I know it’s been a while…homeschool with three kids and a baby is taking a LOT more of my attention these days. But I’m finally ready to share with you the part of this series I get most excited about: GO TIME. I feel like selling the homes we’ve lived in and loved well is usually that payday moment that says everything we’ve done so far has been well worth it. Sure, I get emotional…(I’ve sold the homes where two of my three sons were born), but I can definitely say that making a little $$$ off the sale goes a long way to balm the heartache of closing those chapters. At this point, I’ve sold 4 homes in the last 5 years and each time I’ve had a baby and toddlers at home. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s definitely do-able if you’re organized and willing to put a little time and elbow grease into it to maximize your profits.
So what are my musts before getting that sign posted out in the front yard? They ultimately all add up to offering a clean, neat, and clutter-free presentation that makes your potential buyers say “ohmygosh I HAVE to have this house!”
Step 1: CLEAN HOUSE. Okay I know that’s probably a no-brainer, but I don’t mean vacuuming and washing countertops. I mean get your house sparkling top to bottom. And really, my strategy is just that: clean room by room from top to bottom.
- Start by looking up: I use a swiffer on an extension pole and sweep ceilings, air vents, ceiling fans, light fixtures and any crown molding.
- Next look down: take a magic eraser or washcloth with hot water and vinegar to your baseboards. Rent a steam cleaner for your carpets, and steam mop tricky spots like around toilets and in kitchen corners. These brushes are my absolute fave for cleaning hard-to-reach areas without damaging surfaces or messing up paint.
- Finally look in the middle: using a washcloth and hot water and vinegar or mild dish detergent, wash fingerprints off walls and door jambs, shine up doorknobs with a magic eraser, wipe down lightswitch plates, and be sure to wipe down windowsills and trim.
Step 2: FRESHEN UP. A coat of paint is the least expensive and fastest way to completely renew the look of your home. To get the most of your home sale, choose light, neutral colors that maximize the natural light in your home. Even if you love that red dining room or that deep purple in your daughter’s bedroom, a little light goes a long way in getting buyers to see the potential in your house.
- Don’t overspend: Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams are fabulous paints for the home you’re about to live in. But if you’re just painting before a sale, buy the Home Depot or Lowe’s Behr or Valspar versions- and buy the 5 gallon bucket and do every room the same color- you’re not curating a masterpiece, you’re just refreshing and neutralizing the palette. (My favorites are Behr Urban Raincoat and Behr Toasted Gray)
- Do prep ahead of time: nothing will hurt that sweat equity like paint all over your carpet or trim. Spend the extra time taping off trim and putting down drop cloths. Use good trim brushes and take your time so you’re not doing double work.
- Ceiling and trim paint are must-haves: fresh, bright white trim and clean ceilings go a long way in making your house look clean and bright. You could skip these if yours are in good shape- I usually just need to touch up a few spots (usually in bathrooms and the kitchen).
Step 3: NEATEN UP. Clutter makes your house look smaller. As a book hoarder, I have to have a special spot where books go to hide before showings of our home at sale time. Same goes for tons of family pictures on every tabletop and the plethora of toy baskets and kids’ artwork on display. I don’t mean your home should look like a sterile environment, but you definitely want to give people room to imagine their own things in your space vs. indulging their curiosity about your family and your interests.
- Go ahead and use this as a chance to toss or donate excess room by room- it will save you the work in the move anyway.
- Have a few individual spots assigned for things you’ll put away before showings, so you can easily put things away and get them back out after showings.
- Don’t be afraid to go ahead and pack away things you don’t regularly use ahead of your move- this should also free up space so you can store the things that are out on your surfaces too- bonus!
Step 4: WORK OUTSIDE. Don’t re-landscape your whole yard. Just keep it neat and make the front of your house look welcoming and happy. First impressions really are everything.
- Get your house and driveway/sidewalk power washed. We rent one from Home Depot and wash the garage out too. Don’t let your realtor or photographer take pictures of your house before this is done- learned that one the hard way. 🙂
- Keep your grass cut and your beds neat- we always buy a couple bags of mulch and just spruce up the beds in the front yard. The backyard just gets a fresh cut, and we place a few cheap potted plants from a local nursery at the front and back doors.
- Check your front door and your mailbox- a fresh (not dusty) wreath, shiny house numbers, and a clean front door and doormat will make a great statement. Clean paint on the front door makes a big difference too- and a small can won’t set you back more than $20.
Step 5: TAKE A DEEP BREATH. It takes a lot of effort to get a house on the market. Cleaning, painting, and getting your house and yard in shape are all things that will also help you get ready for moving on to your next chapter, so everything that helps you sell your home also pays off down the road. Here are the ways I keep my sanity with a house full of homeschooled-kiddos while our house is on the market:
- Tackle one room at a time. In the biggest house I’ve had, I still had less than 15 rooms. That means even with taking one day off per week for the sabbath, I needed just over two weeks to get the whole house organized and clean and neat if I did one room per day (and seriously, half baths and some bedrooms/spaces could be done 2-3 per day). Write out your plan and be realistic about how much time you can really devote to cleaning/organizing/painting per day.
- Ask for help: I’m always up for going to a friend’s house for a cleaning day before a move, and I’m amazed by how many times friends have been willing to come help me. Just ask. Playing fun tunes, having good snacks and a few beverages goes a long way in creating a great environment to knock out pre-sale chores.
- Have a plan for showings: I always tell my agent specific days and times for showings, so that we’re never trying to rush out of the house during nap times or the witching hour. When it comes time for a showing, we just toss our toys to an assigned spot, turn on all the lights, and head to the park or our favorite donut shop.
Selling a home and moving are so stressful. Of course there’s a lot more to selling your house than getting it ready- you’ll need to be prepared to tackle what comes out in your inspection (and I highly recommend a pre-inspection if you’re not sure how your house will do on one), you’ll want to have a reasonable price that allows you to reach a lot of buyers and still maximizes your profits, and you’ll want to know what other homes in your area are selling for and how long they’ve been on the market. But those are all things you’ll cover with your real estate agent. My focus in selling our homes is always to make sure we have the most presentable home possible, and that when people tour our home, they’ll leave wishing they could move in the next day. I don’t want to make the cover of any design magazine, but I do want my home to look like it could be anyone’s home, so that anyone who tours it will want to make us an offer. And you know what? For the most part, it works. So if you’re getting ready to sell, clean it up, freshen it up, neaten it up, and shine up the outsides. Then sit back and let it sell. The real work is in moving and getting settled anyway 🙂