The 30-Day Guide to Preparing Your House for Sale
* Browse this handy list or download the PDF here as a checklist
Day 1: Change Light Bulbs and Update Light Fixtures
It is easy to forget about all the bulbs that have burned out over the years, but you want your home to be as bright as possible. Lighting makes an incredible difference in how a home looks to potential Buyers. If you have dated light fixtures (it’s OK, a lot of us do), take a quick trip to IKEA or Home Depot and pick up some modern ones. If you cannot afford to buy new ones, clean the old ones so they look as good as they can.
Day 2: Prepare the Paperwork
Buyers and agents are going to ask a lot of questions, so start digging out the paperwork now: utility bills, tax bills, renovation details, warranties, mortgage details, real property report (survey), and rental contracts. If you do not have a current real property report reflecting the current state of the development on the property, this is a good day to submit the request. The survey company needs 2 to 3 weeks to prepare the survey and the local municipality needs an additional 2 weeks to provide a compliance certificate. The sooner your REALTOR® knows if there are any compliance issues the better, they can be dealt with appropriately at the time of your listing and then again at the offer stage.
Day 3: Get Boxes and Duct Tape
A big part of the adventure you are about to embark on involves reducing clutter. Purchase some boxes and duct tape and start packing all the items you will not need until you move. An investment under $100 will get you proper packing supplies and reduce your stress. If you are going to be moving a lot of stuff out of your house for the sale, consider renting a POD storage locker – you fill up at your house, it gets carted away, stored and delivered to your new home when you move in!
Day 4: Make an Extra Set of Keys
Prospective Buyers and their agents will need to access your home, so you will need an extra set of keys.
Day 5: Tackle The Bathrooms
Remove all the toiletries you have on display (nobody wants to know you use Head & Shoulders). Invest in some new white towels (and no, you do not get to use them). Visit your favorite home store for affordable accessories: soap dish, toothbrush holder, etc. If your toilet seat, shower curtain or bath matt are gross (be honest with yourself), replace them. Consider replacing the toilet paper holder and towel rack/hooks too.
Day 6: Declutter the Kitchen
The kitchen is one of the rooms Buyers are most attracted to so if you are looking to skip a room, this shouldn’t be it. Remove your blender/George Foreman Grill/Kitchen Aid mixer/toaster/bread machine from the counters – you want the counters to be as clear as possible. Clean inside all the cupboards (and yes, I mean remove everything and wipe them out). Do not cram all your dishes and food back in – again, you want to convey to Buyers that your kitchen has enough storage for the Buyer’s stuff. Clean inside the fridge (and remove the magnets, photos, and reminders). Turn on your self-cleaning oven. Store your booze collection (and take out the empties). Consider investing in some fresh flowers and a beautiful bowl with some fresh fruit in it.
Day 7: Next up: The Bedrooms
The bedrooms should be inviting, and that means more cleaning and decluttering and investing in a few props. If you do not already have one, invest in a neutral-colored duvet cover and some new fancy pillows. Straighten the bookshelves. Remove personal photos, knick-knacks and personal grooming products. Clean out the closets. Consider getting an area rug if the floors are cold. If you’ve jammed in a dresser or armoire that doesn’t really fit into the space, consider storing it offsite. If you’ve converted two of your three bedrooms into offices, convert at least one of them back to a bedroom.
Day 8: Tackle The Living Room
Clean the sofa and chairs and invest in some new throw pillows. Consider getting an area rug to bring the room together. Hide the magazine rack and all the clutter that has accumulated. Hide the wires from your TV/stereo/speakers.
Day 9: Make Your Dining Room Look Like a Place Someone Might Actually Want to Eat in
Remove the kids’ homework and the piles of stuff that have accumulated on the dining room table. Clean up the hutch. If your dining chairs have seen better days, consider getting them reupholstered. Invest in a new tablecloth to hide an old table.
Day 10: De-clutter, Organize and Clean the Basement
whether your basement is finished or just a storage area for extra crap, you will need to invest the time to make it look as spacious and clean as possible. And what a great way to rid yourself of all that stuff you never use.
Day 11: Tackle the Closets and Storage Areas
Please don’t cram all the stuff you don’t want on display into your closets, Buyers will open your closets. They will look in your cupboards. And they will judge you. The last thing you want is for Buyers to think there isn’t enough storage in your home, so take the time to pack away what you don’t need in the immediate future.
Day 12: Store, Donate or Throw Away
It’s a pain (and expensive) to store all the stuff you don’t really need so consider donating or selling items you really don’t need. The items that are not in working order or broken can be posted to an upcycling page on Facebook, taken to the enviro-centre or should be thrown away.
Day 13: The Entrance
Remember that most Buyers will have an emotional reaction to your home within 15 seconds of entering it, so what they experience at the entrance is CRITICAL. You want your entrance to be clean, de-cluttered, and inviting. And no, you will not really wear all your shoes and coats while your house or condo is for sale, so be disciplined and store things away. If you do not have a hall closet, don’t pile 15 coats on a coat rack – that’s just drawing attention to your lack of a closet.
Day 14: Get Rid of All the Things That Make Your Home Yours
Ouch, I know it hurts to read that. You want your house or condo to appeal to as many buyers as possible, and that will only happen if they can picture their own stuff in your house. Get rid of all the family photos, the collections, and the souvenirs from your trips around the world. Walkthrough every room in your house and pretend you are a Buyer. If what you see helps people get to know you as you, remove it.
Day 15: Hire a REALTOR® & Order Condominium Documents
If you have not already hired someone, today is the day. A REALTOR® will likely need two weeks to schedule and prepare the marketing. Order a complete up to date copy of the condominium documents you will need to provide to a purchaser, it typically takes 10 days to receive them after the request is made. If you are unsure on what documents to order, talk to your REALTOR®.
Day 16: Paint Touch-ups and Re-painting
A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest ways to freshen up your home. Bold colors are bound to be a turn-off to some Buyers, so to appeal to the most people possible take the time to re-paint that red bedroom and blue bathroom. (Tip: light colors will help small rooms look bigger). Don’t forget about baseboards and ceilings – they might need some paint too.
Day 17: Repair What You’ve Been Avoiding
We all have that list of never-never repairs and fixes. Now’s the time to get to it, including fixing the leaky faucet, the picture holes in the wall, etc. and get it done once and for all. If you are not handy yourself, bring in a handyman to take care of it.
Day 18: Get the Windows Cleaned
I know, you probably weren’t even thinking about cleaning your windows, but rain, snow and dust can really make your windows dirty.
Day 19: Focus on the Front Yard
Curb appeal matters and will significantly impact people’s first impression of your house. Stand on your street and take in your front yard: what do you see? At a minimum, clean the scuff marks off the front door and touch up the chipped paint or give it a fresh coat. And if your front door has seen better days, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint or investing in a new one. If you have a front porch, make it look inviting. Invest in some seasonal plants. Clean up the garden. A lot of buyers will see your home at night, so make sure that your outdoor lighting is showing off your home.
Day 20: Pimp Your Backyard
What you can accomplish in the backyard will, of course, depend on what time of year you sell. If you are selling in the spring/summer: clean up the gardens, trim the trees, cut the grass, stain the deck, and clean the patio furniture and BBQ. If it is winter: do your best to make it look presentable ensuring your walkways are cleared of snow and ice. If you have a garage: tidy it up and fix any peeling paint or sagging roofs.
Day 21: Get the Carpets Cleaned
Unless your carpets are brand new, you will want to have them steam cleaned (or do it yourself). You will be amazed at what a difference it makes.
Day 22: Don’t Forget About the Floors
You will need more than a Swiffer to get into all the corners and cracks. If your floors are scratched, there are some great products out there to make them look almost-brand-new.
Day 23: Tackle the Walls and Doors
If your walls and doors are scuffed, buy some Magic Erasers, and go to town. You will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. If your art needs an update, now’s the time to do it too.
Day 24: The Final Clean
By now you are probably exhausted...sorry about that. Make sure to clean all the spots you have not: the baseboards, inside the lights, the fridge, etc. We think this step is so important! People do not want to live in other people's dirt!
Day 25: Make Plans for the Kids and the Dog/Cat
No Buyer wants to look at all your kids’ toys, finger painting works of art or dirty diapers, so put it all away and come up with a plan to keep it concealed.
Prospective buyers will not appreciate the barking/jumping/submissive peeing. Plan to get your pets out of the house: Doggie daycare? Grandma and Grandpa? Multiple walks.
Day 26: Staging Day!
If you are working with a professional Stager, this is usually the day they will come and stage the house. They will move, re-arrange and add furniture and use accessories and color to make your home look it’s best. Pro staging has been proven to help homes sell faster and for more money.
Day 27: Make Your Home Smell Good
If you are a dog owner, wash any couches, beds, and surfaces where the dogs sleep. You may not smell him anymore, but Buyers will. Tuck the litter box away (and clean it twice a day while your home is on the market). Use Febreeze on EVERYTHING. Consider lighting some candles (but avoid strong air fresheners).
Day 28: Sign the Listing documents with your REALTOR®
Day 29: Photography
When your house or condo is de-cluttered, cleaned, and ready for prime time, it’s time for the photographer to work his magic. This will happen a few days before you list your home for sale and may include a virtual tour or video. Make sure to tell your REALTOR® the times when the light is best – that will make a big difference in the photos.
Day 30: The Final Once-Over
You have worked hard, and now it is time to step back and admire your work. How does it look? Do you see anything that might distract or turn off a Buyer? Take one final walk through all the rooms and adjust, as necessary.
Now…Do not Touch. Anything. Back away slowly… et voila!