Tips To Prepare Your Home For Sale

By Harbour Team July 15, 2019

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There’s so much more to selling a property than picking up a “For Sale” sign at the hardware store and planting it in your yard. There are possibilities to consider, as well as actions to take, that will ensure a home lands the best price in the least amount of time upon making its market debut.

We’ve addressed the things you’ll need to think through in a previous blog: 5 Stages of Selling A Home. Now let’s zero in on the essential actions you’ll need to take. It’s easy if you go step by step, and might even be fun.

Start by making an action plan. Take out the calendar and clear up some time. Let anyone else who’s going to be involved or affected know what has to happen, and how they may help. All of this can and should be upbeat. You’re about to make a life change, and this will pave the road. It’s also a time to put things in order before you open the doors to potential buyers.

As you set aside time for home prep, you’ll want to plan according to the definitive “3-D” checklist:

          1. De-clutter 
          2. Deep-clean 
          3. De-personalize

Breaking it down like this ensures you won’t immediately bite off more than you can handle. Here’s how you’ll make it easy on yourself.


This first step can be the force you need to get rolling. Don’t immediately get into the nitty-gritty of what stays and what goes. You’ll have time to figure that out. Think of your home as a big circle that you’ll work your way through, making it more and more organized as you go. Start in the bedrooms; here’s what you’ll do:

          1. Open the curtains and/or blinds to let some light in while you work.
          2. Stow all dirty clothes, linens and even towels in a laundry basket, or carry them to the laundry room.
          3. Hang up anything that’s been worn, but not ready for the wash.
          4. Put away shoes, including house slippers.
          5. Make the bed.
          6. Lightly organize jewelry, pocket items, and any other personal items that may have scattered on the dresser or bureau. 
          7. Organize items on the night stand(s). 
          8. If your bedroom has bookshelves, make sure the books are lined up neatly, and any knick-knacks look as if they belong there.
          9. Stow the television remotes.
          10. Pat yourself on the back for diving right in, then move on…

Bathrooms are up next, and these should go quickly. 

          1. Organize the toiletries, tucking them away in cabinets, under the sink, and/or on shelves. 
          2. Replace used towels with fresh ones.
          3. Fold the bathmat over the tub to clear up floor space.
          4. Bathroom looking neat and tidy? Move on…

The living room, family room, den and/or keeping room can all be addressed with the same approach. 

          1. Again, let some light in while you get going.
          2. Remove any items that don’t belong from the tops of tables, seating areas like sofas, settees, chairs, etc., and return them to their proper homes. 
          3. Is anything hanging from the doorknobs? Better get those to their proper places too.
          4. Tuck pet beds out of the way.
          5. Straighten couch cushions and throw pillows.
          6. Neaten the bookshelves.
          7. Take your organizational whirlwind into the next room…you’re on a roll.

Children’s playrooms will also need a good tidy. Maybe your kids can even lend a hand?

          1. Neatly place all toys, puzzle pieces, sports gear and even pet toys back where they belong.
          2. Tuck away art projects.
          3. Return any clothing to its proper place.
          4. There – you’ve got this.

The kitchen may either be the easiest or toughest room to tidy up, depending on how you use it. For some, the kitchen is a taste laboratory – equipped with an endless supply of specialized appliances and cooking accouterment. Others keep it lean and mean – with only the essentials out in the air and ready for action. No matter how you keep your kitchen, there’s likely room for a wave of the organizational wand. Go ahead and work your magic!

          1. Everything that belongs in a cabinet, goes into a cabinet.
          2. Get that pantry into ship shape; channel the efficiency of an industrial kitchen, where any staff member can arrive and find in a flash exactly what they need.
          3. Stack up the note pads and ephemera that might have collected on a countertop. Maybe stash them into a drawer.
          4. Make sure that all of the cupboard and cabinet doors can be shut tight.
          5. Remove dead leaves from any plants.
          6. Take on the final areas…

Laundry rooms, mud rooms, storage rooms, the garage, and even the tool shed should all be tended to. Hit each one with the same precision you’ve just applied to all of your home’s more “lived in” rooms and you should be able to whip them into tidy in no time. Remember: this is your first round, so don’t feel pressed to make the choices between what to keep and what to toss. You’ll get to that.


Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, it’s always time to deep clean. Now that you’ve literally cleared the path through your entire home, this step is far easier to address. Get your cleaning supplies in order and get busy or hire a professional!

          1. Before you get into the usual routine of dusting and vacuuming, you’ll want to tackle the areas that aren’t right in your eye line…
          2. Take a look at the light switch plates – spray, wipe with a sponge, and they’re good to go. 
          3. Have the baseboards and thresholds been neglected? Running a dust cloth along them is all it takes. 
          4. How about the ceiling fan blades? Pull out the stepladder and give them a nice wipe. 
          5. Windows, windowsills and the window screens should also get the clean treatment. Better yet, remove screens from the windows altogether.
          6. Give the heating and air conditioning returns a good dusting.
          7. And don’t forget the doorknobs and those door areas that get touched all the time. Wipe away the accumulated grime!
          8. Now look down. See the stains on the carpets? This is one area where you may just want to hire a professional. A thorough carpet cleaning makes a world of difference in a home’s appearance. Find a good local carpet cleaner and set up an appointment.
          9. Replace any dead light bulbs with the correct style for the socket or fixture.
          10. Evaluate the unseen areas – like an attic, crawl space or chimney – to be sure that any uninvited guests haven’t made it their home while you weren’t looking.
          11. And finally, remember to clean the first touch point on your home – the doorbell. Swab it down as you did the light switches and you’re good to go.

Once you’ve finished getting your home both organized and cleaned, you’ll be excited to show it to potential buyers. But hold on, there’s one more essential step to the process….


Everyone understands the concept of first impressions: it’s true that they matter. It’s the same for a property. The easier it is for a buyer to imagine themselves at home in your property, the better chance it has of selling – at the right price, and quickly. So how do you make the place you’ve loved calling home suddenly slide into someone else’s lifestyle? You’ve guessed it: de-personalize. Again, take it room by room so you don’t get overwhelmed. 

The idea is to make your home a nearly blank canvas. This part may get a little emotional, but soldier on and it shouldn’t take long.

          1. Most of us have photos of family and friends placed throughout our living environment – standing up in frames, pinned onto bulletin boards, or scattered under magnets across our refrigerators. This is where it can get emotional – it’s time to put these away. Since you’re planning to move soon anyway, this is an opportunity to lovingly wrap them and place them into boxes. This way they’ll be ready to familiarize the home you’ll move onto.
          2. The refrigerator is often the in-home art gallery or organizational clipboard. All of these personal notations must be moved out of sight. Don’t worry; your new home will brighten instantly when you bring them out again.
          3. If your curtains and window treatments are specialized and made to match your decor, as beautiful as they may be, they may throw a wrench into the master plan of letting buyers see your home as their home. Help them to project their lifestyle onto your property by taking this décor down, and tucking it away.
          4. Any other personalized décor, such as trophies, trinkets, unique artwork, religious artifacts, etc. should be packed up, rather than tethering your home to the life you’ve lived within it. 

Pro Tip: Hire a professional photographer to take photos of your home. Almost everyone shops for homes online these days and quality photos are a must to draw attention to the many great features within your home. Hiring someone skilled in home and/or architectural photography will ensure that you’ll get the right shots.

Once you’ve completed these tasks, your home is just about ready to be shown. There are still a few more things you can do – and they can be fun. Are you familiar with the term to “stage” a home? Staging is when you add a few touches that give your home charm, beauty, and a sense of welcome. This isn’t personal decorating, although you may already own the perfect items for staging a property. Flowers arranged attractively in a simple vase are a known technique of staging, as are neatly placed fresh soaps and towels near the sinks throughout your home. There are many tricks for staging, and a professional stager is your best resource once the time has arrived. Remember that a good presentation creates value for your home.

When you’re ready for another round of the first step: de-cluttering, or have the time to go deep the first round, consider weeding out what you intend to give away, sell or donate. Pack up as much as you can manage. Whatever you can do to minimize your own personality within your home, the better positioned you are for attracting a buyer.

Want to go further into this topic? Watch the seven videos in our Sellers Quick Start Guide to learn in-depth tips. Once you’ve gotten a good sense of our proven strategies for easy home sales, you’ll feel more confident taking your home to the market, AND you’ll get the best results! 

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