10 Critical Steps To Take Before Listing Your House For Sale

Posted By Winston Bowdre February 26, 2019

There is much more work required in selling a house than buying a house. Talk to anyone that has done it and prepare for an ear full. If you’ve never sold a home before, you may be surprised at how complex it can be.

From determining the right listing price, to navigating contractual agreements, to preparing the home for sale. It can all be an exhausting process. The first and best place to start is choosing a good realtor who you can trust and enjoy working with. Ask their advice through each step in the process and leverage their experience.

A good Realtor will keep you focused on the things that will help you sell your home fast and for top dollar. Below is a list of 10 items that most Realtors will advise you to work on before listing your home for sale.

Remove Personal Decorations

There will be many different types of people looking at your home when it’s listed on the market. In order to encourage the most positive feedback, it’s best to create a neutral environment. The best way to do this is to remove any objects that reflect your personal choices and lifestyle.

If a buyer can walk through your house and determine your religious preference, family size, profession, and/or favorite alcoholic beverage, you may or may not have a problem. Some buyers have a hard time emotionally attaching to a home when a sellers lifestyle choices are front and center. This is particularly true when those choices conflict with theirs.

Take out all or most of the evidence that you even live there and you will be on the right path. It will also help you to emotionally detach from your home and start thinking of it as someone else’s. When a buyer has to ask if someone lives in your home, then you’ve done a well done job.

Hire A Home Inspector

Once you have an executed sales contract, the buyer will immediately hire a home inspector to inspect the house. Why not beat them to it? An inspection usually cost between $300 – $500 in Dallas/Ft. Worth depending on the square footage of your home. That’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

Tackle all the repairs upfront and you won’t be surprised when the buyer’s inspection report comes back with a list of problems for you to take care of. Inspections can be the #1 deal killers in this industry. You can eliminate the whole problem by dealing with the issues up front. Sure, it may cost you some money out of pocket, but that is money that you will most likely be spending any way. Buyer’s most often second guess a house if the inspection report is loaded with issues. In my experience, when buyers know that the seller has had a recent inspection and all repairs have been made, they are more willing to pay top dollar.

I just had a deal last year where the seller hadn’t been in his house in a few years because it served him as a rental. He put it on the market and we got a buyer. The inspection report came back with 35 pages of problems ranging from minor repairs to major repairs to the HVAC and some pvc issues in the bathrooms. The seller was not only surprised when he received the buyer’s repair request but he was also livid. He was hoping for the best possible scenario and set himself up for a disappointing disaster.

If he could have just inspected these items before listing, it would have never been a problem. He was lucky the buyer still wanted the property even after most of the issues were addressed. Performing an inspection before listing is well worth the expense.

Clean Everything Thoroughly

Everyone has a different definition of “clean”. When you’re listing your house for sale, you need to get it Chip & Joanna Gaines clean! Pretend that you’re selling your house to a germaphobe. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to spend a whole day doing a deep clean. It’s so worth the money!

When a house is unkept, it can be hard for buyers to emotionally attach to it, even if they are not clean people themselves. It’s an interesting irony that many home buyers expect the house they buy to be cleaner than the one they currently live in. This is a reality that must be accounted for. Home sellers must appeal to the buyer’s smell, sight, and touch senses. A clean house gives the impression that the property has been well maintained and cared for.

Remove Evidence of Pets and/or Kids

To sell your home quickly and for the most money, you want to appeal to every possible buyer. Not everyone is a fan of your kids and/or pets. Your house may have the most perfect layout, price, and design, however, if it smells like animals or has toys stuffed in every corner or all over the floor, you may have lost your buyer. I have personally worked with buyers that are so sensitive to pet dander when I show homes, they won’t finish walking through the house. Sometimes they will rule out a house simply based on seeing litter boxes in the property photos. Don’t forget the fact that you can’t experience your home as a buyer would, because you live there and are used to its unique smell.

The Dallas/Fort Worth area is one of the most pet friendly areas in the country. You’ll see residents taking their pets every where when they go to breakfast, the hardware store, beauty salons, and on and on. Sometimes it seems as if everyone here loves animals, but it’s not always the case. There are many people with pet allergies; one of them just may be your buyer. Take the time to make your house appeal to them and it could pay off for you in a really big way.

Statistically, pet odors are one of the most common reasons for a home to stay on the market for a while. A home that has been ravaged by kids can be equally unappealing. Make sure that any evidence of your kids presence in your home is kept to a minimum.

Replace Outdated Fixtures

This is an easy fix that can have a huge impact. If you have outdated brass door handles or brass chandeliers, you should replace them. It makes your home look dated. You can purchase a contract pack of brushed nickel handles for $10 a piece at home improvement stores.

If you’re appealing to higher end buyers, spend some money on designer door handles. Old and outdated light switch covers should be replace. You’ll be surprised how much difference those changes can make. Walk through your house and try to identify every fixture that reveals the date of the home. Replace as many of them as possible.

Shampoo and/or Replace Carpets

Carpets show more damage than almost any part of your home. If you have carpet in your house, it can be a problem. Carpet that is not stained or newer, you can get away with simply getting a deep steam clean from a professional carpet cleaning service or just rent one for the day at your local home improvement store. If cleaning the carpet will not restore them, you’ll need to replace them.

Most any Realtor will tell you that a home with worn out, dirty carpets is a hard sell. If the property is a foreclosure, or priced under market value, it’s not as big of an issue. However, if you want to compete for top dollar, you’ll need to tackle this objection right away. Carpets hold a lot of dirt and odor. It’s important that they look and smell clean for your showings.

Touch Up and/or Re-Paint

If it’s been over a year since the interior of your house has been painted, then now is the time for some touching up. Paint that was left over from the last time you painted can be used to touch up areas when there are nail holes, scrapes, had prints, etc. Touching up existing paint is a pretty easy endeavor and it revives your house to make it look new again. If you do not have any touch up paint, you can peel off existing paint, or cut a small section of sheetrock (which you can later repair). Just do it in a non conspicuous area like a closet or behind a door. Take the sample to a local paint store and have them color match. 

If you have heavy, strong colors in your house (green, burgundy, purple, etc.), it would be wise to apply a coat or two of primer then paint over with a neutral color. As a general rule, I tell clients that they shouldn’t have any more than 3 neutral colors in their home. The more colors, the more chance you have for objections. You can’t take it personally if someone else does not share your affection for canary yellow. Keep in mind there are many different types of people and you’re trying to appeal to as many as possible.

Neutral Colors

Neutral colors are the only way to appeal to the most amount of buyers. Even those buyers that like strong colors are not always going to like your choices. Then you have to consider that their furnishings and drapes have to match as well. When you look at it this way it’s easy to see that the probability of your strong color choices working for most buyers is quite slim. For this reason, most good Realtors will recommend painting with neutral colors. People will rarely object to buying a home with neutral colors, but will often object to a home with strong colors.

If you have exterior paint that is in need of restoration, take the time to work on it as well. This includes mailbox posts, fences, storage sheds, siding, fascia, and soffits. The exterior of your home needs to look well maintained to encourage a good offer from a buyer.

Bonus Tip: Paint makes a home smell new. People love new! If you have door trim with oil based paint, find a match to that paint and keep it handy. Before a showing, dab a little bit of paint on top of the door trim where no one would place their hands during a showing. The smell from the paint makes the home smell new. Oil based paint has a strong lasting odor so only use a little bit and do it every 15 feet or so.

Get A Storage Unit

If you are still living in your house, like most people do, then your closets are full and your garage is packed from floor to ceiling. This is quite normal. The problem is that some of the homes you will be competing with are either vacant, or almost vacant and staged. These homes show much better and buyers can visualize themselves moving in much easier.

In order to stay competitive, it is wise to rent a storage unit and start loading it with everything that you are not going to need while your house is on the market. Start with all of your memorabilia and pack the unit with the items that you are least likely to need in the back. The more you put in storage, the better.

If you have to asl the question, “Should I store this?”, the answer is: “Yes!”. Start packing as though your house is sold and you only have 2 weeks left to move. The more you put in storage, the less you will need, because your home will sell much faster! Buyer’s love homes that look move in ready. In addition to getting a storage unit, this would also be a good time to start sifting through your belongings and do a garage sale or sell online through Craigslist or use one of the sales apps.

Freshen Up Landscaping

Statistically, landscaping is the biggest bang for your buck when listing your house for sale. We’ve all heard about the importance of “curb appeal”, and know that first impressions are HUGE in real estate. The fastest way to freshen up your landscaping is new mulch. Spread a layer of it all throughout your landscaped areas. This is inexpensive and requires very little time commitment.

If you’d like to make an even better first impression, plant some colorful flowers which will make your new mulch stand out even more. Trim any over grown plants and bushes and clean up your outdoor spaces to look new again. In a city with weather as gorgeous as ours we spend a lot of time outside, so it’s likely to have a big impact on your buyers decision to purchase your home.

Get Specific Advice from a Realtor

Every property is different and will have unique and specific areas to address. Experienced Realtors look at dozens of homes with home buyers every week. When we walk through your house at a listing appointment, we have the experience of buyer’s voices in our heads calling out objections and mentioning areas of concern. We know what buyers want because they tell us every day.

Every market is different and there are different tactics for each area. A good, experienced Realtor will point out all of the objections that you can expect to hear from your potential buyers. There will always be seller’s that don’t want to hear it, but this is extremely valuable information, so be sure to take advantage of it early on in the listing process.

Final Thoughts

As you read through the 10 steps above, don’t be intimidated by the scope of work. Jot down a list of things that you feel are important to your home sale then plan them out accordingly. Take one item at a time and before you know it you’re finished. Once your house is ready to put on the market is will most likely get an offer before your competition does. Many sellers will try to avoid some of the above steps. If you take the time and expense to address these issues, your house should outshine the others and sell for the highest possible price. When it come to selling your home, the adage “you get out of it what you put into it” rings true. All of your time and effort will be greatly rewarded.

Hey There! I’m Winston Bowdre, founder of Winston Alan Realty and creator of the content on my website. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to leave a comment in the contact us box below, or to share this article on social media with someone who might benefit from it. I appreciate your time here on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. Feel free to contact me any time at [email protected]