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Prepping Your House for Sale? Here’s My 12-Step Home Selling Checklist

Sell your home faster

There are two types of sellers: those who feel compelled to renovate their entire home and those who think their homes are perfect the way they are.

The truth typically lies somewhere in between. But both parties should check out this 12-step home selling checklist before they do anything. Here’s how you can ensure you get maximum return on your investment:

  • Consult with a local real estate agent. An agent who is an expert in your area will be able to give you a realistic assessment of your home’s value and can give you a list of what needs to be done in advance.
  • Look at your home through a buyer’s lens. How we live and how we view a potential home for sale are quite different.

Tip: Take a photo of your living room or kitchen and compare it to what you see online. Most attractive online photos will show sleek, clutter free homes with neutral colors.

  • De-clutter: If you are serious about selling and moving, you are going to be packing and throwing out items you don’t use. Start now to make the process of selling and moving that much better.

Tip: If you haven’t used it in the past year, you probably don’t need it. If you can’t bear to part with it, put it in storage and re-evaluate these possessions later. Those who have lived in their homes for decades may need the help of a professional organizer.

  • Check permits and paperwork. This isn’t a step many sellers consider but it is a potential deal breaker. During the due diligence phase, you could lose a buyer because it can take some time to resolve these paperwork issues and your potential buyer might be impatient and move on to another property.

Did you combine two apartments, or did you do substantial work which involved pulling a city permit? If so, you want to be certain that the paperwork was closed out successfully with the city.

If you own a townhouse and have any outstanding violations or open permits, it is time to resolve those issues. Unresolved documentation issues can cause problems or slowdowns when the buyer is in the process of obtaining financing which could adversely impact your sale.

Tip: contact the Department of Buildings.

  • Fix leaks. Leaks will stop a sale before it even happens. One owner I know had a leaking tub 12 years before he was ready to sell. The tub and leak were fixed and there had been no issues for well over a decade. However, there was a slight discoloration on the ceiling, which had never been repaired. Buyers get nervous when they see paint discoloration and are likely to leave without telling your agent why they don’t like the property. It is hard to overcome an objection when the potential buyer has run out the door.

Tip: A simple coat of paint would have addressed the issue.

  • Paint: Once you have decluttered and moved out what you need, you may notice your paint job needs some attention. Painting an entire home can be expensive or time-consuming if you are doing it yourself. If you painted in the past couple of years, a few touch ups might do the trick.
  • Colors: Next consider the colors you have chosen. In our HGTV/Instagram world, the photos of your home online are the first step in selling your place, long before a buyer makes an appointment to see your place. You may love your eggplant or vermillion dining room, but unless it was created by an AD100 interior designer, it is not likely to read well online and reach the largest audience. In fact, it could turn away potential buyers.

Tip: Shades of white and light neutrals do best in online photos.

  • Has your home adapted to the times? Covid changed the way we live and what we need from our homes. Working from home is normal even if it is just a day or two a week. If you already have a home office, this is the time to tidy it up and make it look appealing.

Tip: hide excessive cords and get a filing system in place.

If you don’t have a home office set up, is there an area of your home which might accommodate a desk to suggest a workable nook?

  • Laundry? Do you have a washer/dryer in your home? If not and your building allows it, install one as it could make the difference between someone eliminating your property altogether when they are searching online or coming to see it and making an offer.


  • What about floors? Owners ask me about their floors all the time. It is difficult to re-sand and stain floors in an occupied home.

Tip: Leave floors as they are and let the new owners decide what they would like to do.

Believe it or not, flooring is a highly personal decision and what you deem to be glaring flaws, someone else might find charming.

One seller I know who truly had distressed floors, wisely agreed upfront to have the floors redone before the new buyer purchased the property. They had already gotten a quote to stain and refinish the floors, so they knew the extent of the financial commitment and that figured into the negotiations. Once we found a buyer, they were able to choose their own color and finish, making for a successful sale.

  • Get a professional inspection: If you own a townhouse, I highly recommend getting a professional inspection before you list your property. You may have some resistance to this step because it could cost you anywhere from $800-$1,200 depending on the inspector. Buyers of townhouses always get inspections, so why not know what they will find in advance so you can cure the issues.

A well-negotiated deal can suddenly hit some stumbling blocks at the inspection, which will cost you time and money. I once had an owner who had to negotiate $100,000 off the contract price because of issues the inspector discovered in the foundation. If the owner had known in advance, the cost of repairing the problem would have been far less.

  • Staging, staging, staging: Finally, put the finishing touches on your home to make it jump ahead of the competition.

Regardless of market conditions, most homes which are “show-ready” sell faster than those that aren’t. A luxury property may benefit from staging. While this can involve a substantial financial investment (starting at $25,000), for the right home it will pay off handsomely.

For budget conscious sellers, Corcoran partners with RealVitalize. We understand some light construction might not be in your budget, yet it will make a difference in how quickly you sell your home and at what price. RealVitalize will not only guide you through the tune up process, they will also pay the costs up front. You owe nothing back until you successfully close on your home.

Remember, you make money when you buy real estate, and you collect it when you sell so put your best foot forward when it is time to list.

Now that you home is show-ready, take the next steps to selling your home.

Curious to know what it will take to sell your home? Reach out to me today. I would be happy to help.