Selling a home is not easy.

It requires planning, cleaning and fixing nearly everything. We wish we could change that, but we can’t.

Instead, we’ve made a list of things you need to do to get ready for your first open house, so you can use this to knock out the steps one by one.

Talk to your real estate agent and find out if there are any particular things that help homes sell in your market. Then, get to work!

Your open house to-do list (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Clean —  You have to clean your home from top to bottom, inside and out. Leave no closet untouched. This one should be interspersed with the rest of the list because you’re going to clean, then you’ll need to clean again and again, and once more just before you leave to make sure there are no forgotten messes.
  2. Paint — If you have the time, it’s a good idea to paint the whole inside neutral colors. Most people don’t have that kind of time (or energy!), but you can tone down unique colors. Definitely touch up the paint where it’s gotten dirty and chipped. Fill holes in the wall with filler, and sand it down and paint over it. But don’t forget the outside: Freshen up trim and the front door, and if your porch is painted, give that a fresh coat, too.
  3. Landscape — We can’t understate the importance of curb appeal. If visitors pull up to a rough-looking house, they might just drive off. Clean up your yard, pick up debris, trim the hedges, mow the lawn, sweep the walkways, mulch the beds and around the trees, and rake leaves. Don’t forget the backyard, too. Arrange your patio furniture as if you’re having a garden party to show all the possibilities. Scoop dog poop and fill any holes. Plant in-season flowers in beds and in pots.
  4. Pare — Take about half of your stuff out of the house and put it into a storage unit. Look at this like the first half of your moving chores. The less stuff that’s in the house, the bigger it will look. Don’t forget to remove clothing from the closets, too. Make your closets as clean and organized as possible so it looks like you’ve got lots of storage.
  5. Declutter — As part of your paring down, remove as much clutter as you can. Remove most of your trinkets and stacks of papers, piles of mail, etc. Decluttering makes a home look cleaner, bigger and more relaxed.
  6. Depersonalize — Remove your family photos and anything that might be political. If your kids’ names are painted on their bedroom walls, paint over them. (You can repaint them at the new house.) Remove old stenciling or dated wallpaper borders. If you love rubber duckies and have them all over your home, that’s fine, but your potential buyers will have trouble seeing past them. Move them to your storage facility
  7. Stage — Arrange the furniture in ways that looks like you’re ready for conversation. If your living room furniture is all pointed toward the TV, move it away from the walls and set it up in vignettes. If you have a room that’s just for storage, clean it out and add logical furniture, such as guest room furniture or a playroom for children. Staging is all about making your home look bigger and more usable.

When your real estate agent arrives, she’ll be thrilled with the work you’ve done. Light some scented candles, do a quick dusting of surfaces, and hit the road. Spend the day doing something fun or head out of town for a shopping excursion. Let her work her magic on the potential buyers, and rest easily knowing you did your best for a quick and lucrative sale.