The 26 Day Guide to Preparing Your Home for Sale

Thinking of selling?  Here is your life saver, your tool that is going to make this process stress free and organised.  Your to-do list for the next 26 days.

Print it out and check off the items as you begin to get everything in order.

Day 1: Change light bulbs and update light fixtures. It’s easy to forget about all the bulbs that have burned out over the years, but you want your home to be as bright as possible. Lighting makes an incredible difference to how a home looks to potential Buyers. 

Day 2: Prep the paperwork: Buyers and agents are going to ask a lot of questions, so start digging out the paperwork now: utility bills, tax bills, renovation details, warranties, mortgage details, survey and rental contracts.

Day 3: Invest in some proper packing supplies, boxes and duct tape. Its time to start thinking about decluttering.
If you’re going to be moving a lot of stuff out of your house for the sale, consider renting a storage locker to keep non-essential items that you can move into your new home later.  

Day 4: Make an extra set of keys. Prospective Buyers and their agents will need to access your home, so you’ll need an extra set of keys. 

Day 5: Remove all the toiletries you have on display in your bathrooms and make a small investment in new towels (for showing purposes only) and replace anything else like toilet seats, the floor mat, shower curtains etc.  

Day 6: The kitchen is one of the rooms Buyers are most attracted, so you need to spend some time here.  Remove all the clutter from the counter tops, this includes blenders, toasters etc. You want the counters to be as clear as possible. Clean inside all the cupboards and declutter these too.  Store away plates etc that you will not be needing and throw away or donate any items of food that you will not be eating.  You want your kitchen to show that there is plenty of storage.  Clean inside the fridge (and remove the magnets, photos and reminders). Clean your oven, microwave and dishwasher too.  

Day 7: The bedrooms should be inviting, clean and spacious.  Declutter declutter declutter. Invest in a neutral-coloured duvet cover and some new fancy pillows. Remove personal photos, knick-knacks and personal grooming products. Clean out the closets. Consider getting an area rug if the floors are cold. If you’ve jammed in a dresser or armoire that doesn’t really fit into the space, consider storing it offsite and make sure all bedrooms show as bedrooms.  If one is your office, swap it back to a bedroom, just for sale purposes.  

Day 8: Now for the living/dining area.  Clean the sofa and chairs, invest in some new throw pillows and an area rug perhaps.  Clear away everything from your dining room table and make the area look like somewhere you would want to eat.  Again declutter, hide wires from your TV/stereo/speakers etc.  

Day 9: De-clutter, organize and clean the basement. Whether your basement is finished or just a storage area for extra crap, you’ll need to invest the time to make it look as spacious and clean as possible. 

Day 10: Now its time to tackle closets and storage areas. These are just as important to declutter as the areas that are on show.  Every inch of your home is on show and Buyers will open up closets, drawers etc so you need to pack this stuff away.   

Day 11: Most Buyers will have an emotional reaction to your home within 15 seconds of entering it, so what they experience at the entrance is CRITICAL. You want your entrance to be clean, de-cluttered and inviting. Make sure the area where you store shoes and coats is tidy.  Store away anything you and your family will not be wearing, so summer shoes and spring jackets if you are selling in the winter or winter stuff if you are selling in the summer.  A Buyer really doesn't need to see your collection of shoes and coats.  

Day 12: You want your house to appeal to as many Buyers as possible so depersonalize.  Take down family photos, anything drawn by your kids, your camel collection etc.  Walk through every room in your house and pretend you’re a Buyer. If what you see helps people get to know you as you, remove it.

Day 13: Start to interview realtors.  I recommend interviewing at least 3 people and I should most definitely be on that list.  I also have created a list of questions that you must ask them while interviewing them - check out the blog post for this    An experienced listing agent will also guide you through the home preparation and staging process, so they can advise and help in getting your home ready.  

Day 14: A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest ways to freshen up your home. Use neutral colours and add bold accessories that can be removed easily ie vases, cushions etc.  Light colours make a space seem more spacious, but a pop of colour will definitely add a bit of personality to the room.

Day 15: Make a list of all the little stuff that you’ve been avoiding repairing including the leaky faucet, the picture holes in the wall, etc. and fix all this stuff.  Easy to do, but easy to forget.  We have a handyman on our sub division that does this kind of thing so maybe think about hiring someone.  

Day 16: Clean your windows and screens.  Its unbelievable what a difference clean windows make.  

Day 17: Clean up your front yard.  Obviously depending on the time of year is dependant on the amount of work involved.  A fall/winter sale will mean cleaning up and maintaining leaves and snow whereas there may be less maintenance in spring summer.  Clean scuff marks on the front door, touch up chipped paint, make sure your garden is tidy and appealing and make sure outside lights work.  Just use your common sense, your front yard is the very first thing a buyer sees and can really set the mood of any showing.  

Day 18: Again, depending on the time of year depends on what you need to accomplish in the back yard but make sure is tidy, well maintained and if you have patio furniture, stage your outside space.  This is as important as indoors as it is an extension of the living space for those who love outdoor living.  

Day 19: Declutter and tidy up your garage.  If its a double car garage, make sure you can fit two cars in it and if you must, put in storage anything that you currently use your garage to store.  Just like any other room in your house, show your garage as a garage not a storage room.  

Day 20: Unless your carpets are brand new, you’ll want to have them steam cleaned (or do it yourself). 

Day 21: Clean up your hardwood floors.  There are some great products out there to make them look almost-brand-new.

Day 22: If your walls and doors are scuffed, invest in some magic erasers.  

Day 23: The final clean, either hire someone or do it yourself but it includes baseboards, inside the lights, the fridge, behind the fridge, behind couches, behind the oven, above kitchen cupboards, crown moulding etc.  Make your house smell good. Wash any couches, beds and surfaces where pets sleep and make sure litter trays and pet food are kept clean.  Be careful with the air fresheners though.  Sometimes they can smell worse than the smell of wet dog!!! 

Day 24: Make plans for the family pet.  Plan to get your pets out of the house: Doggie daycare? Grandma and Grandad, lots and lots of walks!!!! 

Day 25: Make plans for the kids and the kids’ stuff.  While you are in the process of selling, just keep a few toys around, I know it will be hard, but it will be worth it to not have your home over run with kids’ stuff.  

Day 26: Think about a pre-listing inspection.  Talk to your agent about this as it does depend on your home as to whether this is worth the money.  I have a blog post about this but essentially the buyer usually pays for the inspection so if you choose to have a pre-listing inspection, that's at your expense and if your home is relatively new and you are not concerned about anything coming up in the buyer's inspection, it may not be worth it.  

Now that your home is sparkling, your agent will arrange to have the listing pics done.  This will happen a few days before your home officially lists.  We hire a professional to take our listing pics as there is just no substitute for the professional shots.  

The cleaning and decluttering work is done but now the hard work starts.  You must maintain this show home for every single showing and every single open house.  It isn't convenient, especially if you have kids and pets but it will be worth it once you have that magic offer.