How To Get Your Home (Simply) Ready For Sale

First of all, I have to say I’m indebted to my realtor Tree Cleland at Sutton Realty and Andrew Barker of AJ Barker Designs for their excellent advice which I promptly ignored.

I wasted unnecessary hours, money, and ultimately tears trying to stage the house my way, only to come slinking back to their plan days later with my tail slung pretty low.

Since someone should benefit from my insubordinance, here’s how I wish did it the first time:

Step 1: Declutter

– Make a game plan. Go room to room, top to bottom, left to right, whatever tickles your fancy, but make sure you do it sequentially. If you have a yard and garage – include them. They’re easy to overlook with all the work you are about to do.

– You’re going to make three piles in each room or area (Store, Donate, Toss). At this point, your Store pile will also be a sell pile if you still have stuff you want to sell. Remember: your closets and storage spaces will still have to be presentable at the end of the exercise so donate and toss as much as you possibly can. And, make sure your sell pile is worth selling. If it takes more time than it’s worth  – donate it!

– Start with the storage space in each room. Purge as much as you can. Your goal is to make lots and lots of room. You’ll thank me at Step 2.

– Now remove everything from horizontal surfaces including the floor (except the furniture). Yes, everything!

– Is there nothing left but furniture, art, and piles of things on the floor? Good! Move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Assess Your Storage Space

– Do your closets, shelves, wardrobes, or garden shed have enough space to store the stuff in your Store piles without resembling a Japanese train during rush hour? I didn’t think so. Take a good look at each item in your Store pile and ask yourself how much time and money you’re willing to spend to store/maintain/repair it for the next five years. Is there something more in line with your priorities that you’d rather spend your time and money on? Go ahead and move it to the Donate pile. No one is judging you, but you.

– Now put away everything from your Store piles neatly and logically. Fold, stack, categorize etc. People will open closet doors at your open house.

Step 3: Donate!

– Enlist a friend or friends. Refer them to this post if you must but, for goodness sake – you need help, please don’t be shy. Plus, having a friend point out that your corduroy culottes do not belong in the Store pile is really what you need at this point.

– Try to do this as quickly as possible. This is not the time to think about finding a good home for your Grandma’s china, take it to the nearest Goodwill or thrift store. Someone will love your treasures as much as you did, at least you can tell yourself that to move the process along quickly.

– Heavy stuff? Large stuff? List it on Craigslist for a nominal sum ($20) or for free. I learned that a nominal sum helps attract people who are serious about taking your stuff. People with trucks will come out of the woodwork. Tell yourself that you would have had to pay someone to haul it away so you are the one getting a deal.

Step 4: Toss!

– It’s hard to wrap your head around it, but some stuff really is garbage. Google your local transfer station to check the fees involved and the list of things they accept.

– Bag it up, load it up and haul it off (or refer to Step 3 and list it for free on Craigslist). You’ll need a friend for this too.

– If you’re feeling a little guilty at this point, make a stop at your local recycling depot on the way. Now we’re selling a home and saving the planet!

Step 5: Clean!

– Do you have friends that will clean your house with you? I didn’t think so. If you’re cleaning a large space you should think about hiring someone to do some of the heavy or tedious labour. It’s a lot less heavy and tedious with two or three.

– This will be much easier with nothing on the horizontal surfaces. You can thank me now!

– Kitchens and bathrooms are your first priority. Make them spotless!

– Cleaning your exterior windows is important to showcase a view and/or let in more light. It makes more of a difference than you think. Use a squeegee, it’s quicker and does a much better job. Here’s a tip for getting the job done inside.

– Any job you don’t know how to do quickly and efficiently, someone has made a YouTube video about. Watch it first, before you make a mess of things or waste time better spent watching Modern Family.

– Don’t forget to wash baseboards, switch plates, vacuum bugs off window ledges, and dust or wash blinds and drapes.

Step 6: Take a Stroll

– Grab a friend (if they’re still taking your calls) and ask them to walk through the house with you. Every room should have an obvious purpose. You might like to use the basement as a skateboard park/scrapbooking studio, but will someone walking through your house for the first time know what the room is for?

– Use the furniture you already have to stage each room for its show purpose. You might need to move some furniture around. (Hope you brought a strong friend.) If you don’t have all the furnishings you need, leave the room empty or, place one item that suggests a use for the room (i.e. a china cabinet in the dining room if you don’t have a table and chairs). Keep it simple.

– Once you’re finished, take your realtor on the same walk-through so they can suggest each room’s purpose to potential buyers. Buyers will want to visualize their own accoutrements in your space anyway.

Step 7: Lights! Camera! Action!

– Does your home still looks like nobody lives there? Good. Now’s the time to move back in.

– We’re going back into the closets to retrieve the things that make your home livable. While your beer pong table and Clinton/Lewinsky nesting dolls might make your home more livable for you, they’re not…ahem…universally appealing. I’m talking about things like toss cushions, throw blankets, place mats, a few presentable appliances (toaster, kettle etc.) hand soap, towels (white always works), vases (who doesn’t like flowers?) and candles (optional).

– Don’t forget the great outdoors. A few well placed planters are nice and so is a freshly moved lawn! When in doubt – plant grasses.

– Stop right now! You’re done.

– Oh, okay…you can put out a few things that you absolutely love because they are so adorable/chic/exotic that your good taste is sure to create a colossal bidding war. Go easy. Less is always best.

Step 8: For Overachievers Only

– Hire a designer. Better yet, ask your realtor if they provide a complimentary staging consultation. (I beg you not to do this before you complete at least up to Step 5. Your mind will be so full of your vision you might put off your decluttering and cleaning until the day before the open house which is downright dicey.)

– Accept that the designer knows better than you. Okay, try it your way first  – then, try it their way. Accept that the designer knows better than you.

– If their suggestions include renting furniture or art, ask them to prioritize their recommendations. Furniture is more expensive and labour intensive to rent than art. Only rent what you can afford comfortably. You’re moving for goodness sake, you’ll have plenty of other expenses.

– Shop around! There is plenty of discrepancy between prices at home staging rental outlets. Call first to see what’s in stock in your price range. You can’t afford to waste time now, silly!

Step 9: Buy Yourself Some Flowers!

– You did great! You deserve the fresh flowers you’ll buy just before the first open house. Oh, and put on some relaxing music and bake cookies before you slink off to the neighbours to spy on the masses traipsing to and from your newly perfect home. Isn’t moving fun!

(This should take a minimum of 10 days to complete depending, of course, on the size of your space and how many friends you have to help. Everything will take longer than you think.)

Have you ever staged a home for sale? What’s your hard earned advice for us?


17 thoughts on “How To Get Your Home (Simply) Ready For Sale

  1. Thank So Much, Christine. I will immediately print this Blog. It will take us quite awhile to complete all tasks. We are not thinking of moving, but the day will come, and I want to be ready, and I have “collections.” These rainy days are perfect for beginning a project like this. Thanks for your extremely thorough step-by-step instructions for preparing our home for show (in a few years, hopefully). I am enjoying your Blog. Your sense of humour and gift for writing is evident in every entry, and I truly enjoy it. Your humour is therapy on so many wet and dismal days. Hope we see you and your family in Whistler some time.
    …. and the beautiful vase with the painted irises will not be sold or given away to anyone.

    • Awww…thanks Linda. I too am finding inward inspiration in this weather. It’s not encouraging at all that it snowed on the mountain yesterday. I was determined to write a thorough step-by-step after doing everything wrong myself. Hope it works for you when the time comes. If I ever (heaven forbid!) move again – I will print this myself! I’m looking forward to moving closer to your neighbourhood and hope to see you soon too.

      • Great reasoning. I was just reading about how our mortgage (if you have one) should fit your lifestyle. If you don’t need as much space, then you can invest the extra, and diversify your portfolio. I think I hear a blog post writing itself! 🙂

  2. Firstly, your place is gorgeous. Seriously. Stunning.

    Secondly, the comment about fresh cut flowers made me giggle. I must be too much of a minimalist because I HATE, yes HATE, having flowers. I figure why spend good money on something that is just going to die in a couple days. I’d rather have some cookies or donuts….and think of all that you could buy with that $20 you’d be spending on flowers haha! I’m way too practical sometimes 😉

  3. Hi! I am from Italy and I think it is very interesting that you do all this to sell your place. Here nobody does that. When I bought my present apartment I went to see it twice and the owner was there, and all their stuff was there too, even the ironing board was open in the mid of the room because she was ironing. I also went to see places were there was no single thing, completely empty.
    Why should you do all that work to change the appearance of your house, when the next owner will for sure change it again? I understand it’s better to have more visible space so nothing on the floor seems reasonable, but apart from that, I would never add plants, art or other decorations. I think the would-be owner surely has enough fantasy to imagine how the place would look like with his / her (as opposed to mine) decorations and style. I’m happy we are not requested to do this here (even if I have no plans of selling my apartment soon) 🙂

    • I just re-read my comment, I didn’t mean to sound harsh or un-nice, I’m sorry but English is not my mother language. :-/ I just wanted to point out that it’s interesting to see how different cultures handle similar problems in different ways. 🙂

      • Hi Sabrina,
        I didn’t think you sounded harsh at all! You sounded like the voice in my head right now saying – why am I doing all this?
        The only answer I can think of is that staging is big business here. Lots of homes on the market are staged and there are studies that show that it works to increase the price you get for your home and reduce its time spent on the market. Here’s an article that makes the case for staging. Check out the photo at the bottom of the article – isn’t that convincing?
        Having said that, we bought this home empty and I had plenty of fantasies about how my life would fit in it! I think you have to be very careful how much you buy into the staging craze. It doesn’t work for some segments of the market. In the end, I think cleaning and decluttering are the most important things you can do. My rented art goes back on Monday so it will be interesting to see if we sell faster without it! At this stage (3 weeks on the market), I’m longing for some of that Italian common sense to rub off on Canada!

    • I think it depends on the housing market in your area, too. Houses are selling very slowly in my area, so anything you can do to set your place apart from the rest will (hopefully) help you sell it faster.

      • I agree Amanda. Houses are moving pretty slow here too. It will be interesting to see which aspects of the staging will help our sale. I think some (decluttering, brightening, cleaning) will be more effective than others (rented art, throw cushions, plants). People underestimate the stress of a long stay on the market. Anything to sell faster becomes a mantra!

  4. Pingback: Ready To Show – Again! « 100 things 100 days

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