Selling a house often goes something like this: You’re halfway through sorting a random box of clutter when your real estate agent calls and reminds you that she needs a copy of your property survey. Where on earth is it?

Meanwhile the doorbell rings and it’s the painting crew who has arrived to freshen up your front entryway. Later, you come across a family photo album and are hit with a flood of emotions and memories made in the very house you’re about to leave forever.

The process will be chaotic at times. Given the sheer volume of details involved, frustrations are bound to occur. However, it helps to stay organized with a clear plan of what you need to sell a house using a comprehensive checklist, like the one we’ve put together here!

Professional services

With many contractors reporting that their schedules are backed up, it’s important to take stock of the professionals you may need to hire — the earlier, the better. Refer to this list to keep track of: Who do I need to call again?

Contact a real estate agent about one to three months in advance of when you want. to list. Look at agents with positive reviews, impressive statistics, and experience selling homes near where your property is located.

Arrange for a dumpster rental if you have an excess amount of items to clear out, such as with an inherited property or years of accumulated clutter.

Make plans to arrange for any of the following services you’ll need assistance with: landscaper, paint crew, window washer, carpet cleaning service.

Call a reputable local home inspector for an optional pre-listing home inspection to get ahead of any issues or necessary repairs.

Hire a professional whole-home cleaning service. Schedule the service to come after you’ve decluttered and before the house is photographed.

Sellers may opt to hire a real estate attorney to represent their interests and some states consider licensed attorneys to be “essential” for closing. A real estate attorney may draft and review closing documents, transfer property title, resolve legal barriers, and mediate contract disputes. You can usually arrange for this after your house goes on the market.

There are many people out there you might want to hire to help with a sale, but aside from a great real estate agent, a good cleaner is the most important.

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Pre-listing preparations

Not gonna lie, getting a house ready for sale can take a boat load of sweat equity, but you want to get the highest price, right? Follow these steps in our home sale checklist to cover all your bases.


Repaint any rooms that are bold or non-neutral colors to light neutrals.

Get rid of most, if not all, personal photos and knick-knacks.

Remove any storage containers (replace with baskets if needed).

Replace broken blinds and tattered curtains.

Take down dated window valances to let in more natural light.

Swap light bulbs with LEDs in the 3000K to 3500K range for the best interior lighting.

Declutter all rooms until the floors are completely clear and only essential furniture items are in view. Think: the bed, the nightstands, and a lamp for bedrooms; a desk, a chair, and a lamp in the office. Simple is better.

Have the windows washed; hire professionals if your home is two stories.

Deep clean everything, including vents, fan blades, and ceiling corners.

Shampoo the carpets; hire a professional or rent a machine from the hardware store.

Create a system to quickly conceal or put away pet items such as food and water bowls and litter boxes.

Take care of any lingering orders at the root cause so the house smells neutral and fresh.


Clear everything from the countertops.

After clearing your counters, put one thing back (think a bowl of fruit or a vase).

Remove all magnets and notes from the fridge.

Take away area rugs from under the sink and in front of the fridge.


Replace colored or patterned towels with fluffy white ones.

Put away any throw rugs.

Remove all toiletries from countertop surfaces. In the shower/ tub, pare down to essentials only and toss out any old soap bottles.

Add optional final touches: Roll up a few white towels and set at the corner of your tub with a new package of spa soaps or bubble baths.


Trim back bushes so they don’t touch exterior walls or block windows.

Prune tree limbs to frame your house and avoid blocking the view.

Add fresh pine straw or mulch to flower beds.

Remove debris, hoses, yard art and other clutter from the yard.

Spruce up flower beds and place a couple of flower pots by the front door.

Make sure your front door hardware is in good shape; repaint the door if needed.

Sweep entryway and remove debris from exterior light fixtures.

Power wash concrete.

Hose down exterior walls; exercise care if pressure washing.

If the home looks bad when buyers go through it, that’s the image they’ll have in their mind when it comes time to make a decision about buying. They need to see themselves in your home, and they just can’t if it looks subpar.

Listing and marketing

Your house now looks amazing and you’re ready to market it and invite buyers to check it out. In this section of the checklist, we’ll cover listing and promotion — much of which your agent will spearhead.

Sign the listing agreement with your real estate agent. Review and confirm the defined listing period and commission fee.

Review the results of your agent’s comparative market analysis and agree on an asking price for the home.

Fill out your seller’s disclosures to document any known material defects with the home.

Talk to your agent about doing a prelim (preliminary title report) to get ahead of any title issues and to enhance your marketing.

Attend staging consultation and complete any post-appointment activities that haven’t been addressed (repairs, painting, decluttering, etc.)

Fill out any listing-related forms requested by your real estate agent. This may include client intake paperwork and filling out the known features and details of your property.

Provide two working front door keys to the agent; a good time to do this is at the photography session.

Provide a copy of the most recent property survey.

Review instructions from your agent on preparing for the home to be photographed and follow recommendations for the shoot.

Have the house photographed (sellers may attend the session if they’d like).

Review drafts of the MLS listing provided by your agent for accuracy. Provide recommended changes to property description and details.

For-sale sign is installed in the yard.

Gather available documentation related to the home such as warranties and manuals.

Property listing is launched on the MLS and social media. Real estate agent will ensure listing accuracy on major internet sites.

Keep interior and exterior in showing condition while the house is marketed in additional ways, such as through open houses and broker to broker promotion.

Discuss buyer and buyer’s agent objections with your agent and make home presentation and marketing adjustments as needed.

Negotiate an offer, provide a counteroffer if necessary, and sign the purchase agreement.

I would never list a house without professional photography. I don’t care if it’s a $100,000 home, you need professional photos.

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-Professional photography
-Marketing flyers and pamphlets
-Direct mail marketing
-Automatic postings of your listing to major online home search sites
-Ads in local publications
-Exclusive previews for other real estate brokers
-At least two open houses
-(Bonus!) Development of a virtual tour

Closing process

In this next section of our checklist to sell a home, we address the main steps involved in closing the sale after the house goes under contract with a buyer.

Complete the home inspection, usually within five days to a week of signing the purchase agreement.

Negotiate inspection items (if applicable).

Complete home appraisal by a third-party independent appraiser (necessary if your buyer is using a mortgage).

Negotiate appraisal results (if applicable).

Attorneys “fact check” documents for errors.

Clear title; resolve any title issues necessary to close.

Transfer ownership of your home to the buyer at settlement.

Funds are disbursed to the seller and other parties involved.

Review your settlement statement for a complete list of fees and credits of the sale.

Documents and paperwork

We’ve mentioned many of these documents throughout the top part of the checklist, but it’s also handy to have them centralized in one place so you can keep them organized throughout the process.

Listing agreement (contract with your real estate agent)

Comparative market analysis (provided by your agent to determine asking price)

Seller’s disclosures (to share what’s known about the condition of the property with buyers)

Listing and marketing materials (printed for showings)

Preliminary title report (can be run prior to listing or during escrow)

Purchase agreement (contract with a buyer including the agreed price and terms of the deal)

Property survey (confirms property boundaries)

Seller’s net sheet (provided by the agent to estimate your net proceeds)

Documentation of past upgrades (to provide to the appraiser and for tax purposes)

Warranties, manuals, and maintenance records (to pass on to the new owners)

1099-S form (to report capital gains if applicable)

Settlement statement (an itemized list of fees and credits summarizing the finances of the transaction)

I like to have a homework meeting with clients as soon as possible to get them going on filling out disclosure forms. I usually give them a good week to get it done. If they have questions about places they’ve left blank, they  can give me a call. I can’t necessarily tell them what to  write, but I can certainly help clarify things.

An important note about this checklist to sell a home:

The information included here reflects the general process to sell a house with the assistance of a real estate agent. If you plan to sell your house FSBO (For Sale By Owner), many of the same steps will apply, but you will have to assume a lot more of the responsibility. In addition, the process of selling a home — including specifics such as the seller’s disclosures and whether you need an attorney — differ from state to state. Consider this to be a general guideline, and consult with a local real estate expert for more details about selling a house where your property is located.