If you’re thinking of downsizing, 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.
Although it’s not fair, today’s buyers will compare your property to slick magazine ads and reality shows. For this reason and many others, staging your home is a must if you want to avoid the headaches of a prolonged listing and price haggling.
If you’re on the picket fence about this big step, 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.
Lie One: Buyers will see through your personal items.
Buyers today have been encouraged to live in the la la land of home improvement shows. Ironically, most 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will first check your listing online and won’t even schedule a walk-through if they see pictures of hopelessly outdated décor, clutter and personal items on display.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 selling your house quickly and for an optimal price, 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 up now will make your move that much easier!
Lie Two: Buyers are realistic about what can and can’t be changed
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. Even though the age of our home was clearly listed on the MLS, several buyers still commented the home was “too old”.
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 We invested in fresh, up-to-date paint colors and replaced our outdated light fixtures with trendy options.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.
Lie Three: It’s a Seller’s Market
We have bought and sold several homes over the course of our marriage, and have learned that, whether or not the news forecasts the market trends in our favor, it all breaks down to a case-by-case situation. Don’t count on the market to sell your home for you.
Do your own research and determine what demographic is most likely to 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 demographic, 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.
Former teen hangout spaces in our home were staged with elementary-aged games and toys. Our family room was 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
Feeling overwhelmed and deflated by all this information? 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 revisit the topic of downsizing at a later date. Let me know your thoughts, either way. Remember, we’re in this together.