Yes that's right, we sold our house by ourselfies and are moving on to other adventures! (Stay tuned...) The whole process has been a crazy learning experience, with lots of stress mixed with excitement. So I thought I'd fill you in on some of the things I learned all the way from home prep a couple months ago before listing, all the way through showing our home, and finally getting an offer only 5 days after we listed it :) Here are my tips and tricks, (click on the picture links to find more advice)
#1. Organize the overflow:
If you're scared of opening your closet yourself, it might not go over well with potential buyers... A few months before listing our home I tackled all the nagging organizing projects. Trust me, they were not for the faint of heart. (My closet, top of the fridge, under the bed, craft drawer, and toy box.) You know what yours are. But you won't believe all of the space this clears up for potential buyers to imagine their junk in!
#2. Send the dustbunnies packing:
Break out the cleaning supplies and invite your relative over for a par-tay!
This was another mandatory part of the selling process that I hated every minute of. I don't know what was stuck on the stove, but it was N-A-S-T-Y. We won't even mention the shower... It was so bad that I left it for the day of the first showing. It took 3 hours. I would not recommend that. Just do it all up front no matter how painful, because nothing will kill a potential deal like seeing someone else's soap scum.
#3. Junk half of your stuff, (and then rent a storage unit)
This is a very important one. Get rid of everything that is optional. Take everything off of the surfaces in your house, and only put three things back on. For example, in the kitchen I only left a bowl of fresh fruit, my spice rack, and my knife block. People need to imagine themselves living in your home. So it should look like someone could live there, but that they don't. Have you noticed that model homes have all of the furnishings, and no overflowing garbages?
During this phase I said good-bye to my piles of magazines, adios to that cook book I never used, and toodles to my personalized decor. Get rid of stuff you never use. Donate things that will bless other people's lives more than your own. And get a storage unit for the sentimental things you can't part with. You want to play up the structure of your home, without distracting potential buyers with that tacky knick-knack from Aunt Marge.
#4. Your Home is a Stage:
Play up the 'WOW' factors and diminish the downers
We thought about all of the things that made us fall in love with our home: Original woodwork, wood floors, hutch, red brick exterior, remodeled kitchen and baths, and newly refinished basement. These were the things that we focused our best efforts on.
We got rid of a rug and rearranged furniture to showcase our wood floor. We bought new towels and soap dispensers for the kitchen and bathrooms. We planted pansies in our front flower beds to add curb appeal. We borrowed a couch from my parents home to make our downstairs living room look more functional. We bought fresh fruit and flowers on the day of our showings. These were all small and simple changes that added the final sparkle to our home.
#5. Ditch the Polaroid & Hire a Photographer
Pictures are the single most important part of your listing. No pictures=no showings. Bad pictures=no showings. It really is that simple. So put your money where it matters most. If you don't know how to take pictures that show more than the corner of a room, this is where a photographer comes in handy. They have the equipment and know-how to make every nook and cranny of your home look bigger and more inviting. Seriously, don't skimp on this one. It will pay for itself!
Also, make sure your listing has at least 15 pictures, which would include a picture of each room and the exterior features. Start with your power pictures first - front exterior, kitchen, family room, master bedroom, and bathrooms. Place the awkward stuff (themed kid bedrooms, storage room, etc) at the end.
#6. Romanticize your Listing:
Everyone likes a little appetizer before the main course. Likewise, everyone like a little preview of what to expect from your house in the listing. The time for generic catch phrases, like 'updated kitchen' is over. Instead add detailed phrases like "gorgeous knotty alder cabinetry" and "a custom travertine tile backsplash' to get people drooling.
At the same time, don't go overboard with the cheese. They don't want to know that 'you love kicking your feet back on the deck, while barbecuing steaks and watching the geese fly overhead.' It will translate as trying too hard.
#7: Give 'em your number!
This ended up being a huge thing for us. I listed my phone number and email, with the acknowledgement that they could text me, call me, or email me and I would respond promptly. Guess what the buyers ended up choosing to set up a showing? A text message!
Also, make sure that you check your phone, email, and messages frequently. You never know when the window of opportunity for a showing will be.
#8. Only cookies or freshly baked bread allowed in that oven!
We judge with our noses. That is a definite fact. No garlic, onions, fish or pungent spices should be used in cooking before a showing. Those smells have a way of lingering days afterwards, just ask a pregnant woman ;)
And while air fresheners are wonderful, don't go overboard. Fresh, homey smells will appeal to a larger audience than 'Lavender Fields.' You aren't going to have time to make a batch of fresh rolls or cookies in the madness before showings, so purchase some Pillsbury products and pop them in the oven while you clean. I had several compliments on my home's wonderful smell thanks to the Dough Boy ;)
Also, if the weather is nice, open your windows. A refreshing breeze works wonders.
#9. Add the final sparkle: Shimmering Mirrors, Gleaming Floors, and Sparkling Showers
Make your cleaning list for showings, and power through it. Those toothpaste remnants on the sink might not be a big deal to you, but to a buyer it could signal that there might be bigger problems elsewhere. Buyers definitely judge books by their covers.
To help with this, find cleaning supplies that make your life easier. I invested in Swiffer wet mop refills, furniture polish with Febreze, and high quality shower cleaner. This is not the time to try out homemade remedies. Go with the trusted brands, unless you want to poke out your eyes when the baking soda scrub doesn't remove any of your hard water stains. Learned that the hard way.
#10. Brush your teeth, put on your Sunday clothes, and be tactfully honest!
If you are showing the house yourself, make sure you feel confident by dressing to impress. As you show the home, make sure to keep the personal details to yourself. No one wants to hear about how roomy your bathroom is because it can accomodate two sick children who child barfed in the toilet all night long...
Also, don't take things personally. People might have a different opinion on your purple bathroom than you do and it's okay. They can always repaint.
Finally, be upfront about everything. Our buyers came over for a second time and asked all of the hard questions. Stuff like radon testing (?), lead paint (probably), leakage (when the sprinklers broke and sprayed the foundation), and all the other nit-picky things. We answered them honestly and to the best of our knowledge. They appreciated it and there were no surprises during the inspection to throw a wrench in it.
What tips and tricks have helped you in the Real Estate Market? I'd love to hear about your experiences!