When talking with real estate agents, you’ll often find that when they speak to you about buying real estate, they refer to buyer’s purchasing a “home” and the sellers putting their “house” on the market. Why the play on words? The reason is psychological. Buying and selling real estate is one of the most involved and emotional situations a person can ever be in. Unless it’s simply for investment purposes, in which case many of these types never even see the homes they buy to fix and flip, it’s all number crunching for profit (if any), and no emotional ties are present.
In any regard, the Realtor tries to remove some of the emotional value and sentimental feelings about the seller’s home when getting it ready to place on the market. It’s tough at times to think you’ve raised your family in that house and had so many celebrations, birthdays, and holidays, and now maybe the kids may have moved on and have families of their own, and you’re experiencing what’s commonly known as the “empty nest syndrome.”
It’s natural to be emotionally connected to that home more than a buyer will be just walking in the door evaluating it for him or herself. Often times people place monetary value on things that are really only sentimental to themselves. This is where the unique task of separation begins. It’s a fine line for the Realtor to walk you though and can be a tricky situation.
If there is something adverse going on during the selling process, for example, a divorce, the game of keeping things on an even keel becomes even more challenging for everyone involved. Emotions run high, and most often people are hurt so they don’t respond as clearly or as level-headed as they might have under “normal” circumstances.
Whenever you are selling, and for whatever the reasons, you need to view your home as a marketable commodity. The goal is to remind yourself that you are making a change and entering into the next chapter of your life. It’s important to show off your home to the next family to make their memories there as desirable as possible. Stand out from the competition, to some degree, pay it forward. Your warm and loving home was built to provide a shelter and a safe environment for many families during its own life-span. It’s not uncommon to hear comments at the closing table from a seller (who is tearing up) explaining the happiness and good things it brought to their family over all those years that they will never forget, just before they pass the torch onto the new owners.
Homeowners who cling to tightly to the past, or have unrealistic views on how much their home is worth because they allow sentimental views to come into the value, are more susceptible to spending a longer time on the market.
With that in mind, the first step in getting your home ready to show to the public is to “de-personalize” it.
Here’s why it’s done:
The reason you want to take this step is because you want potential buyers to see themselves in the home as “their home” and not visiting for a short time in someone else’s. Typically, when buyer’s see a lot of family photos on the walls, trophies, and other very personal items, it creates a mental block for them and it becomes harder to see beyond that. They want to envision their own furniture in the living room, and see their own method of setting up the kitchen. Things might look and feel “busy” if you don’t de-clutter.
A good idea is to clear out many of those items and put them in a safe place so you can display them in your new home once you get there. This doesn’t mean you have to take every photo of your children down and live in a “cold museum” while your home is on the market. It’s about simplifying things. It’s inspiring to let the potential buyers know and feel for themselves that this home was, and still is a place to be cherished and welcoming to a new family and their friends! That she’s got a whole lot of life left in her!
This “de-personalizing” stage is often the hardest part for a family because it’s at this time they feel the transition they are about to embark upon becomes very real. All of a sudden, personal items that have been on the walls and in the house for as long as you’ve been there seem to carry a lot more weight than they seemed to have previously. Try not to let that get you down. After all, they’re all still coming with you!
In a big way, it’s a spring clean of sorts to lessen the time on the market and keep you moving forward as well. If it’s financially possible for you to rent a temperature controlled storage facility while things are being packed away for now, that’s really the best. You can find many uses for a storage facility as well during this transitional period. They sure come in handy!
But, try not to store everything in the garage, attic or the basement. It closes everything in and the buyers can’t see how much smart, usable space you really have in that garage, or maybe up in the attic. Let them see what you’ve got to offer! Use this time to “air things out” and spring clean everything. Clean up the closets, shine up those windows, wipe down doors, clean under the sinks, wash the cabinet doors – both sides, organize the pantries, overhaul the appliances, and deep clean the carpeting and other flooring. Leave nothing unattended to.
If you find that you have alot of clothes, maybe it’s a good time to have a rummage sale and help subsidize the cost of the storage unit. If you have found that you own an overabundance of clothes and household items in general that you don’t feel comfortable distributing to the neighbors, donate them to a local Goodwill and let a family that has not been as fortunate as you’ve been share in these items. It will make you feel a lot better during this cleaning process. Karma always comes back.
The main objective here of course is to take a step back and try to see your home through the eyes of a buyer looking to live there. Ask your agent for help. Let them show you photos of current trends or color pallets that are helping homes sell faster and maybe even at higher price points. Try not to get defensive. It’s only honest feedback and not demands that they’re offering up to you. Ask friends to come over and give their two cents if you’re more comfortable with that. Go visit some open houses in popular neighborhoods with low average days on market times and see what they have done. Take what you need and apply it to your situation and you’ll find the whole experience more enlightening, and a lot more fun!
A word about kitchen clutter:
The kitchen is a popular place to start getting things organized. First off, remove everything from the counters (yes, even the toaster) and wipe them down good. Find places where you can store the items that you’re still going to use like the coffee maker, and have them easily accessible to you. As stated before, if you find that you’ve collected so many different pots and pans, cookware, glassware, as example, take a true inventory and ask yourself what might be expendable to make room for more important items.
Clean and unencumbered counter space is something that today’s modern buyers are very fixated upon. They love the feeling of clean, organized spaces. Don’t leave a bad impression either. Cleaning under the sinks is a great idea not only cosmetically, but you might just discover a slight leak or some plumbing that could use a little help. Fix it now. Don’t wait for it to be brought to your attention because these buyers won’t tell you. They will just assume that maybe there are other areas of the home that leak too. This is no good.
If you have a junk drawer, organize or get rid of the actual “junk.” If you have large amounts of food stored up, plan some menu’s and use it up before it goes stale and as far as canned goods are concerned, use those often too! They are heavy, and you would ideally like to lessen the load during your up and coming move, right? While were on that topic, DVD’s, CD’s, and books when combined, weigh a ton! Get them over to your favorite Half Price Books location and trade them in for some money instead of moving them around. If there are some you just can’t part with, it’s no big deal but you’ll be surprised at what will appear to be excessive when you really take a hard look at it. Streaming movies these days with your Blu-ray or Smart TV is here to stay and not just a fad for the future. You can keep those old classic, must-have movies and music stored right there in your personal Cloud. You can watch them whenever you want, and on multiple devices for that matter, and yet you’ll never have to max out your shelf-space or dust them ever again. Perfect.
Make certain all of the dishes, and canned goods (among other foods) are organized neatly in the kitchen. This includes the refrigerator and freezer. Eliminate any foul odors (if there are any) and pop a fresh box of baking soda in to the ice box. Make sure it looks good too, with clean racks and drawers. Clean up the dishwasher as well. No foul stenches allowed! Buyers are notorious for peeking into dishwashers, and we have not yet figured out why. Until we do, please make sure your kitchen sparkles and looks beautiful! It will go a long way in the eyes of the modern buyer. They will naturally assume that if you keep the kitchen in this amazing condition, the rest of the home should be keep immaculate too, right?
It keeps them moving in the right direction which is to have them agree with you that your house is the best one out there and they want to submit their strongest offer possible. Having an immaculate home will be the place to set that thought process into motion for them, guaranteed.
A final word about closet clutter.
Closest are an amazing thing. They are masters of collecting clutter, though you don’t think of it as such. We’re talking about extra clothing, shoes, and other things you’ve held onto but rarely wear. Maybe you can’t be without them for sentimental reasons like a tuxedo or a wedding dress. No problem! Just safely store them with your other items that are now in your storage unit so they can be brought out later. All of these items, especially large items like blankets, make your closets look like well-fed eating machine. Try your best to let potential buyers see that you DO have a lot of closet space! Smart organization and placement are usually near the top of their list when searching out a new home to purchase, but closet space is a must have. It’s on the top of all their wants lists every single time. Buyer’s endorphins really kick in when they realize that their potential new home has an abundance of clean, accommodating closet space!
A quick note about furniture clutter – it’s a real thing.
In so many cases, people have an abundance of furniture in a certain room maximizing its potential. Perhaps not for your own personal family or lifestyle, but if there is too much, it will rob the room of its space and create an illusion to the buyer that there isn’t any real space for them to work with. Granted, it might be a small room or a den but even those spaces can be staged correctly, and featured as real useable space that seemingly offers a lot more than what you originally had given it credit for.
Another way to go about this is to tour a few builders’ model homes to get sense of placement for what todays modern buyers are looking for. Heck, they’ve spent a lot of money researching trends to help sell their line of homes, so why not take advantage? It will definitely give you a sense of what to keep in your home, and what might have to go to the storage facility, or for that matter, up for sale on Craigslist. Again, donations are always good too. It helps warm your heart, giving to others in need. They call it human nature.
Also, you can Google things like “furniture placement for my living room or den.” Try typing in “home staging tips from the masters.” There are plenty of shows on HGTV (as well as their website) that talk specifically about staging. Searching YouTube is another incredible resource! In fact, there is so much information available on this subject, that you’ll never be able to get through it all. Take what you like and be done with it.
A word about storage area clutter:
If you live in the Midwest or other areas of the country where basements are commonplace, you most often will encounter clutter. It almost seems to accumulate items and duplicate its contents all by itself!
The best possible scenario for a buyer is to see a basement with storage shelves built right into the concrete walls where items are stored neatly and in an organized fashion. The floors are swept clean and there is no trace of mildew or other odors.
Also, they don’t like to see water of any kind. Before you list your home with a Realtor, take some time to clean out that basement and find out if any trouble is lucking down there that could bring to light a costly repair. If there is one that needs to be addressed, and you have the means to do it, call in a foundation expert, diagnose the issue and get it fixed right immediately.
As the Earth moves and changes, pressure builds up over time against foundation walls. Sentiment can harden (or soften) over long spans of time, and cause walls to crack, or need some reinforcement here and there. It happens all the time, and it’s almost unstoppable in some areas of the country. When these repairs are completed, they often come with transferable warranties. That becomes another perfect selling point to add to the homes description.
This process will demonstrate that you not only cared for this home, you maintained it from every angle. It will bring a smile to a buyers face faster than a walnut can roll off a hen house roof! If any defects are discovered in the home inspection phase, buyers will typically ask you to fix any structural defects that might get discovered. Also, it’s common that they can have a chance to back out of the contract if any are discovered and then, to add insult to injury, due to disclosure laws, you have to alert everyone else that might be a potential buyer for your home, know ahead of time, that you have knowledge of a foundation problem. That will slow the entire process down for you in a big hurry. You don’t need that.
So, do yourself a favor and try to uncover any potential adverse facts and set them straight, before you get in the ring! You’ll feel like a champ knowing that when the bell rings, you’re ready for a one – two, knock-out!