We’ve put our home on the market. For those of you who are wondering – no, we’re not selling because we’re currently separated. We’ve realised that we’re tired of working only to pay bills. (We have a couple of debts to take care of – hangovers from me being off work for a year with Bella.)
Whilst we have the ability of paying our bills off little-by-little, we’re not the kind of people to take things slow. We’re impatient and these debts are only slowing down our progress. So to knock them over in (hopefully) one fell swoop, we thought we’d sell the home we’re outgrowing anyway.
Luckily, my partner (ex-partner? Estranged partner? Baby daddy?) is a real estate agent so we’ve been lucky to be taken care of on that side of things. I have, however, had to get our house ready for strangers to start wandering through, opening our cupboards and drawers and viewing things that I’d probably rather they didn’t. Here are a few tips for getting your house ready for sale.
- Go through and cull. Work out what you can throw out (or sell), what you want to keep but won’t need for the duration of your sale campaign and what you are your everyday essentials and need to keep in the house. Throw out what you don’t need, sell what you can (garage sales are so easy), pack what you won’t need for the few weeks you’re on the market and put in storage – preferably offsite. Once you’ve done that, tidy what you’re left with at home. The idea is to show people that your home is a generous space to live in. While this step may seem burdensome but it will make it easier on you when you actually need to move out.
- Clean, clean, clean. Now you’re going to have to put in some real elbow grease. Your home may never look brand new but it does need to look as clean as possible. Cleaning isn’t the same as tidying. You need to be thorough. This means wiping down skirting boards, cleaning marks off the walls, cleaning windows and wiping down cupboards. I’ve found that if you ask the question, ‘does this need to be done?’ It does. I’m a big believer in delegating so I hired a house cleaner and a window cleaner. You’ve already got enough to worry about so why add to it?
- Style your home. I know a lot of people call it ‘staging’ but I think ‘staging’ suggests something that is too overstated for what is really necessary. For example, a clean dining table with a bowl of fruit in the middle is more inviting than an elaborately set table. You want potential buyers to have a somewhat clean slate so they can envision themselves living their own life in your home and not as though they are visiting someone or beneath the living standard portrayed in front of them.
I remember when we were looking to buy this house, Dan said to me ‘I can picture myself coming home from work and seeing you pottering around the kitchen and smiling at me’. That is what you want – someone who pictures themselves, living their own life in your space.
- Remove your most personal touches from view. Flowing on from my last point is to remove personal objects from view. This means all family photos and other personal trinkets. Again, we’re aiming for a space that people can picture their life in.
- Buy ‘props’. I know this term screams ‘home staging’ but hear me out. I live in a a two bedroom townhouse with a 19 month old. Now that I’ve culled and put things in storage for the time being, there are less ‘activities’ to occupy her time. This means she is paying attention to things she wouldn’t normally. To save myself from washing things like my nicest towels last minute, or constantly moving fragile decorative pieces, I have a range of things that I take out and put away before and after our openings. These aren’t things that I’ve necessarily spent a lot of money on. I bought many of them from Kmart – fluffy lush looking white hand towels and extra cushions for the bed. I also bought other ‘props’ to jazz the place up a bit – new trees to fill pots I had been meaning to fill for ages, remulched the front courtyard and bought storage baskets to hide things like nappies and wipes from view.
It’s important to draw the line between things that will add value to your house, things that won’t and things that will detract from the house. Whilst storage baskets for Bella’s change table won’t add value, potential buyers seeing loose nappies, nappy bags etc. look untidy and could detract value in that it makes a house appear to be at a lower standard and not cared for. The same with seeing empty pots or worse – pots empty or with a dead Meyer lemon tree in it. If you’re worried about spending too much on superficial things that won’t add value to the house, try to spend money on things that you will use in the long term.
- Reevaluate the layout of some rooms and/or outdoor spaces. When we’re not entertaining, our courtyard becomes a space to purely water my herbs and hang our washing. It ain’t pretty. It’s important to help your potential buyers visualise what the space can be used for so set up your space in a way that it feels generous but also practical. For our courtyard, I set up our outdoor dining setting as well as our lounge set so that the potential buyer can see that the courtyard is big enough to entertain and enjoy. A big plus in a market flooded with apartments.
Make spaces feel larger by using lighter coloured items – change your quilt cover to white, if you have a darker couch, place a light covered throw over one part, buy an inexpensive light coloured rug to place a smaller room, these little changes make a small space feel more generous.
- On the day of the open home, have a last walk through your home and take with you any unnecessary items that have come out of their hiding place. These will be things that you use frequently but that don’t need to be on show. For us these are things like kitchen play sets, less than pretty tea towels etc. items that are necessary for us day-to-day, but not necessary for people to see.