale, we have ALL professionally steam cleaned. 6. Odors need to be neutralized, whether pet odors, cooking odors or just stale air. Ever been in a grandma's house that smells like grandma? 7. Weed flower beds and apply new mulch. 8. Trim trees and bushes, particularly bushes that block windows and limit "natural light" inside the home. 9. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves and shovel the snow. 10. Set the indoor temperature so that the home is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. Not only does it make the conditions more pleasant for the buyer but also shows that the furnace/air conditioning works properly. Nothing will turn off a buyer more than a frigid house in the winter or a sweltering house in the summer. David Krulac Bigger Pockets Podcast #82