Are you ready to plant a “for sale” sign in your front yard and move to a new house? Wait! Before you put your home on the market, there are a lot of steps you’ll need to go through to make sure everything’s in place.
Even if you’ve sold a house before, it can be hard to figure out or remember what all of these behind-the-scenes tasks are. That’s why we’ve compiled this ultimate home selling checklist for you to follow. It’s alright if you don’t complete the steps in this exact order, but ticking all the boxes on this list can help the buying and selling process go smoothly.
Without further ado, here are the fifteen most important things to do before listing your home for sale.
Research the Housing Market
Even if external factors decide when your move has to take place, researching the housing market in your area beforehand is still a necessity.
Try to find out whether you’re in a buyer’s market (lots of homes available at low prices) or a seller’s market (high demand for few homes increases the value of each). Look at how much similar properties are going for and how long they’ve been for sale.
Both of these pieces of information can help you decide on an optimal price later on. You may find out that it’s more profitable to stay where you are for a few months until the market shifts in your favor.
In many cases, selling a home is more about timing than anything else. If you’re able, wait for the warmer months when people are more likely to shop around. The best time for selling a home varies on where you live and the current state of the economy, but in general, listing it in the first half of May and/or on a Saturday morning gives you the best shot at fast success.
Find a Reliable Realtor
When you’re faced with the high costs of moving, going with the “for sale by owner” option is often more attractive than paying a real estate agent. In the long run, though, professional assistance can help you come out on top financially.
Realtors and listing agents are familiar with all the ins and outs of selling a home. They know what sells and what doesn’t in your local area and they’ll be able to offer tips on how to get the most value for your home without overspending on renovations.
When it comes to legal documents, inspections, and other regulatory requirements, it’s easy to let things slip through the cracks. Having a realtor on your side ensures you won’t miss any details that could derail the selling process.
Real estate agents are also experts at marketing and playing up a home’s best features. They know exactly how to help prospective buyers envision themselves living there. If you do decide to handle the sale yourself, spend some time learning how to market your house beyond the sign in the front yard.
Get a Home Inspection
Most serious home buyers will hire their own inspector to evaluate your house before closing a deal. If you don’t want to be surprised by hidden issues that could tank your house’s value, it’s crucial to have your own pre-inspection done before listing the property for sale.
A home inspector will look for problems in the plumbing, electrical system, foundation, roof, septic system, and permanent appliances like HVAC systems, furnaces, and water heaters.
Now that you have a list of necessary repairs from your home inspection, it’s time to decide which ones are worth fixing before the sale.
Unless you’re selling your house at a lower price as a “fixer-upper”, it’s in your best interest to complete any major structural and functional repairs before listing. This can significantly increase your house’s value and makes it more attractive to buyers looking for a move-in ready place.
When it comes to smaller repairs and superficial renovations, it’s always best to keep ROI in mind. Is it something that you can upgrade for only a few hundred dollars that makes a huge visual impact? If so, go for it.
Is it an expensive, time-consuming renovation that will only appeal to a small subset of buyers? It’s probably best to leave alone.
Some of the most worthwhile superficial upgrades include:
- Replacing damaged or outdated flooring
- Fixing moisture stains in the walls and ceilings
- Replacing cracked windows and torn screens
- Cleaning or replacing tile grout
- Updating the kitchen and bathroom fixtures
- Fixing pet damage (scratches, bite marks, stains, etc.)
If you can only afford to upgrade one or two rooms in the house, kitchens and bathrooms are a lot more profitable than living spaces.
Declutter and Depersonalize
When prospective buyers walk through a house, they’re trying to imagine what it would be like for them to live there, not what it’s like for you to live there. As such, the most attractive houses on the market are often the ones with the least individual personality.
While it may be hard to see your house without the little things that make it feel like home, decluttering and depersonalizing the space will pay off in the end. Use this as an opportunity to pare down your extra belongings—you’ll be grateful when it comes time to pack for the move.
Take any knickknacks, souvenirs, or personal items off the shelves and store them out of sight. It’s also best to stow away family photos and bold or provocative artwork for the time being.
Touch-Ups and Repainting
Next, take care of the little touch-ups that you missed during your repairs and renovations.
Go through every room in your house and clean or fill any scrapes, marks, or holes in the walls, doors, and trim. Touch up dingy paint and tighten loose handles on drawers, cabinets, and doors. If any of your doors have squeaky hinges, take the time to oil them.
Does your house have any patterned wallpaper or bold accent walls? While it may go perfectly with your decor, it could be the defining feature that makes someone decide against your house. Replace it with a neutral, solid-color paint instead.
Do a Deep Cleaning
After the clutter is gone, subject your house to a total deep clean. This includes steam-cleaning the carpets, polishing floors, and scrubbing every hard surface.
If possible, it’s always a good idea to hire a professional house cleaning service to do a final deep clean. Not only will this reduce your stress levels and responsibilities during a busy time, but professional cleaners also have the industrial-grade tools to make even the toughest areas of grime disappear.
Upgrade Your Curb Appeal
When potential buyers drive up to your home for the first time, what do they see? Is the lawn patchy, overgrown, and full of kids’ toys, or is it well-manicured and landscaped?
The first impression people get from your home’s exterior is vital for setting the mood of the showing. Here are a few ways you can take your curb appeal up a notch:
- Power wash your siding
- Fertilize, weed, and trim your lawn
- Repaint shutters and the front door
- Plant a few bright flowers in pots or the front garden
- Power wash and use weed killer on the driveway and sidewalk
- Remove kitschy lawn ornaments and clutter
If you don’t have time to do the yard work yourself, it may be worth hiring a lawn care or landscaping professional.
Stage Your House
Now it’s time to prepare your home for strangers to walk through it.
Staging your house involves a lot more than arranging items in an attractive manner. Consider how your house smells (avoid strong perfumes or air fresheners) and how much natural lighting you’re letting in. It’s also a good idea to lock away or remove personal items and valuables just in case.
Take Professional Home Photos
A picture is worth a thousand words, and in the real estate market, it’s also worth a thousand unfruitful house showings. That’s why having professional-quality photos of your house is essential to bringing in warm leads.
Wait until your home is fully staged to hire a real estate photographer. If you want to take the photos yourself, take a look at some of the more attractive home listings you can find online and mimic the types of shots they include. Use as much natural light as possible and take photos with a wide-angle lens to make rooms feel larger.
Instead of relying on Google Maps for a blurry overhead view, you may want to hire a drone photographer to capture your house and yard from above. This is well worth the cost, especially if your landscaping or the size of your property is a major selling point. MLS estimates suggest that homes that include aerial photos in their listings are almost 70% more likely to sell.
Get an Updated Appraisal
Comparing your house to similar ones on the market and getting your realtor’s input can give you a rough value estimate, but to set an accurate price, you’ll need to get a professional appraisal. The appraiser will walk through your home and property for a visual inspection. They’ll also take any recent upgrades, repairs, tax bills, and your home inspection report into account.
Finding a home appraiser is usually as simple as asking your real estate agent for a recommendation. If you’re looking to increase your house’s value before selling, have the appraisal done after you finish repairing and cleaning your home, both inside and out.
Choose an Asking Price and Bottom Line
Now that your home is in tip-top shape, you’ve researched the market in your area, and you have an updated appraisal, it’s time to settle on an asking price. This number needs to be realistic, but it should still be higher than your absolute minimum acceptable offer. This leaves a bit of room for negotiation so both the buyer and seller can be satisfied with closing the deal.
Because real estate markets are so dynamic, it’s best to set your asking price within a month of listing. Ask your realtor for help evaluating the current market in your area to avoid the need for future price cuts.
Hash Out Paperwork and Contract Details
Selling a house requires a massive paper trail. The list of documents you’ll need to have ready to go before putting yours on the market includes:
- The sales contract from when you bought the property
- Current mortgage records
- Professional appraisal and inspection reports
- Records of past maintenance, upgrades, and repairs
- Homeowners insurance papers
- Manuals, warranties, and other paperwork for features and appliances you’re leaving behind
- Utility bills dating back at least a year
- Preliminary title report
- Mandatory disclosures
These are only a few of the paperwork items you’ll need to gather. Your state (California, for example) may also require additional inspections and reports. Talk to your realtor to make sure you don’t miss anything and make sure to get legal advice when drawing up the preliminary contract.
Be Prepared for Showings
It’s almost time for buyers to start looking at your home! When the showings begin, make sure you always have somewhere to go at a moment’s notice. Don’t hang around while buyers look unless you’re showing the home by yourself, as this can make them feel uncomfortable.
Start Looking for New Properties
Prepping yourself to buy may seem like an odd addition to a home selling checklist. Even so, you’ll want as much time to browse the available options as you can get. Starting the search before you list your own home gives you a chance to browse and negotiate at your own pace without being rushed by the sale of your own home.
Follow This Home Selling Checklist Before Listing Your Home
Selling your home is no easy task! You have to prep an extensive paper trail, get your house assessed, and make it look like it’s in its prime again—all before you even put it on the market. By keeping this home selling checklist handy as you go, however, you’ll be sure to tick off all the most important details.
Are you ready to begin fixing up your home, but need a little guidance? Take a look at the other articles on our site for DIY, decor, and renovation advice.