We listed our home 34 days ago and yesterday we received a signed acceptance to a counter-offer. Our home is officially sold (barring any issues we haven't seen that their inspector stirs up).
Before we listed we took a good month (all of February) to declutter and prep for sale. Here's a list of some tips, just from personal experience, that I found so handy in the process of getting the home ready, the process of showing, and getting the offer you're hoping for. *I am not a professional realtor, stager, or any thing else.* Just a realist who couldn't have asked for a better journey for home sale.
1. Declutter until it's painful. Pack up anything and everything you do not need for the next 6 months. If you have Holidays coming up, label your boxes well and neatly stack them in your storage area. If you don't have storage, consider renting a storage unit. The result of people being able to 'see' your home by getting rid of extra items will give you the best offers.
2. Declutter again. Once you think your house is clutter free, walk through again. Is it really? Are there even more things you can live without for a few months? How about the DVD rack? Can you pick out your 10 favorites and pack the rack and the rest of the movies away? What about the extra dishes/cups/small appliances you rarely use? Everyone is looking for more kitchen space. Can you make it look like you have room to spare? Get your kids in on the act. Have them pick their 10 favorite toys and books and pack the rest away. You can always rotate in a few weeks/months if they start getting bored. (This makes it a lot easier to do quick showings if the kids only have a few toys/books to mess the house up with.) Pack up clothes you don't HAVE to have to make your closet look big. You want space inbetween all your clothes to make the closet seem huge.
3. Depersonalize. This is a huge one on all the 'tips for selling' lists. Get rid of anything that would tip the buyers to who you are. Take down all family pictures, kids artwork, etc. Try to set the scene for someone walking into a vacation resort. If you have a lot of nails in the walls, either pull them and touch up or if the wall seems empty go to a thrift store or Big Lots and buy some inexpensive artwork to hang.
4. Paint. Touch up all scuff marks, doors, and scratches. If you have a dark colored room (my son's room was a deep ocean blue), repaint it a neutral color. Make your house as gender neutral as possible.
5. Clean. This is a no-brainer, yet I've seen some pretty nasty houses in the past. Deep clean your home. Wash all the walls whether they need it or not. Wash and wax your vinyl and wood floors. (The waxing will help tremendously on the quick clean days while showing.) Shine your stainless steel. Bleach your tub. Wash your windows and dust your blinds. Get the deep cleaning done before you list. It will make your house seem fresh, and move-in ready. Even if you have rooms that are outdated (or dark storage rooms), getting them clean will make them seem more managable and livable for the next buyers.
6. Fix anything broken or things that look out of place. If you can spend a couple hundred dollars before you list your home to get maximum return, do it. Spend it on things like paint, updated hardware, a new front door, or a new porch light. Fix the little things that are cheap to do, but noticable. We repainted our ceiling tiles in the basement to make them look fresh. We also bought a comforter set just for showings that didn't have dog drool all over it.
7. Stage your home. Take time to look at home magazines...what sticks out to you? The tables are set (but not overly), the counters are empty, the living rooms look like you could curl up with a book in comfort and the bedrooms look like hotel rooms. Try to mimic what you see.
8. Take a couple days to enjoy your updates. We had our house ready a week before we listed it. It was nice to walk around and notice how fresh everything is.
On the Market
Now your house is being listed. If your realtor doesn't have a professional photographer, find one to take pictures of your home. We used my friend Paul, (www.pbomers.com) and he made my house look editorial.
I am a firm believer that pictures are what gets the traffic, traffic is what produces leads, leads are what gets you offers, and well, the rest is history. If you have grainy pictures or if your pictures do not show your house on its best day, then people will skip past your home and go see others.
We had 14 showings in the first 17 days. We had an offer after 9 days. (It was a joke, but still an offer.) It was HECTIC. Trying to get the kids from school, get the dog, get the lights turned on, making sure everything was in its place. Sometimes, I would have 15 minutes to get the house ready. So, these are some of the tricks I discovered.
1. Every night before bed, make sure everything is picked up. You can still live in your house, just go to bed with it ready for showing the next day.
2. Sweep and mop high traffic areas every other day. Whether you have a showing scheduled or not, it makes it a lot more buyer friendly to have the house ready at a moment's notice. I used a wash cloth on a swiffer mop and Murphy's Oil spray and Mop. It gives the floors such a high end shine and the house smells so clean for hours afterwards.
3. Get the dog out of the house BEFORE you wipe down windows. Send the kids, dog, and whatever else you need to take with you out of the house and do a final spray and wipe of the entry floor, windows, and bathroom mirror before walking out. This ensures no nose prints, dirt nor water marks will be left behind after you leave.
4. Bribe your children. I gave the kids $1 per week (they are 5 & 7) to keep their rooms clean. I also promised to make their beds and put their laundry away if they took care of their dirty clothes and toys each night.
5. Pack your trunk with favorites. I carried sidewalk chalk, a football, baseball gloves and a ball, snacks and chain for the dog so we could go somewhere close and just chill out for an hour. This keeps you from having to think of 'where can we go with the dog' and makes it a little easier to get out of the house quickly.
6. Take the easy way out. Buy the wipes in the can for dusting and counters. Yes, its more expensive and not as good for the environment, but your schedule will thank you for being able to get it done quickly without extra laundry.
To keep from going nuts remember this: spontanious showings often result in spontanious offers. If someone wants to see your house NOW...they might need to make an offer NOW as well.
You Have An Offer
Its okay to be scared. This is a huge step. If you haven't seen the offer yet, most likely its not what you were hoping for. Its okay. It never is. 98% of the time, the offer will not make you smile. Our first offer, I wanted to punch the person in the throat. Here's how to get through it:
1. Have a bottom line in mind. After all is said and done, what do you absolutely have to walk away with? Do you just need the morgage covered? Do you need a certain amount for a down payment on the next place? If it isn't what you were hoping for, can you adjust the amount you need for the next house?
2. It's okay to say no. This is your decision. Don't let anyone pressure you to accept an offer you are not completely at peace with.
3. After you counter-offer, keep your house in showing condition. Not only will it be easier to pack up, but there are added benefits. If their financing falls through or they back out, you can continue to show the home for back-up offers. When the inspector comes through and they see a clean home, they won't be as critical in their review.
4. If you continue to get low offers, be objective...is your house listed competitively or a little high? Do you have to move now or can you let it sit a little longer to pay off more of your mortgage or to let your equity build?
Just remember to breathe through the process. It can be stressful, or you can roll with the showings and enjoy the feedback.
Its good to be able to laugh as well. Our house does not have a garage. The running comments on showings were 'Love the house - but we don't want it because there is no garage.' Pretty obvious when you look at the pictures. We could handle it a couple different ways. Get mad and be mean or laugh and joke about 'Hey - did you know we don't have a garage?'
We decided to be light-hearted. Good luck and hope this helps! Feel free to comment on any tips you have for prepping for sale and moving! (Now that it's sold...we need the moving tips!)