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How to Prepare Your Home to Sell

So you’ve decided to sell your home. You’ve lived in it, loved it, and made memories there. You’re ready to contact a Real Estate Agent and get it listed. You know they’ll want high quality photos and all the information you have on your home, and now you have an endless stream of questions running through your mind. How do you get your home ready for real estate agents and potential buyers? Are there any repairs you should make? How do you prepare for photos? Where should you start? At EXIT Realty Capital City, we have a team of experienced realtors who have gone through this process countless times, and we’re here to help.

I sat down with a couple of our realtors and picked their brains about the home-selling process. Whether you’re planning to stay in the house throughout the selling process, or you’re ready to move out right away, there are a few things you should do first.

Staying or Leaving, Do the Following

Carpets? Get them Professionally Cleaned

No matter how clean your lifestyle, your carpet traps dust, dirt and (pet and human) dander. It’s important for the house to feel like “home” to any potential buyers, and if it smells like you, it won’t feel that way for them. Carpet cleaners can be rented for around $30, and professional carpet cleaning services usually start at about $99 and charge an average of $30 per room.

If you have pets in your home, it is recommended to keep them out of carpeted areas if possible during the home selling process, to avoid the need to treat the carpet multiple times.

Do a Deep Clean of Your Home or Hire a Cleaning Service

Think hands-and-knees-Mom’s-watching cleaning. Any tile grout should be color consistent, and the entire house should be finger-dust-check friendly. Whether you’re going to continue to live in the house or vacate immediately, this is a necessary step. Appliances and hardwood floors should shine and crumbs and cobwebs should be history. Buyers want to walk through a home and feel like it’s never been lived in by anyone else. If you aren’t confident in your deep-cleaning abilities, or simply don’t have the time, consider hiring a professional cleaning service. This can be advantageous in the long run as well if you want to bring someone in for a preliminary deep-clean and then have them handle maintenance cleaning throughout the selling process.

Exterior Cleanup

The difference a power washing makes on the exterior features of a home is priceless. Spending a few hours and dollars to power wash the siding of your home can make it look brand new. Applying the same technique, where needed, to a driveway or deck can take a house from lived-in to fresh! A gas-powered pressure washer, ideal for medium-duty projects like these, can be rented for as low as $79 per day.


Hiring a professional to conduct a Pre-Listing Buyers Home Inspection has a two-fold benefit: it allows the sellers the opportunity to make any necessary repairs before listing; it provides security to any potential buyers, knowing that any potential issues are disclosed and/or corrected prior to their viewing.

Landscaping and Curb Appeal

When you look at your house from the street are you inspired? How about the yard, how does it make you feel? Something that we typically neglect to think about everyday is incredibly important when selling a home. If there is grass, it should be rich and free of weeds; if there are dirt patches, they should be replaced with flowers, mulch, or landscaping rocks. The lawn should be free from any pet waste and regularly maintained throughout the selling process. In the autumn leaves should be picked up, and in the winter walkways should be cleared of any snow and treated for ice to avoid industry.


Making repairs to your home before putting it on the market is a case-by-case situation. Work with your realtor to figure out which repairs, if any, are worth the up-front cost to increase the value and sale price of your home. Depending on the market, it may not be necessary to make any major repairs, or some repairs may turn into contingencies with offers made on your home.

If You’re Going to Vacate the House

Pack All Your Things Up, and Get Out of There

This may seem self-explanatory, but making sure that the home is completely vacated of all personal belongings is an important step. The only items that should be left in the home are appliances which are included with purchase, and any staging furniture/décor.


It is important for potential buyers to feel like the house is ready to become their home. If there are any bright or heavy colored walls in the home, they should be painted a neutral color. This makes the house feel like a canvas ready to be customized to fit any potential buyers’ specific tastes.

Stage Your Home

Consult with your realtor to find a professional who has experience staging houses to sell. An empty home may seem ideal, but sometimes leaves rooms feeling smaller than they actually are. Staging a house with modern, minimal furniture and décor not only allows buyers to see the purpose of each room (office, living room, etc.) and where they might want to place their own furniture, but also helps to show off the full potential of a floor plan.

If You’re Going to Continue Living in the House (Until it’s Sold)

Create and Implement a Strict Tidying/Cleaning Schedule

Practice daily life and cleaning routines as though you are entertaining every day. Whether that inspiration is drawn from your parents, in-laws, or co-workers, treat every day as if they are coming over. Get yourself and your family on a weekly deep cleaning schedule, and tidy up every day. Children and pets will need to be picked up after consistently, whether that’s vacuuming, putting toys away, wiping down counter tops, or disposing of pet waste.

Have an “Emergency Go Plan”

Though quick cleanup should be fairly simple if the above-mentioned cleaning schedules are being maintained, it’s important to have an “Emergency Go Plan”. It is ideal to have a couple hours’ notice prior to a showing, but in today’s market, it will benefit you to be able to work around a thirty-minutes’ notice. If you have children or pets, a go-bag pre-packed with snacks and toys will help you get them out of the house as quickly as possible without having to pack things. Keeping toys to a minimum during the selling process is helpful in this scenario since it allows you to throw them all in a single toy area quickly. Have a couple default places picked out, based on time of day, to go during a showing (the park, a friend/family member’s house). Showings typically last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on a buyer’s interest in the house.

Minimize Personal Items in the House

Family portraits, fun refrigerator magnets, and knick-knacks on the mantel might mean the world to you and make you feel at home, but the moment your house goes on the market, it becomes home to a future buyer and they need to feel that way when they come through for a tour. If you have children or pets, keep toys to an absolute minimum and pack up all non-necessary personal items. Embrace the mentality that you and your family are guests in the house during the selling process.

Smart Storage of Medicine and Valuables

All prescription medication and valuables should be under lock-and-key if left in the house during the selling process. Sometimes it may be advisable to keep said items instead in your go-bag or your vehicle. Though there is a licensed realtor present during any showing, it is important to keep anything of high value or importance safe and secure when a potential buyer is touring the house.

We know this is a lot of information, and getting your home ready to sell can seem like a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be. The experienced agents at EXIT Realty Capital City are ready to help you through the process of getting your home ready for the market, and getting it sold. If you’re ready to start the process, please call our office 515-253-3948 or visit our website

About Jamie Stokka
Jamie is a Des Moines native. She aspires to one day own her own home, and in the meantime, wants to help all her friends transition from renting to owning by learning the ins-and-outs of the real estate market. Jamie currently supports a team of 30+ realtors as the Office Manager at EXIT Realty Capital City, she brings a unique perspective to the brokerage: a six-year background in Marketing and Advertising with a focus on digital media. Her desire to truly understand every aspect of the real estate market, combined with her sponge-like ability to absorb information makes her an incredible asset to the team. When she’s not in the office, she enjoys adventuring around the metro area with her two dogs, Calvin the Corgi and Ruby the Beagle, and playing the role of Proud Aunt to her toddler niece, Emma. Her dream home is a small bungalow or cottage with a large fenced-in yard, so she can have more dogs.

About EXIT Realty Capital City
EXIT Realty Capital City is helping people buy and sell homes all over the Greater Des Moines Area. Whether you’re looking to sell or purchase, the experts at EXIT Realty Capital City provide knowledge, professional services, and an innovative approach to today’s complex real estate market. Our team of experienced, full-time real estate agents is ready to walk you through the buying or selling process. Whatever your real estate needs, we’re a team that cares, will listen, and will represent you to the best of our ability with honesty and integrity. At EXIT Realty Capital City, we advocate, we educate, we innovate.

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Bob is fantastic to work with. Very knowledgeable and helpful to clients. I would highly recommend him.
Cari Jenson