Listing your Home for sale


Selling one’s home or property can be much more time consuming and exhausting than people often times realize. If your property is being sold as a tear-down or the neighborhood is so hot that not much matters, then you probably won’t have to do very much to get it sold.

However, if you are selling your property on the basis that another family will buy it and live in it, preparing your home for a quicker and more profitable sale takes thought and effort.

The following items should be considered suggestions and observations based on having worked in this industry for decades. Depending on your particular situation they may be more or less helpful. Some suggestions may seem obvious, some maybe not so obvious. When you interview prospective realtors they will probably tell you many of the same things. Remember, the realtor wants to get your house sold as quickly as possible as well.


Rule #1

Get rid of everything possible, throw it out, donate it, store it in the garage, whatever it takes. Empty the rooms and closets as much as possible. Make your home look like one of those model homes in magazine ads or on TV. It is a fantasy but it is nonetheless what buyers want to see. The big hurdle is getting buyers to envision themselves in your house as their HOME. You want buyers to be able to envision their life in this house, not be constantly reminded of your life in this house. I’ve done walkthroughs with buyers who spent the entire time commenting on the current owners ‘stuff’; rather than talking about how they would live in the house. As a Seller, that is not a situation you want a potential buyer to be in.


  • Fix it – minor defects or broken items should be repaired or replaced prior to listing your home for sale as much as you can afford.
  • Every potential buyer walks around your house making a mental or written checklist of what needs to be changed or fixed and how much it will cost. The fewer concerns there are, the closer you get to a deal.
  • Whether you hire someone or ask an ‘overly honest’ friend to walk around and tell you things he/she notices is up to you. However, having a 3rd party look around can be an eye opener.

Paint colors

  • Paint almost everything a neutral color – most buyers have a hard time imagining your home as their home when the home looks too personal, too you. A buyer can imagine that off-white wall being their favorite orange but it is very difficult for a buyer to imagine your chartreuse wall being their favorite orange.
  • This doesn’t necessarily include everything. A very classic dining room with currently popular colors could probably stay.
  • Touch-up stain and polyurethane worn woodwork and trims. Touch-ups can be done fairly easily even by a novice.

Personal items

  • Start packing – most of your stuff should be gone, packed up and off the shelves, tables, mantels, window sills etc. The buyer needs to be able to imagine their pictures or nicknacks on the fireplace mantel or window sill. That is difficult to do when your stuff is cluttering up the view.
  • The pile of shoes buy the front door needs to get cleaned up. A buyer will think there’s no place else to put them.


  • All those clothes and shoes you’ve talked about donating, do it NOW. The more clothes in the closet, the smaller it looks. There should be some room left on the shelves and hangers.
  • If you can’t see the floor, the closet is too full. Seeing the floor of the closet when you open the door is a benchmark as to whether you’ve gotten rid of enough stuff.


  • Collect all manufacturer and contact information about any custom made, special order items and appliances installed into one container. Let the realtor know you have the information. He/She can disclose this to a potential buyer. It indicates that you care and pay attention to your home.
  • Call it what you want, ‘Murphy’s Law’, Karma, etc. chances are something will break during the selling process. Replace any questionable items prior to showings. Such as that doorknob that comes off sometimes if you pull it too hard. You are used to it, its no big deal to you. To a potential buyer it will be another problem that makes your house seem less well-maintained.
  • If you need new garbage cans in the alley, call your local Alderman’s office. They can arrange for new cans to be dropped off. New ones look better than the 10 year old ones with holes chewed in them from critters having your leftovers.
  • If your neighborhood has residential permit parking, have extra parking permits at your home for your realtor to handout as necessary for showings.
  • Put most or all out of season outdoor items away. This will keep the yard, deck or balcony from looking cluttered and small.


  • Test smoke detectors and change batteries prior to listing. Smoke detectors will beep intermittently if the battery is weak. This can be very annoying during a showing.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be plugged in or have a new battery.
  • If you smell dampness or high humidity in your home find out what the problem is and fix it before listing. Any type of mildew smell is an immediate turn-off and warning sign to buyers. Take a look around the kitchen, bath, basement and plumbing areas. Check drains under sinks, caulk seams along tubs and showers, radiators and humidifier lines. Consider calling a plumber if you can’t figure out the source of the smell.
  • If you see yellowish stains or a white powdery substance above or around windows or doors on drywall or plaster along outside walls. There’s a good chance you have a wall leak. Water intrusion and resulting mold concerns have become huge issues for buyers. Fix and document any leaks before listing.
  • Make sure handrails along stairs are secure.
  • Consider re-caulking all bathtubs and showers.
  • Have the furnace properly cleaned and change the filter.


  • Bushes should be trimmed properly so as to not touch building walls. When plants are in contact with building walls they can cause direct water transfer to the wall and promote faster erosion and rot.
  • Trees branches should be trimmed as needed so that they do not make contact with walls or overhang the roof. Trees branches extending over roofs can lead to premature shingle deterioration. Overhanging tree branches also act as a pathway onto your home for squirrels or other rodents.
  • Flaking paint on woodwork should be scraped, primed and repainted as much as possible. Curb appeal is paramount to getting people to actually come inside.
  • Having trouble getting your keys in and out of your exterior locks? So will the realtor trying to show the house. Don’t have it be a hassle to get in. Spray some WD40 or 4-in-one oil onto a key and slide it in and out of the problem lock a few times this should free it up nicely.
  • When rerouting downspouts away from foundation walls, be sure not to create a trip hazard by running downspout extensions across sidewalks or walking paths. Your downspouts should extend out at least 6’ as possible away from the house.
  • Upper roof area gutters should have downspouts run to lower roof area gutters. Upper roof area gutters should not be allowed to drain directly onto lower roof shingles. The downspouts may not be very attractive to some. However, improper drainage can seriously reduce the life expectancy of roofing shingles and other materials.
  • When gardening attempt to keep bark, dirt and other organics away from wood type siding or trims to reduce rot potential.
  • Wash the windows and screens

Some of the maintenance items mentioned in these lists are concerns that commonly come up during a home inspection. The fewer items of concern on the home inspection report, the closer you are to getting your house sold.

You’ll know when you are done getting stuff out of the house when you suddenly walk around your own house and think, ‘Hey, this place isn’t bad, I wouldn’t mind living here’.

Good Luck.

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