Checklist for selling a house

Preparing your home for sale involves making sure your home is in the best condition possible to appeal to prospective buyers. But you'll need to do things to get your house ready that will vary based on the home's condition, location, and your priorities as a seller.

7 min to read

Checklist for selling a house

Preparing your home for sale involves making sure your home is in the best condition possible to appeal to prospective buyers. But you'll need to do things to get your house ready that will vary based on the home's condition, location, and your priorities as a seller.

1. Understand the local real estate market and set goals

Begin to understand your local real estate market. Research recent home sales in your neighborhood to learn what comparable homes are selling for, which will help you set a realistic price for your house.

Set a timeline for the sale of your house. According to Realtor.com, the average house's time on the market was 50 days as of fall 2023. Market conditions fluctuate, so you must decide whether it's a good time to sell your house.

Working with a good real estate agent might be helpful. An agent can lend their expertise and knowledge of the local market trends to find the right buyers. Talk with friends and family to see if they can recommend one. Interview several agents until you find the right one. If the average 5%-6% commission rate seems daunting, you can negotiate it.

2. Gather the paperwork you'll need when you're preparing to sell your house

If you're working with an agent, they would ensure you complete all the necessary documents and forms at every step in the process. If you're selling your house on your own, it's up to you to gather and complete the necessary documents. For example, you'll need a purchase and sales agreement, a signed deed, and affidavit of title proving you're the rightful owner and there are no liens on the property. If you're still paying a mortgage, you'll need loan payoff documentation.

List With Clever has a national database of all the documents you'll need to sell your house if you're not working with an agent, depending on which state you live in.

3. Have your home inspected

While a pre-listing home inspection is not required, it can be helpful when taking stock of your home's assets and flaws and should be on your home selling checklist. It will reveal what repairs and upgrades you can make to maximize your home’s selling price. Calculate an estimated cost of those repairs, and determine what's in your budget or if you want to sell your home as-is.

4. Make essential repairs and upgrades

First impressions count in real estate. Tackling smaller cosmetic flaws on your home selling checklist is simpler than larger-scale renovations and repairs, and they typically won't break the bank. Making small repairs such as repainting dull or stained walls, mending a broken fence, or doing basic landscaping can improve your home's curb appeal. Making cost-effective upgrades in the kitchen and bathroom can enhance the appeal and increase the value of your home.

If you have pets, consider repairing any animal-related damage. You never know if a prospective buyer is averse to animals or what their deal-breakers are. Removing evidence of pets can go a long way in making your home desirable to more buyers. How Stuff Works reports that your house's value can drop by $30,000 when a buyer finds out you had pets in your home. Keep these fixes and updates neutral but clean and stylish.

5. Consider larger repairs

Larger home repairs before selling are often more involved, more expensive, and may require the help of professionals. They can become a massive undertaking and delay the listing process. However, the right repairs can increase the amount your home sells for and will likely have a high return on investment (ROI).

6. Declutter and depersonalize your space

A squeaky clean, clutter-free space allows potential buyers to envision themselves living in the home. Remove unnecessary personal items like family photos and unique artwork to create a neutral environment that appeals to a broader range of buyers. Organizing your home adds a tidy, streamlined quality while ensuring that sentimental or valuable items are kept safely out of sight.

You could rent a portable storage container on your property or put your things in a storage unit until you're ready to move them to your new home.

7. Stage your home to the best of your ability

Home staging can significantly impact your home's sale. Professional stagers are adept at showcasing your home's strengths while downplaying its weaknesses. Staging involves furnishing and styling the home neatly without distracting personal items. Potential buyers should be able to picture themselves living in the listed home. If professional staging isn't in your budget, consider rearranging furniture using neutral decor.

8. Get good photos of your house

Quality photographs are essential to a successful home sale as most buyers start their search online. While taking photos of your home may seem simple, quality real estate photos require a skilled hand.

Some real estate services can help connect you with a professional photographer, particularly one with real estate photography experience who will find your home's best angles and optimal lighting. Professional photographs ensure that your home's best foot is being put forward, making potential buyers eager to see it in person.

9. Marketing your house and attracting buyers

Effective marketing is how you'll attract buyers. You can use social media to reach a wide audience, but a real estate agent can access the MLS, which is the Multiple Listing Service. The MLS is a database of real estate listings that real estate brokers create to share information. Other agents in the area have access to the MLS, and they bring their buyers to view your house.

You'll have to create a compelling listing description highlighting the best features your home has to offer, and it should include lots of clear, beautiful images of the property.

10. Show the house

Regarding scheduling showings, you'll need to be flexible with your schedule. Be sure to keep the house clean and ready for a viewing at a moment's notice. You may want to start by hosting an open house event to attract potential buyers.

11. Consider any legal and financial obligations

Selling a home involves a lot of paperwork, which includes legal and financial considerations. Your agent will ensure you've got the documents your state and municipality require, such as seller disclosures and homeowner association documents where these are required. Learn about the home inspection and appraisal process. Prospective buyers will likely hire a home inspector and may want to negotiate repairs or price changes based on the inspector's results.

12. Negotiating offers and closing the sale

As purchase offers start coming in, evaluate them carefully. Consider the price, the buyer's contingencies, and the closing timeline. Negotiating on price is an accepted part of the home selling process, so be prepared with a counteroffer. Once you accept an offer, the home closing process begins, typically involving your agent, a title company, the buyer's agent, and real estate lawyers.

Pro tip:

There are also costs associated with selling a home, such as closing costs, agent commissions, capital gains tax, and others, depending on where you live.

What are the pros and cons of selling your home on your own?

Selling a house and managing a real estate transaction can be a complex, challenging task. Yes, you'll save on paying the agent's commission, but do you have the time, energy, and expertise required to handle the complexities of a real estate transaction on your own? Consider all the pros and cons of trying to sell your house on your own.

There are services for homeowners who are selling their homes, where they can purchase a la carte agent services, access the MLS, legal documents, and other marketing services for a flat fee, such as Houzeo and Zillow.

What does homeowners insurance cover when selling your house?

When preparing to sell your house, review your insurance policy to understand what it covers and excludes when you're not living in your home before it sells. Until closing, when the new owners take possession, any damage that occurs is your responsibility. Ensure that you don't cancel your homeowners insurance when you're selling your house.

Once you've followed our home sellers checklist and found a buyer for your home, you'll have some exciting next steps ahead. Whether you are buying a new house or weighing your options between building a house or buying an existing home, check out more home selling tips.

Quote homeowners insurance online or call for advice

Learn more about home insurance policies.