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
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?
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. :-)