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Selling Your Owner-Occupied Home? How to Hope for the Best and Clean for the Worst

In talking to home stagers and realtors, we confirmed what other sources say are the top-ranking factors for selling a home: cleanliness and house condition. It’s one thing for paint and basic repairs to hold up over the entire selling process, but what about keeping the house clean? Maybe you’re naturally a person who loves the feeling of deep-cleaning your home. But even if you’re like most sellers and hire a professional cleaning service before putting your home on the market, it’s important to have a plan to keep the home looking its very best throughout the process.

Look, we know a lot of real estate markets around the country are still very hot. Maybe your neighbors sold their home quickly, but that doesn’t mean you can count on your home selling right away. That’s why we say hope for the best, but clean for the worst. Below are a few scheduling tips for best cleaning practices and keeping your home looking great…for whenever it may matter most.

Hire a Professional Cleaner

To jump-start the cleaning process, think about using a professional cleaning service. You can use this tool to start with a clean slate or to maintain cleanliness throughout the process. Especially before an open house or series of showings, you want to ensure your home is in tip-top shape. Keep in mind that square footage often determines cleaning rates. Depending on the size and condition of your home, you should expect to pay between $100 and $300 for a professional cleaning service. Unless you have the spare time and a knack for cleaning, hiring a pro is surely the smart way to go. Ask your realtor if you’re not sure.

To this point, if you’ve never used a professional cleaner before, you’ll also need to de-clutter the home, often to an unprecedented degree. Basements, garages, attics, and other smaller storage areas may not need to be 100% completely empty, but you want to be sure to highlight every last square foot of the home, finished or unfinished. Not sure where you can put these items, or how you’re going to move them out of the home? We offer full-service storage solutions at self-storage prices.

How to Keep Your Home Clean Throughout the Selling Process

Separating chores into days, weeks, and months is a great way to not let things get out of hand. While your home is on the market, the ideal situation is being able to show the home to prospective buyers on short notice. Moreover, this step-by-step guide will work for you, whether you do the initial deep-clean on your own or you’re simply maintaining after a professional cleaning service.


Make the beds and stop clutter before it starts. If you have kids, teach them to make their beds. This touch will instantly make your bedrooms look more refined and market-ready. At the end of the day, check for any items that may have been left out.

Organize your mail. Stacks of envelopes and paperwork add clutter to the entrance of your home. Rather than simply putting your mail out of sight unsorted where it can get jumbled and important items lost, plan to keep the mail organized on a daily basis.

Surface clean your kitchen. The kitchen accumulates more grime and clutter than any other room in the house. To keep this consistently clean, clear and wipe your counters daily. Ensure that no dishes—clean or otherwise—are left out. You don’t want a buyer thinking about you and your choice of kitchenware, when they should be imagining themselves cooking and entertaining.


Clean bathrooms. This includes scrubbing toilets, mopping floors, cleaning mirrors, and wiping down the shower. Doing this on a weekly basis is essential to keep these important areas of the home looking their best.

Sweep, vacuum, and spot mop. Thoroughly ridding your floors of dust and dirt is a time-consuming but necessary task. You have to ensure no bits of dust, hair, or lint detract from the showing and buyers’ impressions. Make a little mess? A quick once-over isn’t enough right now. You’ll likely need to spot mop.

Clean out the refrigerator. Don’t overlook this one. This major appliance is a common inclusion and buyers may want to look at the design, compartments, and features. This is also a great time to take stock of food, prepare weekly grocery lists, and organize the pantry.


Deep clean bathrooms. In addition to cleaning appliances, clean inside drawers, inside of trash cans, and the tops of mirrors. For larger families and regular use, you may even want to consider replacing your shower curtain on a monthly basis.

Deep clean kitchen. Same deal here. In addition to wiping counters and cleaning/storing dishes, scrub appliances, wash trash cans, wipe down cabinets, and clean your stove.

Mop your floors. Mopping is a time-consuming and often daunting task. If you vacuum your floors each week, you’ll only need to mop monthly. Ensure that members of your home are either out or in other parts of the house—treading on a freshly-mopped floor will leave grime and footprints.

Preparing for a Range of Outcomes 

Ongoing deep cleans can feel disheartening to those who don’t have solid offers yet from buyers, but maybe you’re holding out or just in no hurry to sell. Except in the very best cases and fastest home sales, at least one more type of major follow-up cleaning isn’t uncommon. Likewise, if it’s been a little while since the open house/showing, you may also want to think about going over everything once more, right around the time the buyer is doing their due diligence. 

This type of cleaning regimen may sound like overkill, but it makes a difference. It also helps explain why many people, if at all possible, look to avoid the worst of this intensive home cleaning schedule by moving out altogether while their home is on the market. We also don’t want to sound all doom-and-gloom. It is true that, right now, a lot of people have been able to sell their homes quickly. Still, it’s a dangerous assumption to make. When it comes to cleaning and preparing a home for the market, hope for the best, but clean for the worst.