We moved out of our beloved Victorian house on April 15, and since then have been fixing it up to get it ready to sell. We’ve sold two other houses together, and I learn (and sometimes relearn) things with each iteration. Here are some of the key lessons on prepping a house for going on the market:

  • You can half-ass the first coat of paint, but you absolutely cannot half-ass the top coat (or you will be doing another coat).
  • Contractor/landlord grade paint is minimally adequate. Spend more if you are covering darker paint/paper or want to lay down only one coat (don’t half-ass the one coat). If spending minimally, two thinner coats will look much better than two thicker coats.
  • Attach a broom handle to the roller; it makes everything much easier.
  • Painter’s tape can lift wallpaper – use cautiously.
  • Pair up when sanding spackle – one person to sand, one person to hold the hose of the shopvac up to the area. It cuts way down on fine particulates in the air and on the floor.
  • Wear a mask when sanding spackle.
  • If paying for a cleaner, pay only a deposit up-front, in case they decide not to show.
  • You have to wait a week to wash freshly painted walls, so wash any dirty spots off walls before doing any kind of touch-ups (or you risk washing away the newer paint).
  • Stretch. Frequently. Everything hurts.
  • Grout cleaner needs to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing.
  • You need at least two ways to apply paint to walls/moulding: a roller and an angled brush. Rollers come in many sizes and for different kinds of finishes, and having a variety on hand is useful as well, but you can make do with just a roller and a brush (you’ll be washing them a lot, so consider getting a set for each color of paint).
  • Mix the paint each time you open it.
  • Cover paint trays and brushes with garbage bags (you can slide them inside and tuck the ends under the tray itself overnight) because you’re going to need to do touch-ups, even when you think you’re done. This will keep the paint wet and ready to use.
  • Baseboards! Clean them! Install them!
  • Kids are disgusting, and all manner of nasty will be on the walls and floors of their rooms.
  • Oil-based markers and other coloring implements (crayons, pastels, etc) cannot be painted over. You will have to scrub it off the wall first. Clorox wipes work pretty well.
  • Take everything out of your fridge and give it a good cleaning – it’s probably pretty gross.
  • Install new light fixtures in the daytime.
  • Definitely turn off the electricity before installing a new light fixture.
  • Right now – take everything out of your kitchen drawers and cupboards and lay down some kind of clear contact paper (or something pretty, if that’s your jam). This will pay dividends when you need to clean out every drawer/cupboard.
  • Do the small house projects as they come up – they’ll take a weekend max… unless you have 15-20 small house projects to do at once. Then they’ll take several weeks – after work every night and all day long on weekends.

I really love the house, and am sad to see it go (though I’m truly delighted with our new house). Only time will tell if these tried-and-true lessons will stick for the next go-round!

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