Preparing your Property for Market Listing in 10 Steps

Selling your house for top dollar is no easy feat.  There are many details and moving parts; Some tasks might just get left off the list. Below we offer a comprehensive list to maximize the sale price while minimizing days on market. 

Step 1 -  Disconnect Emotionally and Mentally


If you are thinking about selling your property, your absolute first step is making the firm decision to sell. Often people get carried away with the all the busy work associated with selling, but without the mental and emotional commitment, the sale cannot move forward. Being prepared to make sound financial decisions will maximize your sales price.

Take the time to understand why you are selling and why it is the best decision for you, financially, emotionally, or some combination of personal reasons. 

Preparing Mentally to Sell

Everyone is different how they come to their decisions; Some people make a list, others talk with trusted friends, associates, or advisors.  Another common strategy to come to a firm decision is a simple Pros & Cons T-Chart, outlining the pros and cons of selling your property. 

If you are thinking about selling your property, what are your reasons?  Perhaps it is time to upsize? Or simplify your life by downsizing?  There could be financial pressure, medical reasons, or the desire to be closer to family or friends.  While you work through this process, take comfort knowing that on average, it takes people 4 months to make the decision to sell.  A very small minority of people make their decision quickly, independently and with full resolve. 

You will receive some recommendations and suggestions to maximize the sale price.  If you find yourself resisting these simple suggestions, you probably are not ready to sell. 

Preparing Emotionally to Sell

Once you've come to the firm mental decision, there are still those pesky emotions to attend to. Perhaps you've come to the logical, rational, and/or financial determination that selling your house makes the most sense.  But how are you feeling about it? 

There is a very important reason you must be prepared emotionally.  Your mindset must change from selling your "home" to selling a piece of property in a competitive marketplace.

If you are not truly ready to view your "home" as a product, you are not read to sell.   It is best to wait until your ready to sell. 

If you can't wait to sell because of some other reason, but you are not emotionally ready, the sale will be difficult for you. You will want to get the support of friends and family to help you through.  Also, communicate this reality to your real estate broker so they can proceed with sensitivity and ensure the process is as painless as possible for you. 

It may be easier to designate a friend or family member as the main point of contact and involve yourself only when major decisions are being made.  These options are up to you and your broker will help you through. 

Making the decision to sell your house is hopefully a simple one.  Most likely, though, it will be a long term decision making process followed by an emotional release.  Take the time to work through the mental and emotional steps necessary to approach the sale of your house with clarity and determination to sell.

Step 2 -  Hire a Broker

A broker is a professional like any other. They are working for you, representing your interests to sell your house. It makes sense to interview a few brokers to ensure you feel comfortable with them as a person and confident in their abilities to represent you.  A solid listing team and marketing program will maximize your sale price.  

Use these 6 questions to find the best real broker by interviewing a few before hiring them to represent your interests. 

Sometimes people aren't really sure, they are asking themselves "should I sell my house?" When interviewing your real estate broker, you may also explore various options of selling your house, holding it as a long term rental, or waiting a few months to best time the market

Most brokers are happy to sit down with you to answer basic questions about themselves, their professional skills and market knowledge. Below are a few questions to ask a real estate broker before you sign an agreement to work with them:

1. How many years of experience do you have in this industry?

You want to get a gauge of how confident your broker is in their abilities to serve you as a buyer. Less than 2 years experience is not necessarily a bad thing, this means they are still working to build their business will be working very hard on your file, but you will want to ask a follow up question about what sort of support they receive from their Managing Broker. It would be wise to schedule a call and/or interview with their Managing Broker as well. 

2. What is your experience in my community?

You want to know how confident your broker is in your specific area. Brokers that focus on specific areas are more equipped to quickly analyze offers and  competitively position your house for sale on the market.  They should be familiar with local market statistics, such as average sales price, volume sold and average rent costs. This intimate understanding of the local real estate market gives your broker a competitive edge that simply cannot be duplicated by someone focusing on the entire Puget Sound.

Further, a locally focused broker will have a well maintained database of speculative buyers  in the area, people they can call if the right property comes up. Additionally, they will be well connected with other brokers, inspectors, closing reps, mortgage brokers, insurance brokers, all the members of the team you will need, locally operating and personally known.

They should be familiar with the local schools, park, shopping center, growth plans any recent and/or scheduled infrastructure upgrades.  This knowledge helps them write the best copy & advertise strategically.  Example:  If you property is near a local dog park, your listing broker should be aware of that fact + suggest advertising the property with flyers in local pet store.  

If they can confidently detail solid information about your community, you may have found a well equipped real estate broker to represent your interests. This tells you they take their professional development and career seriously.

3. What services will you provide for me as my broker?

Make sure you are both on the same page as to what type services will be provided, frequency/type of communication, and hours of availability. Again, you are looking for a broker who can confidently speak to their skill set and ability to serve you best.  Many brokers work independently and their time is divided between all their clients. The benefit is you have one contact person throughout the process; the downside is sometimes they are pressed for time with another client. 

Other real estate brokers work on a team, where each team member is responsible for various aspects of the transaction. The benefit here is you get a specialist in each step, but are dealing with a variety of people personalities (and schedules).

4. What paperwork is involved now and throughout the transaction?

Listen intently as the broker goes through the paperwork involved. They can provide you examples of blank contracts, so you can read them thoroughly before ever needing to sign them. If they can confidently explain what paperwork is needed and their implications, you may have found a well equipped real estate broker to represent your interests.

The broker will likely at this point present you with a listing agreement.

This agreement defines how the broker is paid and commits you to them for a period of time.  By agreeing to work with the broker for a certain amount of time, you are providing them with confidence that you will stick with them through the good times the difficult times. This protects both you and the broker allows him or her diligently on your file without fear that you will leave for another broker.

Basically, you have “hired” the broker, usually for 6 months at a time, to represent you are providing them with ample time to complete the transaction.

5. Can you please explain how you are paid?

Most brokers are paid on commission, meaning they only receive payment once the house closes. Others use a fee for service or a team model. Understand how your broker is paid to fully understand their motivation.

Watch how the broker explains how they are paid, if they are nervous explaining this to you, they will be nervous negotiating offers received on your house for sale.

6. What is my contracted timeframe for using you as my broker?

Typically, Listing Agreements are set for 6 month period, but this is not set in stone. You can request a shorter timeline or longer timeline, depending on property and market conditions. Just understand how long you are committed to the person and what your recourse is if you decide to “fire” your broker.

In general, you are looking for a broker who is knowledgeable about the area you are looking to sell, who is confident in their ability to complete necessary paperwork accurately, and can confidently negotiate a transaction on your behalf.

Finally, you will be working with this person for an extended amount of time, so you must feel comfortable asking questions and speaking with them .  You must trust  that their professional skill set is sufficient and trust their personal character is one of hard work and integrity. 

Step 3 - Get Organized

Gather and organize all documents related to the property, including but not limited to documentation of any upgrades, utility accounts, deeds, tax records, and receipts/invoices. This will help you answer both broker and buyer questions. Proof of work completed throughout your ownership will maximize your sale price.

At the time of this writing, Form 17- Seller Disclosure is 7 pages long and asks about every physical attribute about the property.  This ranges from roof to foundation and all major systems such as electrical, plumbing and heating system.  

Form 22K asks the seller to outline the utility providers; This Form allows escrow to close out and pay your final utility bills upon closing.  The third Form needed from the Seller is Form 22J, Lead Disclosure.  This form asks you to disclose any information you have about the property regarding Lead Paint use; This form is only required for properties built before 1976. 

While organizing your paperwork, review the documents to prepare yourself for buyer questions related to the property. The buyer will likely conduct an inspection, so having proof of services performed will make this go more smoothly. Should something need to be repaired, having the original vendor information will be helpful.

Occasionally, sellers find or remember small issues that may need to be cleared up, such as outstanding city permits are closed out and building violations cleared. These little hiccups can delay closing and cause undue stress during the transition from your current property to your next. 

Finally, do speak with your accountant to fully comprehend any tax issues the sale may create. Of course, excise tax will be paid as well as capital gains tax, but depending on your unique financial situation, some of the items may be mitigated by other transactions, acquisitions or assets.  

Step 4 - De-Clutter and De- Personalize

Remove all clutter and personal items from the house; Buyer's need to be able to visualize their furniture and their personal items in the house. By removing as much as possible from the house, you will maximize your sales price. 

De-Clutter the House

You want to make the living areas look as spacious as possible;  The goal is to make the house look professionally staged, even if you are using your personal furniture.  While the functionality of the staging may not make a lot of sense, the visual appeal will maximize your sales price. 

We recommend you start by removing excess furniture in the main living areas and bedrooms such as couches, chairs, trunks, dressers, shelving, etc that do not match the others.  Also be sure to remove or rearrange furniture that is blocking a natural walk way, making a door difficult to open or a room difficult to walk thru. 

Next, start clearing bookshelves, table tops and china cabinets of knick knacks. Get a head start on packing and make your property look and feel bigger just be removing some on the bulk items.  As you prepare for buyer showings, its also a good idea to remove any especially expensive or personally valuable items. Wipe down all the shelves, remaining items and table tops to be sure they are clear of dust, cobwebs and fingerprints. 

Next, move to closets and kitchen cabinets.  Trash or donate anything you don't need or want any longer. Place larger items in neat storage boxes and face all hangers in the same direction. Arrange kitchen cabinets so labels face forward, jars/cans/boxes are in rows, dishes are neatly stacked and glasses are in rows.  Its amazing how this level of organization makes closets and cabinets look bigger and stand out amount the competition.

Finally, move to the basement, attic and garage.  Buyers will want to see the storage areas as well, so be sure to trash or donate things you don't want and place items in storage boxes.

If possible, it may be easier to move first and have the house professionally staged.  

De-Personalize the House

Now that your house is de-cluttered, the next sweep is de-personalizing the house.  This process may be more emotional than the first.  Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in the environment. By removing as many personal items and photos as possible, you're helping them do this.  

Go through the house and start packing away any personal pictures you have hanging on the walls or set out on the mantle, end tables or anywhere else in the house.  Make sure the art or other decor is relatively neutral, so that a wide variety of buyers can visualize themselves in the house.  Generic types of decor are neutral in color and theme.  

Step 5 - Lighten Up

A light and bright house attracts the most buyers. The walls, the windows and the light fixtures all make a huge difference; Taking the time to paint, clean windows and replace light bulbs will maximize your sales price.

Windows and Window Coverings

Making a property as light and bright as possible will create a welcoming, warm environment that helps buyers see themselves living in the house-- (literally).

Start by making sure all windows are cleaned prior to listing the house for sale, either by you or a cleaner. We talk more about cleaning windows, window tracks, and trim in the Tip #7 Preparing to Sell: Sparkle and Shine post, but its worth mentioning here as well.  Clean windows will let as much light as possible into the living spaces.

Next, remove any heavy drapes or curtains you had installed.  These will likely be going with you during the move, so get a head start by packing them away now.  If possible, install lighter curtains or drapes, both lighter in color and lighter in texture.  This will freshen the rooms substantially, neutralize the color tones and appeal to a wide variety of buyers.

Lighting and Fixtures

Not all rooms have  windows and not all showings happen during the day.  For these reasons, you'll want to make sure you have adequate lighting throughout the house.  This starts by checking and replacing any burnt out light bulbs.  Be sure to install light bulbs that are warm, but not too dim, we suggest 60 watt bulbs.   It's possible that some of your fixtures have some dust or other residue built up; While checking for out bulbs, wipe out the fixtures to allow as much light as possible. 

Finally, replacing some old, faulty fixtures and/or installing a couple extras may improve the overall appeal of your property and allow for better lighting in some areas of the house. We talk more about replacing fixtures the next section.


Last but never least, paint.  Fresh paint on all interior walls is ideal and will definitely contribute to getting you the absolute highest sales price when you sell your house. 

Buyers and Selling Broker notice fresh paint; While a large undertaking, fresh paint will do wonders for your days on market and gaining the highest sales price. 

New paint will also give you the opportunity to neutralize the color tones of the property, patch any holes created by pictures or other personal items you took down in preparation for the sales, and make the house feel, smell and look good as new! 

Step 6 - Repair or Replace

Common repairs and replacements include painting both exterior and interior, light fixtures, installing new faucets, cabinet hardware, outlets and switches, and potentially a few major upgrades. Making repairs and replacing old items will definitely maximize your sales price.


Replacing or painting the front door, handle and lock instantly makes the house look 10 years younger. Full paint of the garage door, exterior trim and new, visible, attractive address lettering all increase curb appeal immediately.  Check the roof for any loose shingles, clean the gutters, and make sure gutters and down spouts are secure to the house.  

Light Fixtures

New light fixtures are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.  Removing old, outdated light fixtures throughout the house and installing new, modern looking fixtures will increase the appeal to a wide variety of buyers.  Bathrooms, bedrooms and hallway fixtures are of the simplest to replace; Canned lighting, ceiling fans, or chandeliers can be more challenging, but still doable for a handy-person.Similarly, exterior light fixtures can go a long way. Depending on the time of year you are selling your house, buyers may be touring in the dark after work hours. Installing exterior lights will help them see how well you've maintained the yard, walkways and entrance.  At bare minimum, be sure to replace all out light bulbs and clean out dusty light fixtures throughout the house.  

Plumbing Fixtures

Since you're going to the hardware store anyway, swing by the plumbing department and grab a few new faucets.  Replacing old faucets immediately makes the house look newer and cleaner for a small financial investment. 

Caulk & Grout

Scrap the old caulk off around sinks, showers, bathtubs and windows and apply a new layer of caulking. This 1 hour project immediately makes nearly every room look cleaner, fresher and well maintained.  Well worth the effort!  Re-grouting tiling is a bit more challenging, but depending on the current condition of the grout, could be worth the effort. 


Check all the cabinet knobs & drawer pulls in the kitchen and bathrooms. If they are loose tighten them up. Next, check all doors, knobs and locks throughout the house. Tighten up any loose hardware and grease any squeaky hinges.  Also check sliding doors and windows, with clean tracks they should open and close easily, apply grease if necessary for a smooth opening and closing experience. 

Depending on the condition of current knobs, installing new door knobs or kitchen hardware may be worth the effort. New kitchen hardware makes an older kitchen pop and if the house is vacant, new door knobs really stand out.  

Outlets and Switches

Similar to door knobs, new outlets and switches really stand out in a vacant home.  Older, outdated outlets, switches and wall plates look and feel dirty, although they are not. Replacing these is a cost effective way to improve the overall look and feel of your house. 

Major Upgrades

Major upgrades include replacing flooring, kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, and/or kitchen appliances.  May also include replacing major systems such as roof, electrical panel, plumbing, water heater, HVAC system, and so forth.  Depending on many factors, these efforts may be worth it in the end.   Work with your broker to determine the best, highest impact course of action.

Step 7 - Sparkle and Shine

Of course, the final elbow grease cleaning really seals the deal to sell your house for the highest price. Windows, floors, all cabinets, closets, grout, walls, the deepest clean possible will ensure that you maximize your sales price. There is no doubt about it, a clean house will maximize your sales price.

After you've gone through all the effort to make a few  your house and perhaps invested some time, energy and funds into a few upgrades and replacements, the final cleaning will help buyers feel the home is perfect for them!

Ceiling & Wallscleaning supplies with bubbles to sell my house

Scrub down all walls, ceilings, trim & baseboards with warm soapy water.  This will remove any dust, finger prints or marks.  If you painted the walls already, you can of course skip this step. 

Rugs & Carpets

Shampoo all rugs and carpets throughout the house.  Not only will this make the carpets look as good as new, you will remove odor, pet dander, and help buyers feel right at home. 

Cabinets & Countertops

Take everything out of kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, wipe down all the shelving, interior and exterior of cabinets and place everything back in orderly fashion. This effort will make cabinets seem bigger due to the increased organization. 


Wash windows on the interior and exterior; This will make a huge difference in the overall appeal of the house.  The rooms will appear bigger with more light and the house will feel newer with clean glass.  Be sure to deep clean window tracks and apply primer as needed to give the windows a brand new look.

clean your house to sell your house seattleDust

Wipe down all furniture, bookshelves, dressers, everything in the house should be free of dust. 


Scrub toilets, showers, and bathtubs.  Nothing will scare a buyer away faster than a dirty bathroom!

Sweep & Mop

Finish up by sweeping and mopping all floors, entry ways, and bathrooms. 

Utility Room

Buyers will look in utility closets and expect them to be a little dirty.  Go the extra mile by cleaning gas/oil burners, dusting water heater, dryer vent, and other utility fixtures. 

Step 8 - Curb Appeal

One of the final steps to preparing your house for sale is Curb Appeal. The exterior, front of the house is the first impression every buyer will get. If the curb appeal is lacking, buyers might just say, never mind, lets go to the next house.  Paying special attention to the Curb Appeal of your house will undoubtedly maximize your sales price.

While you are making repairs to the the house, spend extra time on the exterior of the house, especially out front. In the replacements section, we discussed potential repairs and replacements to improve the curb appeal of your property, including replacing address lettering, exterior lighting, painting trim, front door, and garage door.  Here we'll discuss in depth additional tasks to emphasis curb appeal. 

Sidewalk and Curb 

Your sidewalks, walk ways, drive way and curb immediately in front your house should be clean. At very least, these items should be swept and free of litter throughout the listing period.  A good power washing goes a long way for curb appeal.  In addition, sweeping up any leaves, debris or other items out of the street gutter is going to give your house a cleaner, better curb appeal.

Entry Way

The entrance to the house, usually the front door, is the most important aspect of curb appeal. Entering the front door is the first physical experience potential buyers have with the property. Up to this point, everything has been visual. The front door itself should be clean, freshly painted, or replaced entirely if needed. The handle and lock should function perfectly.  Screen doors should be removed, while functionally they are nice, aesthetically they are not doing you any favors. The entire entry should be clean, free of cobwebs and debris.

Additional ways to really make the front entrance pop include installing a new porch light, door bell, and a new welcome mat.  Finally, a nice flower planter or hanging flower planter creates a welcoming, appealing look from the the street and upon entering. 


Of course, the front yard makes a huge impact on curb appeal. All grass should be well kept, mowed and edged prior to and throughout the listing period. Flower beds should be cleared of weeds, raked and new bark should be laid for maximum appeal. All bushes, trees, trees fresh look real estate.pngand hedges need to be trimmed and old, dead or dying plants should be removed. 

Hoses, garden tools, and any garden accessories should be minimized or at very least, cleaned off and stored in an organized fashion. Similarly to De-Personalizing and De-Cluttering the interior of the house, the yard and landscape should be de-cluttered and de-personalized. 

Fencing and Railings

The fence surrounding the house, entrance gates, or any railing leading up to the house need to be clean and in good, working repairs. Old fencing panels should be replaced and if you've decided to power wash the driveway, go ahead and power wash the fence as well.  Chainlink fences should be spray painted black to give a new, fresh look.  If replacing the fence is not within in your budget, talk with your broker about potentially having the fence removed, depending on its condition and whether or not its a sellable feature of the house. 

Step 9 - Final Staging

The final step in preparing your house for buyer showings and open houses is Final Staging. All rooms throughout the house should have a single purpose; Arrange your furniture to highlight the use and function of each room in an aesthetically pleasing way.  Ensure pathways are clear so rooms feel spacious and defined. Many times, this is not the most functional use of furniture, but making the house look more designer can help the buyer visualize their own furniture in the space.  Do your best to arrange your furniture like a professional stager and you will maximize your sales price!

Living Room

The focal point of the the living room should be most appealing feature of the living room, often a fireplace or a large window. Living rooms tend to focal around the entertainment center, but for buyer showings, we want to create an inviting, relaxing environment free from play stations and DVRs.  This can even mean removing large, bulky electronics and any wiring that may be visible completely from the room. 

Dining Room

The center piece of a dining room is the dining table.  If possible, the table should be centered in the room under the light with a matching table setting and centerpiece.


The kitchen sells the house.  The focal point is often the window and sink combination.  Make sure the counters are mostly clear with some decorative accessories such as canisters, cook books, utensil holder, wine rack or the like.  Kitchen towels should be replaced daily so they are always clean and hung nicely. Finally, the refrigerator should be free of any magnets or other personal items, a blank refrigerator is best. 

Some decorative ideas include fresh flower arrangements, a fruit bowl, or fancy cake in a display case. These items might be installed during the Open House, but will be difficult to maintain throughout the listing period. 


The home office is often the room that has multiple functions, but for the purposes of buyer showings, do your best to minimize the multi-functional room. 

The office focal point is the desk; The desk should be clear of any papers or other clutter. Bookshelves add a great element to the home office and can be moved into this room for a more designer appeal, even if they are usually kept in another room. 


The focal point of bedrooms are the beds; If possible, beds should be centered in the room with headboard and symmetrical night stands on either side.  Fresh bedspreads should be used and changed often during listing period.  Again, all clothes, shoes, and extra items should be stored away in closets and hidden from view. 


Fresh towels should be installed daily so bathrooms appear clean and fresh; Make sure toilet seats and lids are down during all showings and all private items are not visible.  Shower curtains should be closed and of course, cleanliness is most vital in bathrooms. 

Step 10 - Show Time!

When selling your house, ensuring clear & consistent access to the property is vital to your success. Buyers need to view the property, once, twice sometimes 3+ times before making their final decision. Providing ample access to view the property will maximize your sales price.

Our clients consistently say to us, "I want to sell my house for top dollar, I don't want anything left on the table."  Thera are many tips to make this happen; One of the most important things you can do to get maximum sales price is make access to your property as unrestricted as possible. 

Brokers need ample availability to show the house to their buyers the first, or perhaps even the second or third time. The less restrictions on access the better, however, brokers are aware that certain restriction need apply in occupied houses.

Level 1:  Show anytime!  

Show anytime level of access is primarily used in vacant properties.  This means there is broker lockbox installed & selling brokers can schedule anytime between 8am and 9pm to show the house to prospective buyers.  Brokers do not need to contact anyone before showing the house.

Level 2:  Restricted Hours

Often sellers will ask brokers to show only during the day such as when the occupants are at work.  Such as Show anytime M-F 8:30am to 6pm, no call necessary.  All other times, by appointment.   This scenario works well, however, one major draw back is most buyers are working during those same hours, so the seller will often need to accommodate appointments.  

One suggestion to overcome this issue is schedule at least 1 evening during the week you expect showings, to prevent the need for regular appointment scheduling.  Such as: Show anytime M-F 8:30am to 6pm, WEDNESDAYS from 6pm to 9pm, no call necessary.  All other times, by appointment. 

This allows brokers the ability to schedule a showing on Wednesday evening and the seller knows to be prepared for showings on Wednesday evenings. 

Level 3:  Weekends Only

Sometimes sellers prefer only to allow showings on the weekends.  This is OK, but does restrict the ability to show the house considerably.  The most negative of all consequences is while more buyers are looking at houses on the weekend, the most serious buyers are looking during the week.  These buyers have clarified their buying criteria & perhaps have taken a few days off work to make their final decision. Weekend shoppers are often just getting started in their buying process, getting a feel for the marketplace and are less likely to make an offer just yet.

Level 4:  By Appointment Only

The most restrictive showing access is by appointment only.  This level is never recommended, but is sometimes used by sellers who have extraordinary situation, such as medical issues or large animals in the house. 

Often, landlord sellers will elect this option, stating they need to provide proper notice to their tenants. This is in fact true, however, we recommended landlord sellers provide notice to their tenants with Restricted Hours.  Such as the example above: Show anytime M-F 8:30am to 6pm, WEDNESDAYS from 6pm to 9pm, no call necessary. Tenants occupy property, notice posted for scheduled dates/times. All other times, by appointment only with minimum 72 hours notice.

Providing as much access as possible during your sale will guarantee the most exposure to potential buyers in the market.  It is in the sellers best interest to gather as many showings as possible to generate as many offers as possible. 

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