Day 1: Hire a Listing Agent. If you haven’t already hired someone, today is the day. Your listing agent will schedule and prepare the marketing 2-4 weeks prior to going on the market. An experienced listing agent will also guide you through the home preparation and staging process, so you don’t have to do it alone. Make sure that this person’s work is 75% listings. The skills that made your realtor successful in helping you find your home differ from those of a marketing professional.


Day 2: Get some boxes and tape. A big part of the adventure you’re about to embark on involves reducing clutter. An investment of a few hundred dollars will get you proper packing supplies and reduce your stress. Better yet, consider the eco-option, reusable boxes that get delivered to your door and picked up after your move.

If you’re going to be making a local move, consider renting POD-type storage – you fill up at your house, it gets stored and delivered to your new home when you move in, saving on moving costs.


Day 3: Prep the paperwork: Buyers and agents are going to ask a lot of questions, so start digging out the paperwork now: utility bills, tax bills, renovation details, warranties, mortgage details, appliance booklets.

Day 4: Make an extra set of keys. Prospective buyers and their agents will need to access your home, so you’ll need an extra set of keys. It’s worth the $3 not to have to open the lockbox every time you want to come home.

Day 5: Tackle the bathrooms. Create a Bathroom Box for all the toiletries you have on display so that you can take out the box when you are home and using the items, but have something to toss everything into and put under the sink when it’s showing time. Invest in some fluffy white towels. If your toilet seat or shower curtain is worn, replace them. Consider replacing the toilet paper holder, faucets and towel racks if necessary. Regrout cracked or discolored grout, and as in any room, a fresh coat of paint works wonders. Ask your listing agent if there are any updates that make sense.

Day 6: Spruce up the kitchen. The kitchen is one of the rooms buyers are most attracted to so if you’re looking to skip a room, this shouldn’t be it. Remove your blender/ mixer/toaster/coffee machine from the counters – you want nothing on the counters. Declutter inside your cabinets too, you want to convey to buyers that your kitchen has enough storage for all the Buyer’s stuff. Make the Breakfast Box – like the Bathroom Box, so that you can easily stow all of the items you use on a daily basis in a now-empty cabinet to easily leave the home show-ready every day.

Day 7: Next up: the bedrooms. The bedrooms should be inviting, and that means more cleaning and decluttering and investing in a fancy bedding ensemble. Straighten the bookshelves and leave only a few decorative items and a few hardback boos. Remove personal photos, knick-knacks and grooming products. Clean out the closets. The rule of thumb for all decluttering is to remove 50% of your possessions. Buy matching hangers, and hang clothing so nothing is touching. Leave nothing on the floor of the closet. Febreze all of the clothing in your closet, shoes and bedding regularly.

Day 8: Tackle the living room. Clean the sofa and chairs and invest in some new throw pillows. Consider getting an area rug to bring the room together. Hide the magazine rack and all the clutter that has accumulated. Hide the wires from your TV/stereo/speakers, and hide the remotes. Febreze.

Day 9: Make your dining room look like a place where someone might actually want to eat.

Remove the kids’ homework and the piles of stuff that have accumulated on the dining room table. Clean up the hutch. If your dining chairs have seen better days, consider getting them reupholstered. Again, remove 50% of your things. The room will look more spacious without the hutch; the table more inviting with 2 fewer chairs.


Day 10: De-clutter, organize and clean the garage. If your garage is anything like ours, this is going to take more than one day. Whether your garage is finished or just a storage area for extra crap, you’ll need to invest the time to make it look as spacious and clean as possible. And what a great way to rid yourself of all that stuff you never use.

Day 11: Tackle what you can’t see: closets and storage areas. Much as I’d love to say that you can cram all the stuff you don’t want on display into your closets, the truth of the matter is that Buyers will open your closets. They’ll look in your cupboards. The last thing you want is for Buyers to think there isn’t enough storage in your home, so take the time to pack away what you don’t need in the immediate future. I advise my clients to pretend they are going on a 30-day cruise. Take out everything you want for the next 30 days, put it on the bed, and pack everything else. It’ actually very freeing!

Day 12: Store vs. donate vs. throw away. It’s expensive to store all the stuff you don’t really need. First, donate what you can. A few I like: Rescued Treasures (Walnut Creek) and Hospice Thrift Shop (Alamo) both have a lot of parking and unlimited hours for taking donations. For hauling, I cannot recommend Tall Brothers highly enough They are less expensive than all of the 1-800-GotJunk companies and a minimum of 85% of what they pick up goes to recycling.

Day 13: The entrance. Remember that most buyers will have an emotional reaction to your home within 10 seconds of entering it, so everything they can see from the foyer is critical. You want your entrance to be clean, de-cluttered, and inviting. Make sure that every room that you can see from the front door has a cohesive color and style.

Day 14: Get rid of all the things that make your home yours. You want your house to appeal to as many Buyers as possible, and that will only happen if they can picture their own stuff in your house. Get rid of all the family photos, collections and souvenirs. Walk through every room in your house and pretend you’re a Buyer. If what you see helps people get to know you, remove it.

Day 15: Change light bulbs to bright ones and update light fixtures. It’s easy to forget about all the bulbs that have burned out over the years, but you want your home to be as bright as possible. Lighting makes an incredible difference to how a home looks to potential Buyers. If you have dated light fixtures, go to (free shipping, return to local stores, perpetual 50% off sales) and pick out some modern ones.

Day 16: Paint touch-ups and re-painting. A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest ways to freshen up your home. Dated colors are bound to be a turn-off to some Buyers, so to appeal to the most people possible take the time to re-paint. Look at Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn catalogs (or online), watch some remodeling shows on HGTV, or visit some model homes in your price point for today’s fresh colors. Don’t forget about baseboards, doors, window trim & ceilings, paint them in a contrasting light color.

Day 17: Make a list of all the little stuff that you’ve been avoiding repairing including the corroded faucet, the picture holes in the wall, etc., and get it done once and for all. If you aren’t handy yourself, bring in a handyman to take care of it (we know some good ones, we can help).

Day 18: Get the windows cleaned.

Day 19: The front yard Curb Appeal matters and will significantly impact people’s first impression of your house. Stand on your street and take in your front yard: what do you see? At a minimum, clean the scuff marks off the front door and give it a fresh coat of paint. And if your front door has seen better days, consider investing in a new one. If you have a front porch, make it look inviting. Invest in some flowering plants. Clean up the garden. Some Buyers will see your home at night, so make sure that your outdoor lighting is showing off your home. Cover ALL exposed dirt with black bark – it photographs best.

Day 20: The backyard What you can accomplish in the backyard will of course depend on what time of year you sell. If you’re selling in the spring/summer: clean up the gardens, trim the trees, cut the grass, stain the deck, and clean the patio furniture and BBQ. If it’s winter: do your best to make it look presentable. Clean debris off the roof and clean the gutters.

Day 21: Get the carpets cleaned. Unless your carpets are brand new, you’ll want to have them steam cleaned. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.

Day 22: Don’t forget about the floors. You’ll need more than a Swiffer to get into all the corners and cracks. If your floors are scratched, there are some great products out there to make them look almost brand new. If there are wear patterns, consider getting them refinished.

Day 23: The walls and doors. If your walls and doors are scuffed, buy some Magic Erasers and go to town. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. If your art needs an update, now’s the time to do it too. Day 24: Get pre-listing home inspections It’s not fun to find out what’s wrong with your house at the negotiating table, so arm yourself with the information before you list your home. You can either fix the problems before you list your home or factor it into your asking price and expectations.

Day 25: Make plans for the dog/cat/ferret/hedgehog. I love my pets too, but prospective Buyers won’t appreciate them. Make a plan to get your pets out of the house: Doggie daycare? Grandma and Grandpa? Multiple walks? If your cat hides, fine, but make sure the litterbox is completely odor-free and hide all pet dishes, beds, etc.

Day 26: Make plans for the kids and their stuff. Toy Boxes, like Kitchen and Bathroom boxes, will go a long way toward preserving your sanity through this process.

Day 27: Make your house smell good. If you’re a dog owner, wash any couches, beds, and surfaces where the dogs sleep. You may not smell him anymore, but Buyers will. Tuck the litter box away (and clean it twice a day while your home is on the market). Use Febreeze on everything – the clothes in your closet, your comforter, etc. Lysol the trash bins. Consider lighting some candles (but avoid strong scents).

Day 28: The final clean. While you can do this final step yourself, we always like to bring in professional cleaners who will make sure to clean all the spots you don’t: the baseboards, inside the lights, the fridge, etc. Change the furnace filters.

Day 29: The final once-over. You’ve worked hard, and now it’s time to step back and admire your work. How does it look? Do you see anything that might distract or turn off a Buyer? Take one final walk through all the rooms and adjust as necessary.


Day 30: Photography. When your house is de-cluttered, cleaned, and ready for prime time, it’s time for the photographer to work her magic. Make sure to tell your listing agent the times when the light is best – that’ll make a big difference in the photos. The rules for photography also go for showings: make sure nothing is in the way of the windows – all treatments are pulled back as far as they go, all lights are on full (consider investing in some floor or table lamps to add light), no mats on the floors, no trash cans out, no dish racks, nothing on the counters.

Now...Don’t. Touch. Anything. Back away slowly... et voila!

Intimidated? Don’t be. We’ve helped clients accomplish everything on this list in as little as four days. We have people to do any work you need done quickly and cost-effectively. If you’re in the market to sell, the sooner you hire the right listing agent to help you, the better.



THE AGENCY  -  Redefining real estate

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5 Star Award Winner, ForbesTM Magazine Real Estate Market Leader, RealTrendsTM America's Best Real Estate Agents, SF Business TimesTM Top 50 Bay Area Agents, and Top 100 Real Estate Agents

Work With Andrea

Andrea is a top-producing Real Estate agent in Alamo, Danville, Diablo, and surrounding areas in the Tri-Valley of the Easy Bay. Andrea’s vast knowledge and experience make her an invaluable asset to buyers and sellers seeking the guidance of a true expert.

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