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Preparing Your Home For Sale or For Rent

This information was originally designed for preparing the home for tenants to move in, but it also applies to those homeowners who want to sell their home. The more appealing the home is to potential buyers or tenants, the more quickly the transaction can be closed.

Depending upon the circumstances under which you will are having us list your home (for sale or for rent), there are various things that can be or need to be done before we start showing the property. The comprehensive list of "do's" for preparing your property is found in our Move-Out Check-List below. Typically, before you advertise your home for rent or for sale, you should also think about these relatively easy steps:

  • Paint the interior of the home. This may be particularly important if there were small children in the home of if there are "bold" colors on the walls. We prefer neutral colors on the walls. Having said that, though, some tenants and buyers like to paint the home to suit their tastes. In the case of tenants, we generally allow that, but require that the tenants return the walls to "neutral" at the end of the lease.

  • Clean and/or replace carpeting. This is very imporant if there were pets living in the home. It's amazing what a difference a simple carpet cleaning can make in many cases.

  • Make sure that the home is free of pests (ants, mice, roaches, etc.). If we determine that there is some sort of infestation in the property, we will have the home treated at your expense before tenants move in, if possible. We have had instances where there was an infestation that we didn't know about and had to inconvenience the tenants to resolve it. This can also hold up a settlement when a property is being sold. Nothing turns off a prospective buyer or tenant more than roaches!!

  • Depending upon the age of the home, have it tested for Lead-based Paint hazards if it is listed for rent (for some properties, this is mandatory in Maryland).

  • Spruce up the landscaping and the exterior of the home. You want the home's "curb appeal" to be very good. Potential buyers and tenants won't even go inside a home if it doesn't look appealing from the outside. This includes keeping the grass cut, trimming bushes and cleaning out the gutters! Once we get qualified tenants into a house, these are all tenant responsibilities , but until they do, it is the landlord's responsibility to make sure these are done!

  • Clean the gutters and windows. Once a tenant moves in to the home, it becomes their responsibility. Gutters that are full of leaves and debris can cause severe damage to the home that can cost the owners a lot of money. It's relatively simple to get someone to clean gutters if you can't ... and it's not too expensive!

DMS Properties LLC ... Residential Real Estate Services has managed the move-out process for several homeowners who are not living locally. This is a routine process for the time when one tenant is moving out and new tenants will be moving in. Through our Preservation Division, we have contractors who are able to make any repairs that are required and we negotiate with them to get the best prices possible for our homeowners.

A synopsis of our Move-Out Check list is shown below ... this is designed specifically for Landlords who are preparing a home for tenants. Just remember that the more you take care of as you move out of the home to prepare it for tenants, the less we will need to worry about after you've moved on to your next destination!


The Moving-Out Check List is also available for as a PDF so that you can print and keep for your own reference.


1. Upon turning your house over to DMS Properties, LLC for property management, it is very important to have everything in order. Be certain that the Property Management Agreement and Exclusive Listing Agreement (if applicable) is completed and signed by all legal owners. It is just as important that the Residential Management Information Sheet be completely filled in and signed.  If this is not done, your account cannot be set up properly. Also, be sure you have funded your account with DMS Properties, LLC as outlined in the management agreement, presently $300.00 plus additional appropriate funds requested on the information sheet.

If you choose to list the property for rent with a Real Estate Brokerage Firm, you should sign the appropriate Listing Agreements with them. It would be helpful for us to have a copy of that agreement for our files. If you choose to do what is known as an Exclusive Agency Agreement with them, you can also try ti find tenants yourself (or have us do it for you). We will be happy to discuss our procedures for listing the home for rent to help you find tenants.

2. Contact your insurance agent and be sure that your homeowner’s policy is amended or converted to the proper fire policy. It is recommended that your insurance be written for replacement cost and that you insure under the “broad form” or “all risk” … ask your insurance agent.  Also, check with your agent concerning vandalism and malicious mischief coverage if your property remains vacant. You may also check with the agent concerning “loss of rents” coverage due to a claim of fire or vandalism, and automatic increases to keep insurance equal to property value. Be sure that you also have liability coverage, which is known as Owner’s, Landlord’s and Tenant’s insurance. This should be for at least $500,000.

3. When you are out of the Washington, D.C. area, you should direct all questions relating to the management of your property by letter through postal mail or E-mail. In an emergency, use a telegram, fax or telephone. Remember to send us your home and office telephone numbers and E-Mail addresses when you reach your new destination.


1. Leave utilities on so that lights can be turned on in bathrooms, hallways, kitchen, etc. Turn water off at main valve. Tenants will be given instructions to have utilities placed in their name upon occupancy, and we shall disconnect utilities for you, requesting final bills.

2. Identify and tag your main water cut-off valve and any interior cut-off valves for outside faucets. Turn these valves off and open outside spigots for continuous drainage. See Paragraph 3 for cold weather variation of valve instructions.

3. During cold weather, set the thermostat at 55 degrees and drain residual water from pipes – close all valves when this has been done. If your home is equipped with oil heat, measure the contents or have it done by your oil delivery service and report to DMS Properties, LLC. It is preferable to leave a full tank of oil.

4. Have two complete sets of keys available for the tenant and identify the keys. In addition, have two extra main door keys for DMS Properties, LLC’s key file. Once we have a tenant, we will be having the locks changed in their presence and will do so with each tenant turnover. All exterior doors would benefit from a dead bolt lock and/or peep hole, but no dead bolt locks should be double-cylinder (requiring a key to open from the inside).

5. Leave any operating instructions for equipment and appliances in a kitchen drawer. Placing them in a loose leaf file keeps them together, save and clean.

6. Leave interior and exterior clean and in good repair. Do not leave any personal property, trash, or debris in the property. This includes the basement, garage, attic, closets, etc.  Lawns should be cut, bushes trimmed, gutters clear and yard clear of debris.

7. Carpets and fireplace/wood stoves should be professionally cleaned and receipts for the work left with DMS Properties, LLC.

8. Check tile in bathrooms.  Be sure that tile is properly set and that grout is in good condition. Be sure that faucets are not dripping.

9. Defrost and clean refrigerator. Set temperature to “low” or “vacation.”

Never, Never, Never turn the refrigerator off or unplug it!  Many people do this because they believe that they will save on electricity ... in all likelihood, though, it will cause the growth of mold inside the refrigerator. If the mold gets too bad, there is no way to safely remove it!

10. Check and clean all appliances and fixtures. Pay particular attention to the kitchen, bathrooms and utility/furnace room.  Replace or clean furnace filter. It is a good idea to leave a few extra furnace filters for the tenants.

11. Taxes and insurance:  In the event you want DMS Properties, LLC to pay real estate taxes and insurance, which are not included in your mortgage payment, you should advise your insurance agent and the proper county or city officials, in writing, where insurance and tax bills are to be sent.

12. If DMS Properties, LLC is to pay your mortgage payments and/or association dues, you will need to sign letters of instruction advising them to correspond with DMS Properties, LLC. We shall provide blank forms, if necessary. Remember, if we pay either or both of these items, our fee is increased to 10% of the monthly rent.

13. Upon leaving, be sure that all windows and doors are closed and locked. Be sure that DMS Properties, LLC has keys to the property.

Please call if you have any questions. We hope your move and stay at your new location will be pleasant.

We will be happy to review all of these steps with you and make sure that your property is safe and secure when you depart. We will also monitor it while nobody is living there to make sure that nothing goes wrong!

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