How I Prepped My House To Sell In One Weekend! (With Printable To-Do List)

After five years of living in Nashville, Tennessee, we are moving! There were a lot of things that went into making that choice, but we decided to move back to where I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to be closer to family—it all happened really fast once we started going that direction. We basically decided to move on a Sunday, bought a house there on Friday, and prepped our house to sell in one weekend. Since buying our new home was contingent on selling this current one, we needed to move fast and basically get everything done during the weekend to be ready for showings. It was a crazy few days but we did it, so I thought I’d share our plan of attack with you in case you ever need to do the same! And we made some printables for you so you can keep track of all there is to do …

Get a list of suggestions from your realtor: We had our realtor come to the house and do a walkthrough inside and out on Friday before he started to show us where he thought we needed to focus our attention. It can really help to have a second pair of eyes on your home as you may miss things just because you’re used to seeing them all the time. And they show houses all the time, so they know what will (and won’t) stand out to people coming to look.

Make a to-do list for the listing photos (another to-do list for the showings): Now that you and your realtor have gone around the house, make a to-do list! Since you’ll take your listing photos/videos before you show the home in person, star the items that will need to be done before you do pictures and focus on those first. Smaller things like baseboard touch-ups won’t show up in the photos, but if you have a fuchsia pink bathroom your realtor suggested you paint a neutral color, as that definitely will. Once you get that list done, you can move on to the other items that will make the home feel better when people are there in person. If you have a couple of days between your photos and listing like we did, you can keep chipping away at that list up until the showings. But at least you’ll know you got the main bigger items done already.

Move excess clutter out of sight: Have you ever been in a house that’s so full of stuff it’s hard to tell how big a room is or what areas of the room look like? You want your house to feel open and not too stuffed, so now is a good time to move excess clutter to a storage room or even box it up and pack it into a storage pod (hey, you’re moving anyway so you may as well get started packing!). During our crazy weekend, we threw up a few big things that we didn’t want to keep on Craigslist and gave deals to people that could come get them right away—that way they were out of the house and we made some money to put towards getting the house ready to sell!

Dust everywhere (including outside of house for spider webs): Have you ever looked at a house that wasn’t super clean? It’s definitely a turn off to tour a dirty house, so first grab some damp rags and wipe off all the baseboards, doors, tops of furniture, etc., so that the house feels clean. And, it’s also prepping the surfaces for any touch up paint that you’ll need to do since you don’t want to paint over a thick layer of dust (it won’t adhere well and will look bumpy instead of smooth). You’ll also want to clean up in the corners of ceilings to grab any spider webs or dust bunnies up there, so use a broom to reach. Same goes for the outside of the house! Wipe down any windowsills that look super dirty and broom away cobwebs (especially in entryway areas).

Magic Eraser walls/baseboards/doors/trim: Next on the list is to go around with a magic eraser and clean off any grimy looking areas on doors, trim, walls, and especially by light switches. There may be other places that will benefit from the eraser, but touch points near handles and light switches get a lot of finger grease, so focus on those first.

Take down items that aren’t going to stay with the house: When knowing what stays and what doesn’t with a home, the rule of thumb is that things that are mounted in place stay and things that are easily hung can move with you. So, shelving that is mounted to the wall with screws and brackets stay, but that photo you hung of you and your dog on a nail can go with you. If there are shelves or other mounted things that you want to take with you, remove those items before you take the listing photos and repair any wall damage from the screws, etc. I left the shelves in the bathrooms and kitchen, but there were a few picture shelves that I wanted, so I took those down and replaced them with a piece of hanging art so that area didn’t feel empty in the photos. Make sure to switch out any light fixtures you want to take to the next house before your photos as well!

Make sure all your bulbs are working in fixtures: A lot of realtors like to have all the lights on for open houses and people will turn them off and on as they go through for individual showings, so make sure to check that all your lights are working and no bulbs are burnt out!

Touch up paint for worn/marked areas: Now it’s time to get out your brushes! If you’re doing it yourself, you probably won’t have time to fully paint more than one room, so I would fully paint over the worst offending room if needed and then focus the rest on touching up existing paint colors. You don’t want the house to feel worn and dingy, so getting all big nicks and marks really helps the home feel fresher. It’s also a good time to paint over things that may have been a problem in the past but have been fixed. We had a few water stains on a ceiling from a leak, but the leak had been fixed a few years ago, so I painted over the stains so that it didn’t look like we still had a leaking ceiling when we didn’t.

Do a quick outdoor landscaping: You don’t have a ton of time to plant a row of new trees during your weekend, but pulling a few weeds in the entryway/front of house and pulling out dead plants is a good idea. If you’re selling in the warmer months and don’t have time to plant flowers to add some curb appeal, you can add some large flower pots to your porch to make a good first impression. I had some plants in the front yard that needed dead leaves clipped away so I spent most of my time outdoors doing that. If you have a power washer (or can rent or borrow one), that’s also a quick way to clean a house/flower beds and it made a big difference when we did that.

Clean the windows: This is one thing that is a little more subconscious for a home buyer. They may not notice that the windows are super clean, but they will notice if they aren’t. Again, you want the house to feel as bright and clean as possible, so making sure your windows are clean will add a lot to that overall impression. You especially want to do this if you have large windows with any sort of a view as dirty windows will be really obvious then.

Ask for help where you can: I’m writing this post while Covid is happening, so the situation may be different by the time you read this if it’s a while from now. But since we needed to do things “Covid-style,” we couldn’t quite ask for or accept help in a way that we would normally have liked to. For example, we couldn’t ask friends to watch our toddler while we worked, so we had fully unlimited screen-time and snacks for a few days just to keep her busy (but hey, it worked!). If you do feel comfortable distancing and mask wearing indoors with others, you can have friends help in one room while you work in another, or have them help with outdoor things so they don’t have to come in the house if you aren’t doing that. Any little bit of help can go a long way when you only have a weekend to prepare!

Hire where you can: This is another option (and you can do whatever level of contact makes you comfortable) to get things done faster. Hire a lawn company to cut/trim the yard before the showing, have your windows or home professionally cleaned, hire a painter—whatever you can afford to make things easier and faster! Our house has large windows and an old style of design so that each window has separate glass panes you have take off to really clean them, so the thought of doing all those on top of everything else was overwhelming (it’s a big job just to do that). I realized I could quickly do another job I almost hired out for myself, so we took the money we saved from that and hired a window cleaner since that would take up way more time.

Just as an FYI in full transparency, I’m the kind of personality that can’t stop touching things up until the test is officially over and all pencils must be put down (if you know what I mean), so you better believe that I went around the house doing every little thing I could until the showings took place after our marathon weekend between the photos and the actual showings. However, when our realtor came back on Monday to do the photos, he told us that we did a great job and if we showed the house that day we’d be totally good. So, if you’re the type of person that good enough is good enough, a solid weekend plan may be all you need and you can take a breather, but if you’re always going for the A++ then feel free to do as many extras as you have time for after the weekend is over. And just as a “duh,” this plan is more meant for houses that are in “normal lived-in condition,” so if you got halfway through flipping a total tear down house and need to sell, you may need to fix a few more things than this to get it listing ready.

In case you need a little organization, here are some printable lists for you to get you started off right! I know it sounds like a daunting task, but you can do it! Good luck! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Graphic Design: Keely Rust. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • This is a great list> I am Realtor and the lightbulbs is a great reminder!
    And, those cobwebs! laura in Colorado.

    PS my son’s best friends from college all live in or around Pittsburgh! laura

  • I’m guessing it will sell immediately. I help people get houses ready to sell as a business (also an interior painter) and just gave a new client a list of things yesterday after multiple showings and zero offers. You have fantastic taste so that makes the process easier. I had to tell the clients to get rid of a 4 foot dusty teddy bear, an entire sauna free standing in a tiny bedroom, a mass of rickety furniture. Her realtor didnt tell her these things. Just said, “make sure its clean.” I should just forward this post to my client! Lol

  • Congrats on the big decision and on selling your house! My property is currently for sale (it’s a condo but still) and my problem is it’s currently rented out (long story short, I just got separated and was living in my spouse’s house while renting my own condo and we were looking to buy a house together so I put the condo for sale…….and now I’m “homeless” (living at my mothers) because it’s 2020 and crazy things are happening in people’s heads). And people are kind of put off by the fact that it’s rented out and worried about the tenant taking a long time to move out (even though I’ve already hashed out an agreement with him and he’s absolutely awesome about it). So yeah, selling a house/property is daunting and it’s great to put out advise like this because a lot of people may not know where to start. Also, it’s interesting to see it coming from someone like you Laura who has a very unique style. You decorated your house for you and your family (didn’t fall into the trap of designing for re-sale value) but you are aware that your style is yours and may not appeal to every prospective buyers and some buyers are very finicky when it comes to unique styles (they just can’t get passed it and don’t see the potential for their family). So yeah, it’s absolutely essential to re-paint that fuchsia bathroom in a more neutral colour (there is a huge amount of houses in my area which are asking the big bucks (because the market here is insane these days) with no renovations at all (like straight out of the 70s…..and not the good kind) or where all walls are painted the most horrendous bright offensive colour of lime green or screaming purple). Anyway, Good luck in Pittsburgh (can’t wait to see your new house, if you decide to share it). Love from Canada 🙂

  • I’m feeling kind of emotional here, like my favorite neighbor is moving away. And I have loved that house. But I can look forward to lots of posts about your new home, right? You’ll keep in touch?

  • My husband and I moved from NYC to Pittsburgh about two weeks ago. Happy to know we’re in good company! ; )

  • I love Pittsburgh! I want to move there too but family currently has me anchored in Florida. Are you moving to one of the 90 city proper neighborhoods or a suburb?

  • Clean is SO important. I have walked away from numerous properties because they were filthy. The mental signal is “if the owner can’t be bothered to keep the area where they LIVE clean, how many other things are they overlooking on a regular basis?”. Coincidental or not, the dirtiest houses we’ve looked at have all had visible mold problems in the bathrooms/wet areas.

  • Such great tips, especially to just get everything clean (even the corner cobwebs!)

    This is great timing too…my husband and I are moving this week and one day next week with actual movers (stupid COVID making everything so complicated and difficult) and are hoping to put our house on the market in the next few weeks.

    When we were house-hunting though we noticed SO many filthy houses. And TONS of listing photos with so much clutter and in some cases actual garbage everywhere that it was hard to see what the room even looked like, how big it was, etc. I would also recommend taking down all personal and family photos – we went to a few houses that were covered in framed family photos and it was kind of jarring…like we were peeping toms into this person’s personal life or something. It’s just a weird feeling – I don’t know.

    Can’t wait to see the new place! 🙂

    • Yeah, I wondered about the family photos but our realtor didn’t say to take them down (and we have a lot in the house). I guess if you’re worried about it take them down but not everyone may care?

      Laura

  • Do you have tips for managing all this with a small child? It feels impossible to get everything clean with a one year old running around, adding dirty dishes and toy mess to the house. I’m not sure how we will ever get it clean enough to show even if we deep clean things like the shower and walls.

  • Don’t you just love how we do all these things when we want to impress other people but not for ourselves? Lol sometimes clean up like this can make one wonder: “why didn’t I do this before so I could live in it this way?” I guess that’s not real life though. Glad the screen time thing worked – never a fail. Unless you wanted ‘help’ painting 😉

  • Congrats on the decision to move! We just did the EXACT same thing and I just wrote a super similar blog post on getting a house ready to sell – how weird! I feel seen 😂
    I’m sure it’ll sell in no time, it’s beautiful x

  • Hi! I love this and will totally utilize the lists and this post when we move again. Until then I’m making small updates at home and I absolutely love the address plaque! Where did you purchase or did you make it yourself?

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