Unless you’re willing to dial down your price expectations, and you aren’t, you’ve got a little manual labor ahead of you. Before the marketing plan is written, before the listing photos are snapped, and long before your first showing, you’ll need to make your apartment truly ship-shape.

Pack it up

Grandma’s collection of adorable Hummel figurines has to go—at least into a box. Ditto that wall of family pictures, the stash of dog toys, the Lego minefield in the kid’s room, and your doorful of souvenir refrigerator magnets. Purging doesn’t mean ridding your life of your beloved tchotchkes, just ridding your apartment of them. And, if we’re being totally honest here, unless your taste in home furnishings is unusually refined, you might want to consider just moving out and taking your stuff with you, La-Z-Boy recliner and all, and engaging a staging company step in and refurnish it for sale.

Deep clean it

Sorry, neatnik: Your trusty Swiffer mop and bottle of Windex aren’t going to cut it this time. Selling your apartment requires a deep clean, the sort provided by a team of uniformed professionals. Add a line for it in your budget. Kitchen, bathrooms, floors, windows, all of it—prying eyes will find the crumbs and cobwebs. Don’t worry about the walls for now; we have bigger plans for them.

Make it shine

Yes, you may need to paint. Fresh paint looks terrific and that sweet latex-y scent is catnip to prospective buyers. Just remember: Not all white paints are created equal. Some are searing and cold, others are dingy and yellow. Get some professional advice. This is a good time to take a look at your floors, too. That cruddy carpeting in the bedroom, the curling vinyl in the kitchen, that spot near the door where the varnish is worn to bare wood: Address it before it ends up on somebody’s Instagram, hashtag #ick.

Fix it or ditch it

If it’s broken, now’s the time to make it right. Seriously consider replacing the almost-cold-enough fridge or the almost-hot-enough oven. Fix the drippy faucet you’ve gotten used to and the off-kilter blinds in the bedroom. Even if something works just fine but looks as if you found it on the curb, it may need to go. Remember: You’re not doing it for the buyer; you’re doing it for the seller—you.

Stage it

Staging is serious business. Hiring a company to come in and furnish your home with pleasantly inoffensive furniture and décor may be a significant investment—but is worth every penny when done correctly. Staging is all about connecting with potential buyers in a way that presents the home in its best light, so that they can better imagine themselves living there. Personal items such as family photos, outdated furniture, or overstuffed cabinets only distract from that end goal. If it all sounds too much, don’t worry. We have a Rolodex of quality interior designers and professional staging companies that we work with regularly.

Read more about staging here.

Virtually stage it

So, you can’t stomach the cost of a full-on staging, complete with classy rented furniture and silk flowers. For the purpose of listing photography that doesn’t show an empty apartment (or, worse, your grubby stuff), virtual staging offers a photorealistic digital version of an actual staging for a much smaller outlay. One small tradeoff: Virtually staged listing photos need to be clearly marked as such.