How to Get Your House Ready to Go on the Market

A featured listing from Allie Beth Allman and Associates.

Selling your home can seem daunting. However, following a few key steps—and having the right set of professionals by your side—can help ensure that the process will go as smoothly and quickly as possible, and likely result in the best possible financial return on your investment. Here, two realtors, a landscaper, and a home stager share their expert advice for every aspect of getting ready your house to list, from must-do maintenance to ways to maximize your curb appeal and more.

Catch up on deferred maintenance. One of the first things you’ll want to do is to work with your realtor to ascertain whether upgrades are necessary prior to listing. Ashley Beane, a realtor with Allie Beth Allman and Associates in Dallas, Texas, says it almost always pays off, as a savvy buyer will notice items that are damaged, missing, or otherwise need attention. Michelle Wood, founding partner of Texas-based Compass Dallas Real Estate, adds that a property that is well-maintained garners a higher sales price almost every time. “It’s well worth the effort before you list to repair, paint, and possibly bring some items up to date,” she says. Additionally, Beane says, it’s best to fix things you know need repair prior to listing, as it’s likely to be more expensive when it comes up in the inspection, and in some cases could jeopardize your sale.

Declutter everything. According to Heather Camlin, co-owner at Camlin & Co., a creative firm specializing in home staging based in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, decluttering is the key to home-selling successes. This includes what is out in the open and what’s inside your closets. Think of this as stage one of packing, she says—it’s a great opportunity to edit, so when it comes time to move, you’ll only be bringing what you love.

Clean out your closets. As mentioned above, prior to any potential buyers setting foot in your house, it’s important to pare down, and your closets are key areas worthy of attention. One of the top things buyers look for in a new home is ample storage space, Bean explains, so if your closets are packed, it’s going to leave a negative impression on buyers. So not only should you edit what’s in those spaces, but also ensure that everything is tidy, with clothes hanging nicely and shoes neatly placed.

Spruce up your exterior. Just as much as major interior issues deserve attention, so do the smaller ones outside your home. To that end, Beane recommends carefully assessing your home’s curb appeal and making necessary improvements. These could include painting your front door (and shutters, refreshing exterior painted brick if it’s looking dingy, power washing walkways, and cleaning windows.

Give your lawn a good once-over. Making sure your outdoor spaces are in tip-top shape is essential, Brad Pearson, owner of Southern Style Landscaping in Mobile Bay, Alabama, explains. Here, he shares a checklist for sprucing up your landscape beginning two weeks prior to taking your listings photos:

Two weeks before listing:

  • Consider sodding the lawn if needed
  • Fertilize your yard
  • Plant seasonal annual flowers in beds
  • Limb up any trees that may be blocking views of the house
  • Pull weeds in both the lawn and beds

One week before showing:

  • Power wash all sidewalks, driveways, and entrances to the house
  • Add pots to porches with layered interest
  • Add mulch or pine straw to beds for a finished look
  • Trim any overgrown shrubs

One day before showing:

  • Cut, edge, and blow the lawn.
  • Do a final spot-check for errant weeds and deadhead any flowers

Embrace the power of paint. “Wall colors can be very polarizing to buyers,” Camlin explains. She likes to choose neutral shades, favoring Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White and School House White. In addition to creating a sense of calm and allowing potential buyers to easily envision themselves living in the spaces, painting will further assist in giving your space an overall clean and airy feel (as long as you’re selecting the right colors).

Set the stage. It’s okay to admit that how you actually live in your home is not the same look you want to project when selling—sometimes a little editing is in order. “You want a prospective buyer to visualize themselves living in this space, not be distracted by the clutter, your family photos, or loud furniture pieces,” Beane explains. Wood concurs that whether in the traditional sense with different furniture and accessories brought in, or by editing current decor, “staging” has become a very important step in the listing process.

Do a deep clean. It almost goes without saying that ensuring your home is spotless for each viewing is essential. Camlin recommends cleaning it once yourself and then hiring professional cleaners to do a deep clean to really make your spaces shine, and then maintaining that level of cleanliness throughout the selling process. Investing in a weekly cleaning company to do the job for you will likely pay dividends down the road.

Edit your furniture. An effective way to make your home appear more spacious is to take inventory of what furniture might not be absolutely necessary, Camlin advises. Resist storing the items you remove from your main living spaces in your home, and instead consider renting a storage unit or donating them. “Be fearless and this hard work will be a great return on your time and energy investment,” she says.

Style your spaces. After you’ve removed all of your clutter, it’s time to make your spaces sing, and this is where a professional stager can really come in handy. Utilize objects, books, and plants (but not personal pictures!) to create interest on coffee tables, shelves, and other appropriate surfaces, Camlin says. In addition, prior to each showing, make sure all of your bedrooms are cleaned, hyper-organized, and accessorized with just enough chic pillows and some great textured blankets.

TSG Tip 384 from Ashley Beane of Allie Beth Allman and Associates, Michelle Wood of  Compass Dallas Real Estate, Brad Pearson of Southern Style Landscaping, and Heather Camlin of Camlin & Co. Allie Beth Allman and Associates and Compass Dallas Real Estate are featured  in The Scout Guide Dallas. Southern Style Landscaping is featured in The Scout Guide Mobile Bay. Camlin & Co. is featured in The Scout Guide Two Rivers and The Shore.