How to Get Ready for an Agent to List Your Home for Sale

House with a “For Sale” sign in front, ready to be listed for sale by a real estate agent

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Most people figure they'll get a real estate agent to sell their home. But what they may not realize is that they first need to get the real estate agent sold on their home. Yes, it's up to you to make a good first impression. Whether it's tidying up the grounds, getting the interior camera-ready, or designating a space for you two to work in, these tricks should get your property in tip-top condition, ready for an agent to advertise.

Create Curb Appeal When Listing a Home

Clean up the landscaping. You might have projects that you’ve been meaning to get around to doing but simply have not had the time. Now you need to make the time. Here are the bare basics:

  • Trim trees and bushes in front of windows (can you see the house?).
  • Weed, rake, and mulch garden beds.
  • Cut dead branches from trees.
  • Sweep and clean sidewalks and the driveway.
  • Park in the garage or down the street—not in the driveway or in front of the house.
  • Remove trash cans and store them in the side yard.
  • Close the garage door.
  • Thoroughly eliminate cobwebs and dirt near the front door.

Bonus points: Set out a few pots of flowers near the front door to add color.

Now, when arriving in front of your house, your agent will feel as though she was expected and that you are prepared to sell. By the way, the best time to schedule an agent to come over to list your home is right after your lawn has been mowed.

If you don’t do these things, your agent might not say anything to you about it, but it will be noticed. Your agent might think that you don’t really care when you actually do. Remember, if you don’t care, your agent is less likely to care, and that'll show when it comes to listing your home. You want your agent to care.

Inside the Home

Your home should be clean, of course, but everybody’s idea of clean is different. Don’t force your agent to put towels over dishes in the sink, pick up pet dishes from the floor, or make your beds. Here are your bare minimum requirements to get your home agent-ready:

  • Clean everything off the kitchen counters.
  • Remove from the refrigerator magnets, clippings, your children’s artwork, etc.
  • Put away all personal photographs and photos on the walls.
  • Make the beds.
  • Vacuum and sweep the floors.

Bonus points: Pick up clothing, toys, and other items from the floor and shuffle them out of sight, as neatly as possible.

Almost every home shows better with half of the furniture removed. You might want to consider moving some of your furniture into storage, especially if it blocks pathways. You can also store items in the garage. If you have too much stuff or are in the midst of packing, trying storing all of your extra items in one room. The agent can then avoid taking photos of that room when it comes to listing your home.

Don’t schedule an agent to arrive on the day you are moving. Rooms filled with boxes and movers carting sofas out the door don't make for a good working environment.

Designate a Work Zone for the Agent

While most agents are happy to sign a listing agreement on a car roof, sitting at a dining room table is much more pleasant and comfortable. If you don't have a dining room, don't sweat it. Just find or create a neutral, less personal, and calm, quiet place where you can talk, read the paperwork, and make plans in peace. If you plan on regular face-to-face meetings going forward, make this area the designated spot for you to meet.

Some agents prefer to go paperless: They email documents or links to documents and use a digital signing service. But if your agent does bring the paperwork in person (or if you prefer it), here are some tips:

  • Focus. This is not something to do on the fly. Don't tolerate interruptions, jump up to do a chore, or answer calls, emails, or texts.
  • If you don’t understand a form, ask your agent to explain it to you. Never be afraid to ask questions; otherwise, misunderstandings and mistrust can develop down the road. If you don’t feel that the agent can answer a question or adequately explain the terms, don’t hire the agent.
  • Offer your agent something (nonalcoholic) to drink, and pour yourself a glass or cup, too: It can help you settle in, and establish a collegial atmosphere.
  • Ask for a copy of everything you sign.

Make sure you have all the agent's contact info before he leaves. That includes business cards—lots of business cards.

If the agent plans to put a "for sale" sign into the yard, passersby or buyers' agents might be tempted to stop and knock on the door. Don’t let strangers in your house. If someone rings your doorbell, give that person one of the business cards and ask the person to call your agent. Now that you've prepped your home, leave the selling to them.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.