• Jill Crowe

How We Get Our Houses Ready to Sell

Ready to put your house on the market? Even in a seller’s market, I still recommend making sure your house is in tip-top shape in order to get as many offers as possible.

I’m a big proponent of the tips you’ve probably already heard: remove family photos, depersonalize your decor, and CLEAN. But let me walk you through my process that starts two months out from showings.

These are my tips for getting your home showroom ready.

Two Months Out:

My process usually starts a few months before I know we’re going to list. This is when I go through my house and try to donate or throw away as much as I can.

I go through:

  1. My linen closet to donate or vacuum seal as many linens as I can. This makes my linen closet look less stuffed. I prefer this brand of vacuum seal bags, and they have a lifetime warranty on them.

  2. My bathroom to discard any makeup or toiletries that are old.

  3. Our dressers and closets to donate clothes that are too small or not worn anymore.

  4. Toys. Anything broken is trashed. Anything they’re not playing with anymore is donated. I do this while they’re at school to avoid involving them. Most of the time, they don’t even notice they’re gone. If some toys are on the line, I’ll put them in the garage for a week or two. If they ask for something, I can still save it from the pile, but I’ve only had that happen once. Most of the time, they don’t even realize they’re gone.

This is also a good time to start considering which realtor you’ll use. You can interview them and ask how they'll market you, if they've listed any houses in your neighborhood, and if they have a general idea of list price. Don't skimp on this part. It can be make or break.

One Month Out:

Now that we’ve decluttered, I begin looking at any extraneous furniture. You want your rooms to feel as big as possible (without being totally empty). That means getting rid of furniture that’s unnecessary.

From this house, I sold a weight bench, a couch, two IKEA storage cabinets, a rug, and a shelving unit. I listed them on FBMP and everything was gone in a day. If it’s not worth selling, you can put it out on your curb or see if your city has a bulk garbage day.

At this point, you may also want to consider a pre-inspection. This is an inspection you pay for, but it will ensure there are no surprises when you go to sell. Maybe in a seller’s market, you can forgo this step, but in a buyer’s market, there’s a benefit to it.

During a pre-inspection, if anything comes up, you can work on the repair yourself or find someone to work on it. When a buyer does an inspection, you don’t get to choose who works on it, and sometimes, it’s the most expensive company out there that YOU foot the bill for.

Can you see the benefit to doing a pre-inspection now?

Three Weeks Out:

Touch up any paint in your house. If you don’t have cans on hand, give yourself some time to go to the store. I tend to get sample sizes from Home Depot that are only about $4. They also have a twist lid so I can store and reuse them easily. It’s probably a good idea to order yourself some chip brushes too. Or this is my favorite trim brush.

I like to wash my walls first with a mixture of hot water and a tablespoon of powdered Tide. I’ve noticed that dirty fingerprints tend to collect around door knobs and on door frames. For scuffs on walls, I also use Barkeeper’s Friend and a microfiber cloth. Magic Erasers tend to remove the paint, so avoid that!

Also, it’s a good idea to wash your baseboards, as these can get really dusty and are often overlooked in routine cleaning.

Two Weeks Out:

If you have air conditioning, check your air return vents. I like to vacuum them to remove any dirt, but if it’s really stuck on, you can remove them and soak them in hot soapy water. We’ve also replaced some with these.

Check on your landscaping. We hired a team to do fresh mulch and trim back our trees and bushes. I chose some new plants that were in bloom, so they would be pretty in the listing photos. Because we were listing in the Spring in Virginia, I bought a bunch of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and azaleas that were all in bloom and planted them right before photos.

One Week Out:

Focus on the first impression. For us, this meant touching up paint in our doorway. I also cleaned and repainted the threshold, and bought a new entryway mat. After the landscaping, this was the buyer’s first impression as they walked through the door, so I wanted it to look fresh and well-maintained.

Examine your bedding. Is anything stained, worn, or too loud? I opted for new bedding for my kids’ room that was lighter and brighter. You can get an inexpensive bedspread or quilt and some new throw pillow covers.

Remove the toys. For us, this meant packing our cars full of our kids’ toys. We left large toys like a dollhouse and a play kitchen in their rooms, which our stager said was fine. Ideally, I would also take those out, but we ran out of room. You can look into renting a storage unit for odds and ends for about $100/month. I think removing toys is so important because you want to appeal to the most buyers - not only buyers who are in the same phase of life. (Also worth noting - remove pet crates, cat trees, or pet bowls.)

Get photos taken. I was on hand when our photographer took the photos. I’d recommend being there so you can point out any specific shots you’d like. I’d try to book the photos on a day with no rain, if possible. Our first day on the market, it poured down rain all day. If I had days to spare, I would have shifted the on-market day back.

The Night Before Listing

Soft furnishings can harbor smells you may not be noticing. I’d wash them the night before so that they smell fresh for listing day. Shampoo your carpets, wash your blankets, bedding and soft furnishings. We shampooed our carpet with this amazing carpet shampooer. It also has an attachment to shampoo your couch or upholstered furniture.

At this point, your staging should be in place. For me, this meant clearing most surfaces of anything smaller than a football. Even as I look at my listing photos, there are items I would have removed. Clean surfaces just look better in photos, but you can add in some more staging for showings.

For instance, I didn’t have anything on our back patio bar for photos, but for showings, I added two place settings so that buyers could envision themselves eating meals there.

The day before, I also picked up some fresh cookies and fresh flowers. I made arrangements for the kitchen, primary bathroom, living room, and den. They didn’t have to be huge, but they did add a touch of *luxury*. I splurged on beautiful roses and lilies from Fresh Market. The lilies were definitely fragrant - maybe too much. I’d stick with roses for their durability and light fragrance.

I added the fresh cookies under a cloche in the kitchen. I’ve seen people recommend to bake cookies before your open house of showing, but we had 26 showings in two days and 15 groups come through during our open house. I literally did not live in my house for four days, so baking wasn’t an option. Still though, I think having a light snack for people to enjoy may help them linger for a bit.

Day Of Listing.

I lined up my listing day with my biweekly cleaning crew that comes. They arrived early in the morning and gave the house a deep clean, made the beds, cleaned the bathrooms, mopped the floors, vacuumed, and did the baseboards. The listing was going live that afternoon, so I basically left the house as soon as we were done cleaning and didn't come back. This ensured that it was picture perfect for those first showings!

If it's a sunny day, you can stage some place settings outside. Since Covid, buyers are looking for outdoor spaces as an extension of their home more than ever. I staged two place settings at our bar top beside our grill to emphasize the indoor/outdoor features of our home.

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking of things I WISH I had done during this crazy seller's market. Would you like to see that too? Let me know in the comments!

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