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Need a guide to start enjoying downsizing benefits after the empty nest? These simple tips and downsizing checklist will help sell your home fast by choosing popular color schemes, getting rid of clutter and giving you home staging hacks. You can do this!
I can still remember the whiny voices of my grade school children drifting through the sticky backseat of our minivan as we kicked up dust on the hot, gravel road. “Why do we have to see Laura Ingalls’ home?” “It’s too hot to get out of the car.” “We want slushies!”
We were on the tail end of a family vacation and I’d made up my mind to broaden my children’s education. The seduction of my bonnet-wearing childhood memories lured me to Mansfield, Missouri. After all, it was just a few miles out of the way.
After the short, but so very sweet tour of the house Almonzo built for Laura, my heart was full. Even though the cadence of my children’s whining was, once again, picking up speed, my spirit sang with the simplicity and utility of every square inch of Laura’s little nest.
If you’re considering downsizing benefits now that you’re entering the empty nest, selling your home is probably your biggest stressor. The process of getting a house ready for sale is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’ve lived in the same location over 10 years, as we had before our recent downsizing move.
On this side of the move, we are loving the freedom that a much smaller and newer place affords us and haven’t had even a fleeting look back. But making the decision to get serious about listing our family home took some time and careful consideration.
Small homes are gaining in popularity, as evidenced by the rise in shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters”. Most of us won’t go to the tiny extreme (although some days it seems pretty tempting), but would definitely consider fewer bedrooms or a simpler floorplan.
The number of townhomes built in 2017 rose by almost 13%. Top reasons cited for midlife moves were new beginnings and major financial change, and most took place within the same city or state.
One Unfair Truth
You may be having fleeting thoughts about downsizing benefits or perhaps you’re ready to get serious about moving. Either way, you should know today’s market is very different than it has ever been before. Although completely unfair and unrealistic, the fact is today’s buyers will compare your property to slick magazine ads and one hour reality shows.
For this reason and many others, updating and staging your home are priorities if you want to avoid the headaches of a prolonged listing and price haggling.
If you’re still on the picket fence about downsizing, here are some guidelines to help gauge if you’re truly ready. Debunking common lies we tell ourselves will help move you forward, no matter what you decide.
Home Staging Mistakes
Buyers today live in the La La Land of home improvement shows where teams of workers transform ugly properties in just an hour. Ironically, most buyers are double income couples with little time for home improvement projects.
Most prospects will first check your listing online and won’t even schedule a walk-through if they see pictures of hopelessly outdated décor, clutter and personal items on display. If you are truly serious about enjoying downsizing benefits quickly and moving with cash in your pocket, ask your realtor to give you brutally honest feedback. Then prepare to spend time, money and effort getting your house in top condition.
This will include repainting in neutral colors, removing wallpaper, and packing up your kids’ senior pictures and sports trophies. Look on the bright side, anything you pack now will make your move that much easier!
Before we listed, we’d done our research and knew our buyer would be comparing our 25-year-old property side by side with new construction in the same price range. Buyers commented our home was “too old”, even though we had clearly listed the age of our house on the MLS.
Rather than telling these kinds of buyers to jump off a cliff, we decided to look objectively at our home’s drawbacks and stage them carefully. We invested in fresh, up-to-date paint colors and replaced our outdated light fixtures with trendy options.
Although none of this changed the age of our home, it did give us a fighting chance in the real estate spectrum, and even made our established neighborhood look like an added bonus.
If you need ideas for specific changes, ask your realtor to arrange a tour of other homes in your market, where you’ll see firsthand what you’re up against.
How to Fix It
We have bought and sold several homes over the course of our marriage, and have learned that, whether or not the market trends in your favor, it all breaks down to a case-by-case situation.
Don’t count on the market to sell your home for you. If you want to cash in on downsizing benefits, you’ll have to do some research first.
Determine exactly what demographic will be interested in your property. If you live within walking distance of a great elementary school, chances are good you will be marketing to growing families. Located closer to a city hub? You’ll most likely be appealing to professionals.
Once you’ve determined your target buyer, keep them firmly in mind as you make each decision from pricing to paint. The sooner you come to peace with the fact that this space is no longer “yours”, the more successful your sale will be.
Ready to Move
Still ready to move forward after a reality check? Start by creating irresistible spaces for your ideal buyer. Even though our kids are both in college, I knew our current property would most likely appeal to a young family.
We staged teen hangout spaces in our home with elementary-aged games and toys. Next we scrubbed of all traces of sleepovers and pizza parties, and freshened with neutral paint and a sign that read “Family Gathers Here”. The idea must have held some appeal, as we received and accepted an offer in under a week.
Not so Fast
That tour of the Laura Ingalls home is now packed away in my memory like so many of the boxes in our new attic. Perhaps what my heart really connected with was not the size of Laura’s home, but the fact that Almonzo had so lovingly crafted it for her. It was bursting at its tiny seems with their love and dedication.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and deflated by the thought of downsizing, maybe you’re not ready just yet, and that’s ok. Give yourself some time to get use to the changes of your empty nest and focus on filling the home you are living in with love. Let me know your thoughts, either way. Remember, we’re in this together.
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