How to Get Ready for an Agent to List Your Home

The Selling Process Starts Even Before You Hire a Realtor

Hand of woman holding home for sale in sky
••• Dennis Lane / Getty Images

Most people figure they'll get a real estate agent to sell their home. But what they may not realize is that they need to get the real estate agent sold on their home. Yes, it's up to you to make a good first impression, and to ready the place for your listing agent to advertise. When it comes to listing a home, most agents prefer a property to be in tip-top condition, worthy of photographs.

Create Curb Appeal

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 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 you were expecting him or her 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 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

You would think it goes without saying that your home should be clean. 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 into a closet or the bathtub.

Almost every home will show 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 will then avoid taking photos of that room when it comes to listing your home.

But 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 exactly make for a good working environment.

Designate a Work Zone

While most agents I know are happy to sign a listing agreement on the roof of a car, it is much more pleasant and comfortable to sit at a dining room table. 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 paperwork, and make plans in peace. If you plan on regular face-to-face meetings going forward, make this area the regular spot for you to meet.

Nowadays, 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 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. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; otherwise, misunderstandings and mistrust can develop down the road. If you don’t feel the agent can answer a question or adequately explain something to you, don’t hire the agent.
  • Offer your agent something to drink.
  • Consider a shot of something stronger for yourself when you see how much your agent is charging you for a real estate commission. (Okay, just kidding on that one. But seriously—do what you have to do to make yourself comfortable and able to spend some time).
  • Ask for a copy of everything you sign.

Make sure you have all the agent's contact info, including before he or she departs. 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 them 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.