When I mention “staging,” I often see my clients take a deep breath and brace themselves. Shows like HGTV are great for some things, but have over-complicated staging, in my opinion. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars to ready your home for the market.

While I will suggest repairs and improvements that will have a good return on investment, my specialty is skillfully repurposing what my clients already own, accentuating the best features of the home and flattering the space.

Every home can benefit from some staging. Just make sure your agent is an Accredited Staging Professional or at least has professional stagers with whom you can collaborate. There’s nothing worse than wasting money on a home you are selling.


Single Use of Space

When getting your house ready for sale, keep in mind that your first showing will be online, in a 4×6 inch photo. Guaranteed.

When a Buyer is looking at a photo of a room that has a bed, a dresser a file cabinet, and a desk, it’s confusing to know what room they’re viewing. Is it a bedroom? Or is it an office?

If at all possible, a room should have a single use. Bedrooms should be bedrooms, and an office should be an office. If a potential buyer can’t tell from the photo which room they are viewing, they lose connection, and you may lose the showing.

Few people keep their homes ready to show at a moments notice; yet when we sell, that’s what we’re expected to do. It can be daunting, but with some preparation, we can help you make this more manageable.



It is an inconvenient but necessary task and one well worth it, I promise.

Getting rid of unnecessary items sitting out and about will make for more beautiful photos, maximize your space, make it easier to keep tidy, and allow the features of your home to stand out to potential buyers.

Decluttering can be challenging. Going through and eliminating things we’ve held on to for years begins to pull on our heartstrings, but it is a necessary step in getting your house ready to sell.

Donating or throwing away things that are still useful can weigh on our conscience as being wasteful. We go through the same process as real estate agents when we move, and I struggle with both of those issues.

I’ve learned that when decluttering, not begin with mementos and heirlooms. We get lost in the memories, and nothing gets done. Instead, tackle the clothing and household items first, and work into the harder things.

When deciding what to eliminate, ask yourself two questions:

  1. “When is the last time I wore/used this?”
  2. “Would I buy this again, right now?”

The answers to these questions will tell you whether you should keep it. But be ruthless with yourself; remember the point is to try to get rid of things. Make sure you love it before you decide to keep it.

Note: This is where things can go awry. Allow everyone in the household to make decisions on their own things, or you might have a revolt on your hands.


Personal Photos and Valuables

I don’t agree it’s necessary to remove every personal photo in the house; I think having a few are fine. If you have a family photo wall though, you might consider removing those and packing them away while getting your house ready to sell. You want people to admire your home during their showing, not your relatives.


I recommend relocating certain items for safekeeping, such as: collectibles, valuables, jewelry, firearms, small electronics and anything else that may concern you.

Agents can’t follow people into the bathroom, and these are interesting days in which we live. Put your prescriptions in your dresser drawer, not the kitchen cabinet or bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s better not to take chances.

Big tip: Handle things once. You’re going to have to box it up whether you are moving it with you or donating it, so pack it into a box and label it as you go.


Sorting: Donate, Dump or Storage

When handling things, it’s helpful to have three bags going at the same time: one for donating, one for keeping but storing temporarily, and a garbage bag for dumping.

Donate: Either take items you don’t want to the donation centre of your choice or sell them on CraigsList. If you’ve got tons of time and energy, you can always have a yard sale, although it’s a giant undertaking in my opinion.

Anything you are keeping but need to store should be packed, labeled and in a storage unit before the photo shoot. If you are a current client of ours, you can use our moving truck.

Dump: If you have things to throw away that your regular trash pickup won’t handle, we recommend 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Storage: After your donation or dump projects, pack seasonal clothing, excess toys, and any other storage items into boxes for the basement or storage unit.

Closets: Once the storage items are out, it’s time to organize the closets.


Clean, Clean and Clean Again

Cleanliness is almost more than anything else. If you can’t afford to make repairs you can compensate for that in price, but cleanliness leaves a lasting impression.

Buyers look at more than surfaces – they’ll look inside your closets, your kitchen cupboards, and your bathroom vanity. Take a damp cloth to the top of your furnace and water heater too, while you are at it. If you haven’t had the furnace serviced this year, do that as well.

Need help or a service recommendation? Here, you’ll find a list of our trusted people.


Curb Appeal

More than one seller has lost a potential buyer at the curb. Your porch, front door, sidewalks, and gardens create the initial impression of your home. If you lose them outside, chances are they won’t want to see the inside.

When getting your house ready to sell, it is imperative that you give your exterior the attention it deserves, too. Fresh light bulbs, a new doormat, a beautiful door wreath, clean windows, and well-groomed grounds will set the expectation for what they will find inside. Great marketing by your agent cannot compensate for the condition of a home.



To some, a basement is simply storage space, but basements are much more important than that. A basement is potential living space, taxed at a lesser amount than above grade living space.

In other words, some Buyers will consider a smaller home if the basement offers the potential for additional living space when finished. Whether finished or unfinished, pay attention to your basement area, too.

Basements count. Before your first showing, throw away or donate the items stored in the basement that you do not intend to take with you and organize the rest. If you have a finished basement, it should be treated like the main level.


Inspection Points

Make sure that Buyers and Home Inspectors can easily access the electrical panel, sump pump, water heater, plumbing and furnace. If you have a second kitchen or bath in the basement, the plumbing and appliances in these areas will be inspected, too.

If the basement walls are unfinished, avoid stacking boxes up against the wall. Potential Buyers will want to inspect the cement walls for cracks and leaks.


The Mechanicals

Buyers are often wowed by obvious upgrades such as granite counters, hardwood floors, and high-end appliances, but the foundation and mechanical components of your house will be under scrutiny, too. The age and condition of your furnace, central air, water heater, electrical, plumbing, roof, and insulation are important.

Make sure your agent knows the age of each of these components and that you disclose any known defects on your Sellers Disclosure Statement.

This is also a good time to gather your maintenance manuals and receipts to leave for the next owner.


Annoying Little Repairs

We all have annoying little repairs in our home that we keep putting off until the “next free weekend.” Somehow, the “next free weekend” never comes, and these nagging little repairs are still waiting for us. Inspectors call these items “deferred maintenance.”

Seeing all of those minor repairs in listed out in the inspection report can make it look like your home needs more work than it does.

Hiring a handyman for a day to take care of those annoying little repairs will help smooth the inspection process by keeping the Buyers focused on the structural condition of your home instead of minor repairs like leaky faucets and missing outlet covers. It will benefit you to address those little repairs while getting your home ready to sell.


Outdoor Space

In our seasonal climate, the outdoor space is exceptionally important. Our backyards have become an extension of our indoor living space and add value to the buyer and the appraisal.

Examine your outdoor space. Consider power washing or staining the deck, grooming the gardens, fixing the fence and maybe staging your patio with some stylish furniture. After all, you can take the new furniture with you to your next place.

If you’re selling your home in winter, you agent will appreciate any summer photos of your yard. Everybody loves to dream of hosting an outdoor BBQ while we are buried under a foot of snow.


Gather Your Documents

Gathering your documents is an important part of getting your house ready to sell. Here are a few important ones to have on hand:

  • Utility Bills
    When a Buyer asks for a copy of utility bills, it is a buying signal. They don’t usually ask for that level of detail unless they are considering making an offer. To speed up the decision process, have both the average and highest gas and electric bills available.
  • Pool
    If you have a pool, provide seasonal photos. Also provide your agent with details of the construction, maintenance records, and operating costs. Ask your agent to make these details available publicly and in your listing documents.
    It is my experience that some buyers are afraid to purchase a home with a pool because they’ve never owned one. They often over-estimate both time and expense required to maintain a pool. Providing this documentation right in the multi-list often removes their hesitation.
  • Homeowners Association Bylaws and Master Deed
    Your agent should ask you for the web address to your Homeowner’s Association’s website, a copy of your bylaws, current budget, and the current treasurer, so have this information available at your listing appointment. Make sure you ask your Board if the information is current. In most purchase agreements, it is incumbent upon the Seller to provide accurate information. We advise posting the link to the HOA website right in your listing in the multi-list, so the Buyer or Buyer’s Agent can ask questions directly to the Association, and the Seller is not assuming the liability of interpreting the bylaws.
  • Repairs and Renovations with Dates
    Compile a list of all the repairs and renovations and the dates completed. Provide receipts if you have them. This is important because it will help your agent negotiate the best price for your home; plus, I use this list in my appraisal package for the bank appraiser to help support the price I’ve diligently negotiated. Details matter.
  • Sellers Disclosure Statement
    Be prepared to make public, any defects you are aware of. It is illegal for your agent to help you complete your Sellers Disclosure Statement. If the age of something is unknown, state “unknown,” if you didn’t pull a permit for an improvement, state so. Accurate Sellers Disclosure Statements are your ticket out of a lawsuit. Disclose, disclose, disclose.
  • Make an Extra Set of Keys
    You’ll have a lockbox on your door so that real estate agents can show your home to their Buyers. Make sure you give them an extra set of keys, not your own.


Follow these steps, and you’ll be successful in getting your home ready to sell.

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