Tips for Selling Your House: Before You List

We’re moving, and though we have plenty of experience with packing and relocating, this is the first time we’ve had a move involve the selling of a house.

It’s no small thing, selling a house. The largest thing you’ll ever own (excepting only its replacement, maybe) is changing hands, and it’s your responsibility to make it ready for the transaction.

A first-time home seller, I’m no expert; but I have picked up some tips as we’ve worked through the process.

Before You List: Preparing Your Home for Market

Tips for Selling Your House

Declutter – I am convinced this may be the most important thing you can do for your home prior to listing. Go through every room, every closet, every cupboard, and pack up everything you can possibly do without for a while. Out-of-season clothes and shoes; excess toys, books, and games; and extra blankets and bedding make easy places to start. Small kitchen appliances, dishes, and utensils you don’t use regularly can be boxed up, too. Even toiletries and other personal care items can be pared down temporarily. Clear countertops of everything that doesn’t have to be there. (I left out only my coffee maker, my knife block, and my spice rack.) Decluttering is a lot of work, and living without everything handy can be an inconvenience, but think of it this way:

  • what you pack now, you won’t have to pack later;
  • the more excess you can eliminate, the bigger your space will feel to potential buyers;
  • and the less stuff you leave out, the less you have to keep picked up, cleaned up, and in it’s place for showings.

 Tips for Selling Your House

Depersonalize – My goal when putting my house on the market was to make it feel as if no one lived in it. Having walked through a few open houses that made my skin crawl with their personal touches and evidences of occupancy, I didn’t want my potential buyers rushing for the door with that same “get me out of here” feeling I had experienced. Yes, the house is still yours, but buyers want to feel like it could be theirs. So do what it takes to create a neutral, non-personal atmosphere in your home.

  • Take down family pictures, and pack up personal knick-knack collections.
  • Paint the walls back to a neutral color. We learned that Sherwin Williams’s Kilim Beige is the most popular paint color in the nation. Buy a five-gallon bucket of it and watch old walls become new again.
  • Hide “used” items such as toothbrushes, towels, bath/shower supplies, toilet brushes, trashcans, dirty laundry (or clean laundry that hasn’t been put away).


Tips for Selling Your House

Clean and Repair – That a house needs to be clean to be listed shouldn’t have to be said, but some dirty little places can be easily missed. As you’re cleaning every inch of your home, remember to check these inconspicuous spots:

  • walls – Most of us probably don’t think to dust our walls on a regular basis. If you don’t, take a look up near the ceiling. You might be surprised how much dust collects there. And if you are planning to re-paint, be sure to dust the walls first!
  • vents – Don’t forget to look up. Bathroom vents (on the ceiling) and wall vents collect a lot of dust.
  • light switches and outlet covers – We don’t often look at these things even though we use them daily. Wipe down not only the front side, but also the top edge where dust accumulates.
  • light fixtures – Again, don’t forget to look up. Dust collects on the top sides of pendant lights, fan lights, and bathroom vanity lights.
  • windows – Natural light is a big deal to potential home buyers. Brighten your rooms by cleaning hard-to-see films of dirt off interior (and exterior, if possible) window panes, screens, and blinds. The absolute best cleaning tool for these surfaces is the Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth team.
  • caulk lines – Check along countertop edges in the kitchen and bathrooms for caulk that needs to be stripped out and replaced. This simple repair does a lot to freshen your home.


Tips for Selling Your House

Stage – Once your home is clean and cleared of all unnecessary items, put on the finishing touches that make your house feel like a home. You (or your Realtor) may want to consult a professional staging service to help you with optimum furniture placement or even to bring rented items in. They can also help you make paint color decisions.

Photograph – Home buyers are doing the large majority of their house shopping online, eliminating options at the computer screen. That’s why the pictures you supply with your listing are so important. Hire a professional photographer – one who has experience photographing homes – rather than taking your own point-and-shoot snapshots. (A good Realtor will take care of this step for you.) Just as you will for showings, remove unsightly items before photographing. Those “used” items I mentioned above don’t photograph well. Look through some listings, and you’ll undoubtedly see a few examples of what NOT to do.

Have you ever put a house up for sale? What other tips would you add to this list?


  1. Love this list! So helpful and appropriate for us right now. You’re always a wealth of info my friend

  2. Mary says:

    It’s also helpful when you pack to label your boxes really well. And then on the top to label what room it belongs to for easy unpacking. Doing this currently since we’re moving in two weeks!
    Another helpful hint: Clean appliances on the outside AND inside, and wipe down cabinets. Huge bonus for potential buyers. When we purchased our house the owners left us their favorite people to go to for house maintenance and other info. It was personal and helpful.

    1. Angela says:

      Yes, Mary, I’m a big fan of labeling, too! I agree with you about wiping everything down. I want the house to be perfectly ready for its new owners. I was considering leaving some notes/tips about the house behind but wasn’t sure if that would be weird, so I’m glad to hear your feedback on that idea!

  3. Good list, and I agree with most … except the depersonalizing part. Of course you don’t want your frig. littered with kids artwork; but when it’s completely depersonalized it feels sterile. I think a few photos and diplomas and personal items make the place look warmer and homier. Just my opinion.

    1. Angela says:

      I get what you’re saying about depersonalizing. There is a tasteful balance required. I think that’s where the staging part comes in–adding that warmth back in through artwork, home decor, plants, a bowl of fruit… things that feel homey but don’t shout, “This is MY house!”

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Great tips! Similar to some I shared after we sold our first house a year and a half ago. It all makes a huge difference. Our house sold in one showing, full price only hours after it hit MLS. Wishing you all similar good luck!

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