How to Sell a House in 10 Days
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The title of this post is a little misleading… we did sell our house in 10 days, but it took 2 months to get it ready to sell.
Selling a house and moving is hard, stressful, and downright physically painful. I know first-hand since I just completed the whole process. The mental mind game and physical endurance needed to move the contents of a home (we did it ourselves), plus all the planning and contract negotiations to sell and buy another home far away will completely take over your life. (I cannot thank you enough for bearing with me over the last few months as I know my blog posts were a little scarce and I relied on more sponsored posts than I normally use to get me through.)
Planning ahead is the key to make the selling, moving, and buying process as stress-free as possible. It will also help you stay sane in the long run.
Ed and I decided to move back in July of 2015. From that moment, we went full-speed ahead into the moving process from getting our home ready and staged to sell, packing, and finding a new home and relocating 11 hours away to another state. It took us exactly 5 months from the day we decided to move to the day we made settlement on our lake house.
If you are considering moving or are just starting the process, roll up your sleeves, hang on tight, stay organized and you will get through it.
Many of you have asked me for the specifics on everything Ed and I did to sell and move, from how we disconnected from our home of 22 years to how we parted with so many items to how we found our new house. Instead of writing a generic “how to sell a house” post I am going to answer all the question I have received on how we sold ours in two FAQ style posts
I touched on what we did early on in the moving process here and here, and have assimilated the answers to the most FAQ’s I received about the selling and moving process below.
HOW TO GET A HOME READY AND STAGED TO SELL
We did almost everything ourselves since we were on a very tight budget. If we had to hire a contractor, we got a few estimates to make sure we were getting a fair price. We used PODS to store and move the contents of our house. That consumed most of our budget, but was far less than hiring a moving company to do it all for us. A moving company would have made the process easier, but since we moved out of state and needed temporary storage, we relied on DIY’ing as much as possible.
I kept organized by having three folders. I kept these on the kitchen table so all paperwork and contracts were all in one readily available spot. One folder was for the house we were selling, the second for the house we were buying, and the third, for all of our daily paperwork and mail that doesn’t stop just because you decide to move. I also needed to clear my schedule to focus on all that needed to get done. I had to say no to many commitments so I would not get too overwhelmed.
How did you disconnect from your house, with all that you did to personalize it and all the memories you created while living there?
One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. We got rid of a lot and what we didn’t need to stage the house went into a POD that was in our driveway. This included family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes.
I loved the house we sold; after all, we lived in it for 22 years. It was the best house for raising our daughters. We made many fond memories, but Ed and I were both ready to move. In fact, I have been preparing for a few years and started the de-cluttering process by cleaning out the attic and basement a few years ago. Our daughters are grown and live in different states. Our parents have sadly passed away. It was time to start a new chapter in our lives and why not live our dream now and not wait until retirement when we may be too old. (This was a tip from my parents.)
I was also ready since there was not much else I wanted to do to the house. I was ready for a fresh slate to put my style into. We may not have downsized in house size, but we sure have downsized in the stuff we have and need to live happily and contentedly. We still are purging (more on this soon )
Did you use a Real Estate agent?
Yes. She was the best and took care of all the paperwork and more while guiding us through the many hurdles of selling a house. Find a real estate agent who knows your area and market well. They are worth it if you want to sell quickly.
Make sure you have an agent who is totally informed and embraces technology so contracts and papers can all be signed right on your computer and sent via Docu-Sign. No more scans, faxes, and copies to make. The agent must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood.
With the popularity of HGTV shows, buyers now expect “homes for sale” to be perfect. Twenty years ago, all you needed to do to sell a house was declutter and fix any major problems or simply sell “as-is”. Home selling has become a lot more complex than it used to be. New seller disclosure statements, longer and more complex forms and agreements to sign, plus many environmental concerns have all emerged in the past decade. A good agent will help you navigate through it.
How long did it take you to sell your house?
10 days. If you want to sell quickly (we did), you have to look at your competition. If your home is better than anything on the market when you list it, you will probably sell fast and get your asking price. If there are other homes with better features, location, etc. than yours in the same price range, then if you want to sell quickly you need to put some money into your home to make it shine and knock the competition out of the running. We needed to upgrade a few features to make our house look similar to the competition.
How did you deal with having to leave your house every time there was a showing?
We planned ahead for this since we knew that having to have our house “show-ready” at all times while we were living in it was going to be the hardest part of the entire moving process. This is even more true if you have children and pets.
The day our realtor put the “For Sale” sale sign on our front yard, we left on a week long house hunting trip so we would not have to be around for any of the showings. We didn’t have to deal with any of it. We trusted our agent and knew she would take care of everything if something went wrong.
If you do have to stay in your house while it is being shown it can be a little inconvenient, but making sure there are no dishes in the sink and keeping the bathrooms sparkling will get your house sold. We sadly no longer had any pets, but this made the showing process much easier for us, too.
How much did you spend to get your house ready to sell?
I used to have a real estate staging business where I helped homeowners get their homes ready for the market. I knew that the decision of how much to spend to prepare for the sale was directly tied to how quickly we wanted to sell our house.
Of course, every homeowner wants to sell quickly and for their listing price, but every real estate market and area of the country is different. You can’t control the market in your area, but you can make your house shine so that it looks better than anything else comparable in the market.
My advice is to go online to real estate listing sites like Zillow and look for homes with the same or similar square footage to yours that are already for sale in your area. What many home sellers forget when pricing their house to sell is that most buyers are going to need a mortgage. If you find a cash buyer, that is the best news you can hear since a mortgage company will not have to be involved but you can’t count on that outcome.
When the buyer needs a mortgage, they will only be approved after an appraiser from the buyer’s mortgage company examines the house to see if the agreed-upon sale price is justified. They base their number on many things, but mostly the number they come up with is all about the square footage of the heated areas of the home and the quality of the kitchen and baths. They don’t care that the house is on a great street or is in the best school district. If a buyer is going to get a mortgage, keep in mind that your selling price is going to have to be approved a second time in the process by the buyer’s mortgage company. Which brings me back to the original question… how much did we spend?
This is only a question you and your real estate agent can decide on. You know your budget, the agent knows the market and should guide you accordingly. There is no right or wrong answer, only what feels best for you.
We decided we wanted to sell as quickly as possible and put about $10,000 into the house to make it meet the competition. New carpet, paint, foyer light, master bath shower, sink faucets, chimney inspected and cleaned, re-stained deck, and had needed pool repairs completed. The biggest expense was adding new kitchen counters. I learned early on that you are not actually selling a house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is to make sure it looks good.
It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated.
The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style.
The one big selling feature in our favor was location, location, location. The street we lived on is highly sought-after. Every house in the past few years has sold in days. I feel this was one of the big reasons our house sold quickly.
The other plus in our favor was that the interior color of our house was neutral in every room. After all our furnishings were out, the house was move in ready no matter what the new buyers colors are.
Quick fixes before selling always pay off. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do decorative updates that will pay off.
Can you tell me what steps you took to stage your house?
Everyone knows that when you sell a house you have to declutter and make it shine. This is easier said than done. The process can be hard since it takes time and involves lots of emotional decisions about your furnishings and belongings.
We rented a dumpster for 10 days to get rid of stuff that we no longer wanted and that the thrift stores would not accept.
Here is how we handled the process:
Look at everything you own with fresh eyes. Ask yourself, Why am I holding onto this?
We asked family members and friends if they wanted anything we no longer were going to keep. After that we donated what the thrift store would accept. We gave everything away that we could, the rest went into the dumpster.
We tried to sell a few things on Craig’s List, but I found the experience disappointing. The people who called or emailed told me they would be by the next day to purchase and then they never showed up. Too much hassle, I found it more rewarding to give away or donate everything we no longer wanted, plus the amount we donated could be used as a tax deduction.
- If the item is something you love, but has no room or function in your life any longer, take a photo of it and place it in a scrap book. We did this for many things, with cell phone cameras, the process was easy for us.
- If we had not used it in a few years, out it went.
- If it was broken and waiting to be repaired, out it went.
- If it was outdated, like old cell phone chargers and electronics, out it went. (Best Buy will take most of your old electronics from TV’s to computer monitors.)
- If an item was usable, but we no longer needed it, we donated it two local thrift stores. All we needed to do was call for a pick-up date. They came and hauled it all away. All the craft supplies, paints, and decorative items I no longer wanted I took to my local ReStore. They accept full gallons and quarts of paint and all types of building supplies. I had many.
- Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.
- We also cleaned up the exterior of the house and removed overgrown shrubs and trees.
- Make the entrance grand, declutter, rearrange or move furniture. A fresh coat of neutral color paint on the walls will make a huge difference.
- Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout around sinks and tubs.
- We had a few rooms repainted, new carpet for the second floor, a new shower installed for the master bath and updated the kitchen counters.
Couldn’t You Have Sold your House Without Doing Any of This?
Yes, we could have sold the house just as it was, but the offers would have been much lower than the $10,000 we put into it. We wanted to sell as soon as possible for as close to our list price as possible and knew the first few weeks that a house is on the market are crucial to getting the best price.
We didn’t want it to linger on the market, so we invested in it and it paid off as we sold it quickly for only a little less than our asking price.
We still had a lot of furniture and with all my supplies and the contents of my studioffice requiring dismantling, we needed a place to store the excess stuff that we were keeping.
Using PODS to move was the best decision we made early on in the moving process. We arranged for 3, but ended up needing 4 to hold the contents of what we still wanted to take to our new house.
One POD came at a time and was placed in our driveway, once it was filled, it was taken away to their storage facility and then an empty one was brought back to replace it.
Having one nice, neat, and tidy PODS in the driveway provided a place to hold our stuff while the house was being shown and was not a deterrent for buyers. More of a sign that advertised the house was for sale.
It was quite fascinating to watch how they can pick up and place the POD just about anywhere you need it. Whoever invented the mechanics of the lift system is a genius!
I don’t have a budget to prepare my home to sell and it needs updating, what should I do?
If the budget to get your house ready to sell is small or non-existent, you can still make it shine. No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression so even if you don’t have the time and budget to put into preparing your house, it doesn’t cost much to spruce up your home’s exterior to “up the curb appeal”.
- Add a few pots of pretty flowers. Shine up the house numbers, clear out the cobwebs and wash the windows. Doing this will make your home look more appealing.
- After cleaning up the outside, try to carve out a little time to hide all the clutter inside your home. Declutter every room, closet, and cabinet. Donate or sell what you no longer need. Place items in big garbage bags and put in your car so on your way home from work or your lunch break you can drop it off.
- Don’t place excess stuff in closets since buyers want to see that the house has plenty of storage space. Instead place it under beds, in the drawers of dressers and other furniture (Buyers won’t typically look in these places) You can also create one area in a basement or garage to stack boxes neatly.
- Create more light. After location, location, location… good light is the next thing that every buyer is looking for. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you can do without having to hire a contractor to make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.
- Make sure every room and surface is clean. Having easy-to-use cleaning tools at hand will make it 1.2.3.. to keeping your house clean especially when you have to quickly get it ready for a showing. I kept Swiffer mops in the pantry closet so that the Realtor could quickly clean the floors after the “open-house” was over. If we were home, I would have been the one doing this.
Whewww!!! I know that was a lot, but I wanted to make sure I got every question answered as best I could without writing a book.
I am soooo happy to be on the other side of our move, happily content and getting my life and blog back to my norm.
Even with all the stress, work, and lists to check-off, I would do it all again in a heartbeat so I could get to a place I have dreamed of living all my life…living in a house with a water view. :-)
If you still have questions, please leave them for me in the comments and I will try to answer them in my next post. :-)
Hey! found this blog while searching for interesting articles. thank you for this post.
Thank you for this post.They are given helpful and valuable information for selling house fast in few days .Selling a house and moving is hard, stressful, and downright physically painful. I know first-hand since I just completed the whole process. i agree with your post .i hope that users will follow your tips.i will sharing your post to other persons.
My wife and I have been thinking about putting our home for sale in Tennessee because we need to move to Georgia for work. Thank you for the advice on how we can get the house to sell quickly. I really liked the advice to make sure that our kitchen looks modern, I will make sure to update our kitchen.
I’ve been struggling to sell my home so I will have to follow some of the steps you outlined here. I’ll see about comparing my home to ones around me so that way I can get an idea of what I should price it at. As you mentioned, there are places online that I can do this so I’ll have to take some time and do that.
Great blog!!! I really enjoy reading this blog. Thanks for sharing this informative blog.
This post has so much useful information for those of us planning to sell and downsize. I’m using this article to guide my planning process and to-do lists. I noticed that I commented on this post 2 years ago, saying I wasn’t planning to sell but I would keep this helpful information in mind. Well, it’s two years later and now we are planning to sell and I had forgotten about this post! Thanks so much for all the helpful guidelines, there are many things I haven’t thought about.
I agree staging will not only help in selling your house fast but also help to boost the final price of your house. Great blog by the way and thanks for sharing!
Selling a new home seem like it could be a difficult thing to do. I liked that you pointed out that you need to make the home look better than the competition. That is a good thing to know if you want to sell a home quickly in an area with a lot of houses for sale.
Great article! I’m in the whole “sell your house fast” industry and pricing have been my saving grace for getting rid of my properties quickly, as well as cleaning up the landscaping. I may need to look more into home staging for some of those tougher properties. All in all, a great article that gave me a few new ideas! Thanks
You did indeed make your entrance look grand. I can do that! But it did make other issues with curb appeal apparent. Thanks so muck.
Hi Diane, just found your post, and I’m so glad I did. My husband and I are getting our house ready to go on the market and everything you said is exactly what he and I have discussed . We are in the process of remodeling our deck( it was either that, or ask for a reduction of the purchase price–it was in terrible shape after 20 years), and repairing the siding on the exterior of our house. Painting comes next. We know we need to de-clutter and have started that also. De-personalizing will be tough. Your tips about using PODS are extremely helpful. Thanks for all the advice. I hope our house sells as quickly as yours.
Hi Anne –
Moving is so much work and at times crazy stressful, but know that your efforts will be rewarded. Soon it will all be behind you and you will be settled in a new home. That is what I kept in the back of my mind to get me through it all. I hope your house sells quickly. :-)
I remember feeling overwhelmed when planning a move after 25 years on a small farm and raising 4 children there. A good bit of the house needed to be freshly painted and many boxes of comic books and Happy Meal toys had to be cleared from the attic? The barn also needed cleaning out of animal supplies and people overflow. I got into the habit of getting up much earlier than usual and working until I “pooped” out sometime late in the evening. I never turned down someone’s offer to help including my children’s friends who came over several times to help paint or pack or do other projects. I kept a running list in an old stenographer’s notebook and checked items off as they got done. Prayer was part of the solution in keeping me sane. It took about 3 1/2 months to update, pack and move; another 6 months to sell. It seemed like a long wait for the sale but, in retrospect, maybe with a place a ways from “civilization” at the beginning of the recession, with only a handful of viewings, we were fortunate to sell as soon as we did. Finding and setting up my new house was rewarding though. Have fun with yours!
Thanks for sharing so many wonderful tips, Diane. It made me think about what needs to be done here, and just the thought is scary as I’ve accumulated so much in 36 years. Yikes! But you broke it down so well, I think with enough time, we’d be good when the time does come, and who knows, maybe we’d end up south near you. Kristina now is in NC, so it’s possible. I look forward to hearing more of the work your doing inside your new home.
Hi Helen – If you start now, you will be way ahead of the game when you decide to move. You should open your own store with all the nice things you have bought over the years. That is one way to get it out of your house. :-) It would be nice to see you move south. Where in NC is Kristina now?
We are new Empty Nesters…..after years of helping friends/family move, I realized that the more “stuff” you keep, the harder it is to 1) move yourself or 2) have your children move you when you become frail. My decision was that I didn’t want my kids to have that to do, so began a huge purge. It has taken a few months, but I have the luxury of time. Small items were the easiest to get rid of, furniture….much harder. I was the person who never said no when someone said “would you like this___________”….into the basement it would go, just in case someone needed it. Had to stop being the keeper of random furniture. I love the basement now…..it’s not fancy by any means and is still “basementy” rather than a place to entertain…..but seeing my handiwork has really made a difference in my mental well being.
We have no plans to move, but both kids live in different states, so we can’t say never….and I’ll be more ready should the thought cross my mind.
Hi Trudy – Doesn’t it feel WONDERERUL to get clutter-free? I love your term…”keeper of random furniture. That described me, too. :-) The whole purging and moving process has enlightened me. I find a new contentment and it feels fantastic! I am still purging and will post more about that next Wednesday.
Diane, I am a realtor who most recently sold my close friend’s home for her. I was so pleased because she listened and did every.single.thing asked of her. Because her home was somewhat unique in the neighborhood, I had her get an appraisal before I listed the home. My strategy paid off as the appraisal was $20,000 higher than expected and the offer was what the home appraised for. We sold her home in 2 days! I advised her, because of her busy schedule to have the home professionally cleaned, which she did, baseboards, nooks and crannies. It looked amazing. I helped her declutter, rearrange and stage with minimalistic in mind. She also used pods which held a lot of her “junk” so the home looked move in ready. She had minor repair issues that were corrected. The important idea is she listened, acted and trusted that I knew what buyers are looking for. Thanks for the information as I don’t think sellers know how important first impressions are. I have taken clients to homes where buyers said “no way” before even stopping because of the condition of the home from the street. Thanks Diane. I hope you are happy in your new home and can’t wait to see more renovations.
I enjoy reading your blog and will look forward to seeing what you do with your new house. The location looks beautiful. These tips may come in handy for us one day when we decide to move.
Great post. We are considering a move and your tips were excellent. Are you planning to continue your blog when you move?
Hi Jill – I have already moved:-) We moved in the first week of December. I will be blogging all about it. Lots of projects to take on and share. I posted about the house in my last few posts. I did one on the exterior of the house and another one on the interior, plus one on painting the master bedroom. Next week I will share what I have done so far in setting up my studioffice. I took it on first since I need a place to work in an organized fashion once again.
Amazing job! So happy you sold so fast. Did you end up in NC?
Thanks Suzie – After looking at many states and areas, we ended up loving and buying a house on Lake Murray in South Carolina. :-)
Diane!!! That was amazing! Everything was spot on! And so helpful for those who plan to see
Their homes! We are still waiting to close on our home. We are living in my daughters shore home so we are fortunate to have a beautifule home to live in until our new home is done in March!
I love seeing your Lakehouse! I know how you feel! I love my Lakehouse too! Enjoy
Hi Nancy – Sounds like you are almost there. You must be so excited! I hope your closing goes well and your new home is ready to go in March. Then the fun part really begins… getting to live your dream. XO
It’s amazing how much you accomplished in such a short period of time. We don’t plan to sell our house, but who knows what the future may bring. If we sell I’ll be coming back to your article to read it again!
Thanks Linda – I think we were determined to get everything done. Having the vision of living on the water helped keep us focused on getting things done.
What a great post! Full of so much information. Thanks Diane for taking the time to write this.
Gilmer Gal has a great point–you can spend thousands of dollars updating the house, but most buyers START online, and if the online photos are bad, the traffic into your house won’t be nearly as heavy, which means fewer offers (or worse–none). I’ve seen photos of a million dollar home taken by a blurry cell phone camera. Seriously? Well taken photos before you sell also provide a wonderful memory of the house later on. If the agent or seller can’t take good photos, find someone who can. And remember, photograph the house, not the “stuff”.
This is what happened with my parents’ new house. Dad sent my the link to what they were interested in buying, and I was thinking ‘WHAT?!?!’ – when I saw it in the flesh it was amazing. The online photos did a total disservice to it. If I were the sellers I would have been really angry with that level of service from the real estate agent.
Hi Penley – You bring up a good point. A good agent hires a pro photographer as part of their service. It is a good thing for sellers to remember to ask for this when they are shopping for a Realtor.
Hi Kathleen – I agree that so many homes listing photos are awful. The lake house we bought had an awful exterior online photo. One that was so bad we almost passed up looking at it. Probably taken with a cell phone camera, when a wide angle lens would have shown the house at its best.
Great post! We are thinking of selling our home of 11 years within the next two years to downsize when our oldest goes away to college. When we prepared our last home for sale, we had only one child and much less “stuff”. Because of this post, I was inspired to make a quick list, just off the top of my head, of every thing I know we need to address before listing our home for sale. Of course, once I started writing everything down, it was much more than I thought, but I know we can get it done. Thanks for making me think!
Hi Pat – You are so smart looking at what needs to be done now. Having the time to take on one repair or project at a time will make the process not seem so daunting. It was hard at first getting rid of items, but now that we have, it feels great to get clutter-free. One of the hardest aspects of moving was telling our daughters that we could no longer be the caretakers of all their stuff that they were storing at our house. Taking photos of the stuff that they didn’t need but were attached to and putting the photos in a scrapbook was the answer for them. When it is time to list your house, you will be ahead of the game and ready.
What a great post! Full of so much information. Sharing with my sister, who has just started the process. I hope her time is as short and as successful as your 5 months.
Hi again Peggy – Thanks for sharing my post with your sister. I hope she sells has fast home selling success. :-)
Super advice – so helpful! I don’t plan on selling our home any time soon, but I want to think like it’s going up for sale when we do renovations and repairs so that it will be ready when the time comes!
Hi Heather Anne – Getting a jump start will help you so much when you make the decision to move. Purging un-needed things and keeping ahead of repairs is a good thing anytime :-)
As a retired Realtor, reading this was a joy. Sometimes sellers just ‘don’t get it’ that a buyer may not be able to look beyond the clutter, obvious repairs, and outdated fixtures. It takes some work, but in the end the money talks. It makes me cringe when I see FSBO’s photos on the internet and there is a sink full of dirty dishes and toys scattered all over. Agents, too, make this mistake (once saw a photo of a construction guy coming out of a Port o Potty), and it makes me crazy! I sincerely hope this helps some sellers.
Hi Tracy – When I staged homes I was aghast at some of the homes I was hired by a Realtor to help get ready for listing. Two that I will never forge…one was a large classic home with double pocket doors that opened into a vaulted ceiling dining room. Instead of finding a dining room in the space, the room was turned into a large birdcage with all sorts of birds flying freely around. The floor was sealed with plastic. It was hard telling them they would have to remove all the birds and make the dining room a dining room again. The other was a woman who lived by herself in an amazingly beautiful house on a sought after street. Problem was she had cats…lots of them and they each had their own bedroom. Cat food bowls of food and litter boxes were all over the house. It smelled just awful. She refused to find a place for the cats while the house was on the market. The house never sold, but it was a beautiful home. Homeowners have to realize that they need to take their life out of the house to help get it sold.
Thanks Diane for taking the time to write this. We have plans to sell a condo, that my son has been living in. And, this has been helpful as to what we will be doing, and not doing, to get it ready to put on the market! ;)