Once they’ve been on the job for awhile, nothing surprises real estate agents.

It seems that some sellers will allow their homes to be shown to prospective buyers in various states of uncleanness: from general disorder to complete disarray to total disaster.

What kind of unacceptable sights do real estate agents and brokers commonly see? Dirty linens, clothing and undergarments strewn across the floor; wet pantyhose dripping from the shower curtain rod; an unmade bed; sloppy wet pet chew toys, noxious pet or baby odors, and pet feces on the carpeting, floors and bed; dust bunnies the size of a 10-gallon Stetson; a sinkful of dirty dishes; ring around the bathtub; and, a family room that resembles Toys R Us hit by a tornado.

While it’s possible to sell a filthy home, you’ll get more money for a clean one, agents say. If you’ve improved your home, common household dirt will keep prospective buyers from seeing what you want them to see. If you haven’t made any improvements, offering a spotless home will surely put your home in a better light than those where buyers track dirt out of the home.

-Before Listing Your Home.

The time to organize and clean your home is before you even invite prospective listing brokers over to tour it.

Since clutter naturally attracts dirt, start the cleaning process by packing away, throwing away, or giving away anything you have not used in the past three to five years. Take everything off the counters in your kitchen, and either store them in cabinets or, preferably, pack it away for when you move. Pack away books you haven’t read in five years, sweaters you haven’t worn, and any crystal or silver that you don’t regularly use. Store excess pieces of furniture.

Once you’ve uncluttered your home, you can really begin to clean it. Shampoo carpets, and wash walls, windows and doors. Consider having your hardwood floors professionally cleaned and waxed. Fix broken joints, polish brass hinges and door knobs, and replace broken faucets. Once you’ve cleaned your home, you can decide if you need to repaint or put up new wallpaper. (Nothing smells cleaner to a home buyer than a coat of fresh paint.)

Next, tackle the exterior of your home. If your home needs a paint job, invest some money to either repaint the whole house or touch up spots that look weathered. Consider hiring a professional landscape company to get your garden in shape. Plant colorful flower pots and window boxes. Put in some colorful annuals.

Clean out your garage. Make sure your children’s toys and bikes have their own space. Many home buyers believe a clean, organized garage reflects the condition of the entire property.

-Before Each Showing.

Once you’ve been on the home-showing circuit for awhile, you should be able to get your home into presentable shape on short notice. Until you can, be aware that certain things stand out. Home buyers will notice unmade beds, clothes tossed on the floor, and toothpaste-sticky bathroom sinks.

Start by making sure all beds are made, clothes picked up, and closets are relatively organized. Keep a sponge and a spray cleaner in each bathroom and give the sinks and toilets a quick wipe. If you have time, sweep away hair in the bathtubs and on the floors. Everything should be off the counters with the possible exception of a toothbrush.

Make sure your kitchen sink is empty, and the countertops are wiped down. It’s all right to run the dishwasher during a showing. That way, everyone will know that it works. Remove everything from the front of your refrigerator. If time allows, vacuum the entire house. If it doesn’t, vacuum the filthiest floors. Get in the habit of picking up all toys in the family room before you go to bed at night. That way, if you get a call for an early showing, you’ll be ready.

Cat owners should change litter frequently. If you no longer can "smell" your cat, ask a friend to tell you if your home smells and how bad it is. All pets should be caged during a showing, both for the buyers’ safety and your pet’s.

A dirty home sends the unspoken message that you may have maintained your home about as well as you cleaned it. That is, not very. Instead, you want to instill in your buyers confidence that your home is clean and easy to keep that way. That’s about as attractive a message as you can send.