Pre-Listing Tasks Checklist
Click here to access a printable version of this checklist.
We highly recommend completing the following tasks ahead of listing your home for sale. From experience, these tasks are what we believe to be the most important things to address in order to help your home show well and therefore fetch you top dollar. Interested buyers are focused on your home’s appearance in terms of cleanliness and attractiveness as well as its general condition. It’s not any one of these individual tasks that will help you get top dollar. Rather, it’s the combination of these tasks that will shape up to create the slight edge for your home over the competition. You may disagree with some of these suggestions and that’s fine. Most importantly- our intention is never to offend, but instead, to give you honest suggestions of tasks that will help you get top dollar in a timely manner. If you decide not to do some things, that’s okay. You are in charge. You have the final say.
Step 1: Disassociate yourself from your home
Staging success starts when you begin to view your beloved home as your number one commodity to sell. Often times it's not possible for homeowners to be 'objective' with their belongings and home (that’s what we're here for) but you can start by critically assessing each room. It will also help if you think; "This is not my home; it is a house- a product to be sold much like that of a car. Make it shine and let everyone know it’s for sale”.
Step 2: Commit to the Process
When it comes time to sell for top dollar, there's no room for half-heartedness! You either commit to selling your home or hold it. Disassociating from your home and making sure it’s the best looking home on the market in its price range is the first step. The Staging Process can be tough, but it gets results and allows you to sell your home faster and for more money if you follow through the entire staging process for optimum results.
Step 3: Complete the tasks in chunks
Without a game plan to complete the tasks in chunks, it will feel too overwhelming. Start with the end date in mind. Together, we can determine the best listing date (the date in which we’ll begin actively marketing your house for sale to the public). You will need to have all tasks completed 1 week prior to the listing date.
We suggest going after 1 room/area at a time. Place the start date and end date of each room/area within your calendar so you won’t have to think but just do. As you know, life can/will get in the way and all of this is in addition to how busy you already are. So, schedule accordingly.
Since most folks need to pair-down belongings, you’ll need to determine which items you wish to keep and which items you can discard/donate. For those items you wish to keep- will you be storing them in boxes within the garage or within a short-term storage unit nearby? Plan to pack up everything that you will not be using within the next 3 months.
The Task List
Start by standing in front of your home with this checklist and a pen. Click here to access a printable version of this checklist. Jot down anything that leaps out at you. Then, walk around the outside of your home with this checklist in hand.
- Shrubs and landscaping should enhance, not hide, the home. Overgrown shrubs should be pruned back.
- Flowers add color and beauty to the home. Flower beds should be clean and look good in all seasons. Make sure all flower beds are free of leaves and debris.
- Keep the lawn mowed and neatly edged. A perfectly mowed lawn does wonders for presence. You may have to mow twice per week during the summer months.
- Aerate and seed any bare or thin spots in your lawn (must make sure to always keep it moist if you go this route). We highly recommend applying sod rather than seed.
- Mulch will do wonders to boost the presence and stature of your home at any time of the year. Always make sure all beds are freshly mulched. At the very least, apply mulch over existing faded mulch beds in the front yard. Fresh black mulch is recommended for maximum contrast and a fresh, crisp look. Lowes sells bags of black mulch. If you have stones instead of mulch, do not apply mulch over the stones. Also- do not place mulch in window wells (stones-only in those areas).
- Check your flower beds, lawn areas and driveway for weeds. It is better to pull them than to use chemicals. Chemicals take a long time to work and the dead and dying weeds look awful as they go from yellow to brown. Also- they are not kid, pet or insect-friendly, they smell terrible and they’re killing our honey bees as well as countless other insects and pollinators.
- Arrange for a lawn fertilization company to set up an accelerated program to keep your lawn a deep green color. Do Not apply weed killer (It’s not kid, pet or insect-friendly and it smells terrible). If you want to green up your lawn yourself, we’ve had tremendous success in the spring and summer months by first applying Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food (not weed & feed). Next, immediately apply Miracle-Gro Lawn Food using a hose sprayer attachment. After that, give your lawn a deep soaking of water immediately. Continue the deep soaking every other day for 1 week and then go back to your typical watering schedule. Your lawn ought to green up considerably within 10 days. Images of the products mentioned are below and can be found at Home Depot or Lowes.
- In the fall, be sure to rake leaves from your lawn and from planting beds. This may need to be done every couple of days.
- Remove any trash, leaves and spider webs from the window wells.
- Inspect your property and remove all trash cans, discarded wood scraps, and trash. Re-stack wood piles if necessary and remove all storage containers, children’s toys and other unnecessary objects.
- Make sure windows are spotless. This includes frames around the windows, the sills, and shutters.
- Consider painting or cleaning any fencing, light posts and railings, as needed.
- Vacuum spider webs and clean the glass on all of the exterior light fixtures.
- Consider removing the window screens and stacking them together either in the garage or basement- out of the way. Use a permanent marker to label their locations at the tops of the screens or use tape with their locations. Removing the screens will help brighten up your home and provide more clarity when looking through the windows. Remember, every little bit helps you get top dollar! If it’s the summer and you like to open your windows frequently, leave those screens in. Replace torn and faded screens as needed.
- If you have a covered entryway, add a bench or attractive set of chairs to help people imagine themselves relaxing here. If these items already exist, make sure they are clean, inviting and someplace a person could actually sit.
- Open up and clear any walking paths to water or other features on your property. This includes trimming low hanging or overgrown branches. It is important to trim back these items as they should not obstruct walking paths. (NOTE: Be sure that you remain in compliance with any HOA tree trimming requirements. An HOA enforcement order is like a lien on your property and is not something you want as your home goes on the market.)
- Keep the driveway swept.
- Clean out gutters & wash or paint the trim if needed. Note- paint touch-ups are typically not a good idea on the exterior surfaces because the existing paint is likely faded from the sun which will make your touch-up paint a different shade of color. If your exterior is in need of a paint job, it’s best to complete it before listing your home for sale.
- Use a pressure washer or hose to remove any bird droppings from the siding.
- Dog waste. Be sure to remove and dispose of any/all dog waste in your yard, in a timely manner.
- Consider a fresh coat of paint or varnish on the front door. At the very least, clean the door and hardware.
- If you have two locks on your front door and they each require a different key, replace the locksets so that both can be opened with one key.
- Make sure your doorbell not only functions but is not cracked, broken or a faded yellow color.
- Keep your porch swept and free of spider webs.
- Have an attractive welcome mat for people to wipe their feet (the newer, the better). A second mat inside is important during bad weather. We will provide shoe booties inside the front door for folks that wish to keep their shoes on while touring your house.
- Make sure the mailbox is clean and free of rust. Re-paint or replace it if needed.
- Verify house numbers are large and visible. We want to make sure buyers and agents are able to find your home with ease.
You see your home through your heart. To get the highest price, you have to appeal to potential buyers who will see your home through cold, calculating eyes. If buyers have a choice between two comparable properties that are similar in price, they will choose the one in the best condition.
The following checklist will help you give the inside of your home the greatest presence.
- Air out your home. Someone who lives in a place is the last person to notice any peculiar odor that may be obvious to visitors. However, if you do notice any bad odor, search for and destroy its source.
- Wash all the windows inside and out. Clean the window sills and the bottoms of the window jams (open the windows and clean that area as well). Yes- buyers do open windows and check these areas.
- Wash the blinds and vacuum the drapes.
- If your carpeting looks dirty or has not been cleaned in the past 6 months, have it cleaned. Badly worn or very out of date carpeting should be replaced before we list your home for sale. Offering buyers a credit to pick their own new carpet and/or discounting the price are ineffective methods for getting top dollar. Buyers only know what they see, not the way it is going to be after something is done in the future.
- Clean and/or polish all floors.
- Clean all the closets, cabinets, and drawers. Get rid of things you have not used in the past 3 years and pack everything that you have not used in the past year. Pack seasonal clothing that won’t be used in the near future. Doing these things now will open up your storage spaces and also give you a head start on moving.
- Make sure the closets look like they have enough room to hold additional items. Make sure doors do not stick and nothing will fall out when opened. Get everything off of the floor (unless very neatly arranged) and do not have belongings piled to the ceiling. All coats should be facing the same direction.
- There should not be too much furniture in the rooms. You will be far better off selecting the pieces that look best and putting the others in the garage or in temporary storage.
- Make sure fireplace mantels are not overloaded with items on display. A couple of well-placed items like a vase or small flower arrangement are all that is needed.
- Clear the ashes out of any wood-burning fireplace if it is not being used and strategically stack some logs on the grates (aspen logs add a nice touch).
- Remove family photos and all other items that essentially say “You do not live here” to a prospective buyer. Fill any nail holes and apply touch-up paint as needed.
- Lighting. This task is critical. Replace all of your light bulbs throughout your house (especially compact fluorescent light bulbs that are spiral-shaped) with LED light bulbs. Costs for LED bulbs have come down significantly and the money invested will greatly increase your ability to get top dollar. Put the maximum safe wattage of light bulbs in all fixtures, which for LED’s, means you should go with maximum lumen output. For example, many light fixtures have a 60-watt maximum wattage rating. Replace them with LED light bulbs that are advertised as a 75 watt or 100-watt equivalent because they are actually only using 10 – 16 watts. You want maximum lumens when buyers are touring your home. Also- be sure to avoid ‘daylight’ colored bulbs, except for closet interiors and laundry rooms. All other bulbs should be ‘soft white’ with a 2,500k - 3,000k color temperature rating. Costco is your best bet for buying light bulbs in bulk, including recessed lighting that now comes with an all-in-one LED light and outer trim (again, choose the 75-watt equivalent, soft white recessed lights).
- Clean all wall switches and replace broken switch plates. Tip- Lightly dampened ‘Magic Erasers’ are excellent for this task.
- Make sure that any pull-down attic hatch staircase is strong enough to be used safely.
- Consider whether the posters currently in your children’s rooms are likely to offend any buyers. If so, store those posters for now.
- Invest in some new and luxurious bedding (comforter, sheets, and accent pillows). You can take them when you move, and they will improve the look of the bedrooms while your current house is on the market.
- If your house is the least bit dated, consider changing items that will increase your home’s desirability such as removing dated wallpaper, replacing light fixtures, door knobs, hinges, door & drawer pulls, etc.
- Be sure that light bulbs inside of crawl spaces are functional.
- Wipe down the top of your water heater and furnace. Tidy-up and vacuum your utility room. Although you use this room infrequently, all buyers seek it out to inspect its components.
- Replace your furnace filter. You don’t need fancy filters. The $4 filters will do just fine.
- If you have pets, be sure to clean around their food areas and empty litter boxes frequently.
Inside Appeal - Kitchen
The kitchen may be the most important room in the home. Clean this room like your sale depends on it- because it does!
- Clean the oven and keep it clean; even if this means eating out (or getting deliveries) more often.
- Clean around the seal of the dishwasher door.
- Look at the kitchen as if you were a health inspector. Paying particular attention to:
(a) Garbage area (b) Cracks (c) Corners (d) Under your range/oven
- Pack up or get rid of all items that are no longer used or are taking up considerable space. Organize the remaining items in the kitchen drawers and cabinets.
- Keep everything put away that can be put away, especially items that are on the counters.
- Check the cabinet doors, door handles, and appliances for fingerprints.
Inside Appeal - Laundry Room
- Put soaps and supplies in cabinets or containers.
- Keep counters and sink clean and empty.
Inside Appeal - Bathrooms
- Repair all leaky faucets.
- Caulk bathtubs, showers, and sinks (if needed)
- Coordinate towels in one or two colors. Fold clean towels in thirds and hang onto racks each day. Purchase new towels if necessary.
- Clear all items out of shower stalls and tubs, except for necessities.
- Clean or replace shower curtains.
- Clean shower walls and shower door glass. Again, ‘Magic Erasers’ are excellent for this task.
- Fresh flower arrangements do wonders for a bathroom, both in appearance and aroma. Don’t use plug-in air fresheners or scented candles.
Inside Appeal - Garage
- Clean and sweep the garage.
- Store any dangerous tools and arrange others neatly. Use containers and toolboxes as necessary.
- Check garage windows and screens. Windows should be clean and screens free of rips and tears. Windows should be checked for cracks and holes. Replace as needed.
It’s okay to stack moving boxes in the garage if you aren’t comfortable renting a storage unit.