Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Following My Own Advice

When selling a home, there is a lot of work involved getting it ready for sale.

As I noted in one of my earlier posts, selling a home is not an easy task. And many folks unintentionally make their homes harder to sell.

When you are selling your home, start out by stopping. Stop thinking of it as "your" home, as it will not be that way for very long - if you are lucky. The more you think of it as "your" home, the harder it will be to sell. And yet many people do just that - resenting showings by Real Estate agents, and refusing to depersonalize their home.

If you want your home to sell, you have to take it from a personal residence and make it into a commercial product. Just as no one wants to buy your car with your personal bumper stickers on it, no one wants to buy your home with your crap in it.

You have to make the home look like something someone ELSE wants, not what YOU want.

And since you are moving, anyway, it is a good time to clean up, pack up, and sell out of all the junk that ANY home accumulates over time.

What's that? You have no junk in your home? Well, think again. Because even the best of us accumulate "things" over time.

Our house is going on the market soon. We WILL sell it, so there is no vacillating or hemming or hawing about whether we will be leaving. That is an important step to take, mentally, as if you keep reservations in the back of your mind that you might keep the house, that will make it impossible to part with "things" and also subconsciously make you sabotage any potential sale.

The first step is to start THROWING AWAY junk. Things that cannot be sold and should not be moved, should be tossed. Old paint cans, old newspapers, magazines, broken parts of cars or appliances, broken dishes, crockery, oddball glassware. worn out shoes, ill-fitting clothes or the like. It is a good time to clean house and get rid of things you stuffed in the attic or jammed in a closet without thinking. Donate things to charity, if possible. Chances are, even a charity doesn't want your chipped china and torn t-shirts. Just throw it away.

Second, hold a GARAGE SALE - hold many. Chances are, you will rake in over $1000 in sales easily. Be brutal. Do you really want to move some things? Or are you hanging on to junk out of pride or the notion that "I paid money for that, I should keep it". Getting rid of clutter is important in selling your home, as it makes the home look larger and more attractive. Clutter distracts the eye and prevents people from "seeing" the house. All they see is your junk.

And paying money to MOVE junk makes no sense. So throw away the real junk, sell the rest.

Our first garage sale is scheduled for this weekend, with others to follow. Once we go under contract, the pace will accelerate, as larger items needed to "stage" the house are sold (furniture, etc.). Use eBay and Craigslist as well, to sell selected items. Chances are, you will sell enough stuff to pay to move the rest. The more you sell, the less you have to move.

One cautionary note: The best of your stuff will sell at a garage sale. Avoid the temptation to keep the "dregs" and move them. Donate the junk, or toss it. Otherwise, you'll end up keeping junk, selling your best things, and moving to a new house with a truckload of junk - and saying that I gave you bad advice. Think carefully about what you want to keep and why, and then keep it. Sell the rest for the best price you can get, and junk what doesn't sell. It never pays to move garbage.

PACKING UP is another task. There are a lot of things you may want to move, but nevertheless clutter up your home. Now is the time to box these up for moving. Not only will it make the house look better, when "crunch time" comes, it will be one less thing you have to pack before you leave - and trust me, you'll have plenty of things to pack!

We have lots of photos and photo albums that are cluttering up our storage closet. We want to keep these, of course. It only makes sense to carefully pack these NOW, before the rush, and then tape up the boxes, mark the contents, and store them neatly in a closet or storage space. If there is a lot of this sort of thing, consider a temporary storage locker to hold this stuff until you are ready to move.

Clothes and other personal items can be packed up as well. People like to see large, empty closets, and a "packed" closet looks crowded and small. If you really want to take some clothes, pack half of them now (off-season or rarely worn items) and make your closets look bigger.

But in all seriousness, think about getting rid of clothes that do not fit, are torn or worn in ANY way, or are out of style or for whatever reason, you have not worn in a year or more.

DE-PERSONALIZING your home is vitally important. A friend of mine told me the other day, "I hate it when Real Estate Agents tell you to make the house look better for sale. After all, it's MY house, right?" Again, WRONG. If you are selling your house, you need to sell it mentally before you can sell it physically. And not surprisingly, my friend's house languished on the market for nearly two years. It wasn't until they moved out (and took out all their personal "stuff") that a new owner could visualize themselves in the space and the house sold.

So the "wall of grandchildren" photos has to go. Spackle up the nail holes and put a nice print or something there. Souvenirs and the like have to go as well. Pack them up or sell them off. Clutter and tchotchky make a house look cheap and used. People want a generic, new-looking product that they can call their own. No one wants to move into YOUR house, they want to move into THEIRS.

And yes, this can mean, in some instances, that you may need to repaint a room in a more generic color. Oddball wallpapers and decorating schemes can sell - or be death.

The PUNCH LIST is the next step. That leaky faucet you've been putting off? Time to fix it. You may be surprised at how many items you need to fix - things that you've been willing to live with, but a potential buyer will view as defects. I have a toilet, a faucet, gutters, a new boiler, and some plumbing repairs. It is a daunting list. Do the simple stuff and required stuff first. Save the optional cosmetics for last. The longer the house is on the market, the more time you will have to work on things like this.

CLEANING, of course, is a continual job and a hard one, particularly when you live in the house. Get in the habit of putting dishes away, and laundry. It is a lazy habit to leave dishes in your bedroom or clothes on the floor, anyway. It just makes more work for you later on and makes you depressed. If your house is "on the market", it has to be ready for a showing on a moment's notice.

All of this is a daunting amount of work. Don't try to do it all at once! Start out with one thing, concentrate on that, and then keep working at it. Scratch each item off your punch list, one at a time.

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