Thanks for joining me again! To continue from my last few posts about moving during COVID, today I wanted to share our experience with getting our house ready to list and some tips that I picked up along the way for staging, photographing, and showing your home. Click to read part 1 of this series, Why We Decided to Move & House-Hunting Experiences, and part 2, 10 House-Hunting Tips, Tricks & Lessons.
My husband and I decided even before we started looking for a house to buy that we would wait until we had moved out completely before listing our house for sale. I know that this isn’t possible for everyone, but we had a few really good reasons and fortunately we were able to make it work. First, I have a lot of intolerances to fragrances and figured that it would be pretty problematic to have lots of strangers (and their scents) wafting through my home or transferring to furniture, fabrics, etc and making me ill afterwards. We also have an indoor cat that we do NOT let outside, and while we could take her with us when we left for each showing she is not a fan of her carrier or the car and we didn’t want to stress her out. We also didn’t want to leave her there because we figured a bunch of strangers or kids possibly going in and out of the house would also stress her out, plus she could escape or accidentally be let out of the house and run away. This filled ME with much anxiety! I also figured that the house would sell quicker if it were entirely empty, as this would allow all of the rooms to look larger and would better help potential buyers view it as their home with their own furniture and layout of choice. It would also be easier to keep it clean in between showings and we wouldn’t have to worry about leaving at the drop of a hat if someone wanted to come by at any given time. This was especially difficult during the middle of lockdown, when there was literally nowhere you could go except just drive around! So it eliminated a lot of potential problems or concerns for us by doing it that way.
11 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready to List on the Market:
1. I recommend hiring a professional for your listing photos, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with cameras or photography in general. My next best option might be to take the photos yourself over having your real estate agent do it. A professional will cost you extra and for sure give you the best-looking results. Doing it yourself won’t save you money as agents don’t charge for this, but you might have a better camera than they do (even the camera on a cell phone will do as those are pretty advanced these days!), plus you’ll be able to get some great shots with the following tips if you’re going to do it yourself. Whatever you choose, BEFORE a professional photographer, you, or your agent takes the listing photos:
2. Consider bringing in a professional cleaning service, or renting carpet cleaners or floor buffers. You could also rent power-washing equipment and do the driveway, walkways, deck, porch or patio and the exterior of your home as well.
3. If you have a lot of crazy wall colors throughout the house, you might want to consider painting them a neutral shade of white, gray, or beige. This won’t be a total turn-off since most people are aware of the fact that rooms can be painted at any point, but if you’re willing to put in the time, effort and expense it definitely couldn’t hurt and neutral palettes are pretty universal. Gray is currently the trend, but to me I think it’s now bordering on overly trendy and people are going to sick of seeing it everywhere soon. I got really REALLY tired of seeing all-gray house after all-gray house when we were searching. Remember all the houses that I shared in the last blog post? Every single one of them was mostly gray! Go with white if you’re repainting – it will always be the most timeless and the most neutral.
4. Give every room of the house a thorough cleaning. Put away all personal care products on surfaces and in the shower, put away office paperwork or homework, toys, stray clothing on furniture, cleaning products, dirty dishes in the sink, food on the kitchen counter, and all other forms of clutter. Don’t forget outside clutter too like toys, equipment, and extra bags of topsoil or pots too. Even if it’s something that you normally put out – hide it. Dust all ceiling fans. Close all toilet lids. Make the beds. Hide all garbage cans, toilet brushes & plungers, brooms, vacuums, or anything else that says “clean, dirty, or unseemly”. If you’re the one taking the listing photos, have someone follow along with you from room to room helping with all of these tasks, even better if it’s someone that doesn’t live in the house. A second pair of eyes really comes in handy with things like this, especially to see all the things that you don’t or won’t just because they’re always there and as such you take them for granted. Putting all of these things away opens up the rooms, makes them appear larger and more spacious, and avoids any possible “ick” factors. It also communicates to people that you love your home and take pride in it and care about it – we saw many homes that were just filthy and it made us wonder exactly what ELSE in the house they weren’t taking care of if they couldn’t be bothered to pick up and clean either for the listing photos or for viewings. One of the grossest/strangest things we saw? One home we went to had a Frisbee on the kitchen counter full of really dirty butter. It was weird and quite the turn-off, haha.
5. Take down all the curtains. Curtains really close off a room, and without them the rooms will appear larger and will be brighter and let in more natural light, and people will be better able to imagine their own décor style, colors and furniture in the space. Don’t forget to clean the windows too!
6. Take the photos from a high angle at a corner of the room, preferably from the entry door and take shots of a few angles of each room. Stand on a chair or stool if you need to. If you’ve already taken down the curtains, open all blinds and main doors. You want to let in as much natural light as possible. Avoid using the overhead lights or lamps in the room as these can be too “warm” and might distort the lighting of the room or make the photos look dingy, but since people walking through the house will turn them all off and on, don’t forget to give light fixtures and lampshades a good dusting too, whether they’re staying with the house or not. DO NOT take your listing photos at dusk or in the evening – you won’t do your home any favors! If you haven’t done this already, you might want to consider switching all light bulbs in your home with LED lights in a natural light or cool tone. LED lights have gotten WAY more affordable and come in a variety of sizes and wattages for your needs. LED lights in the fixtures will also appeal to any future home buyers too. Turn off all ceiling fans as this will create a distracting blur otherwise. After you take the photos you can enhance or brighten them in editing if you know how to do this, but do not go crazy with Photoshop, and do not use a fish eye lens or any filters. Again, the easiest and best option is to hire a pro – your real estate agent should be able to offer some recommendations. You can also consider paying a professional to do a 3D house tour as well.
7. If you are still living in the house and don’t have your new place lined up yet, if it’s possible rent a storage pod or space (or beg a friend or relative who might have some empty space or a garage!) where you can then store about 1/3 to HALF of your belongings – go through all of your closets and empty them to about half of their capacity, making sure that they look neat and tidy and not overly stuffed. Clear out extra furniture, and clear off surfaces in every room to a tidy bare minimum with décor and store that stuff in the pod or move it to your new place if you’re able. The closets will appear much bigger if they’re not stuffed with clothes, toys, gift wrap, blankets, towels, etc, and people will be better able to see the space as theirs and see its full potential if every surface isn’t cluttered with mementos and objects. Do the same with attics, basements, linen closets and kitchen cupboards. If you don’t need it in the time left that you’ll be in the house – store it elsewhere!
8. Take down personal and family photos – again, this helps potential home buyers view the space as their new home and not someone else’s. Sometimes looking at other people’s photos of their children while we were house-hunting made me feel a little creepy! You might also consider taking down religious or personal taste items like crosses, team or sports memorabilia or movie posters. This is more stuff that might distract a potential buyer from picturing them living in the house or seeing it as “theirs”.
9. Go to Target, Wal-Mart or a dollar store and buy a few things to “refresh” and stage the space. For about $100, I purchased some new fluffy white towels, a new shower curtain and a new bath mat for the bathroom, a white porcelain tray to hold extra face masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer, a trendy “welcome home” light-up marquee sign (a cute letter board works too), some over-the-shoe booties since I wanted to keep the carpets clean, a new “Welcome” mat for the front door and a new rug for the door coming in from the garage (find a good basic style here and here), some faux houseplants for inside (click here to view several inexpensive options) and some seasonal mums and pumpkins for outside. It was September, but you can add some seasonal décor for any time of year. I would just recommend staying away from anything for a holiday like Halloween, Christmas or Easter – think more along the lines of seasons.) Fresh cut flowers in a vase or jar are also a nice touch. We also mowed the lawn and freshly mulched the flower beds in the front. NEVER underestimate the power of fresh mulch – it’s a game-changer! There are also companies that you can hire to professionally stage a home. This can be simple or quite elaborate complete with all-new furniture and décor…it’s up to you what option you want to use, but I definitely recommend doing something to stage your home.
10. Our entire house had white trim – I originally thought to give a lot of it a fresh coat of paint but that seemed like a lot of work and a pain in the butt! Then I remembered the power of the Magic Eraser. In much less time and expense I went over the baseboards, doors, and door frames with the Eraser and it looked amazing – it looked like I had gone through and given everything a fresh coat of paint anyway! I highly recommend this if you have white trim, and if you have painted trim definitely test an area first since a lot of those types of sponges can end up removing paint instead of removing dirt or marks. Small paint touch-ups also work wonders.
11. Buy a few large or heavy duty microfiber duster wands and run them along EVERYTHING both inside and outside of your home. Pay particular attention to ceiling corners and trim, corners of built-in shelves, insides of closets, and basement ceilings, pipes, corners, and vents. Use some rags and wipe down the inside and outside of any appliances that are staying with the house, especially refrigerators – nobody wants to buy a fridge with your old sticky jelly stains inside, haha! A Magic Eraser will also come in handy for any white appliances too. Run a rag over your furnace, hot water tank, sump pump cover, or any other similar equipment in the basement. Even if they are 30 years old they will look LOADS better if they’re not covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs. Use one of the dusting wands around the lights, corners, and nooks & crannies of the outside of the house too. This sounds overly meticulous but makes a huge difference in the appearance of your home and yard just for the cobwebs and leaves alone! (This might not be necessary for listing photos, but I definitely recommend doing it before the first day of showings or an open house). Use a leaf blower or broom to clear off patios, porches, and front stoops. Again, staging the outside of your home with a few plants or flowers or small decorations or a new rug or welcome mat will make it look more inviting and “homey”.
All of the above might sound like a lot, but in all honesty probably only took me or both of us a few afternoons or a few days and made SUCH a huge difference in the overall appearance of the house.
We ended up getting an offer on the first day of showings for our house, so I consider any and all effort that we put forth to be worth it for sure, haha!
Did I miss anything? What tips came in handy for you in order to sell your home, or what did you especially look for when you were buying? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned for part 4 in this series, '10 Tips for Home Showings & Open Houses'!
Also, if you're curious to find out more about real estate and the housing market in general (trust me - you do...this will become your new full-time job/obsession, haha), I highly recommend my friend Jamie's podcast, Home Value Stories with Jamie Owen! You can also click here to listen to the episode that I was on titled 'Winning the Bid'.
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