Posted by Eileen
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In the weeks leading up to putting our house on the market, Ash and I worked tirelessly getting our home ready. As parents of a little one, we did not want our house sitting for the market for weeks, let alone months. Therefore, we did a great deal of packing, updating, cleaning, and staging. Once ready, our home sold four days after it went on the market (after a weekend of showings). It was an amazing moment knowing that our hard work got us exactly what we wanted. Here's how you can do it too!
1. Packing, packing, packing: We packed up two-thirds of our things. It sounds like a lot, but being a thrift store junky, we had a lot. My walls were covered, there was furniture everywhere, closets were stuffed to the brim, not to mention all of the baby things. I knew I needed to empty out to make our home look more spacious, to depersonalize, and to properly stage it.
First, I worked on the walls. I took down most of the pictures, leaving a few here and there to stage it. I probably had about 15 picture frames up in the living room. I took them all down and re-hung up three simple pictures symmetrically above the couch. I did, however, really like the gallery that I had in the kitchen – it looked modern and cool (see below), so I left that as it was, just swapping out the personal photos for scenery.
Next, I removed clunky furniture – extra chairs in the corners, extra dressers in the bedroom, and any other kind of filler furniture. For example, I took everything out of my dining room except for the dining set and the hutch (see below pictures - don't mind our pets). The rooms looked more spacious, less “lived in,” and people could walk around more easily.
After that, I started packing up dishes, knick knacks, extra kitchen gadgets, and smaller picture frames. For instance, our bay window was filled with personal picture frames, so I packed them all up and put a plant there instead. I wanted our cabinets and bookshelves not to look stuffed. When people look at houses, they open cabinets, closets – everything. It all needed to look organized and roomy. You don’t want prospective buyers to see a cabinet full of shoved, mismatched Tupperware.
This was around Christmas time, and we ordered a lot from Amazon and Kohls (great Black Friday sales!) , so every time we got a delivery, I would empty the box of my purchase and then repack it with these items It was really efficient for me to pack this way because with a baby that wasn’t sleeping that well, I didn’t have a lot of time other than a few minutes here and there.
Next up was our closets, and they were maxed out. I packed most of the things and organized the rest. For our clothes, I packed up things that were out of season. It was winter, so I packed all of my dresses and summer things. Our walk-in closet still looked terrible, so I organized all of Ash’s and my clothes in rainbow order. It’s amazing how much neater and less chaotic this small change made our walk-in look.
As far as the baby things, we put as much away as we could. We didn’t use the pack n’ play very often, so we folded that up and put it away. Because our son was using his bouncer a lot, we found a place for it in the downstairs closet, where we could easily take it in and out without overstuffing the closet. Basically, all of the baby things would be put away for showings, other than what was in the upstairs nursery.
Luckily, we had a huge attic and nearby parents to help with the storage. We also had a few places where we could still put things: we had two couches with storage underneath that held a lot of last minute things that were laying around. You could always rent a storage unit too – but packing up beforehand is a critical step.
2. Making Easy Updates: In the midst of packing up, we also made manageable aesthetic updates. We replaced old rusty air vents that were very visible, we swapped out some old light fixtures for newer modern ones, we bought a kitchen table that worked with the space better than the clunky one we had before, and we repainted some areas.
These aren’t great pictures – but it shows the changed light fixture, new table, and lighter paint color in the kitchen nook – all small things which made a big difference.
Prospective buyers have troubling imagining themselves living in a home that needs work, so we wanted to make it look as perfect as possible. If you have any crazy colors – like a bright red wall that stands out, it might be a good idea to paint it a neutral color. In our house, I gave the rooms that needed it a fresh coat of paint. I also did a fresh coat on our front door and back door. I got a little carried away and repainted baseboard and chair rails in our downstairs too to make them brighter and fresher.
I also filled all of the old nail holes and then painted. I filled the gaps between the old crown molding pieces that the previous owners had done. We also fixed up old grout in the bathroom that wasn’t visually pleasing. Additionally, Ash put up the French door pantry in the kitchen, which was a quick weekend project (see below before and after pictures).
You can make yourself go crazy doing all of these things. Remember you can’t do everything, so be reasonable about the small upgrades that you can make without making yourself go nuts.
3. Staging: As our updates were nearing completion, we started to stage our home. While all of the packing helped us to stage it, we also had more work to do. We took down the dark curtains from our bay windows to let a lot of light in. Natural light is the best. We put some brighter bulbs in dark spaces, like in our laundry room and kitchen. We rearranged some furniture in rooms to allow easy flow of people, and we added plants to windowsills.
We arranged shelves neatly; already having personal photos removed, there was less to work with. Therefore, in the nursery – for example, we got creative and printed some Pooh sketches from google and used color-coordinated children’s books.
We hid all evidence of our dog – the dog bed, bones, crate – everything! He’s a very clean dog that doesn’t shed, but we wanted to make a good first impression on prospective buyers. Prior to showing, we opened the windows and let the fresh air in. We didn’t bother with any candles or scents or cinnamon in the microwave - just some lemon cleaning products and fresh air.
Remember, the outside is important to stage too. We put down fresh mulch in our backyard and cleaned up the flower gardens. We set the chairs up on our deck to look inviting. We had the porch cleanly swept. And, we put down a colorful carpet and brightly colored pillows in our dingy, old sunroom. New pillows are a great way to stage any room, as you can bring in new colors or accentuate the colors you have.
4. Cleaning: We made everything sparkle. We wiped down the windows, furniture, counters, the bathrooms, so that it all looked shiny and fresh. I remember we went to see one house and there were bagel crumbs all over the counter from someone’s breakfast. Instead of noticing their kitchen cabinets or view from the window, I was fixated on those bagel crumbs. It just looked sloppy! Making everything neat and clean is the way to go.
Here you can see the natural light coming in, the spacious areas to walk around, the few pictures on the wall, and the clean, shiny surfaces. (In hindsight, I would have painted that window trim white!)
5. Using a Great Realtor: Last, we found a great realtor, who most importantly helped us price our house right. We spent time with him looking at the competition and the prices they had or were looking for. We went into a few open houses that were in our own neighborhood, seeing our competition. Then, we came up with a price that we were comfortable with from the start. We didn’t overprice; if a house is overpriced (even with the intent to drop it later), it can deter buyers. Additionally, before our house went on the market, our realtor suggested some things to make the house more appealing: the rug in our bedroom needed to be stretched, the roof needed a cleaning, and a few other smaller things – like the rusty vents and brighter lighting. These feedback from the realtor helped us to decide what upgrades were needed prior to showing.
With all of our hard work, we got great feedback on our house. We heard it was easy to show and that other realtors wished some of the homes they were selling were staged like this. Yet most importantly, we had an offer after only one weekend of showing!
As a side note, when we moved we left all of the gallons of paint that went with the rooms in the house, labeling the cans with the room that it belonged in. We also made a binder that had all of the work that we had done at the house with the company’s name. For example, we replaced our kitchen counters with quartz, so we left all of the paperwork (marking out our personal information). If the new owners wanted to add on to the kitchen, they would have the company that we got the quartz from. We gave this to the new owners on closing, but in hindsight, I wished I had left a binder with all of this information (including paint chips) on the kitchen table for prospective home buyers. I think it shows that you really took care of your house well – which is something that every home buyer wants.
Anyway, as a final piece of advice, you just have to believe that your hard work will pay off. There are so many houses on the market that are cluttered, in need of upgrades, and not easy to show. By following the steps that we did, your home will standout – just like ours did!
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Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)