How to Prep Your House to Sell

When my (parents’) house was on the market, I became adept at preparing it for showings and open houses in under an hour.  Now that another Spring selling season is upon us, I thought it might help friends who are are putting your own houses on the market if I wrote out my system.

Hide valuables and sensitive documents.

Put them in a locked file cabinet, a home safe, or your safety-deposit box.  These include:

all financial materials:

tax returns
insurance policies
credit cards not in your wallet

all official personal documents:

birth, baptismal, marriage, and death certificates
Social Security cards and anything else with your SS number
car titles

I kept these items in a strong box inside the file cabinet.

real jewelry

Keep what you’ll want for regular wear–e.g., your marriage rings, a strand of pearls, gold earrings–and put the rest away.

small silver

I also stored the large silver pieces in felt, because I didn’t want to have to polish them every week, but you can display them if you prefer.


You knew this was coming, and you know you have to do it before you move, so you may as well do it now.  Remove anything that detracts from the elegance of your home and is not necessary for daily living.  Pack up and label the items you want to keep, and place them neatly in a storage area.  Donate what you no longer use but someone else can; keep your receipts.  Toss the rest.  Make sure that everything you’re keeping on display or in use is contained in its proper place.  Limit trash to the kitchen and bathroom(s).

Living Areas

Keep as clear and tidy as possible:  books on the bookshelves, clickers in a basket, afghans folded, throw pillows deliberately placed.


Beds neatly made.  Surfaces as clear as possible.  Clean clothes hung in closets or hidden in drawers.  Dirty laundry in covered hampers.


Dishes in the cupboards.  “Decorations” removed from the fridge.  Countertops as clear as possible:  Generally, keep out appliances in daily use and hide the rest.  I left out the coffee maker and the toaster, as well as the dry-ingredients canisters and some high-end pastas; I removed the food processor, the stand mixer, and the blender.


Try to keep to one bathroom, two if you have a large household.  Establish a toiletries basket for each member of the family.


Do your deep Spring cleaning or hire a professional.

Add some elegant touches.

After the hardwood floors were installed, I asked the workers to put the piano where it would be seen on entry.  I placed crystal bowls on the dining-room table and sideboard, candles in glass holders on the fireplace mantel, and potted mums on the brick steps leading to the front door.

Establish regular habits.

Make the beds in the morning.  Keep clothes where they belong.  Put things away when you finish with them.  Replace light bulbs as soon as they burn out.  Dust/sweep/vacuum twice weekly.  Restore the kitchen after every meal; mop the floor after dinner.

Prep before showings.

If you’ve kept up good habits, the only major thing you should have to do is clean the bathroom(s):

Remove the trash, used towels, and bath mats.
Hide the toiletries baskets and any prescription medications.
Apply bowl cleaner.
Spray the shower tile.  Scrub the tub as necessary.
Clean the sink, the vanity top, and the mirror(s).
Finish cleaning the bowl.
Mop the floor.
Replace the towels with fresh white ones.  Do not replace the bath mats.

On your way out, double-check each room; open the draperies.  Remove the kitchen trash.

I used the showing time to run errands, usually the food shopping, though sometimes I just went to the local library to read.

Selling your home is one of the most stressful events in modern living.  I hope these tips will make it a little easier on you.

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a step-by-step guide to preparing your home for showings and open houses

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