10 Things Sellers Let Slip When They Prep Their House for the Market

You’ve heard it before—from your real estate agent, your sister-in-law, your hairdresser, your colleagues.

“Declutter, paint, clean, stage.”

Chirps from every direction tell you how to prep your house for sale, you might even start to mumble it in your sleep.

Declutter, paint, clean, stage. Am I forgetting something?

We tapped into the knowledge of real estate agents who’ve prepped hundreds of homes for sale about those little tasks sellers often miss—then investigated the best methods and products to knock those items off your to-do list in no time.

When you prep the house for sale, remember these items!

At a high level, these are the top 10 things you’d otherwise forget to do when you prep your house for sale. (You’re welcome!)

  1. Focus on the area around the front door.
  2. Pressure wash your roof to remove unsightly dirt and mold.
  3. Depersonalize the exterior of your house.
  4. Check your driveway and sidewalk in front of your house for bumps and cracks.
  5. Open up curtains and blinds.
  6. Neutralize foul odors and make sure the house smells fresh for showings.
  7. Gather warranties for appliances.
  8. Sweep the garage, basement, and any other unfinished surfaces.
  9. Organize closets and drawers.
  10. Look up your address online.

Let’s dive into each of these tasks you’ll no longer forget as you prep your house for sale and the tips and products you’ll need to get them done fast.

A yellow, freshly-painted front door of a house for sale.
Source: (Evelyn Paris/ Unsplash)

1. Focus on the area around the front door.

The first thing buyers see when they walk up to your house is the entryway—so you need to make sure it gives a positive first impression. Especially for private showings, your front door area needs to be in pristine condition. While your real estate agent unlocks the door, the buyer looks around and notices every minor imperfection.

Step outside and walk up to your front door, starting at the sidewalk. Look at everything in eyesight and make sure it’s in good condition.

Here are some ways to make sure the area around your front door is ready for buyers.

  • Clean your mailbox using dish soap, a sponge or cloth, and lukewarm water.
    If your mailbox is rusty and broken, replace it before you list your house for sale. Check out these new mailboxes for under $100.
  • Replace your welcome mat with a fresh, new one.
    Opt for a simple design that complements your front door. Avoid phrases like “Welcome to our home” that make buyers feel like guests.
  • Remove storm doors and screens.
    Nothing says “old” like a squeaky screen door that slams behind you. Take off your old storm door to instantly update the front of your home.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
    Choose a paint color that works with the siding and style of your home. Some popular options are modern black, homey red, eclectic yellow, or charming blue.
  • Buff and shine the hardware on the door.
    Over time, metal door handles tarnish. Wipe oil-rubbed bronze hardware with a tiny amount of vegetable oil to give it new life. Clean chrome hardware with a damp cloth or polish to restore its original shine. If your front door hardware is from the ’80s and can’t be saved, install new hardware to wow buyers.
  • Dust cobwebs off of light sconces.
    Grab a step stool or an extra long duster and clean around sconces where moths flutter on warm nights.

Dirty roof in need of cleaning before a house sale.
Source: (Skorzewiak/ Shutterstock)

2. Pressure wash your roof to remove unsightly mold and dirt.

Your roof takes a beating from weather elements, which can make it look more worn than it actually is.

Many times, especially in warm, rainy climates, dirt and mold stick on a roof. This could give buyers the impression that the roof is on its last leg, even if it could last another 10 years.

Buyers and their agents will steer clear of your home if the roof looks damaged for multiple reasons:

  1. Roof issues cause delays in closing. Safety and function damage shows up in home inspections and can hold up the sale. Buyers looking for a move-in ready home will avoid houses with potentially big-ticket issues.
  2. A new roof is expensive––the average cost of a roof is around $7,000. Most buyers aren’t willing to take on such a large project, so the mere thought that the roof might need to be replaced in upcoming years will send them running.

“From the moment I pull up to a house, I’m looking at the roof,” says Cheryl Bare, a top real estate agent in Waldorf, Maryland who has sold 66% more properties than the average agent in her area.

“A lot of people have mold growing on it and it makes the roof look old, but it might just need a good power washing,” Bare says.

She recommends sellers hire a professional roofer to clean the roof with shingle-protecting products.

“It’s typically inexpensive and it just gives you that nice, clean look.”

Here are some places to find a professional roof cleaner:

  • HomeAdvisor connects you with highly-rated roof cleaners in your area.
  • Porch matches you with roof cleaners specific to you and your roof’s needs.
  • Angie’s List provides trusted referrals for experienced roof cleaning professionals.

Outdoor decorations needed to be removed before selling house.
Source: (Suresh Kumar/ Unsplash)

3. Depersonalize the exterior of your house.

By now, you’ve likely heard that you should depersonalize and declutter when you prep your house for sale. Many sellers only do this on the inside and forget to remove personal items in the yard around the house.

Starting at the front of your house, remove everything that isn’t part of your landscaping. Garden gnomes, Christmas lights, flags, and ceramic frogs take away from your landscaping curb appeal.

Then, work your way to the back. Walk along the side of your house and gather stray rakes, recycling bins, or lost balls from last weekend’s batting practice.

In your backyard, remove wind chimes, bird feeders, and other yard decorations that make the yard look cluttered. A clean slate with simple, attractive landscaping will appeal to every buyer.

Large crack in driveway of house for sale.
Source: (dre2uomaha0/ Pixabay)

4. Check your driveway and the sidewalk in front of your house for bumps and cracks.

Uneven, jagged sidewalks or driveways are an eyesore, a safety risk, and a turn-off for buyers. Buyers looking for a kid-friendly home don’t want to deal with tripping hazards, especially if they’d like to avoid taking on any big projects immediately after moving in.

“You don’t want to be tripping on the sidewalk, so make sure you look at that,” says Bare.

In most states, sidewalks are the responsibility of the abutting property owner. Check with your local laws to see if you’re responsible for maintenance of the sidewalk outside of your home. If you’re up for a DIY project, you can fix minor cracks and uneven sidewalks yourself.

For larger projects, contact a professional to diagnose and repair your sidewalk and driveway issues. Search on the following sites for sidewalk and driveway repair pros:

  • Find local concrete contractors on HomeAdvisor who have been pre-screened, rated and reviewed by homeowners like you.
  • Search contractors near you on Thumbtack. Compare prices, reviews, and experience for free.
  • Connect with local masonry pros on Local Masonry Quotes. Get up to 4 free quotes for your sidewalk project.

The cost of sidewalk repair depends on the size of the project, but leveling concrete slabs ranges between around $550 to $1,300. To repair a driveway, the cost ranges from around $750 to $2,300. The size and landscape of your driveway and the extent of the damage adds to the cost of a repair project.

Open curtains in house for sale.
Source: (Rawpixel)

5. Open up the curtains and blinds on every window.

A bright house feels bigger, cleaner, and happier than a dark, closed off house—which is why every top real estate agent says to open up blinds and curtains for photos and showings.

Old, dingy or broken window treatments can distract buyers and block natural light from the windows. Replace blinds and curtains with light, inexpensive options. Talk to your real estate agent about what window treatments attract buyers in the area.

Picture of fresh lime used to prep a house for sale.
Source: (Rawpixel)

6. Neutralize foul odors and make sure the house smells fresh for showings.

Many of us will take any excuse to ransack Target for Glade Plug-Ins and vanilla scented candles. So when your real estate agent tells you to deodorize your home, you jump for your keys and Target shopping shoes. (Oh, you don’t have those? Weird…)

Well, stop right where you are!

Air fresheners, candles, and (God forbid) fresh baked cookies are not what buyers want to smell when they step into a house.

“You don’t want to be overwhelmed by these plugins and candles and you don’t want to be overwhelmed by pet odor. You want a nice neutral, clean smell,” says Bare.

To make your house smell clean and new without overpowering buyers’ senses, take the following steps:

  • Remove pets, shoes, gym bags, and anything that holds onto odors.
  • Avoid eating any meals in your home.
  • Lightly spray a lemon-scented air freshener in each room.
  • Leave the windows open for at least 30 minutes.
  • On the day of the open house or showing, re-open the windows for 30 minutes to neutralize the smell.

A couple gathers warranties for their house sale.
Source: (stockfour/ Shutterstock)

7. Gather warranties for appliances.

If your appliances come with the home, make sure to have the warranty information for each appliance ready to hand off to buyers.

As you prepare your home for the market and move out, things can get pretty hectic. Find the warranty paperwork for all of your appliances that you are leaving behind and keep them in a safe place (like the top drawer in the kitchen!)

That being said, make sure you are familiar with the items you’ve included in your home sale. These items are usually discussed when you and your real estate agent sit down to sign a listing agreement.

Source: (pwkps/ Pixabay)

8. Sweep the garage, basement, or any other unfinished surfaces.

Your house is clean. The yard looks great. All of the clutter is moved out of your storage areas––but there’s a layer of dust, dirt and random packing materials on the ground in your garage.

Get ahold of a push broom or power sweeper to sweep up any muck from your garage. An unfinished basement, as dingy as it may be, should be swept, too. While you’re at it, get your attic and crawl space. The cleaner your house is, the better!

Source: (sdnet01/ Pixabay)

9. Organize closets and drawers.

Let’s face it—serious buyers are going to look everywhere to make sure your home is “the one”. They’ll be poking into your kitchen drawers, closets, and even under your bed.

To avoid embarrassment and make every inch of your house look it’s absolute best, organize everything.

  • Remove excess clothing from closets and drawers and put it in storage, your new home (if you have one already), or the trunk of your car.
  • Fold and hang clothing neatly, leaving extra space to make closets look bigger.
  • Gather medications and hide them in locked boxes, secret storage, or in your new/temporary housing.
  • Empty your refrigerator and clean it thoroughly.
  • Remove excess kitchen accessories to enlarge the space. Take away refrigerator art, phone chargers, paper towel holders, and small counter-top appliances that make the house feel lived-in.

Laptop opened to google on table in house.
Source: (Agnieszka Boeske/ Unsplash)

10. Look up your address online.

Most people begin their home search online nowadays. In 2018, 50% of buyers found the home they purchased online. Search your house’s address online to see what buyers see.

If you notice errors in the details of your home—like if a site reports 3 bedrooms when there are actually 4 bedrooms—contact the site to correct it.

On top listing sites such as Zillow or Redfin, you can claim your home’s listing and make edits to the information on the site. Be prepared to verify that you are the current homeowner. If your home is on the market, your real estate agent will have to make edits to errors on your listing.

If the Google Maps street view doesn’t show the new updates you’ve made to the exterior of your house, make sure you include them in the listing.

Work with your real estate agent to make sure your home’s listing is heavily marketed online and includes accurate information.

Go above and beyond to prep your house for sale

Declutter, paint, clean, stage!

There are so many things that go into a home sale, it’s easy to forget home preparation steps that are less obvious, but equally important to sell your home.

Hold onto these 10 home preparation tasks that otherwise might slip past you. And, hey, go share this with your sister-in-law while you’re at it.

Find a top agent in your area