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When it comes to showing your home to potential buyers, first impressions are everything, but it can be challenging to keep your home in top shape while you’re living in it. At Opendoor, we’ve found there are three key stages in preparing a home for sale: cleaning and repairing, staging, and maintenance.

how to prepare your home for sale

We’ll break down those steps here so you can get your home show-ready, increase its value and win over buyers, all without losing your cool:

Stage 1: Cleaning & Repairing

Whether you hire a professional housekeeper or do it yourself, you’ll need to clear out and deep clean your space so it’s beautified and buyer-ready.

  • Declutter
    The very first step in your quest for a picturesque home is parting ways with extra belongings and clutter you’ve accumulated over the years. In fact, professional home stagers will recommend you clear out 50% of your entire home. The key here is to make the home look clean and inviting, but not overly personalized. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself what you can’t live without and donate, sell or store the rest. It’s often an emotional process, but depersonalizing your home helps buyers visualize it as their own, which makes it more appealing.
  • Secure storage

    During the decluttering process, set aside everything you want to keep and pack away. Storing your belongings will help clear the space and reveal areas of the home that you need to touch-up and repair. For items you want to keep in the home but need to quickly stow away for impromptu showings, invest in mobile storage that fits under the bed or other furniture. For larger items like furniture, rent a storage unit in your neighborhood.

how to prepare your home for sale - cleaning

  • Deep clean

    Giving your home a deep clean before staging starts will put you on the right track for a home stager to work their magic, and will show buyers it’s been well maintained. We recommend hiring a cleaning professional, especially to handle things like water spots, mildew, carpets, and tidying up the inside of your refrigerator and cabinets—you never know where visitors might be peeking. And don’t forget curb appeal! For the exterior, rent a pressure washer to clean the driveway, sidewalk and facade. Mow the lawn, plant fresh flowers and add a welcome mat.

  • Make repairs

    You know that loose doorknob you’ve been tolerating? Or the running toilet only you know how to flush properly? The small quirks that are second nature to you are, in fact, glaring repair issues to buyers. Replace burnt out light bulbs, fix cracks in surfaces, squeaky doors and cabinets, and paint interior walls with clean, neutral colors. Go room to room and make these adjustments to help reduce the cost of final repair asks from your buyer.

Stage 2: Staging

Professional staging can run up quite a bill, anywhere from $500 to $5,000. But if you’re up for a DIY project, this is your guide!

  • Neutralize

    Now that you’ve cleaned your home, it’s time to design a serene space that feels inviting to buyers. Choosing the right paint colors is key in large spaces like the living room—using neutral colors like beige, warm tan and soft blue-gray helps tone down any loud or dated finishes in the space. Stay away from bold paint colors and dark accent walls as these can make rooms feel smaller. For linens and furniture, create an open environment by sticking with soft tones. We recommend keeping linen colors and patterns gender-neutral to appeal to everyone.

  • Accessorize

    Spruce up each room by adding eye-catching decorative items. This is a great way to make the space feel stylish and welcoming without feeling too lived in. When setting out decorative items, use odd numbers. At Opendoor we love the power of three. Imagine three multi-sized vases as centerpieces on a coffee table—rather than lining them up in a row, create scale by forming a triangle shape. Group them by pattern, texture or color to unite them and make the design appear organized.

  • Update artwork

    You don’t need to spend a fortune, but investing in a few new pieces of artwork can bring new life to a room. Black and white photography can make the space look modern and minimalist, while brightly colored contemporary pieces can add a splash of color to your otherwise neutral space. Don’t form your paintings and prints in a straight line on the wall. Instead, to create more visual interest, create a gallery wall and vary the sizes and frame styles of your pieces.

  • Transform rooms

    If you have an awkwardly sized extra room that serves as a glorified closet or has turned into a junk room, transform it into a functional space that will add value and appeal to buyers. Clear it out and add a cozy armchair, patterned rug, artwork, small table and reading lamp. Reinventing the room as an office, home gym, craft studio or children’s playroom sounds very attractive in listing descriptions and will make the home more marketable for your realtor.

staging for how to prepare your home for sale

Stage 3: Maintenance

Don’t let all your prep work go to waste by skipping this last step. The key to staying stress-free during the showing period is developing a strict maintenance schedule and sticking to it.

  • Make a plan

    We often hear that one of the most painful parts of home selling is the inconvenient showings. Realtors may call within an hour or less before a requested showing, and it typically takes about 10 showings before getting your first offer, which can last two months or more. Unfortunately, showings are only truly effective when the home is empty, so have a plan for making your home available at a moment’s notice. Devise a cleaning schedule and stick to it. Invest in a weekly cleaning service if it fits within your budget. If you have pets or kids, make sure you have a place to take them when you need to leave the property quickly.

  • Stick to a routine

    It’s tough to keep your home tidy and glowing while you’re living in it, but there are small steps you can take throughout the day that will help you avoid the mad dash to clean when your realtor calls. Pick up anytime your kids or pets leave the room. Make it a habit to keep the kitchen and the bathroom sparkling clean—these are two of the most important areas and should be free of clutter at all times. Wipe down fixtures and faucets, run a vacuum over the carpet and be sure all surfaces have been cleared. Keep children’s and pet’s toys in a bin that you can store away easily.

  • Consider renting

    Depending on your situation, alternative housing might be a good solution for you once showings start. If you have infants, several pets, someone in your family with a medical condition or you simply don’t have time for the disruption, there are a few options to consider. If you have family or friends in the area with space to spare, ask them if they can take you in until your home sale has closed. Extended-stay hotels or short-term rentals in apartment communities also offer long-term stays for lower prices than the daily rate.

  • Take a vacation

    If you don’t want to commit to alternative housing but need to get out of the house for a short period of time, take that vacation you know you deserve. First, talk to your realtor about when they expect foot traffic to be highest so you can time your vacation appropriately. You can do all the deep cleaning and staging needed right beforehand, and it’ll stay in perfect condition while you’re away. Some affordable options for solo or family vacations include camping or a local road trip.

  • Board your pets

    Pet odors can really impact the home showing experience, so this is a big one. If you have pets, get your carpets and rugs professionally steam-cleaned and be mindful about washing and vacuuming surfaces regularly. If your pets are a little rambunctious or you have several of them and can’t easily get them out of the house during an impromptu showing, consider boarding them for a few weeks or months during the showing period.


Getting (and keeping) your home show-ready is one of the most important parts of the sale process. It can mean the difference between having your home on the market for weeks or for months. It can be a challenge to clean, stage and maintain a spotless home while you’re living in it, but you can significantly reduce the stress by having a plan.

By Tiffany Chi

Related guides and blog articles

→ How to sell your house
→ How much does it cost to sell a house
→ When is the best time to sell your home – 5 factors to consider
→ 15 expert tips to increase your home value
→ Top things homeowners hate about the home selling process