The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Getting Your House Ready to Sell

You’ve thought long and hard and have made the big decision— you’re selling your home. But how do you kick off the home sale process?

Selling a home without proper preparation can lead to major delays, an unsatisfactory sale price, and many other headaches. For a successful sale, it’s best to take care of some critical tasks before putting it on the market.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on how to get your house ready to sell in six weeks. With help from a top real estate agent, we’ll walk you through this pre-listing preparation schedule:

Do market research when learning how to get house ready to sell
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Week 1: Conduct preliminary market research

First up: Get to know your local housing market. By familiarizing yourself with competing properties and current listing prices, you’ll have more realistic expectations of what you can sell your home for.

First, use a free home appraisal tool like HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator to estimate your home’s current market value. These tools use sophisticated algorithms to give you an idea of how much buyers would pay for your home in the current market.

But don’t mistake the resulting figure for your future listing price. You’ll need to work with a local real estate agent who can conduct a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to determine your home’s true value.

Next, browse local property listings online and note how your home compares to similar properties. What condition are these homes in? Are these properties staged? What are the listing prices for homes that are similar in size and design?

The estimator will use the details of your property and compare them with local market trends to provide you with a ballpark estimate of your home’s value.

Week 2: Hire a top real estate agent

Rima Rafeh, a leading real estate agent in Los Angeles with more than 300 transactions under her belt, stresses the importance of hiring an agent as soon as possible:

“Sellers should consult an agent right away because that agent is going to be able to come up with a game plan for what the seller is aiming to accomplish. No matter what circumstance, your agent is going to be able to guide you through your sale from A to Z.”

While you take care of your end of the sale process, your agent will handle crucial tasks that require professional expertise. Some of these include:

  • Marketing
  • Pricing
  • Staging
  • Sourcing professionals like contractors and photographers
  • Fielding offers
  • Negotiating with buyers

And don’t just hire any agent. HomeLight’s analysis of thousands of home sales across the country reveals that the top 5% of real estate agents typically sell homes for 10% higher prices than their peers.

To connect with the top real estate agents in your area, plug your home details into HomeLight’s Agent Finder. We’ll crunch transaction data to match you with three outstanding listing agents in your area. From there, we recommend that you interview these agents to determine which candidate can best help you meet your selling objectives.

Clean and declutter every room when learning how to get house ready to sell
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Week 3: Mercilessly clean and declutter every room

Your home might feel comfortable and clean to you, but it’s likely not up to listing standards. You want to create a neutral space that buyers can envision living in. That means you’ll need to declutter, depersonalize, and deep clean your interior and outdoor spaces.

Not only is decluttering a top pre-listing task recommended by Rafeh, but Consumer Reports advises that decluttered homes fetch offers for as high as 5% more than others.

The best way to tackle this sizable chore is to break it up over several days and focus on one room at a time. Here’s a rundown of what you need to cover:

    • The bathroom: Start your decluttering campaign in the bathroom, the smallest and easiest room in your home to clean. Take everything out but the essentials, do a thorough cleaning of the floors and surfaces, move your toiletries into cabinets, fold your towels, and you’re ready to move on to the next room.
    • The bedroom: The bedroom is also relatively easy, as it’s normally only populated with your clothes and other personal items. Don’t worry about decluttering your closets just yet; just put away any loose clothing, nightstand items, and personal effects. Clean blinds, behind your headboard, and under the bed.
    • Closets: Are your closets packed with neglected items like that throw blanket from high school and tennis racket you haven’t touched in six years? Revise your closet’s content and donate and toss things you no longer need. You should aim to declutter your closets until they’re only two-thirds full to enhance the appearance of storage space. Pack up any extra items into moving boxes and store them in the garage or a storage unit until you sell.
    • The kitchen: Here’s the big one. Kitchens are areas of constant activity, and if you’ve been living in your house for some time, yours is likely jam-packed with cooking tools and knick-knacks. Again, be judicious about what you’re going to keep around and prepare to part with anything unessential. After you’ve cleared old food and unnecessary items out, thoroughly clean every cabinet shelf, surface, and crack in sight.

    • The rest: After you’ve decluttered the primary spaces mentioned above, tackle the rest of the house, including office spaces, living rooms, hallways, entryways, and more.

Week 4: Complete necessary repairs

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that 11% of delayed contracts and 9% of contract terminations in 2021 were due to home inspection issues. You can proactively address repairs and avoid drama by conducting a pre-listing home inspection.

During this inspection, a licensed professional examines your property for defects like cracked foundations, faulty electrical systems, moldy walls, HVAC issues, and more. Your agent can refer you to a quality home inspector in your area, and an inspection generally costs about $270.

After you’ve received a report from your inspector, you can determine which repairs to complete and which to leave for future buyers. You’ll need to disclose these known issues and should consider adjusting the listing price to reflect the cost of any significant repairs needed.

In most cases, Rafeh advises sellers to complete the repairs themselves: “If properties are in better condition, it’s going to have more buyers, better exposure, multiple offers, and people are definitely going to fight for it. Even little repairs that cost maybe $3,000 can generate thousands more at the point of sale.”

Focus on curb appeal when learning how to get house ready to sell
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Week 5: Enhance your home with upgrades and curb appeal

After you clean and repair your home, it’s time to start sprucing it up to make it as attractive as possible. However, there’s only so much you can do on a timeline, and not every project is going to have a worthwhile return on investment (ROI). Your agent can advise what renovations are most effective in your local market, but here are some suggestions that exhibit a high ROI nationally:

Landscaping

More than 75% of top U.S. real estate agents say that a well-landscaped property is worth anywhere from 1% to 10% more money than a non-landscaped home. Landscaping is nearly synonymous with curb appeal, and 94% of agents report that improved curb appeal leads to higher sale prices. At a minimum, you should enhance your lawn. HomeAdvisor estimates that spending an average of $268 on a lawn care service nets an average of $1,200 at resale — a 352% ROI.

Garage door replacement

The garage door is another big part of curb appeal and can serve as an understated but effective eye-catcher for buyers. In their 2021 Cost vs. Value Report, Remodeling.com found that garage door replacements have an average ROI of 93.8%. If you don’t feel like shelling all of that cash, consider cleaning, repairing, and applying a fresh coat of paint to your existing garage door.

Front door replacement

Your front door is your buyer’s first chance to interact with your home up-close and personal. If it’s run down or the lock jams, they might question how well you’ve taken care of the property. Fortunately, replacing your front door is relatively cheap and, according to NAR, can have an ROI as high as 107%.

New house numbers

Sometimes small details can make a huge impact. You probably don’t think about your home numbers all that much, but a set of modern, clean home numbers is an affordable way to make a statement.

Neutral paint

In HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report for Q1 2020,98% of leading real estate agents agree that today’s homebuyers prefer neutral tones. So, grab a bucket or three of paint (Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray and Sherwin Williams’ March Wind are great options) and take part in the time-honored bonding activity of home painting.

Attic insulation

Energy Star reports that heating and cooling account for up to 70% of home energy costs and that air leakage is a leading cause of household energy waste. You can improve your home’s energy efficiency and attract buyers by insulating your attic for around $1,400.

Week 6: Stage your home and hire a professional photographer

At this point, you’ve done all of the major work to get your home ready to sell. Your final task is to get your home ready for listing photos, open houses, and showings.

Staging is the process of rearranging furniture, adding decor, and generally dressing up your home to “wow” potential buyers. NAR data shows that 30% of sellers’ agents report that staged homes sell for more, with increased sale prices anywhere from 1% to 20%. Most real estate agents advise hiring a home staging professional at an average cost of $1,400. If your agent decides to stage the property themselves, they’ll typically charge around $300.

Once your home is looking stellar, it’s time to show it off. Most homebuyers find properties online, so you’ll need professional listing photos to grab their attention. Your agent can refer you to an experienced photographer. Professionals typically charge around $185, and many agents wrap this expense into their commission.

Now relax after learning how to get house ready to sell
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Now you can relax and let your agent do the heavy lifting

Pat yourself on the back — you’ve just done everything you need to get your house ready to sell. From this point forward, your agent will take the reins on your home sale. They’ll craft a compelling listing, market your home to buyers, and arrange showings. All you need to do is maintain a clean house and watch the offers roll in.

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