So it’s time to list your house. Sigh. Are you sure you’re ready? The number one reason for divorce is moving. OK, so that’s not exactly true. But the real number one reason for the dreaded D word is money. What’s the biggest investment of your life? Your home. See, one in the same. Read on for our tried and true tips to staying out of Judge Judy’s courtroom during the big move.
Jon and I have sold five (of our own) homes in ten years, moved across the state, the country (with way too much stuff and five dogs in tow), then back again. And let me tell you, it does not get easier the more you do it. But you do get more prepared and that can help minimize stress. Who doesn’t want that? So let’s start with the bottom line and yes we’re talking about money again. Honey Boo Boo had it right, that dollar makes you holler. Literally. We’ll get to moving tips another day, but first, let’s sell your house.
- Price it right. Jon and I are both licensed Real Estate brokers. We’ve practiced in New York and Chicago, worked with hundreds of clients, family and friends, and you’d think that would put us on the same page with pricing it to sell. Not the case, and maybe it isn’t for you and your person either. Jon would give it away and I would make people pay over asking so we have to compromise on finding market value and you do too. That starts with the right Realtor. Not the one that quotes you the highest “list” price. You’re not looking for a yes man. The one that comes to you with a realistic price of what it will actually sell for in the current market. You can look at sites like Realtor.com or Zillow and find comps in your neighborhood to get a good idea of your own price before they walk in the door. Our advice? Price it even lower than your comps by 10%. You may think you’re leaving money on the table but I promise you, you aren’t. You are putting your home at the top of the list. You only get one big splash when you hit the MLS for the first time and you don’t want to fall flat. This is your chance to sell first and for top dollar, perhaps even over asking. Don’t think about listing lower than your comps as losing money. For right now what they’re listed at is a fictitious number. Until you actually have an able, willing and ready buyer and you’re sitting at the closing table handing over the keys – it’s not money in your bank account. I know it’s hard to change your mindset (and the price) but it will pay off ten fold.
- Stage it to sell. The question we get asked most often when selling our own listing is “Who did you hire to stage it?” That’s the question you want too. You don’t want buyers to see how you live, you want them to imagine how they’ll live and they can’t do that with all your stuff. You’ve probably heard you should take down your family photos? True. But to really stage it right, it’s much more than that. I’m not talking about hiring a staging company; you can do it on your own. Start with a real nice Saturday- Old School style and head to Home Depot with your honey & the list. You need moving boxes, packing supplies, tape and the fixings. Jon’s tip: Get the medium boxes only. The same size makes it easy to stack and ensures you don’t pack a box too heavy to lift. Now start with your closets and really pare down. If it’s winter, pack up all summer clothes, shoes, etc. If you’re a mama like me, you’ve accumulated way too many baby clothes & toys that your kid has outgrown and still take up space in his room. Box it up for hand me downs, donate, or just save for that day that you’ve decided to lock yourself in a room with tissues and chocolates and have a good cry at how tiny they used to be. All closets should have extra room – buyers don’t want to see you bursting at the seams, they want to see how organized you are and how much space is left, because “wow hun, I definitely have more shoes than this lady.” The same goes for your kitchen, basement, bathrooms, each nook and cranny. A potential buyer will open every last drawer in your house. I’m not kidding; I’ve seen it first hand. Take everything out, wipe it down and only put back in what is absolutely necessary for you to live there. The cleaner, the more barren, the better.
- Channel the Buyer. Walk every step as if you’re thinking about buying it for yourself. Start outside on the street and work your way in. Take in the curb appeal (are there weeds that need picking, is the front door freshly painted, are the windows gleaming or smudged?) ALL of it matters, I promise you. When you get inside, look at the baseboards – are they clean? Bonus points for fresh high gloss white paint. Is every last mirror, wall art, and surface wiped down? Can you see vacuum lines in the carpet? I know we’re OCD but so are a lot of buyers. Is your oven clean? Not just the grates on the stove, but inside too? I worked with a German buyer once that would open the oven before touring the house. If it wasn’t clean, she had seen all she needed to and was ready to go. To her, that was the test of if the sellers cared for their home. Lastly, have someone come over and do the same. Let them take a tour uninterrupted by you. Be sure it’s someone’s opinion you truly value and someone who won’t be afraid to be brutally honest. You need to know if your dog has been secretly peeing on a corner of the carpet and you’ve become noseblind to it.
Now head out to Costco, buy ALL the fresh flowers and don’t be cheap. You’re putting lipstick on your home. You want to pick the shade that flatters it the most (for our current home it’s blue) and fill the important rooms with them – dining room, living room, end tables in your master and that bathroom that needs an extra pop. Have your own selling tips? Share them with us in the comments below!