There are plenty of things to do before selling your house that require little effort and hardly any budget. If you watch the latest DIY show, you might think staging a home to sell requires a lot of money, professionals, ripping down a wall or two, and bringing in all new flooring, furniture, and décor. It doesn’t have to be like that!
Follow these simple home staging tips (most of which are free and can be done in one afternoon) to have your home ready to show and sell to all of those potential buyers.
Getting your house ready to sell doesn’t require a professional stager (even though that would be nice!) or a lot of money. Let us show you how to DIY it!
Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Your House Ready to Sell
What month is the best to sell a house?
According to Zillow, the best time to sell a house is spring. The real estate platform recommends listing in March for the best possibility of a quick sale, while listing in July is statistically more likely to get you the highest profit.
How do I get my messy house ready to sell?
There’s no shame in a messy house—we’ve all been there. If you find that tidying up your home is overwhelming, we recommend hiring a professional cleaning service to do a deep clean and ensure your house is spotless before you list it.
What should I remove from my house before selling it?
Before showing the house to potential buyers, remove anything personalizing your home to you: family photos, diplomas, toiletries, toothbrushes, etc. You’ll also want to remove any items that clutter your house, such as excess furniture and even the items in that kitchen junk drawer. Don’t worry, you can always stow these safely in a storage unit until your house sells and you move into a new home.
How do I prepare my house for sale while living in it?
Many people live in their house while it’s awaiting a buyer. Sure, this can add complications, but it’s not impossible. Mostly, you’ll want to box up and stow away any personal items you don’t use daily (such as picture frames, magnets, mementos, and the like). You can put these in storage to keep them safe and out of sight during showings. While it’s on the market, your house should only have the decorations that make it look nice to prospective buyers and the essential items you need to live day-to-day, such as toothbrushes, clothes, and food items. In the meantime, you’ll need to live as though your in-laws are about to come over any minute—which means washing dishes as soon as you use them, making your bed before leaving for work, and keeping things tidy.
Related: How to Keep a House Clean Every Day of the Week
Should I empty my house before selling?
If you’re not going to live in your house while selling it, you could clear it out—but there’s some evidence against doing so if you want to sell quickly and get more money. According to the National Association of REALTORS Research Group, 91% of buyer’s agents said that home staging affected at least some buyers in 2021, and nearly half of the buyer’s agents said that staging a home resulted in at least some increase in the dollar value offered.
Related: Home Staging Tips: How to Stage a House for a Quick Sale
The 21 Things to Do Before Selling Your House Checklist
Live anywhere long enough, and you’ll acquire way more stuff—it’s inevitable. That’s why decluttering is one of the most crucial things to do before selling your house.
Go through everything: closets, cabinets, attic, basement, underneath the beds. Donate anything you haven’t used in a year. For family heirlooms, pictures, keepsakes, and memorabilia, put them in a storage unit for now. Give things away to family and friends. Have a garage sale. You want your home to look as spacious as possible. The fewer things you have inside, the bigger your home will look and feel.
Related: How to Declutter Your Life
2. Banish the dust bunnies.
Bust out the duster, and wipe down everywhere dust collects. Don’t forget about the high places (shelves, mantels, etc.). Pay attention to window blinds and the corners of rooms. Knock the spider webs down with a broom. Ceiling fans love to collect dust, so invest in an extra-long ceiling fan duster to make sure the fan blades are dust free.
3. Make your home smell good.
Funky smells are the first thing a potential buyer may notice while house hunting. Scents can be a deal breaker, even subconsciously! Deep cleaning your home can do wonders. To increase your odds of selling fast, use plug-in wax warmers, air freshener sprays, or even candles while showing your home. We’ve even heard of sellers baking a dozen cookies before a showing, so the sweet scent lingers when prospective buyers arrive. Whatever you do, make sure your home smells good!
4. Clean glass windows and doors.
Windows and doors bring light in and can be a huge plus to a potential buyer. Make sure all your windows are clean (even the window sills, which can collect dirt and dust!). Before a showing, quickly clean the high-traffic areas in your home, like the back door. Spot any fingerprints on the windows? Clean those off!
5. Open your blinds.
This is a realtor’s tip. When you leave your home for a showing, open the blinds. Open blinds will bring light in, making your rooms and home appear larger. Give it a try. It works!
6. Paint trim and door frames.
Trim and door frames take a huge beating, especially if you have kiddos! Buy a gallon of trim paint and spend a Saturday afternoon touching up all of your house’s trim and door frames. You will be amazed at the difference. Paint will make everything look clean and brand new.
Related: How to Touch Up Paint Like an Expert Before Selling Your Home
7. Wipe down light switches and door handles.
Look around your home, and you’ll likely find some fingerprints and smudges on light switches and doorknobs. Use a damp rag and a little cleaner to wipe all these areas. Hot tip: The grungiest light switches tend to be by the garage door, the sink disposal, and in bathrooms.
8. Tidy up the pantry.
When getting your house ready to sell, don’t overlook the power of your pantry. Make yours appear roomier by straightening the shelves, organizing and grouping like items, organizing with bins, throwing out expired food, sweeping and mopping the floor, wiping down the shelves, and repainting and lining the shelves with fresh liner if needed. Refill the cereal and snack tubs. If you are using the floor for extra storage, clear it. You want this space to appear as large as possible to have the buyer dreaming about how much room they’ll have to store their food!
9. Organize your cabinets. Get rid of excess dishes, cups, and plastic ware.
While in your kitchen, organize and purge the inside of your cabinets. Donate dishes you don’t use. If you have a set of mismatched plastic lids and bowls, get rid of them! Organize pan lids and like items in bins. Wipe down the inside of your cabinets with a damp rag. Replace the shelf liner. Organize that junk drawer. Clean out and organize under the sink.
10. Replace all burnt-out light bulbs.
This is a great job for your teenagers. Every light bulb in the house (inside and out!) must be checked. Replace any burnt-out ones with fresh bulbs.
11. Turn on the lights.
This goes along with the light bulb tip. When you leave your home for a showing, turn on your outside lights (even in the daytime). It makes your home feel more welcoming and bright when the lights are on. Always try to have one light on in each room, either the big light or a lamp. You’ll want your home to appear welcoming and easy to show.
12. Be the “cool” home.
Turn on all the ceiling fans before leaving the house for a showing, and lower the air conditioning just a little bit. You don’t want your house to be the “hot” house. A little bit cooler is always better than being a tad hot.
13. Double-check the bathrooms before you leave for showings.
The last rooms to check before leaving for a showing are the bathrooms. If you have kids, this is a must. Be sure the toilet is flushed (had to be said!), and close all the toilet lids. Make sure you have a fresh toilet paper roll in your bathroom. It just makes it look better to be fully stocked. Make sure the bathroom garbage cans are empty. Keep some new bags in the bottom of your bathroom trash cans to make it easy to change out.
14. Declutter and paint your garage.
Declutter the garage before showing your home. A cramped garage can be a huge turn-off. This is where renting a storage unit would come in handy as well. People often paint their interior walls but never think about their garage! It can make a huge difference. A clean, organized, freshly painted garage could be a huge selling point.
Related: Cheap Garage Makeover Ideas for an Affordable Makeover You Can Do Yourself
15. Take out the trash.
This might seem obvious but don’t forget to take out the trash before a showing. To make things easier, keep your kitchen trash can in your garage while your home is for sale. Yes, it’s a little bit inconvenient, but it keeps the trash out of sight and smelling range for prospective buyers.
16. Keep your hampers empty.
No one wants to see your dirty clothes. Keep your hampers empty by putting all the dirty clothes in the washing machine and then sorting them at night. Wash one color load and one white load, then put them away. Bonus: You’ll be thrilled at how on top of laundry you are!
17. Have a clean sink.
Dirty dishes are the same as dirty clothes. No one wants to see those, either! To make sure you always have a clean sink, empty the dishwasher in the morning. Every time you use a dish, rinse it right then and put it in the dishwasher. That way, you don’t have to worry about doing a load of dishes at the last minute. It will already be done! Another tip is to dry your sink using a damp towel after rinsing dishes. Your sink will shine and hopefully impress a potential buyer.
18. No pets allowed on showing days.
Of course, you love your furry friends, but not everyone is an animal lover. Before prospective buyers come over for a showing, load up your pets into the car and take them with you. Yes, it’s another inconvenience, but potential buyers can look at your home in peace, and you won’t have to worry about your pet sneaking out when the front door or back gate is opened. And honestly, your home will smell better without animals hanging around (see tip #3).
19. Vacuum and sweep.
Clean floors are a must. Be sure to vacuum carpets and rugs. Sweep underneath tables and underneath furniture, too.
20. Refresh furniture.
If you have furniture that is old and beaten up, refresh it! How? For example, if your kitchen table has taken a beating over the years, you can spray paint it with a fresh coat. It’ll look brand new and liven up your entire kitchen. Paint is amazing. Don’t be afraid to use it!
21. Add fresh flowers.
Last but not least, add fresh flowers to your home. It will not only make your home smell amazing, but it will also make your home look and feel great, too.
Things to Do Before Selling Your House Checklist: Did We Leave Anything Out?
What are your favorite home staging tips? Did we miss any things to do before selling your house?
If you are planning a big move, download our free moving checklist and printables. Good luck selling your home!
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage blog on 5/25/18 and was revised on 5/26/23 to provide new information.