10 Critical Steps to Take Before Listing Your House for Sale

Posted by Andrew Fortune on Monday, March 23rd, 2015 at 7:44pm. 131,162 Views

Selling a house is much more work than buying a house. Just ask anyone who has done it. If you’ve never sold a home before, you may be surprised at how complex it can be. From determining the correct listing price, to navigating contractual agreements; it’s an exhausting process. The best place to start is by choosing a good Realtor who you trust and enjoy working with. Ask their advice through each step of 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.

10 Critical Steps to Take Before Listing Your House for Sale

Remove Personal DecorationsRemove Personal Decorations

 There will be many different types of people looking at your home when it is listed for sale. 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 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 evidence that you even live there and you will be on the right track. It will also help you to emotionally detach from your home and to start thinking of it as someone else’s. When a buyer has to ask if someone lives in your home, you have done your job.

Hire A Home InspectorHire A Home Inspector

Hire a Home Inspector Before Listing Your House For SaleOnce you have an executed a sales contract with a buyer, the first thing the buyer is going to do is hire a home inspector to inspect your house. Why not beat them to it? An inspection usually costs around $300 in Colorado Springs. That’s pennies in the grand scheme of things. Tackle all of the repairs upfront and you will not be surprised by buyers who supply a list of problems to take care of. Inspections are the #1 deal killer in this industry. You can eliminate the whole problem by dealing with the issue right up front. Sure, it may cost you some money out of pocket, but that is money that you will most likely be spending anyway. Buyer’s will second guess a house if the inspection report is loaded with issues. In my experience, when buyers know that there has been a previous inspection and all repairs have been made, they are more willing to pay top dollar.

I just had a deal where the home owner had not been to the property in a couple of years and had been renting it out. He put it on the market and my buyers wanted it. We did a septic, radon, well, and full home inspection. All 4 of the inspections failed miserably. The seller was livid when he received our list of repairs, but it was his fault. He was hoping for the best possible scenario and set himself up for disaster. If he would have just inspected these items before listing, it would have never been a problem. He was lucky my buyer still wanted the property at all, after all the issues we had to address. Performing an inspection before listing is well worth the expense.

Clean Everything ThoroughlyClean Everything Thoroughly

Everyone has a different definition of “clean”. When you’re listing your house for sale, you need to get Martha Stewart clean! Pretend that you’re selling your house to a germaphobe. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning crew to spend a whole day doing a deep clean. It’s well 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. A clean house gives the impression that the property has been well maintained and is easy to move into.

Remove Evidence of Pets and/or KidsRemove Evidence of Pets &/or Kids

Don't Let Pets Sabotage Your Home SaleTo sell your home quickly and for the most money, you want to appeal to every possible buyer. Not everyone is a fan of kids and/or pets. Your house may be the perfect layout, price, and design but if it smells like animals or has toys stuffed in every corner, you may have just lost your buyer. I have worked with clients that are so sensitive to pet dander that when I show them homes, they won’t even finish walking through the entire house if there is evidence of animals. Sometimes they will rule out a house simply based on seeing litter boxes in the property photos. And don’t forget the fact that you can never experience your home as a buyer would, because you live there and are used to it’s unique smell.

Colorado Springs is the most pet friendly city that I have ever lived in. Residents here bring pets when they go to breakfast, get their hair cut, or even shopping. Sometimes it seems as if everyone in this town loves animals, but it’s just not the case. There are many people with pet allergies; one of them might be your perfect buyer. Take the time to make your house appeal to them and it could pay off big time.

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

Replace Outdated FixturesReplace Outdated Fixtures

This is an easy fix that can have a huge impact. If you have brass door handles and brass chandeliers, you should replace them. It makes your home look dated. You can buy a contractor pack of brushed nickel door handles for $5 a piece at home improvement stores. If you are appealing to higher end buyers, spend some money for designer door handles. If you have old outdated light switch covers, replace them all. You’ll be surprised by how much of a difference it will 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 CarpetsShampoo and/or Replace Carpets

Carpet SamplesCarpets show more damage than almost any part of your home. If you have carpet in your house, it’s probably going to be a problem. If the carpets are not stained and are newer, you can get away with simply getting a deep clean from a professional carpet cleaning company. If cleaning 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 hard to 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-PaintTouch Up and/or Re-Paint

If it’s been more than a year since the interior of your house has been painted, then it’s time for some touching up. If you have paint left over from the last time you painted, use this to touch up areas when there are nail holes, scrapes, hand prints, etc. Touching up existing paint is very easy and makes your home look new again. If you do not have any touch up paint, you can try to peel off existing paint, or cut a small section of sheetrock (which you can repair later). Just do in an area where it’s not very noticeable, like in a closet or behind a door. Take the sample to a local paint store and have them color match it. You may need to do this 2 or 3 times to get the color right. Once you have a close match, use it to make your walls look new again.

Fresh Paint Sells HomesIf you have any strong colors in your house (purple, burgundy, lime green, etc.), it would be wise to paint over them with a neutral color. I tell clients that they should not have 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 orange. Remember, there are many different types of people and you’re trying to appeal to as many as possible. Neutral colors are the only way to appeal to the greatest amount of buyers. Even those who 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, house siding, and trim work. 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 oder so only use a little bit and do it every 15 feet, or so.

Get a Storage UnitGet a Storage Unit

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

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 question, “Should I store this?”, the answer is: “Yes!”. Start packing as though your house is sold and you only have a month left in it. 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!

Freshen Up LandscapingFreshen Up Landscaping

LandscapingStatistically, 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 beautiful 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 RealtorGet 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 buyer’s voices in our heads calling out objections. 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 Sellers 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

How Sellers Feel When They Get A Strong OfferAs you read through the list above, don’t be intimidated by the scope of work. Make a list of things that you feel are important for your home sale and then plan them out accordingly. Tackle one item at a time and before you know it, your list is done. Once your house is ready to put on the market it will most likely get an offer before your competition does. Many sellers will try to avoid some of the steps mentioned above. If you take the time and expense to tackle these issues, your house should outshine the others and sell for the highest sales price possible. When it comes to selling your home, the adage “you get out what you put in” rings exceptionally true. Your efforts will be well rewarded!

Andrew FortuneHi! I'm Andrew Fortune, the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of much of the content on this website. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to share this article 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 leave a comment in the box below.


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33 Responses to "10 Critical Steps to Take Before Listing Your House for Sale"

Tyler, Easy Agent Pro wrote: Hi Andrew!

It's so interesting to hear your stories about inspections. I can definitely see how these tips can help sellers get the most value out of their home. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.


Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 at 10:47am.

Todd Blair wrote: Wow Andrew, amazing layout and great graphics! That was a lot of work! I bet writing it up was the easy part! Nicely done!!

Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 at 2:30pm.

james milner wrote: wow this page is awesome!!! good job!

Posted on Sunday, April 12th, 2015 at 3:12pm.

Ryan Fitzgerald wrote: Great tips for sellers, Andrew.

Anyone who is looking for a top Realtor® to sell their home in Colorado Springs will certainly benefit from your understanding of real estate, technology and marketing talents.

Thanks again for posting.

Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2015 at 7:03am.

Anita Mas wrote: That's a good point that some homes that are on the market are vacant. It's hard to visualize how big a space is if it's packed full. I'll have to get a storage unit to empty out our closets. Every little bit helps when you are trying to sell your place.

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 8:45am.

Deb wrote: As these tips show, selling your home is a lot of work, especially if you want the best price and, ideally, a quick sale. One thing to make it easier is to get a preappraisal to help you determine what your home is worth. You don't want to go to all this work and then price it too high or too low.

Posted on Friday, November 6th, 2015 at 4:14pm.

dolapo wrote: This is an outstanding post. Top notch article. I strongly agree with point number 2. You dont just assume things, get an experts opinion. Thanks for the post.

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2015 at 7:20am.

Anna Picket wrote: That's true that our closets are full to bursting right now. They would probably look better if they didn't have things crowded in there. Spare rooms and closets tend to look bigger when they are empty. We will have to rent a storage unit and start moving things out if we want people to be able to envision their stuff in the space.

Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 at 7:19pm.

Lamar wrote: Getting a storage unit is awesome advice. A storage unit is a great way to make sure house is not clutter with junk and will make it more appealing to potential buyers. Great posts Andrew! Keep it up!!

Posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2016 at 4:15pm.

Luke Yancey wrote: Your tip about hiring a home inspector was probably the most important out of all of these! If you sell your home without having an inspection first you are just asking for trouble and fees. Your tip about the paint was also important. I can't tell you how much more quickly I've seen homes sell that have a new paint job!

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2016 at 7:10am.

Kate Hansen wrote: My husband and I will have to put our home for sale very soon. This is our first home that we've tried to sell and need all the help we can get. I like how you mention that you should remove all personal decorations so that potential buyers can imagine themselves in the home rather than looking at your family. I also would think that in this day in age, listing your house online would get more traffic and potential buyers.

Posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2016 at 10:54am.

Philippa Jolley wrote: Everyone should check this before selling a home. Thanks.

Posted on Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 at 9:50pm.

Jade Brunet wrote: I appreciate this information about the things to do before listing your house for sale. It is good to know that one should clean as if you are selling your house to a germaphobe. It is true that everyone has a different definition of clean. Something else to consider would be to clean the kitchen exhaust hood.

Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2017 at 4:54pm.

Ivy Baker wrote: I love being outside and I would be more attracted to a home if it had a great looking backyard.

Posted on Thursday, May 11th, 2017 at 8:22pm.

Taylor Bishop wrote: Thanks for providing these tips that you should do if you want to sell your home. I appreciate that you mentioned to hire a home inspector, especially so that you want to take care of all the repairs for potential buyers. Like you said, people are willing to pay when they know that any repairs have been taken care of. It's not only appealing to them, but it also will help show off your house in the best possible condition. Perhaps a good trick is to think from another's perspective, and consider whether you would want to buy the house in the condition it's in.

Posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 at 6:21am.

Amanda Drew wrote: That sounds like a good idea to go through the house to check and see which fixtures make your home look dated and replace them. I'm going to be married soon, and my future husband and I want to buy a home together rather than move into one of our separate homes. Your tips should really help me to sell my home, but I may want extra help.

Posted on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 at 4:00pm.

Sandra Hexner wrote: Thanks for the great tips to prepare our home before we put it on the market. That is a great idea to hire a home inspector to see if there is anything that needs attending before the buyer does an inspection of their own. My husband and I would like to move sooner than later, so hopefully this will help get our house for sale quicker.

Posted on Thursday, September 21st, 2017 at 1:36pm.

cameron bennett wrote: I like that you brought up that an exterior of a home looking good will encourage a potential buyer. Because they see the outside of a home first, it leaves an impression on them. I'm getting ready to sell my home and I want to have the outside repainted because it's a pretty old home. I think repainting it will make buyers more likely to remember it and be inclined to put an offer on it.

Posted on Monday, October 9th, 2017 at 12:27pm.

Sharon Wilson Smith wrote: Thanks for the tips! I liked your idea to hire a home inspector and have the repairs done before listing a house in the market to attract buyers to pay more. My grandmother decided to sell our old house and we are preparing to place it on the market soon.

Posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 at 10:54pm.

Bobby Saint wrote: I totally agree that if you're planning to sell your house, you need to make sure that it is clean and orderly. Hiring a professional cleaner should help you with accomplishing this task. A clean and orderly house would surely attract a lot of potential buyers because it reflects the personality of the current owner and how they take care of their property. If I were to sell my own house, I will definitely hire the services of a professional cleaner. Thanks.

Posted on Thursday, October 19th, 2017 at 7:27pm.

Jeremy Thompson wrote: Thanks for the great tips to help with selling one's home. We already have our new estate built and we're ready to move all that's left is to sell our old home. I'd be sure to heed your advice and get an advice from a realtor. That's because being ready would be very beneficial since the realtors can point out the objections we might hear from buyers just based on their experiences. Also, I've already hired an inspector and everything seemed to be fine. In any case, I hope we get a good deal for this home!

Posted on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017 at 12:58am.

Sharon Wilson Smith wrote: I'm glad I came across your article about selling a home. My favorite part of your article is when you talked about how carpets can show more damage than almost any part of your home because I never knew about this. Since we really don't live here in my parent's house, we weren't able to maintain its carpet. Now that I know how I should also prioritize how the carpet looks when selling a house, I will make sure to find time to clean or replace it. Thanks for your tips.

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 at 9:56pm.

Raeger Wynchester wrote: I agree with you that landscape and curb appeal are the first things that potential buyers see when picking a house and that I need to beautify that area if I want to sell it faster. If I were to buy a new home, the first thing that I want to see is a pretty lawn brimming with color and life. Thanks for sharing the ideas. At least I have a few more things to consider just in case I decide on selling my home.

Posted on Friday, November 10th, 2017 at 6:58pm.

Vivian Black wrote: I see, so it would be a great idea to keep the house clean of toys and smell of toddlers and pets to be able to appeal to the general audience and avoid losing potential buyer to back out due to sensitivity to pet dander. I'd be sure to keep this in mind when we're ready to sell our house to move to our new home. As of the moment, the home is still being built, thus we have to stay here for a few more months. I'd be sure to hire a Realtor to make things easier. Thanks for the tips on what to do before selling one's home!

Posted on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 at 9:24pm.

Selena Austin wrote: My husband and I are interested to sell our old house, and it's important for us to make sure that this will be sold as soon as possible because we'll be investing in a business. It's imperative for us to make sure that our old house will look new and fresh which can be possible through repainting. I will make sure to consider all your tips before selling our house.

Posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 at 5:21pm.

Sienna wrote: From what I've read in a variety of articles, these are great tips. They are all fairly easy to do, and they make a big difference. A friend who just bought her first home was telling me house-hunting stories, such as the house they walked out of when the whole cellar smelled like the litterbox sitting right out there, for example. The house they did buy made this first impression: "It was so clean!" Once you do all this, you need to keep it this way as long as the home is on the market, so also set a cleaning routine daily to keep it show-ready.

Posted on Monday, December 18th, 2017 at 7:47am.

Margarita Samson wrote: I like that you talked about how you can consider creating a neutral environment by removing any objects that reflect your personal choices and lifestyle to encourage the most positive feedback. My mother is looking to sell her townhouse, and it's important for her to be aware of what she must be aware of to sell it faster. At the moment, she has a lot of wine and vase collections that must be removed in the house so the house can attract potential buyers. I will make sure to share your blog with her so she can consider all your tips.

Posted on Monday, December 18th, 2017 at 9:09pm.

Bob Willis wrote: Nice..

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2018 at 5:48am.

Patricia Wilson wrote: I'm definitely with you when you said that we should be attempting to appeal to all possible kinds of buyers when putting a house up for sale. I have three dogs and there are indications all over the place! Now that I understand better, I acknowledge the fact that not all buyers may like the idea of pets having lived in the house. I would definitely professional advise on how we can get around this issue. Thanks for the reminder!

Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2018 at 8:51pm.

Ellen H. wrote: The best part of your blog for me is when you suggested cleaning your house before selling it to make sure that potential buyers can easily get attached to it emotionally. My husband and I are planning to sell our house soon, and we want to make sure that we'll be able to sell it fast. Since we want to be hands-on sellers, we'll make sure to shop for litter pick up tools that can help us in cleaning our house.

Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2018 at 7:28pm.

Rhianna Hawk wrote: I agree that getting an experienced and professional opinion from a realtor is an important step in selling a home. My husband and I are going to be putting ours on the market soon so that we can move to a larger house (hopefully something with a yard this time) and getting the best price for our property is important to us. Your idea about planting flowers is a great one as well, and it would be really easy for me and my husband to just run to the store and get some flowers to plant in the little strip of ground by our patio to increase our "curb appeal."

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2018 at 8:42am.

Richard Davis wrote: I totally agree with fresh paint because it will make your house looks clean and new. Great blog and thanks for sharing!

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 8:53am.

Ellen H. wrote: I like that you suggested hiring a professional to have your house thoroughly cleaned to make sure that home buyers will have an impression to your house that it's been well maintained. My husband and I are planning to sell one of our houses. We'd like to make sure that potential home buyers won't find a reason to back out from buying it, so it's important for us to prepare it in the best way possible. I'll make sure to hire a cleaning service soon.

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 10:55pm.

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