Tips we used to sell our home
When we decided to build a new home about 2.5 years ago, I learned a lot about what makes a house look great to potential buyers. We happened to luck out and work with a great realtor, who also happened to be our builder. And even luckier that his wife, who helped me with interior and exterior details on our new home, helped me with some expert tips on showing our old home to potential buyers.
My husband and I have sold several houses before this home. Those houses were purchased and lived in when we were both single, didn’t have roommates and hadn’t developed the clutter that comes 13 years and 2 kids later. We knew we needed to do some major decluttering – both within the rooms and behind doors (ahem, the closets I hid my hoarder tendencies in). We started going through everything about 2 months before we put our home on the market. We tossed, we donated, we sold, we gave away. We also rented a storage unit to store things that we still wanted (like holiday decor) but needed out of rooms and closets to make things look bigger. Because that’s the deal. People want to see big rooms and big, organized closets.
We took down almost all personal photos and made sure the décor was neutral yet flattering. My decorating style, while it has changed over the years, has always been more neutral and I used accessories to update. Luckily, I didn’t have to take down any wild curtains or find new bedding. If you have any brightly painted rooms, outdated curtains or bedding I would recommend looking at it through a buyer's eyes and see if anything looks dated and how you can (inexpensively) update. Painting isn’t too expensive if it’s a small room and if you can do it yourself. Bedding doesn’t have to be expensive if you check out Target or HomeGoods. Dated draperies? Take them down. Some inexpensive panels from Target could be put up if you don’t want to take down the rods.
Because we listed our home in late May, we also paid attention to our exterior. A freshly mowed lawn is obvious - but make sure a pot of flowers on the front step looks good and that weeds are under control. Make sure the spider webs around doors and windows are cleaned out. Put out fresh mulch if you have landscaping areas. And don't forget the windows - clean windows make the house look clean and your windows look new.
If there are any known issues, take a proactive approach and have it fixed. A home inspector will likely find it and it could de-rail an offer especially if you have young or skittish buyers. It’s a home, an investment. If you aren't sure how your home would do in an inspection, you can hire your own inspector to look at it before you list to help you figure out what areas need fixing.
After the major decluttering effort, we invited our realtors to look at the house and get their input on what needed to change. Luckily the major work had already been done on our own. We took their advice to paint our dining room a light gray (it was red, which I loved when we bought the home, but it was dated now).
It’s one thing to have your house look uncluttered and photographed well. Your realtor will help with that. But we also approached each and every showing as if we were showing it to “the one”. Prior to the showings, I had a list (in my head) that I followed each and every time I knew about a showing. I always left the house knowing it would show it’s best to both realtor and potential buyer.
I know with kids it’s hard, but limiting messes will make getting out of the house so much easier. Straighten things up at night because you never know when someone requests a 9 am showing and you need to get out fast. I was a fanatic about keeping the house clean. I vacuumed and dusted often. If I knew about a showing, I’d run the vacuum around key areas to give that “the maid was just here” look (BTW, I’m the maid). Also, even though you may be showing your house to animal lovers, you may want to hide signs of Fido or Felix. Put litter boxes out of sight (find a place in the garage), and put leashes, toys, and bowls away. One suggestion is to have a basket handy that you can put everything in and take with you (because chances are the pets are going with you too). Don't forget to do a quick once over on the lawn and pick up any dog messes because no one wants to step in it and that would also be a give away that a dog lives here.
This is the list I followed for every showing, if possible.
- Fix beds
- Make sure every toilet is flushed and clean (you laugh, but …), and lid down
- Wipe down bathroom and kitchen counters.
- Wipe down appliances in kitchen
- Take out any garbage, especially kitchen
- Put out fresh towels in bath and kitchen
- Put dirty laundry in a basket and out of sight. Put away clean laundry.
- Turn on any ceiling fans to low, it keeps house cooler and good airflow
- Fluff any throw pillows on beds and couches
- Make sure chairs around tables are pushed in
- Open blinds and curtains
- Wipe any smudges on glass doors
- Do spot floor clean up, whether sweeping or quick dust buster moment
- If nice outside, put outdoor cushions out and open table umbrellas
- Have realtor fliers out
- Quick pet sweep, inside and out (sorry)
- Take any valuables with you as mentioned below, or out of sight
I tried to buy fresh flowers for the weekends as a nice touch, but I never bought into the baking cookies or burning candles. I think scents are very personal and I never wanted to offend anyone. But a clean smelling bathroom and the scent from the stainless appliances wipe down I viewed differently.
Also, please make sure you put away valuables. I bought a small jewelry case and put my good jewelry that I wear often in this case and would secure it away or take it with me when I left. If there’s anything else of value that’s easily taken, place in a safe or out-of-sight. I know I shouldn’t assume that anyone coming into our home would take anything, but you don’t know who is looking at your home and sometimes doors are left unlocked after a showing. Better safe than sorry.
At the end of the day, selling a house is kind of like finding the perfect spouse or job. It takes thought, chance, effort and a bit of luck.
I hope this helped you figure out how to make your home envied (home envy, haha) by all who walk through it. If you’re selling your home, good luck! And hang in there, it’s hard work!