Listing Your House for Sale

Listing Your House for Sale When It’s Messy

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It’s taken me 30 years and about 10 different moves before I learned all the secrets of listing your house for sale.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a boatload of work to do, especially if your house is super cluttered and messy.  But if you get a higher selling price you could potentially be earning $100 or more per hour with each of these tweaks – that might cheer you up a bit!

Think Like a Buyer BEFORE Listing Your House for Sale

In order to do this successfully you really have to get inside the mind of your ideal buyer because there’s a lot you can do to influence their thinking and boost your selling price.  When someone is looking to buy a house, they have a bunch of different things going on in their mind.

  • When they look at the front, they are wondering if their friends and family will be impressed with how the outside looks – so find ways to impress them!
  • When they are looking at the rooms, they are wondering if their furniture will fit – make it seem spacious and open
  • When they are looking at the kitchen and the bathrooms, you don’t want them to be thinking about germs and grossness – makes it SPOTLESS.
  • The husband in particular, is thinking about maintenance.  How much work is it going to be to fix up the place and keep it in good shape – minimize those worries by fixing little things and making your home look pulled together and effortless.
  • The wife – well, if you’ve ever watched a few episodes of House Hunters, you know she has an extensive list of requirements going on in her head.  Maybe you can’t give her marble waterfall countertops, but try to give her a clean appearance, spacious closets and some appealing touches like plants and soothing colors.

Get a Storage Area ASAP and Fill ‘er Up!

If you have a LOT of clutter – somehow most of it needs to GO.  You simply cannot show a messy house and get a decent price for it.  Personally, I prefer those pod things that sit in your driveway.  But if those logistics are a problem, get a storage space nearby.  Then pack up EVERYTHING you aren’t going to need for the next couple of months.  I know that’s a tall order, especially if you have a very cluttered home, but especially if you have a cluttered home, you NEED to do this.  Wide open spaces bring in a higher selling price, I promise you!

Interesting sidebar – about two years ago, my husband and I had decided on listing our house for sale.  We’re in our 60’s and have a 6-bedroom house, so it’s WAY too much space for us.  We spent two months decluttering and packing up all the excess stuff, but then right when we were ready to sign the listing contract, we changed our minds.  Partly because we couldn’t find the right home, but also because we really loved our home once we’d cleared out all the excess STUFF.  So we tore up the contract, got rid of most of the stuff we’d put in storage and went right on living here.  

Items to put in your storage pod (or declutter altogether):

  • Excessive amounts of any type of media – books, DVD’s, CD’s, games, puzzles, etc.
  • Out of season clothing (labeled and in an accessible place in case of moving delays)
  • Decorative items that serve no purpose *
  • Any shelves or furniture that isn’t absolutely necessary
  • Holiday decor – if the holiday is at least 6 months away
  • Excess bedding and linens – keep two sets of sheets and two types of blankets for each bed.
  • Rarely used kitchen gadgets – pineapple cutters, turkey basters, Foreman grill, turkey fryer, etc.
  • Toys with lots of parts – unless your children are really attached to them.  Doll houses, Barbies, huge Lego sets, kites, tents, etc.
  • Same thing for tons of craft supplies – Mom’s OR the kid’s.  If you’re moving, you aren’t going to have a lot of time for crafting.
  • Excess stuff from your garage – my husband could easily fill up an entire storage pod of his own with that stuff.  Wide open spaces are super important in the garage.

* The one piece of common advice that I disagree with completely is removing personal pictures.  I think that’s just dumb because it either leaves awkward gaps all over the house or you’ve got empty nails on the walls and then you have to putty and paint.  People KNOW someone lives there – just leave your pictures alone, but little things like your collection of antique dolls or unicorns or frogs or whatever….  Pack those babies up!

Listing your house for sale

What if I’m Just Overwhelmed and Buried in Clutter?

That’s a great question.  This is true for a lot of homes.  According to research, the average American home contains 300,000 individual items – yikes!  That is a lot for anyone to deal with and I honestly think that some people have that organized gene and some of us (note that I’m counting myself here) just don’t.  And especially if you work full-time or have young kids, the clutter can just build up until there isn’t an uncluttered corner of your home.

I get it – I’ve been there.  After growing up in a messy home, so I understand the impact on your kids. When we moved from our house in California 30 years ago, we filled up a 21 foot moving truck, a 10 foot trailer, and a pick-up truck.  And they were JAM PACKED!  For one small family, that was broke all the time – probably because of buying all that STUFF.  That was a turning point for me and every year, I got rid of more and more clutter and was happier and happier with less stuff to worry about.

So, that was why I started this blog to help other people who were struggling like I was.  I’ve written dozens of posts aimed at helping women who were just drowning in all the clutter and were made miserable and ashamed because of it. It’s a tough and unhappy way to live because you always feel inadequate or “less than”, even if it’s a situation out of your control – illness, a crazy work schedule, a bunch of little kids, a husband that is a pack rat and won’t get rid of stuff.  Or you just don’ to make it work.

If this is you, I get it – the idea of opening up your entire home to a bunch of nosy, judgmental strangers is horrifying!  Having to keep your entire house in spotless order for week – unthinkable!  Sometimes, you don’t even want your close friends or family members to see even your front room.  I see you!  I feel for you! But it’s FIXABLE. Just calming down the clutter even a little can make a huge difference in your daily life.

Next Step – Make it Look Gorgeous!

Once you’ve cleared out any clutter or excess, now it’s time to make every corner of the house just SHINE.  This is where you might need some help – maybe professionals, or maybe just some willing friends and family members.  Remember that all the changes you make could boost the top selling price of the home even higher, so it might be worth putting out a little money up front if you can.

Step one is to CLEAN like there’s no tomorrow.  Even though it would be expensive, hiring a team of cleaners to come in and shine up the whole house, would be a very smart investment that would pay great dividends in the selling price of the house.  You want the home to look and smell as fresh as it possibly can.

Next it’s FIX-IT time.  Go through the whole house with a notebook and make note of every loose doorknob, door that sticks, anything that needs patching or tidying up.  If you have to hire a handyman, again it’s worth it.

Now, maybe there are some major renovations that won’t be worth the effort and expense, but there are usually a bunch of small things that you can easily set in order.  When we were looking at listing our home – we replaced all the bathroom fixtures with brushed nickel hardware, painted the walls a nice bright white, and replaced several light fixtures with bright and attractive lights.  Helped brighten the place up a lot!

Spend a bit of time on the garage.  Ideally, you should only have the car, a few basic tools, and either a lawn mower or a snow blower.  Unfortunately, that’s about 1,000 items LESS than my husband has in OUR garage (sigh).  It’s definitely the messiest place in our house!  And he still goes to Home Depot nearly every day to buy more tools – ugh!  It’s a lot of work and a risk that he will pack up some tool that you might really need, but an uncluttered and tidy garage makes a big impression.  Maybe promise him a nice steak dinner for getting the job done – that usually works with my husband!

Now comes the FUN part – decorating.  Look at the front of the house.  What can you easily do to increase the curb appeal?  Planter boxes, tidy up the landscaping, modernize the house numbers, maybe paint the front door, or at least scrub it super clean.  Fresh doormat, put some nice plants out.  All simple things you should be able to do pretty inexpensively.

Now look at every shelf and storage space.  How would a professional designer do it?  Arrange a few books, a vase and maybe a candle or a plant?  Watch some of those HGTV shows and see how they stage a space.  If you can afford it, your realtor can hook you up with a professional staging company.  If not, maybe you and a friend can come up with a few simple touches to make each little area look calm and attractive.  If you do have items you need to keep, find some baskets or boxes to store them in to make them look more polished.  You can always re-use them in the new house.

I hope these tips have helped you when it comes to getting the best selling price for your house.  This is part of a series I’m doing on listing your house for sale and various moving strategies.  In the meantime, check out my moving planner – it’s got everything you could possible need for a super organized move!

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Here are the other posts in the series.

Moving? Learn how to pack like a boss

10 Simple Strategies to Ease the Stress of Moving

5 Tips for Moving with Teenagers

4 Tips to Organize Your Messy Craft Room

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