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Alan Swanson
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Tim Conroy
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Getting Your Home Market Ready: a Realtor’s Checklist

Spring is the time most homeowners decide to sell. Houses tend to look their best in the first bloom and blush of warmer weather. Also, kids are out of school, so moving in late summer is the ideal plan. You want to make your home stand out so you can get an offer sooner rather than later, one that is simple and straightforward. The following realtor’s checklist will get you started towards maximizing your marketing–due diligence on the front end will definitely pay off on the back.

Do Your Homework

The first thing you should do is learn all you can about the Iowa City market–not just how much the house down the street sold for, but how many days was it on the market? How much did the seller have to pay in closing costs? Your realtor should have all this data handy at your first meeting and give you a checklist for getting your house ready for the market. The basic realtor’s checklist is fairly generic; your agent will advise you on the most important things you need to do for showing your house to its best advantage.

Curb Appeal

Your house has to look good on the outside in order to get prospective buyers interested in going inside. This could mean an exterior pressure wash, a fresh coat of paint, updated hardware, oiling creaky door hinges, window washing, or a new mailbox. Spruce up your landscaping–trim back hedges, prune dead tree branches, and clear out any unhealthy plants. Plant some colorful borders, and keep the grass neatly mowed and trimmed. While you’re actively on the market, hire a yard service to come over weekly to maintain a tidy appearance.

Deep Clean

Now is the time to dig into that deep cleaning you’ve been meaning to do for years. There are a couple of reasons for this–first, buyers want to see a house that is pristine, free of dust, scuffs, and dog nose art on the glass doors. Second, deep cleaning gets in all the forgotten nooks and crannies so you’ll know what needs some repairs or TLC before the house goes on the market.

Repairs–DIY and Professional

Armed with your list of small fixes you found during cleaning, hit your home store for some of the things you’ll need–wood filler, WD40, caulk, paint, carpet cleaner, new outlet covers, and the like. One thing about painting– computers make matching color a breeze, but if you’re unsure about the finish (eggshell, matte, high-gloss) take a chip with you, or get small samples mixed to ensure they are consistent with the original paint. Different finishes look like completely different colors once they’re on the wall.

Bold interior colors are making a comeback, but for selling purposes your walls should be a neutral, preferably in the ivory or taupe family. Interior designers do consider navy blue a neutral, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea–stick with a light color.

If there are larger repairs–a sagging foundation, moisture in the basement, an aging HVAC unit–you’ll need to have a professional come do the repairs, or you can advise buyers of the issues and price the house with those repairs factored in.

Carpets should be professionally cleaned if they’re light in color; you can rent a commercial cleaner and do it yourself if they’re relatively new and aren’t showing any dirt or stains. Faded hardwoods will benefit from a fresh coat of wax; you can rent a waxer or have a floor refinisher do it for you.



Decluttering while you deep clean is another twofer–get rid of stuff that you don’t love, don’t use, and don’t want to move–at the same time, you’re scrubbing baseboards and getting the cobwebs out of closets. Buyers will open every door and cabinet in the house; everything should look airy and roomy and organized.

Plan to store a fair amount of your belongings while your house is on the market. For one thing, you’ll be removing some furniture–extra chairs, chests, tables, books, art, anything that makes a room look crowded. Your closets should appear ample, so you can’t shove stuff in those like you do before a party. Go ahead and box up what you’re moving, and put it in storage. Now you have a head start on packing.


Prospective buyers want to envision their families and furniture in your house, so most realtors recommend that you purge your home of anything that makes it personal–photos, craft projects, bulletin boards, diplomas, awards–anything that makes it look like your individual house. Leave portraits or professionally framed photos out, along with a few curated objects, so it does look lived in.

A professional stager can come in and fluff and puff, adding a few throw pillows here and a well-placed mirror there, to update an older decor and add some trendy touches. A stager may remove window treatments to bring in more light, or a rug to anchor a room, and probably rearrange all your furniture.

Show Ready

When your house is show ready, your realtor will send a photographer over to photograph the house–inside, outside, and possibly an aerial drone neighborhood perspective. After that, you should be prepared for a prospective buyer at any time–recent Iowa City data show that 70 days is the average time on the market.

Stow your valuables–papers, jewelry, etc–in a safe during showing times. Buy lots of light bulbs ahead of your active date–buyers are turned off by dark houses.

If you have pets, try to keep them contained during the day. Move the litter box to the garage or laundry. Let your realtor know how you want to manage pets during a showing if you can’t be home to take them for a walk or a ride while buyers are there.

Pre-Listing Inspection

Savvy home sellers are having their homes inspected prior to going on the market, and having that data available for interested buyers. If your home is older, this is a particularly smart move–it educates you on the repairs a buyer’s inspection will find, lets you price the home accordingly, and demonstrates to buyers that you aren’t hiding any of the home’s defects.

Review The Data

The real estate agents you interview for your home’s listing should provide you with all the recent sales data for your neighborhood–a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). Why is this part of your prep checklist? This data lets you know the details of the recent sales in your area.

Did the seller have to make or pay for any repairs? How much, and was it in actual repairs or credit to the buyer? How long before the sale closed? Did the buyer have conventional or FHA financing? This data helps you know your prospective buyer and set a price and selling parameters that will attract buyers most closely aligned to your home and price point.

The entire point of the realtor’s checklist is to minimize your home’s time on the market and maximize your profit, so digging into the numbers is an important component of your to-do list.

Co Authors :

Alan Swanson, co-broker/owner of Blank & McCune, enjoys assisting clients who are selling or buying a home in the greater Iowa City area.

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