Maybe you’re an older adult who’s ready to sell your house — but your house may not be quite ready to be sold.
Or maybe you’re ready for the possibilities of a more carefree future at a senior living community — but you’re not quite ready to let go of a houseful of memories.
Either way, both situations are completely understandable. If you’ve lived in your home for decades, it may not be in tip-top shape for prospective buyers. And if you’ve accumulated decades’ worth of things, you may need some time to downsize, which includes going through the process of saying goodbye to many of your belongings.
Try these seven home seller tips to help you get ready for a move, from ideas on what to do before you list your home, how to choose a real estate agent, how to make your home appealing to prospective buyers, and more.
7 Home Seller Tips
Tip #1: Get your adult children to declutter
It’s the home you raised your kids in. Now they’re adult children with kids of their own. While they may have left your nest, they probably left a lot of their things behind: toys, boxes of knickknacks, high school trophies — you may not even know what they stashed in their old closets and up in the attic.
Give your kids the chance to reclaim anything that belongs to them, then let them know what they don’t take is either being tossed out or donated.
Tip #2: Now get yourself to declutter
Once your kids have done their part, it’s time for you to do yours. A good real estate agent will tell you decluttered homes show much better than a house full of stuff. Either pack up or let go of knickknacks that currently sit on your mantle and your coffee table. Get rid of or box up kitchen appliances that take up counter space.
If you’re moving from your home into a senior living community, kitchens are a great place to start thinking of what you’ll really use once you settle in. If you’ll be enjoying three chef-prepared meals every day and don’t plan to cook or bake much, do you really need all your countertop appliances, gadgets, pots and pans?
Tip #3: This is also the time to downsize
If you’re moving to a place with less square footage than you currently have, all your furniture and belongings that won’t make the move have to go somewhere. You don’t want to rent a storage unit in perpetuity just to hold all the things you couldn’t decide what to do with.
So as you start decluttering each room, think about what you want to take with you. You know you’ll take your bedroom furniture, but will you have room for all of it? Look at the pieces of furniture in your house that have big footprints, like credenzas, cabinets and chests: What will fit? What won’t? Then work your way down to smaller items, like lamps, side tables and plant stands.
Tip #4: Decide what to do with what gets downsized
In each room, mark or move all your items into three piles: DONATE, SELL, DISCARD. There may be several nonprofit organizations in your area that will accept donations of furniture, clothing, appliances and dishware. If your belongings have value and you’d like to make a bit of money, consider selling them online or through what’s known as a living estate sale (yes, it’s a thing nowadays). Then there are things nobody but the garbage man wants — so into the trash bin they go.
Tip #5: Find the right real estate agent
Some home sellers choose to go FSBO, which means for sale by owner. Sometimes this makes sense — you’re not in a hurry to sell your home, you don’t want to pay commission fees, or you’re in a high-demand market. And 2020 and 2021 were certainly very favorable years for home sellers. But a real estate agent will help you price, stage and market your property, show it off to prospective buyers, and negotiate offers for you as part of their commission. The right real estate agent should know your local market well, so they can help ensure your house is priced properly, which may earn you thousands of dollars more in the sale. Ask family or friends for a good referral, and meet with a few agents before choosing one.
Tip #6: Get your home ready to show
A good listing agent knows how to market your home. Typically they’ll walk through your house and give you suggestions on what you can do to make it more attractive before the for-sale sign goes in your yard. Even if you’ve already decluttered, they may suggest a staging professional who can help your home look more appealing. Your agent may suggest you paint a room or two, add a fresh coat of stain to your deck or put flowers in your flower box to enhance curb appeal.
If you’ve lived in your house for many years, consider paying for your own home inspection before you list your home. A home inspector may catch issues like faulty plumbing, or may suggest updating some of your older electrical outlets to safer CGFI outlets. Fixing some things at this stage can reduce some of the problems a homebuyer’s home inspection may catch, when repairs could delay your closing date.
Tip #7: Set a timeline for your move, but give yourself some grace
Especially if you’re planning a move to a senior living community, you may need to join a waitlist to get the residence you want. That gives you a built-in timeline to sell your home and make your move.
So take your time as you work through the emotions involved in downsizing, prepping and listing your home. It can be difficult mentally, physically and emotionally. Give yourself permission to grieve if you need to — after all, you’re saying goodbye to your family home. Just remember the reasons why you’re selling your house, and remind yourself of all the benefits waiting for you.