Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Selling your home can be a daunting experience. Emotions run high, stress levels increase, and seemingly unyielding [albeit temporary] demands are placed upon your day-to-day schedule.
The stages of sale move at varying speeds ranging from whirlwind activity to pregnant pauses in forward momentum only to pick up the pace once again. While this can be exhausting, you can minimize the impact that selling a home has on your life.
Declutter and Depersonalize
Rather than arbitrarily listing your home, plan for the sale. The end goal of listing your house is handing over the keys to new owners and pursuing the next revolution in your life. Or, as it is more commonly known, moving.
Start looking around for things that you can pack away and think about where these packed items are to be collected; the garage or a storage unit? Also, begin mentally cataloging the things that can be donated or otherwise disposed of in your home. Be sure to consider larger household items like vehicles, furnishings, and appliances in this brainstorming session.
The reason for this is two-fold.
First, the less of your stuff occupying the space (such as family photos or favorite artworks, sentimental knick-knacks, or large furnishings) the better new homeowners can envision their belongings in the house. Not to mention easing the transition of moving as a whole.
Secondly, you are depersonalizing the sale process. You begin to experience a shift in thinking and a lessening of emotional attachment when there are fewer of your things surrounding you. Instead of selling your "home" - you are selling your house in a sound, business-like manner.
Thoroughly Cleaning and Improving Overall Curb Appeal
It doesn't matter if you are a Neat Freak or a Debbie Do Later when it comes to cleaning your home. The level of clean needed for a proper and ultimately advantageous showing of your home is a horse of a different color.
While I strongly advocate that you spring for at least a one-time deep cleaning by a professional, thereby allowing you to focus on less traditional cleaning and maintenance considerations, not everyone's budget will allow for such an expenditure.
Not only do you have the responsibility of ensuring there are no dirty dishes present in the sink or preventing a pile of your clothes from growing in the laundry room - you also have to change the filter in your furnace unit. Remembering to dust down return vents and registers to ensure optimal performance.
Evaluate for potentially detracting exterior issues such as broken toys/play equipment, inoperable mechanicals/vehicles, unsafe/unusable buildings, your roof's condition, full gutters in need of clearing, broken/missing shutters, and similar.
It's also a good idea to wash down all your windows - frames, glass, blinds, curtains, and all - inside and out. Not to mention clearing out cobwebs in less than accessible nooks, crannies, and corners or sweeping dust bunnies out from underneath things that seldom change position in your home.
When it comes to curb appeal no one is saying to rush out to a nursery or home improvement store to buy some potted plants for adding a splash of color and personality to your home's exterior [although, that's a nice touch].
You just have to make sure the yard stays consistently mowed and free of debris. Make sure that any trip hazards or other safety considerations such as failing trees are dealt with.
Evaluate for potentially detracting exterior issues such as broken toys/play equipment, inoperable mechanicals/vehicles, unsafe/unusable buildings, your roof's condition, full gutters in need of clearing, broken/missing shutters, and similar. Resolve such issues or have them removed from the property before listing.
Keep In Mind The Household Extras
Have kids or pets? Just like the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, they leave a trail of bread crumbs behind them.
Instead of sifting and sweeping kitty litter on a day-to-day basis, see if friends or family members would be willing to babysit temporarily. Pick up the dog's toys and excrement out of the yard daily or consider kenneling the animal(s) for a brief period.
Children are slightly harder to contend with when you are marketing your home. Kids are perceptive and they will pick up on, and feed off of, your emotional state. Whether they are old enough to understand or not, they will be surrounded by evidence and events signaling that their lives are fixing to change. Try to keep a positive vibe and a sense of adventure going on.
Simplify meal planning during the sale process. Stick with comfort foods that use basic cooking equipment (so you can pack everything else) and are easy to clean up after. Spaghettis and casseroles are versatile and meal kits like Hamburger Helper are a great help.
Additionally, weather permitting, you can use your outdoor grill more often or make better use of cooking appliances, such as a crockpot, more frequently than your stove. I don't know about you but I think cleaning the oven regularly is a pain in the tookus.
To Repair or Not To Repair?
This is the biggest fly in the ointment. You live in your home and probably have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. But what about the things that can affect the sale that you don't know you need to be aware of?
Consider getting a home inspection before listing your home. Yes, most Buyers will execute one when they put in a serious offer for your home. However, this places the power of negotiation in their hands. Obtaining an inspection gives you the upper hand in the Seller-Buyer relationship.
The catch twenty-two with an inspection is: "Now You Know, You Must Disclose". This is a simple matter of listing any issues discovered in your Seller's Disclosure form and/or attaching a copy of the inspection to the MLS listing.
There are numerous ways to handle repairs and not all of them require you to come out of pocket. If you choose to execute a home inspection you need to ask yourself the tough questions:
🏡 Would you choose a lowered asking price reflective of the repairs needed?
🏡 Will you cherry-pick and actively fix only those items that can affect your appraisal price, market price, or both?
🏡 Would you prefer to have a contractor estimate the cost of repairs for just some or all? Will you offer a credit at closing in that amount?
🏡 Which, if any, repairs would be covered by your Homeowner's Insurance policy? Is the deductible a lesser evil than a net loss on the sale?
🏡 Do you gamble with potential offers by selling the home "As-Is"?
Investigate Your Finances. Interview Agents
This is the part where having a dedicated Real Estate Agent is to your advantage. Most agents have tools and information that you, as a consumer, will likely not have access to when it comes to pricing your home and estimating your net proceeds.
Start shopping for real estate agents. You are looking for compatibility, competence, personality, and reputation. Talk to other people in your personal networking circle. Both the professionals that revolve around the real estate industry as well as the Average Joes in your life. What is their perception of the agents you are window shopping?
Are you looking for a dressed and pressed, no-nonsense kind of agent? Would you get along better with someone less formal but equally as competent? Are you looking for someone who will provide emotional support throughout the process or do you prefer not to be bothered until it's time to sign the dotted line? What you need or want out an agent is strictly up to you.
Once an agent has been selected, stop by their office and open a dialog. Share your thoughts regarding the sale of your home and ask for a Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) and a Seller's Net to be compiled on your behalf.
A good CMA report will show you comparable properties in the same or similar neighborhoods in addition to what they recently sold for on the market. While it is ultimately your decision as to what price you wish to ask for your home, getting a CMA allows you to determine the most realistic number(s) you can expect from selling your house.
A Seller's Net takes that realistic number and subtracts things like the mortgage amount you still owe, debits toward repairs or closing costs, accounts for incidental costs of the sale such as a home warranty policy or Termite inspection, the total commission to be paid out, and other expenditures.
The last line estimates how much money you walk away with at the closing table. This information will help you make a more informed decision about selling your home.
Can you financially afford to obtain a separate mortgage on a new place without the net proceeds from sale? Or, like most of us, will you need to rent or stay with family for a small window of time until the house sells so that you can use your net proceeds towards the down payment of a new mortgage?
Maybe you've already found another house and have placed an offer to purchase pending the sale of your existing house. Will the net amount meet your financial obligations regarding that contingent agreement?
Perhaps selling at this point is not in your best interest and you would benefit more by turning the property into an income-producing investment?
Lastly, will you retain the exclusive services of that agent to sell your home and deal with the headaches or will you choose to attempt a for sale by owner (FSBO)?
Dust off that Homeowner's Insurance policy or reach out to your insurance agent. While it is highly unlikely that anything untoward will occur, accidents happen. As the adage goes: "Better Safe Than Sorry".
Little Johnny and his Mom are with the Realtor. Mom tells Johnny to go outside and play with his baseball while she tours the home with the Realtor. Little Johnny accidentally breaks a window. Or, a sweet little old lady with osteoporosis or brittle bone disease is walking up to the door. She trips over the one inch step-up to the patio, falls, and breaks a hip.
Again, accidents happen. Review your policy and examine coverage(s) about guests/visitors on your property. Update your policy to include such considerations if there is a lack of coverage. If, for whatever reason, you don't have a Homeowner's Insurance policy? Get one.
Related Article: I've Signed An Exclusive Listing Agreement - Now What?
DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion editorial for informational purposes only. I encourage everyone to embrace the practice of fact checking.