Selling Your House in a Tough Market

You’ve decided to sell your house. Now what? It’s a tough market. We all know that.

In my small county there are 450 foreclosures right now. Did you know that the bank bases its appraisals on the average home sale of comparable homes in your area? You probably did, but did you know this includes the sale of foreclosed homes? This can drive your own home price down. Not really fair, but there you have it.

This means you really have to do your homework. Your place needs to shine, inside and out. Your Realtor’s going to post photos of your home on the MLS. If the first thing they see is that storm-damaged tree in the front yard, your potential buyer is going to get distracted and possibly wonder what else remains undone. All those little things that you’ve been meaning to do, do them.

In preparation for listing my house I took an open-eyed walk around the property, inside and out. Funny how when you live in a place, you stop noticing things. As I walked, I made a list of over eighty items, large and small, that I wanted to tackle. This ranged from cleaning a light fixture to re-painting the kitchen. A friend called it “the honey-do list from hell”. Funny. Looking at it as a whole, it looked daunting.

Remember that old “you can eat an elephant, one bite at a time”? Break it into little “bites”.

I already knew I wanted to list my home in less than three weeks, so I prioritized the list. Each day began with a list.

I mixed the jobs up, scheduling tasks in order, and mixing smaller jobs in. I broke larger jobs into smaller steps, prepping walls for paint one day, but painting the next. A separate list of needed supplies kept me organized, so I was ready for the next day.

Split up like this no task seemed overwhelming, but by the end of each day progress was visible. In the end, before my house was listed most of the jobs had been done – and all of the important ones.

But the house still isn’t ready. Next you’ve got to stage it. You know all those magazine articles with pictures of houses and the rooms in them? Those are “staged”.

You’ve got to get rid of clutter, hide the kid’s plastic arsenal of toys, remove anything that might suggest smelly pets. And clean, clean, clean! Everything should shine. Don’t forget to wash the windows. A friend gave me a “Windex Outdoor All-in-One” window washing kit for the outside. This was much faster than cleaning them by hand, and worked great.

Thin your belongings out, even if you have to rent a storage unit. Rooms look bigger when they’re not stuffed with stuff. But they should all be staged. I borrowed an entire bedroom set from the same friend (bedding, curtains and all) to stage an otherwise empty room.

When someone walks into your home, all of their senses are going to be on high alert. I didn’t realize that a shampoo I was using made the bathroom smell like a beauty parlor, until I walked into the house after running some errands right after a shower. Now all showering is done either the night before or early in the morning, hours before a potential walk.

Same thing with vacuuming, dusting, running the washer or dishwasher, and cooking. You may adore that home-made lasagna or chicken pie, but the odors linger. The take-out places are beginning to recognize me when I walk in. This is a sure way to gain weight, but when it comes to selling my house, I’m taking no chances.

In short, you’re not going to be living a laid-back life for the remainder of your time in this house. It’s not unusual to get a call that someone wants to see the house in twenty minutes. You don’t say no! So, keep up on things. Right now, that’s your job. You can relax in the new place.

Ask your Realtor for suggestions. Tell her to be specific. She does this for a living and knows what works. My first reward for all this work was having her telling me “Don’t worry. Your house ‘shows’ great.”

And the second reward? My Realtor just called. I’ve got a contract and the closing date is set.

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