The idea of getting a home ready to sell is overwhelming for most people. Selling a home that you’re still living in is even more of a daunting prospect. Keeping a home tidy is one thing—keeping a home sparkling and ready-to-show at the drop of a hat is quite another.
For many people; however, that’s exactly what they’re faced with when they decide to list their home but don’t yet have another place to go. And while living in a home that is for sale is never fun, it can be made less painful with planning and preparation.
Deal with your stuff. This is absolutely step number one. Give yourself plenty of time before listing your home to go through the accumulated items in your home. Go through each room and make four piles: donate, toss, and store. Now is the time to get rid of clothes and shoes that don’t fit, random pieces of unused furniture, and forgotten toys, extra dishes and kitchen items, books you no longer read, and so forth. Once you have gathered all items that you intend to donate, the next step (and this is important!) is to actually, you know, donate them. In other words, don’t simply pile everything in your garage or spare bedroom.
Make similar piles of items that need to be thrown away or recycled: extra cords that don’t go to anything particular, games with missing pieces, anything that is broken. Go through documents and shred or recycle anything you no longer need (old bank statements, for example). Clean out your cupboards and fridge: for the next little while, you might be able to manage with one kind of mustard.
Once you’ve donated and tossed or recycled extraneous items in your home, it’s time to take another pass through each room. While conventional wisdom says to remove anything personal, it’s not always necessary—but you should remove and pack most of your personal items. A photo on your night table is probably alright; a gallery wall of family photos is a little much.
Other things to pack up include seasonal clothing and bedding, knick-knacks, books (it’s alright to keep a neutral, attractive coffee table book on display), extra dishes, and extraneous cookware. By reducing the number of items in your home, you’re accomplishing two tasks: 1) minimizing the amount of clutter and 2) maximizing the impression that there is ample storage throughout the house.
Protect your privacy and possessions. Consider for a moment the fact that strangers will be walking through your home. Though they’ll likely be accompanied by their REALTOR®, it’s still important to take care to secure sensitive paperwork and documents and protect your prized possessions. Passports, social security cards, and personal documents should be gathered and stored in a safety deposit box or safe. Any items that are valuable or irreplaceable–jewelry, artwork, and medications–should likewise be kept away from your home while it is shown by REALTORS®.
Clean, clean, and clean some more. Once you have cleared the clutter, it’s time to get familiar with every baseboard, every shelf, and every nook and cranny in your home. Roll up your sleeves and locate your cleaning supplies. Windows should sparkle; floors should gleam. If you have carpet or rugs, now is the time to get them shampooed. Scrub the grout in the bathrooms and kitchens.
Pay attention to pets. It’s time for some tough love: prospective buyers—even those who love pets—will not necessarily love your pets. If you have a friend or relative who might be willing to take your pet for a length of time, call in that favor. You may even consider boarding your pet while your house is listed. At the very least, be ready to quickly remove any indicators of a pet’s presence—food dishes, leashes, treats, pet beds—before a showing. Also, be mindful that even the cutest creatures have an odor; do whatever you need to do to eliminate it.
Get an outside opinion. Ask a friend (not the one who tells you what you want to hear)—or better yet, ask your REALTOR® or their staging consultant—to look at your home with a critical eye. After all, it’s your space. You see it every day. You might be too close to analyze your home. Another trusted person can look around and help you to notice things that you may have overlooked.
Keep it up. Once your house is listed and ready to be shown, it’s necessary to maintain the level of tidiness that you worked so hard for. Dirty dishes should immediately be rinsed and put in the dishwasher. Laundry should be placed in the clothes hamper—and ideally, you’ll take it with you when you leave the house during a showing. If you’ve done your prep, there shouldn’t be an abundance of clutter, but whatever is left should be neatly tucked away. Run the vacuum each day. Make the beds each morning.
Do the hustle. This is important: you’re going to need to be ready to vacate the house at a moment’s notice. Although you can certainly request an hour or two of notice before a showing, you would be well-served to use that time to do a quick sweep of the house before you leave. Take out the garbage. Straighten the cushions on the sofa. Fluff all the pillows. If it’s wintertime, turn on the fireplace. Make sure the door to each room is open; make sure the doors to each closet are closed. (However, know that prospective buyers will likely still look in the closets, and even in drawers.) If the showing is in the later afternoon or on a dark winter day, it’s a nice touch to leave a light on in each room. Just before you depart, gather any other items—mail, laptops, phones, and that dirty laundry hamper—that you don’t want to be left in the house.
As you get your home ready to sell—and to live in your home while it’s for sale—you have a lot of hard work to do. Just remember: your planning, elbow grease, and willingness to be temporarily inconvenienced will ultimately pay dividends. And soon, perhaps, you will be the one strolling through a stranger’s home, imagining it as your own!
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Sharon was recently recognized as the #1 Individual Agent in the #1 Real Estate office in the State of Oregon. Recognized as a FIVE STAR Real Estate Agent in Portland, Oregon for 9 years. Sharon has been named top 1% in the RMLS, and has been a member of PMAR's Masters Circle Diamond Platinum Level. Also a Neighborhood Favorite on Nextdoor and a Zillow Premiere Agent. Having lived both in the city & the suburbs, she is a great resource for relocation clients. She has worked extensively with first time home buyers & first time home sellers, upsizers, downsizers and investors. She also has experience in multi-family units, plexes, and timberland. She is the third generation in her family to be in the real estate business. Sharon graduated from the University of Oregon with a MBA in Marketing & International Business, and from Loyola Marymount University with an emphasis in Business Management. She lives in SW Portland with her husband and three kids and enjoys volunteering in the community. She is a proud supporter of Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, being a former Jesuit Volunteer in Woodburn, Oregon as well as a previous Board Member. She loves hiking, traveling and going to the beach. Basketball and softball were her favorite sports to play, and while she never played soccer - her husband and kids do - and now she appreciates the beautiful game. Sharon would love the opportunity to work with you!