Preparing your home to sell

So you’ve made the decision to sell and now you’re ready to put a sign in the yard.  Wait, not yet!  Put yourself in the best position to be successful by properly preparing your home.  There is an art to selling, which is one of the reasons why some homes sell and some don’t.  In this article, we’ll discuss the art of creating a living space that will be visually appealing to most of the people who walk through the front door.  The more positive experience that you give a potential buyer, the quicker you’ll find someone who is willing to pay for it.  Let’s take a look…..  

Declutter to Sell

I realize that the word clutter sounds a little negative because we all have our own tastes and clutter to one person may not fall into the same category for others.  So, let’s think of it like this – you are merely “pruning” your home to sell.

Whatever you call it, decluttering is a necessity when preparing your home to sell.  When potential buyers enter your home you want them to center all of their attention on what they may end up paying for – the house.  They won’t be buying your pristine collection of Alabama football hats that you have magnificently displayed in your office.  Plus, they may be Auburn fans so you’re already starting out on the wrong foot.

I’ve always said that when you get ready to sell, it’s a great time to have a yard sell (or 2 or 3).  Afterwards you can make a generous contribution to the local thrift store.  Hey, we’ve all been there – myself included.  At the time, it felt right to buy that espresso machine off of QVC that you now never use.  The whole idea of decluttering is to remove items that you never or rarely use from your house.  This will only make your home appear larger and more organized.  

Items to put away, pack up, or sell

  • Stack of magazines
  • Your collection of cookbooks (I had this issue)
  • Small appliances on your kitchen counters
  • Knick-knacks and collectibles
  • Items related to a hobby of yours
  • Family photos
  • Awards, certifications, and trophies
  • Excess furniture
  • Pill bottles
  • Food items in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer
  • Make-up
  • Jewelry
  • Rarely used toiletries
  • Excess pots and pans
  • Used towels
  • Kids toys
  • Pet toys
  • Dirty clothes (you’d be surprised)
  • Excess plants
  • Artwork that can be distracting to buyers

Thoughts on Closets, the Garage, and the Outside

Storage space is increasingly important to home buyers so decluttering can’t stop with the kitchen, bedrooms, and the living room.  Buyers will open up your closets and it’s encouraged.  Put an extra effort into packing up out of season clothes and anything else that is unnecessarily taking up space in your closets.  This goes for your cabinets as well.  The cabinets go with the house and people will look.  

For many homes, the garage is not used for parking (imagine that) and is oftentimes the most cluttered space in the house.  This is the time to pack or sell excess tools, bikes, storage containers, etc….You may need to think about renting a storage unit which is a great idea in preparing to sell.

The buyer’s first impression of your home will set the tone for the rest of the tour, so having an attractive curb appeal is crucial.  Declutter the outside by clearing out toys, cleaning up the flower beds, and “pruning” the shrubs.  Every positive thing that you do to organize and minimize will play a vital role in finding a buyer for your home.

Benefits of Decluttering

The beauty of decluttering is this.  You are maximizing the potential of your home to buyers by minimizing what’s in your home.  You are literally creating more space. 

You’ll also benefit from being more prepared when you get an offer.  Think about it.  The goal is to sell your house and you’re going to have to pack up everything anyway.  Doing it beforehand puts less stress on you than if you wait until the last 30 days of living in the house.

You’re slowly detaching yourself emotionally for the move.  You may have lived in your home for many years and have created a ton of memories.  The earlier you start the process, the better for your psyche will be when it’s time to hand the keys over.


Deep Clean to Sell

Once you’ve decluttered, you now have the opportunity to address areas of your home that you may haven’t seen in years.  Who doesn’t love a clean house?  When preparing your home to sell, you’ll want to put yourself in the best position to attract a buyer and getting your family involved in a deep cleaning will do just that.  This will be a major event because you’ll want to be as thorough as possible with a concentration on the kitchen and baths.  Think of it as if you were detailing a car.  We all know how to clean but here’s a good checklist of areas to focus on:


  • Refrigerator and Freezer – This should be a little easier since you’ve already decluttered.  Make sure to pull out everything and wipe down all shelves, racks, and drawers.
  • Stove – There are products on the market like Easy Off that will make quick work of baked on grease inside your stove.  With a little elbow grease, your stove should look brand new when your’e done.
  • Dishwasher – Run a wash through without dishes and make sure to clean the gasket around the door.
  • Sink/drain – Make it sparkle.
  • Backsplash and countertops – Clean and re-caulk if needed.
  • Walls and ceiling – Grease can get everywhere.  Get rid of all the evidence.
  • Floors – Sweep and mop.
  • Wipe down baseboards and doors
  • Cabinets – Now that you have more space in your cabinets it will be easier to wipe the inside of your cabinets and drawers.


  • Toilet – Clean inside, outside, and all around.
  • Medicine cabinets/mirrors
  • Bath/Shower– No one wants to see dirty soap film and buyers will notice.
  • Sink and bath drains – Make sure that water drains easily and use Draino if needed.  If the buyer doesn’t check, the home inspector will.
  • Cabinets and drawers – Wipe everything down and orgainize what necessities you have left.

In General

  • Clean all of your windows inside and out.
  • Vacuum and shampoo the carpets if needed.
  • Dust all ceiling fans
  • Wipe down all light switch plates and electrical outlets
  • Be objective.  Walk through and think like a buyer.  If it looks like it needs to be wiped down, dusted, de-cobwebbed, or cleaned do it.

Here’s a more detailed Home Seller’s Check List.  Just like decluttering, everything you do to make your home shine, the easier and quicker you will find a buyer.

Deep cleaning

Stage to Sell

So what is staging?  Staging is the act of removing, reorganizing, or in some cases adding items in your house to make it more appealing and organized to home buyers.  You are literally staging your home to make it appear larger and more functional.  You’re looking to create an area that looks open, airy, and inviting to all that enter.  There are many books and articles on the subject so I’m just going to hit on some key points.

Avoid Overcrowding

You want a space that has balance.  Remove furniture, plants, decor, etc. to accentuate how roomy a space is, however, you don’t want the space to look void either.  Buyers like to see an ease of flow in a room.  They also like to see furniture in a room because it helps them visualize how their furniture would look.  Strike a balance.


Depersonalizing is crucial because the buyer wants to see themselves living in the home – not you.  This is why you should pack away everything that says “you” in it.  Remove family photos, cups with your name on it, and taste sensitive items.  Take down awards, certifications, and ribbons.  I know these are all sentimental items but you can always put them back up in your new home.  Plus, by doing this, you’ll be moving into your new home much faster.

Choose a Calming Color Palette    

Again, everone has their own tastes and I’m not here to judge if you prefer dark green walls.  When preparing your home to sell, you want to appeal to the masses.  Well, the masses probably won’t like dark green walls so go with a more neutral color instead.  In doing so, you’ll create an inviting atmosphere and the buyer won’t automatically think that they will have to paint everything.

Staged room

Repair Your Home to Sell

Homes break down over time but sellers can offset much of what the buyer’s home inspector may find by taking care of any needed repairs first.  Yes, there are many simple repairs that you can make on a Saturday afternoon that will be one less red flag a buyer will have when touring your property.

Do-It-Yourself Projects

Depending on your skill level of course, most of the tasks below can be completed by the average person.

  • Repair cracks and nail holes in walls then repaint
  • Fix leaky faucets
  • Replace a toilet or toilet seat
  • Clean out old caulking and apply new around woodwork
  • Recaulk around sinks, tubs, and countertops
  • Replace a faulty light fixture
  • Replace damaged window screens
  • Repair missing or damaged grout

Should You Get a Pre-Listing Home Inspection?

What is this?  A pre-listing home inspection is performed anytime before you list your home.  Simple enough….The buyer will get an inspection for themselves but I think that having a pre-listing home inspection completed ahead of time will help you “dodge a bullet” later plus alleviate any surprises.  This will give you time and opportunity to fix any problem areas that you may not even knew existed.  Chances are you will have to make these repairs now or later so you might as well do it now.  Having less for a buyer to worry about will put an offer in your hands much quicker.

Always remember that there’s more to selling a home than putting a sign in the yard.  You will have to plan and prepare first.  Doing the things in this article will definitely separate your listing from others who neglected them.

Other Great Resources on Preparing Your Home to Sell:

40+ Home Staging Tips to Get Your Home Sold Quick – Luke Skar
Home Staging | Home Preparation – Bill Gassett
Your Property Presentation Checklist – Anita Clark
Preparing Your Home to Sell – Paul Sian


About the author:  The above Real Estate information on Step 2 – Prepare Your Home to Sell was provided by Jeff Nelson of IXL Real Estate – Eastern Shore.  Jeff can be reached via email at or by phone at 251-654-2523.  Jeff has helped people move in and out of properties for nearly 13 years.

Thinking about selling your home?  I have a passion for Real Estate and would love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in Baldwin County including the cities of Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope, Foley, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach.

Step 1 – Deciding to Sell

Step 2 – Prepare Your Home to Sell

Step 3 – Hire a Realtor

Step 4 – Determine a Price

Step 5 – Marketing Your Home to Sell

Step 6 – Handling Showings

Step 7 – Negotiating Offers on Your Home

Step 8 – Contract to Closing for Sellers

Step 9 – Close on Your Home

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.