Preparing to Sell Your Home

Many have asked me how I planned for my successful move. They are thinking about trying to sell their home and overwhelmed with where they should start their preparations. I thought I would use this post to share how I prepared our home for its sale.

I believe it takes three things to successfully sell your home: 1) Pricing it appropriately 2) Connecting with the right buyers 3) Presentation of your home. You have the ability to control two of the items listed above: price and the presentation. Price will be determined by market, the urgency you feel to move and through the guidance of your realtor. I’d like to focus on number three: Presentation. Unless you hire a professional staging company to help you, the presentation of your home rests on your shoulders. If you have the time and skill and don’t want invest the money in a professional, you can start the process yourself. Here is the process I used during the prep for our home sale.

To give a little context on our situation, we had lived in our four bedroom, 2 bathroom, home for almost 10 years. Because of all of our hobbies and love of antiques and decorating, we had a lot of collections, furniture and miscellaneous items to stage before listing—we also had some necessary small repairs and updates to freshen the look of the home and yard.

Step One: Making a List
As a family, start a list of all of the things that will need to be fixed, repaired, cleaned, replaced, painted, moved or packed. There are a number of things to think about as you start this step.

  • Where is the clutter?
  • What is broken?
  • When is the last time the furniture, rugs/carpets were cleaned?
  • When is the last time you cleaned all the windows in your home?
  • What is the condition of the blinds or drapes?
  • How easy is it to move around in the rooms?
  • Is there too much furniture or not enough furniture?
  • Are there family photos or other personal items that should be stored?

One activity that helps is to grab a pen and notebook and walk around the inside of your home and write down every item you see that should be improved. Then, take your notebook and do the same thing around the outside of your home.

You must have a critical eye during this process.  I use the expression “blind to the ugly” to describe how after you live in a space for awhile, you stop noticing “ugly” things in your home like cracks on the wall, chairs that need new upholstery, rooms that need to be repainted, scale that has accumulated on faucets, trees that are overgrown or cluttered areas. When you decide to sell your house, you have to start looking at your indoor and outdoor space like a stranger would—find all of the perceived and real faults, no matter how small and make a determination of what you will or will not be improving or changing.

You also need to think about the current trends in home decorating. If you don’t know these, it’s as easy as going to the library and looking at a magazine that has decorating in it. Maybe it’s neutral wall colors, stainless steel appliances or hardwood floors. It doesn’t mean you have to change everything, but this will help you determine how much you want to change, which may ultimately influence the price at which you list your home. If you are planning on asking for the highest price you can for your home, the buyers will expect that everything is updated and move-in ready. These are a few of the ways that you have a critical eye throughout this process.

If you don’t feel that you can objectively look at your home this way, you must have a friend or professional help you with this step. This is essential for creating your list of things you need to ensure the best presentation of your home.

Some of the things that made the list for our house in step one were: painting the outside of house and garage, having the windows and carpets professionally cleaned, replacing the cement floor in the garage, boxing up a couple hundred books and storing them and their bookshelves in the attic, and de-cluttering every closet within the house.

Example list from Reminders App for iPhone/iPad

Step Two: Get Organized
Take your list and sort it. At this point you can designate a notebook to keep your lists, use Excel or some other list application. We used the Reminders App on the iPhone and created multiple shared lists for the family. Start with broad categories like Outdoors and House and then get more specific like Master Bedroom, Family Room, Garage and Garden. Once you have your rooms or areas listed, you can put all of the specific tasks, improvements or projects needing completion.  Make sure your lists of projects are accessible to anyone in the family that will be adding or completing activities from the lists. Encourage everyone involved to add items as they think of them or as they see things walking through the house or outside.

Step Three: Determine Scope
Now that you’ve got your initial lists you will need to decide if you are going to complete all of the items you listed. If there are major improvements that you do not want to complete, then you will take them off the list, but be aware that these may become a negotiating item during the sale of your home. These might include things like: painting indoors or outdoors, landscaping, concrete repairs, plumbing or electrical repairs. If you decide to invest in the completion of these types of items, you need to determine if you have the time and expertise to complete these projects yourself, or if you will be hiring outside help. You should also try and determine how much time you will be able to invest in all of the items needing completion.

Once you have completed the first three steps, you should be able to determine approximately how long it will take you to finish the tasks and be ready to list your house for sale. Now you have a goal for completing all of the work that needs to get done.

Step Four: Contact an Agent
Once you have set your goal, you should connect with a realtor to get advice and/or confirm the work you are planning to complete. If you have any questions about the changes or improvements you plan to make, you should plan to have your realtor visit and view the property with you. We reached out to our realtor, John Lynden of Lynden Realty to share with him our decision to list the house and some of the work we needed to complete before we were ready. He confirmed our plans and timeline.

Step Five: Get To Work
Begin working on the completion of your projects.

If you follow the steps above it will guarantee you are on the right path to successfully preparing your home for sale. Good luck!



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