Get your home ready to sell with this property prep checklist


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Property Exterior

  • Property painted, repaired
  • Front door & door area freshly painted, polish the door knob and house numbers.
  • Put a seasonal wreath on the front door.
  • Porches, stairs, and walkways swept at all times
  • Nice door matt at front and back doors
  • Trim freshly painted
  • Doors work easily and silently
  • Doorbells operate
  • Windows in good repair; clean
  • Consider a new mail box or slot


  • Fence in good repair
  • Walkways and driveways in good repair; swept
  • Clear leaves, newspapers, litter
  • Hedges trimmed-at windows, trim so windows are exposed
  • Trim low hanging tree branches
  • Eliminate dead branches, stalks and blooms
  • Add colorful flowers around the home
  • Weed flower pots and beds
  • Lawn cut & green
  • Plantings have been watered and look healthy
  • Put away toys, bikes, lawn tools, etc…
  • Upgrade or add exterior lighting for the property to sparkle at night showings
  • Clean gutters
  • Fences, gates and hardware in good repair

Living Room

  • Walls and ceiling freshly painted; clean; free of smudges, fingerprints and dents.
  • Window coverings clean and in good condition
  • Furniture aesthetically arranged
  • Fireplace clean; consider a fire in the fireplace for open houses
  • Appropriate temperature

Eating Areas

  • Set the table with pretty dishes, placemats, flatware and candles 


  • Range and oven clean and in working order
  • Clean kitchen hood
  • Fix slow drains
  • Kitchen cabinet faces clean and in good condition.  If they appear worn, painting them is a cost effective to make them look fresh and new.  New chrome hardware makes them sparkle.
  • Walls and ceiling freshly painted and/or clean
  • Sink and counters clear of dishes and kitchen appliances
  • Cupboards neat
  • Floors clean and in good condition-repair or replace if necessary-I can help you pick finishes if necessary.
  • Clean seals at oven, refrigerator and dishwasher doors


  • Walls and ceilings freshly painted; clean
  • Beds made-curtains and bedspreads neat and attractive
  • Clothing put away and hung neatly
  • Closets neatly arranged-remove extra items, make closets look like there is room for additional items
  • Toys, belongings put away
  • Window coverings clean and in good condition


  • Walls and ceilings freshly painted; clean
  • Floors/tile clean and in good condition
  • Replace or repair grout and caulk as necessary
  • Curtains/window treatments clean and in good condition
  • Shower or tub tile clean
  • Shower glass clean or new shower curtain
  • Faucets in good condition; no leaks
  • Fix slow drains
  • Toilet lids down
  • Vanities, sinks, and shelves cleared of personal items
  • Your best guest towels out
  • New soap in the soap dish


  • Stairways clear, painted and with handrail
  • Windows in good repair; clean
  • Floor clean, clear of obstacles
  • Area neatly arranged


  • Door(s) open easily and quietly
  • Paint fresh and/or in good condition
  • Workbench and tools neatly arranged
  • Floor clear of debris and free of grease

In addition:

  • Have presale inspections such as structural pest inspections, roof
  • inspections, and sewer inspections.  Get estimates of repair costs to present to the prospective buyer as part of your disclosures.  This will be a good way to pre-negotiate with buyers, making sure they are serious at the start of your contract.  I can help you coordinate this.
  • Pull together all warranties, appliance, and operating manuals to remain with the property to pass along to the new purchaser.
  • Tighten loose door knobs and hardware
  • Clean mirrors, picture frames and glass.
  • Electrical items, such as lamps, are plugged in and usable
  • Fix warped drawers
  • Tighten loose banisters
  • Turn on lights; make sure burned out light bulbs are replaced
  • Lamp shades in good condition
  • Make sure light switches and outlets work; replace damaged or discolored covers
  • Lubricate squeaky or sticky doors
  • Consider hiring a cleaning service; this will relieve pressure and have a more professional look.  Keep everything extra clean; for example, clean fingerprints from switch plates, mop and wax floors, clean the stove and refrigerator.  A clean property looks like a well-care for property.
  • Wash all windows, clean window sills, wash blinds
  • Have carpets cleaned
  • Consider replacing out of date light fixtures
  • Get rid of all items you will not be moving-reduce clutter, have a garage sale, donate to charity or hire a hauler to take unusable items to the dump.  Store seasonal closing, pre-move-consider a storage facility.
  • Remove some furniture to make spaces look bigger
  • Remove damaged or badly worn furniture
  • Consider taking on minor repairs that can make a bad impression.  Sticky doors, torn screens, cracked, or moldy caulking, or dripping faucets.  These are easy items that when not done, make the property look uncared for.


Preparing for showings

  • Heat or cool the property appropriately
  • Remove or isolate pets-they may be a problem for visitors
  • Air out the home; if there are any offending odors, like litter boxes, or pet stains, eliminate them
  • Hide valuables such as cash, jewelry, or other small valuable objects; it is not possible to watch everyone in the property.  If there are tenants, please notify them of this as well.
  • In general, consider how you would perceive your home if you were a prospective buyer
  • Open shades and blinds.  Consider changing to shear window coverings that allow more light into the property.
  • It is best to show your property if you are not present.  Buyers will feel more at ease to check out your property completely if you are not there.
  • At night, please light property appropriately for viewing and safety
  • Additional touches such as a fire in your fireplace or quiet music are always nice
  • Neatly arrange, or stack magazines and newspapers

Property inspections are important

Most of the properties for sale in San Francisco are not new.  With such a large purchase, it is not recommended to buy a property without inspections, even if the property is new.  I feel this is important because an inspector takes an unemotional look at a property and can give you an idea of conditions to watch for that, if they aren’t issues now, could become so in the future.

The most common inspections I recommend are outlined below.  Other inspections may be warranted based on the findings of these primary inspections and on the disclosures provided by the seller. Other inspections may include roofers, furnace contractors, chimney and fireplace maintenance, sewer inspectors, hazardous substance experts, mold inspectors and structural, or soils engineers to name a few.

For my buyers, I provide a few documents to help you select inspectors, such as the Buyers Inspection Advisory, and Zephyr Real Estate Recommendation Regarding Inspections, that highlight the many types of inspections available to you to give you the opportunity to select additional inspections which may be prudent.

You should plan to attend all inspections so that you can see for yourself any problems that might surface.  Your attendance also makes review of written reports much more comprehensive and easier to understand.

The costs of inspections are paid by the buyer.  Inspections usually are conducted in the first 10-15 calendar days of the escrow period. I can provide you referrals, schedule inspections and provide you with average inspections costs.

Structural Pest Control Inspection-A licensed structural pest inspector will examine the property for any evidence of problems such as: termites, dry rot, earth to wood contact, excessive dampness, fungus damage and beetle infestation.  The inspector will provide to you a written report identifying any problems, along with a bid for any corrective work.  This is a critical inspection because this type of damage can be very costly to repair and may require immediate attention. The cost of correcting pest control work is sometimes negotiable.

General Contractor’s Inspection-Among other things, this inspection covers major systems, structural elements, safety features, and code compliance.  Good inspectors will take the time to give you an orientation to the building, including how to operate and care for the furnace, where you will find the shutoff valves for the gas and water lines and where to go if you blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.  Accompanying the contractor during the inspection gives you the opportunity to ask questions and to get valuable maintenance tips.  The general contractor’s report will alert you to possible problems but, unlike the structural pest control report, will not include price estimates for any needed corrections.

Underground Storage Tank Inspection-The City of San Francisco requires an owner of real property to make a reasonable effort to locate and remove abandoned underground storage tanks (UST), as they may contain hazardous or environmental waste. Because the owner of record of a piece of property is responsible for any tank found on the property, I strongly recommend you ask a contractor specializing in locating such tanks to inspect your property to avoid your inheriting a tank already on the premises. The contractor will provide an estimate to remove a UST if found, which can be expensive.

How to view a property

Now that you’ve established your budget, priorities and preferred neighborhoods, you’re ready to take a look at properties.

To actually get into the properties to look around, it’s usually more efficient to see several at a time-Sunday open houses or arranged appointments with your real estate agent are the norm. If you see a sign on a building that looks interesting, call or e-mail your real estate professional to get more information and find out if it’s available and within your budget.

At first, it’s probably worth taking some notes to remind your self about certain properties, so that you don’t forget.  It’s not uncommon to revisit properties at a later time-what you didn’t like initially may look better later on.

You’ll get good at weeding out the properties that work and don’t.  Once you’ve honed in on a few that look interesting, you’ll need to start doing your due diligence; looking at the disclosures and spending time in the neighborhood to see what pluses and minuses you may encounter.

It’s become commonplace in San Francisco for disclosures to be available for buyer review prior to writing a purchase offer.  This is good, in that you get to try to determine the negatives as well as the positives before you take that big step of writing an offer.  Hopefully a recent structural pest or general contractor’s report has been done for your review and consideration.

Make sure and look at neighborhood crime statistics through the police and Megan’s Law websites.  Here are a few places to look:

Remember that no property is perfect, so focusing on the bigger picture of what the property contains and being willing to work through smaller issues will yield a lot more property options.

There is no right or wrong time to buy a property.  When a good property matching your needs comes up, especially if it’s a one of a kind, don’t be afraid to take the leap.  In any market, you should consider committing to holding a property for five years or more.

You should be open to finding a property very quickly.  I have had clients who found a property right away and did not move on it, only to regret it later.  Be clear on how unusual it is (will another property like this come up again), is it fairly priced, or an exceptional opportunity.  Conversely, you should expect your real estate professional to let you know if they feel a property selection is best avoided and why.

Mistakes people make when buying or selling a home


Prevented By

1.  Not knowing how much they can afford to pay for a house before they make an offer. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, so you know in advance exactly how much you can afford.
2.  Not finding out in advance whom the real estate agent represents.  Asking your Realtor.  Most people think their agent is working for them.  But unless the agent is working as your buyer representative, he/she represents the seller.
3.  Not realizing that the wrong mortgage can cost thousands of dollars in unnecessary interest and taxes.  Consulting with a mortgage consultant, accountant, and/or financial planner before making a final decision on which mortgage to choose.  CPAs can tell you the long-term effects on your income.
4.  Not discovering hidden defects before buying a home. Hiring a professional to conduct a pre-purchase home inspection.
5.  Not knowing how debt can affect their ability to buy or refinance a home. Asking your mortgage professional to help you review and repair your credit file in advance.
6.  Setting their asking price too high because of personal need or emotion rather than fair market value. Consulting with a professional real estate agent.  He/she can assist you in pricing your home correctly.
7.  Failing to “showcase” their home by highlighting the best features. Thoroughly cleaning, repairing, and readying your home for showing before you put it on the market.
8.  Signing a listing contract with no way out. Asking your real estate agent if you can cancel your listing agreement at any time, no questions asked, prior to signing the contract or agreement.
9.  Choosing an agent for the wrong reasons.  (For example, listing a home with the agent who works for the most popular company.) Selecting a listing agent with the best marketing plan and track record.
10.  Not knowing their legal rights and obligations. Consulting a knowledgeable, trustworthy professional who understands the technical and legal aspects of a real estate transaction. Contracts are legally binding.   Neglected details can wind up costing sellers thousands of dollars.

Fire safety-how safe are your smoke detectors?

This fire safety article ran in the San Francisco Chronicle last week regarding smoke detector safety.  It’s the first time I had ever heard about the difference in how ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors operate.

According to the article, the ionization smoke detectors, which are more commonly used, trip more often when they are not supposed to, and don’t go off as soon as they should when they need to.

I just looked at the back of my smoke detector, and sure enough, it’s an ionization model.  The issue seems to be the type of fire each responds to in an alarm.

Raising Alarm for Fire Safety-San Francisco Chronicle

Here’s an article from the National Fire Protection Association

Fire Safety Council review on best sensor type for kitchens (pdf format)