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Ultimate Guide for Preparing Your Home to Sell: With a Free Checklist

Ultimate Guide for Preparing Your Home to Sell: With a Free Checklist
October 7, 2020 Mark MacFarlane

Do you want to sell your home for over the average price and under the average time?

Great, then this Ultimate Guide for Preparing Your Home to Sell is for you!  ­­

The selling process starts when you decide to move.  You start by researching where to move, neighborhoods, timelines, logistics, and many other details.  If that is not enough, you also need to sell your current home.

Selling a house isn’t easy, and is considered one of life’s most stressful events.  If you’re like most people, you will need to sell your home while living in it, and that’s what this how-to guide and checklist will help you achieve in 8 weeks.

Where to Start?

For most people, preparing a house to sell can be a daunting task – they do not know where to start.  That is where this guide and checklist come in!  We have created a week by week guide that divides the work into small manageable pieces.  Just follow the guide and checklist, and in 8 weeks, your home will be ready to be sold for the highest possible price in the least number of days.

Our goal with this step by step guide and checklist is to make your home as clean, open, and inviting as possible.  You want your home to appeal to the masses and allow potential buyers to envision themselves living there.

A word to the wise:   There will be times during this process that you will become frustrated, tired, and discouraged. When that happens, remember the work you put into preparing your home to sell will translate directly into a higher sales price and fewer days on the market.  The fewer showing you have to put up with and the more money in your pocket, the better!

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When to Start the Process?

Under current market conditions, the average amount of time a home is listed on the market is three months. It typically takes about 45 days from accepting an offer to close as a typical buyer will need to obtain financing.  You should assume that your house will be on the market for 30 to 45 days before you get an acceptable offer plus another 45 to close.

If you follow our 8-week plan to get your home ready for sale, your home should sell faster and for more money than the average home, but we always recommend that you be conservative and plan for unexpected delays.  Therefore, we recommend that you start the process of getting your home ready to sell at least 5 months before you want to close and move from your home.  That allows 8 weeks to prepare the home and another 3 months for the sales process.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

We will go through the 8-week timeline fairly quickly but do not worry about taking notes or cutting and pasting the information.  We have created a downloadable checklist that is available at the bottom of this guide.

WEEK 1

Plan, Storage, and Moving Supplies

Plan

If you are like me, you have a lot of stuff, and a lot of it you do not use or need.  This week you are going to go room to room looking at everything and put it into one of three categories.

1

Things you need to keep and will use while your home is on the market. This includes dishes, cups, glasses, kitchen supplies, toothbrushes, a few towels, and so on.

2

Things you will keep, but that can be packed now. This will include knickknacks, collectibles, artwork, small kitchen appliances, family pictures, decorations, seasonal items, toys, board games, off-season clothes, extra linens, valuables, and excess furniture. Remember, you are moving and need to pack these things anyway, so you might as well get a jump on it now!

3

Things you don’t want to keep. This is the time to donate or sell all the things you are not using or do not need.  You need to be ruthless!

Remember, you can either donate the items and get a tax write off, or you pay the cost to pack and move the stuff.  I hope you find the decluttering process as liberating as I do!

During this process, you need to have a clear idea of what category every item in your house falls into – every item.  If there is any doubt what category an item belongs, it should go in category 2 or 3.  The goal is to have your home look like the beautiful new model home down the street.

Now do the same thing, but this time walk around the exterior of your house to see what items on the outside of your home can be stored, sold, or donated.

Arrange for Storage

The next task for week one is to develop a plan for storing the items you don’t need right now.  These are all of the items in category two above, the items you can pack now to move to your next house.  Consider renting a storage unit, a moving pod, or ask friends/family if you can store these items at their place temporarily.  If these options are not feasible, the next best option is to store them in your garage neatly (if you have one).  A garage is a garage, so even if you pack the items to the ceiling, if the rest of the house looks great, it will not deter someone from making an offer.

Moving Supplies

The final task for this week is to obtain some moving supplies, including boxes, packing tape, cushion material, and a permanent marker. Why a marker – you will use the marker to number each box and write on the outside of the box what is packed inside.

WEEK 2

Packing, Storing, Selling, and Donating

Packing

The first few days of this week will be dedicated to packing up the items you will be moving to storage.  The best way to achieve this is by packing the items room by room. When you complete one room, move to the next. If you have a home with 8 to 10 rooms, you will need to do 2 to 3 rooms per day.

Move Items to Storage

After you have everything packed up and ready to be stored, you will need to transfer those items to storage.  This is a marathon, not a sprint, so it will be best if you do a little bit every day.  For example, you might want to load up your vehicle and drop it off at the storage space on the way to or from work.  This is also a good time to recruit some friends to help, especially if they have a pickup truck.

Sell or Donate

The last task for this week is to donate or sell all of the items you do not want.  You can sell larger or valuable items online using Craig’s List, Let Go, Nextdoor, or other local buy and sell groups.  For the smaller items, it may make sense to have a Saturday morning garage sale and donate on Saturday afternoon anything that did not sell.

The goal is to have the house ready to be sold in 8 weeks, so we need to get these items out of the house this week.  This is going to be a lot of work, but slow and steady will win the race!

WEEK 3

Inspect and Evaluate

Inspect

To get the highest possible price and avoid unpleasant future surprises, you must inspect your home and, if possible, fix defective items before listing the home for sale. For example, if you have a toilet that constantly runs or a dripping faucet, you will have to disclose that to buyers at some point in the sale process.  It is much better to fix everything you can to avoid disclosing problems or disclose there was a problem, but it has been fixed.

When inspecting, you will need to pay particular attention to the items that will concern a home buyer the most.  These items will need to be in good repair:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Plumbing system
  • HVAC system
  • Electrical
  • Appliances
  • Safety systems

For many homeowners, thoroughly inspecting a home is beyond their ability, and getting a professional pre-listing home inspection will be the best option.

Evaluate the Need for Upgrades

A home inspection will not tell you what in the house should be updated or improved. When people have lived in a home for many years, they tend to become desensitized to the things that have aged or need to be upgraded. To overcome this, ask friends or family members for their honest opinions on your home. Make a list of what is outdated and needs to be improved?

You are not looking to do major renovations, but modest cosmetic changes like paint, light fixtures, hardware, and new window coverings can make your home more appealing to prospective buyers.  Make a list, and next to each item, you will need to determine if you can make the repair/improvement or if you will need to hire a professional contractor.  You will also need to make a list of fixtures, equipment, and material that need to be purchased.

WEEK 4

Plan for Repairs and Getting Bids

You have had a busy 3 weeks!  The house has been emptied of excess items, you completed the inspection process and created a list of items that need to be repaired and improved.

This week, you will start the house repair and improvement process.  But before you begin, please keep in mind that the repairs and improvements need to be completed in a logical sequence.  For example, you do not want to replace the carpet before you have the interior painted.  Nor would you install a new light fixture before you paint – remove the old light fixture, paint, and then install the new fixture.  The basic rule is to do everything that will make a mess or cause potential damage first, and the cosmetic items last.  You will also want to do the landscaping improvements last – that way, they are fresh when the house is first put on the market.

To get this done quickly and cost-effectively, we will breakdown the process into 3 parts –  things you need to order, things you will hire a professional to do, and things that you will do.

Things to Order

When you are preparing a house for sale, some of the material you need will not be available at the local Home Depot or Lowe’s and can take weeks to obtain. You will also have a better selection and lowers prices if you shop online.  This can be especially true for door hardware, light fixtures, and a host of other items.

Therefore, you will spend the first part of this week on your computer or phone doing online shopping to order items that you need to fix the house.  This is an important step to ensure that the repairs are completed on time.

Hire Professionals

Let’s face it, not all of us are handy or can repair and improve our homes, and even when we can, many times, we just do not have the time.  That is where a professional comes in.

There are two simple goals when hiring a professional – hire the best most qualified contractor at the lowest possible price, with the emphasis on hiring the best most qualified.  This week you will conduct research to find the best most qualified contractors and request they inspect the job and provide a bid to do the work.

One of the best ways to find quality contractors is through word of mouth, online reviews, and local new home builders.  Local, new home builders are my favorite source to find good contractors – the new home builders require their contractors to do quality work at the lowest possible price. As an individual homeowner, you will pay a higher price than the home builder, but it is typically much less than what a retail residential contractor will charge. Whatever route you choose, please do your homework and verify their references.

To save valuable time, when you call a contractor, one of the first questions you need to ask is about their availability to do the work.  Many of the best contractors will be booked out weeks in advance, and if they cannot complete the job per your schedule, then there is no need to waste time meeting with them.

Typically, you will need to get at least 3 bids, and sometimes many more.  One way to determine if the price is reasonable is to ask the contractor how long it will take to do the work.   Most contractors will brag about how good they are and how quickly they will get the job done.  For example, if they tell you the technician and their helper will get the job done in 4 hours, you know it is a total of 8 man-hours of work.  If the contractor is charging $1,000 in labor cost, you will have a good indication the price is too high at $250 an hour for a technician and their helper.  Also, bids are free (never pay for a bid), and the more bids you get, the more you will learn about what needs to be done and alternatives ways of doing the work that might be better, faster, and cheaper.

A final word on hiring contractors – be methodical and keep track of every bid you receive so they can be reviewed later.  Also, if it is a small job, like mulching the planting beds and trimming the bushes, getting multiple bids is not worth the effort.  Just hire the first qualified contractor that gives a fair price that will get the job done now.  This includes HVAC contractors who are just doing an inspection/tune-up, roof repairs, gutter cleaning, and similar items.  Your time is worth more than the money you might save by getting bids, and at least you know the work is done – one less thing to worry about.

Things You Will Do

If you are even modestly handy and have the time, you can save a lot of money by doing some of the work yourself.  There are also many DIY videos on YouTube that will show you how to do many typical repairs.  But only do what you are comfortable with, and you are confident that you can do it correctly.

This week, start repairing the items you can do immediately while waiting for the material to arrive.  Next week, you will do the repairs that will take more time, or repairs that require material that is on order.  The goal is to have most repairs completed in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

WEEK 5

Continue Repairs and Improvements

You have obtained bids, you have a plan, so this week is all about getting the work done.  Depending on the age and condition of the home, this could be an easy week or a jam-packed week with contractors coming and going.  This is also the week that you need to push hard to finish the repairs and improvements you are doing.

WEEK 6

Complete the Repairs and Get Ready for the Sale

We are quickly coming to the end of the 8 weeks when we will put the house up for sale, which means we need to push hard to get the repairs completed, follow up on any loose ends and start getting ready for the sale.

Get Ready for the Sale

To get ready for the sale, most people will hire a real estate agent, decide on a sales price, make a plan for showings, and complete the necessary paperwork.

As with hiring a contractor, the best way to find a real estate agent is word-of-mouth and researching online reviews.  This week you will need to interview at least 3 agents and select one to help you sell the house.  Take your time and choose wisely. Hire the agent that you are most comfortable with, and that is responsive to your questions and needs.

Once you have selected an agent, they will work with you to complete the necessary pre-sale paperwork, which includes the listing agreement.  Have the agent go through the agreement with you so that you understand timing and contractual obligations.  The agent should also provide you with comparable sales information to determine, with your agents’ help, the appropriate sale price for your home. You will also need to complete the seller disclosure notice and provide the agent with a survey (if you have one).

One of the more important items to decide this week is how and when to allow potential buyers to tour the home and when to host open houses.  This can be more complicated if you work from home, have kids or pets.  Your agent will be accustomed to dealing with these types of situations and will provide a solution to meet your needs and allow the home to be shown to potential buyers.  Keep in mind, you must show it to sell it, and the easier you make it for a buyer to see it, the quicker your home will be sold.

WEEK 7

Cleaning, Landscaping, and Staging

At this point in the process, you are probably very tired but also very pleased with the fruits of your labor – the house should be looking pretty good right now.  But we are not quite done. Now it is time to make the house shine bright.

1

Hire Professional Cleaner. You will need to hire a professional cleaner to do a deep cleaning – a very deep cleaning. We’re talking flooring, showers, tubs, grout, windows, window coverings, light fixtures, mirrors, carpets, and everything in between. Top to bottom, inside and out.  Once this is done, it will be your job to keep it that way until the home is sold!

2

Hire a Landscaper. It is now time to hire a landscaper to clean up the front and back yard.  Curb appeal is the first impression – you want it to be a great one.  Have the weeds removed, the bushes and trees trimmed, flowers planted and fresh mulch placed in the planting beds.  Make the outside shine so they cannot wait to see what the inside looks like!

3

Stage the Home. Staging a home is simply a method of decorating your home to showcase its best assets, impress buyers, and sell it quickly for the highest possible price.  Think of a new home model – they have been staged.  This is harder when living in the home, but you only need to do it for a few weeks while the home is being shown to potential buyers.

The first thing to know about staging is less is more.  You will need to remove EVERYTHING from your countertops (bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry) except a few decorations that add to the appeal of the room.  Place everything else inside the cabinets; this includes the coffee maker, toaster, hairbrush, rollers, lotions, cream, toothbrush, and anything else on the countertops.  Do the same in the bathtubs, showers, tops of dressers, and all other areas of the home.  If in doubt on what to do, go walk through the local home builder model and see what they did – and duplicate it.

For the next few weeks, you will take out what you need, use it, and then place it back inside the cabinets. For the shower and tub, you can use a small toiletry basket that you take to the shower and then put back under the sink when done using it.

This may be a huge hassle, but just remember a staged home sells for about 6% more on average – if your goal is to sell your home at the best price, your house needs to look its best.  You can do this for a few weeks!

WEEK 8

Final Preparations

Wow, that was a whirlwind 7 weeks, but now you are ready to head into the final week with confidence that you did everything necessary to sell your home for the highest possible price and in the shortest amount of time.  This last week is dedicated to doing final preparations to ensure your home is dressed for success!

Leftovers

This is the time to get the contractors out to finish up the last of the work, touch up paint, recaulk the tubs, and complete anything leftover from the previous weeks. Go room to room, area to area, and make sure all is ready.

Preshow the Home

This is the perfect time to preshow the home to your real estate agent, family, friends, and neighbors to get their honest feedback and suggestions on what you can do to improve the appearance of the home.  The goal is to have them see things that you may have missed that can be corrected before placing the house on the market.

For Sale

Let your agent know you are ready to place the home on the market at the end of the week.  Ask her to schedule the photographer, placement of the for sale sign, lockbox, and schedule the advertising to begin. This is also a good time to request your agent to put a listing home warranty in place.  Most home warranty companies will offer this for free, and it can protect you in the event something breaks down while the property is listed. This is a free safety net!

Congratulations!

If you followed the above plan and used our checklist to get your home ready for sale – congratulations! You deserve to take a break – order pizza in or go to your favorite restaurant.

On the Other Hand

If you are like thousands of other families, doing all that work might be a mountain too high to climb.  With pandemics, hardships, and limited free time, spending 8 weeks and thousands of dollars to prepare a home to sell may not be possible or worth it.  Thankfully, there are alternatives!

There is a Easier and Faster Way

If you are short on time, money, or just do not want to deal with the hassle of selling you home, there is a faster and easier way, sell to an investor like OutFactors.  You can sell your Dallas Fort Worth home a fast and stress-free way.  The OutFactors process is very quick and simple, and we can usually close in 10 days or less.

To get started, all you need to do is answer four simple questions.  Within a few hours, OutFactors will send you a fair all-cash offer for your Dallas Fort Worth area home – no repairs, upgrades, or cleaning needed. We will then schedule a time to do a quick inspection and complete the paperwork.

When OutFactors is the buyer, there is no need for a real estate agent. That means no hefty fees and potentially more money in your pocket.  You can even choose the closing date, and with our sell and stay program, you can decide when you will move out.  One of the biggest benefits of working with OutFactors is how simple we make it to sell your home and get the cash you need when you need it!  Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, we are here to help!

As promised, if you would like a printable copy of this guide and our checklist, please click here. There’s a lot to do, so keep the home seller guide and checklist nearby as you go. With all of your tasks in one place, we hope you will be checking items off and breezing through the process of getting your home ready to sell.