Preparing your Home for Sale

The following comprehensive guide can serve as a checklist for preparing your home for sale. The guide is also intended for preparing your home for photography and videography that your real estate agent may be doing. Some of the real estate tips in this article won’t be applicable to every situation. However, the list covers most of the essential tips for preparing your home for sale in order to optimize your results.

preparing your home for sale

The following are what I would describe as the most critical preparations one can make when selling a home. Their relative importance can vary depending on the home. For example, painting might be the most impactful preparation in a home with bold colors or deteriorated paint or might be unnecessary in a recently painted home. Assuming a home is clean and decluttered, painting and staging offer by far the highest return on investment in my experience. After the first section covering essential steps, I will break down additional steps, organized by the area of your home.

Preparing Your Home for Sale – Vital Preparations

  • Thorough cleaning, ideally by a professional cleaning crew
  • Painting in a neutral/white, especially if the paint is old or boldly colored
  • Home staging, ideally by professional stagers
  • Replace all burned-out light bulbs – try to have all bulbs in the same color temperature
  • Remove vehicles from the garage, driveway, and the immediate street area
  • Clean the interior and exterior of the windows and mirrors. Remove and store screens if feasible
  • Turn on all interior and exterior lights, lamps, undercabinet accents, etc. for the photo and video shoots
  • Open and in some cases, completely remove all window coverings. Shutters/blinds should be open for light but not pulled up
  • If feasible/appropriate, offer to have your neighbors’ front yards serviced, or at least advise them of the day(s) you plan to shoot to see if they might be willing to tidy up, park cars out of sight, etc.

General Areas

  • Keep ceiling fans OFF for the duration of the photoshoot
  • TV and computer ccreens should be OFF for the duration of the shoot
  • Remove personal and family photographs
  • Remove small rugs unless essential for decor
  • Remove all holiday decor
  • Remove religious symbols (this sometimes overlooked step in preparing your home for sale can not only make more potential buyers comfortable in the home, but it can also avoid potential fair housing concerns)


  • Remove any signage and flags
  • Close garage door(s)
  • Tidy landscaping and remove clutter (cut, mow, remove leaves, hide toys, etc.)
  • Remove empty or excess planters. Planters should be minimal in quantity and strategically placed
  • Remove and store hoses out of sight
  • Place trash and recycling in the least visible area
  • Clean and sweep patio(s)
  • Straighten and clean any outdoor furniture
  • Remove or replace faded outdoor cushions
  • Clean up any pet waste
  • Safely secure pets for photos, video, and all showings
  • Clean the pool, and remove automatic pool cleaners for photos and video only
  • Turn on all pool lighting and any water features
  • Hide pool toys and equipment


A professionally-staged, and nicely prepared kitchen.
  • Clear counter tops of non-decorative items (Home phones, baskets, papers, etc.)
  • Remove all refrigerator magnets and decorations
  • Empty trash and hide garbage/recycling cans in pantry or closet
  • Remove soaps and dishes from the sink area
  • Remove dish towels draped over the sink, oven handle, etc.
  • Remove over-cabinet decorations
  • Remove napkins, paper towels, spices, and oils.
  • Put away pet bowls, toys, supplies, etc. during shoots and showings

Dining and Living Rooms

  • If not professionally staged, feature one centerpiece that adds color and contrast to the dining table
  • Straighten and evenly space dining chairs
  • Remove any child seats or booster chairs
  • Remove all non-decorative items (magazines, papers, mail, remote controls, kids toys.)
  • Declutter fireplace mantle
  • Fluff and straighten furniture pillows
  • Remove non-essential electronics
  • Hide all wires

Primary Bedroom

  • Make the bed, straighten bed skirts and fluff pillows
  • Remove all personal non-decorative items from nightstands
  • Remove electronics, wires, chargers, etc.
  • Remove clutter from dressers and other surfaces
  • Remove family photos
  • Clean under the bed

Spare Rooms

  • Remove family photos
  • Remove posters, logos, and any stickers
  • Remove any trash cans and laundry bins
  • Make Beds
  • Clean under the beds
  • Organize or ideally remove/hide any toys


  • Lower all toilet seats and lids
  • Ensure bathroom, counters, mirror(s), etc. are clean
  • Remove all personal and non-decorative items, such as soap, toothbrushes, shampoos, washcloths, and toiletries
  • Properly secure all medications
  • Close any closet doors
  • Remove used towels
  • Fold any exposed clean towels neatly on towel racks
  • Remove rugs and floor mats

Handling Pets When Preparing Your Home for Sale

  • Hide pet bowls in the garage or closet
  • Hide pet toys and beds in the closet
  • Keep pets in a hidden crate or outside
  • Clean pet waste and toys out of the backyard

Preparing Your Home for Sale – That’s a Wrap

I hope this list of tips helps you prepare for a highly successful sale of your home. One last suggestion: Sometimes sellers make decisions about home preparation focused around convenience or sentimentality. I would recommend keeping the end goal in sight – thorough preparations made now can help you achieve a more successful sale. Try to optimize everything you reasonably can before you list your home for sale. After all, if things go according to plan the home won’t be yours for much longer anyway. The old adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” definitely applies in the world of real estate.

Selling or Buying a Home in San Diego?

If you are considering buying or selling a home in San Diego and are looking for solid, conscientious advice from an experienced agent, please consider me a resource. Please reach out to me if you would like to discuss your real estate goals and plans.

Selling or Buying a Home Outside of San Diego?

Even if you are not in San Diego, I regularly refer people to outstanding Sotheby’s International Realty agents as a free courtesy, whether you are an existing client of mine or not. Our network encompasses 25,000+ sales associates in 1,000 offices throughout 70+ countries. Please let me know if I might be able to assist you with a real estate agent referral.

marc lyman

About Marc Lyman

Marc Lyman gets results and his proven track record and client reviews leave little doubt. Marc grew up in Silicon Valley and graduated from UC San Diego in 1995 with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. Marc is known for his exemplary marketing, uncompromising ethics, and professionalism. His proactive approach helps ensure smooth transactions, with your interests always first and foremost. Marc's tenacious attitude, strong background in deal-making, and seasoned negotiation skills are tempered with a strategic, personable, and diplomatic approach. Contact Marc to facilitate your real estate success!