(This is the first in a series of three articles on “The Organized Move”)
The thought of moving can set most of us in a tailspin, but what is more frightening is imagining the parade of realtors and home buyers marching through your very personal space and judging you on: neatness, maintenance and upkeep, and tasteful décor. (There will be a handful of buyers that are looking for a “fixer upper” and projects that last for years, but unfortunately only two exist to date).
So let’s discuss a few easy tips to get your home in market condition. Remember — realtors and prospective homebuyers can tell how a home has been cared for over the years. If your home is in need of major repairs it is always best to consult a professional to ensure proper technique and installation.
The month before you list your home, walk around with a notepad and write down everything that is in need of some minor repair or a little freshening up. It is very natural to focus on just the main living areas of your home and forget about the closets and storage areas, but this is a big mistake. In every home I ever bought or sold closets and storage areas were part of the public viewing. So lets divide the space of your home and get moving:
Check all the bedrooms and pay particular attention to the closets. This is a great time to review the contents and do a major purge. The fewer items that are crammed in your closet, the fewer things you have to pack and your closet will appear larger to a buyer. Set a pickup date with your local charity — this gives a little extra motivation to get those closets in order. Out of season clothes should be packed up and if possible stored at a very kind relative or friend’s home.
Take a similar approach to shelves and dressers and any other surfaces in the rooms. Clutter is a real turnoff for a lot of people. Pack up the unwieldy collections and neatly organize what is left.
Check for any leaks, cracks and discoloration on all your plumbing fixtures. Spend a little extra time cleaning the mirrors and the lights (this can really make your bathroom sparkle). If your beauty products are all over the bathroom vanity consider purchasing an inexpensive caddie to hold your products so they can be swiftly tucked away for a showing.
Family Room/ Living Room
Get rid of anything that makes the rooms look crowded or dated. Window coverings can either make or break a space. Heavy and dated curtains can be taken down to allow natural light in. It is very important to air out the home on a regular basis. Also consider using one of the products on the market to eliminate odors from carpets, drapes and upholstery. If you or family members are smokers, consider smoking outside until your home is sold. Pet owners send the dog off to the groomer for a bath and regularly change the cat’s litter box.
Check that all cabinets are clean inside and out, as well as in good working order. The contents should be arranged in an orderly manner. You wouldn’t want your cereal boxes falling on a buyer’s head. This is an excellent time to donate small appliances, dishes, and glassware you have not used in years. If you are doing a long distance move and using a professional mover, they charge by weight. In my book this is a huge motivator not to move something that I am not 100% sure I will ever use again.
Keep the counters clear; this can be a difficult task for busy people who are accustomed to using this space as their personal catchall. Keep a few empty bins or baskets for every household member. In a pinch you can quickly toss the items into their respective bins and set in a closet or in their rooms.
Also, a vase of fresh cut flowers and a subtle scented candle add a nice touch.
Basements and Garages
These two areas usually need a little more lead-time than a month. Start with your basement and make it a family affair. (I feel pretty confident to say that the basement is not in its current state because of one individual, but there is always the exception!) To maximize your time, refrain from paging through old textbooks and reading all your old album covers. Set those albums aside and start organizing.
Designate areas in your basement with boxes labeled as give away, throw away, and pack. Empty boxes, old toys and clothes that have not seen sunlight in years can easily be escorted to curb. Properly dispose of old electronics and paint (check with your local waste disposal company on recycle options). Consider packing a few boxes from your “pack pile” and stack neatly in your storage area. This will give you a great head start on the packing process.
Now, out the door to the garage, if you can’t pull car in than you have a good day’s worth of work ahead of you. The concept behind the garage is to provide shelter for your car and storage for your outdoor related equipment only and not “I am not sure what to do with that, so just put it in the garage storage”. Start by placing like items together and remove anything that does not qualify for garage living. Toss any broken items, unrecognizable objects, and those unfinished projects that have remained in their current state the last 7 years. Donate and recycle all the things the kids have outgrown. Start the boxing process and pack anything that will not be needed until you reach your new home.
Finally, don’t forget the yard. Clear away any dead foliage, weeds, and fallen branches. Trim hedges and shrubs and neatly store hoses and sprinklers. Rake up any leaves and give your yard a fresh cut. If climate permits, plant a pot of flowers and place near your entryway.
When you think you are done, have your realtor come through and look around with a fresh eye. It’s amazing what you stop actually seeing when you live with it day to day! Getting ready to sell your house may not be fun, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A little sprucing and organizing will bring back realtors and potential buyers. Remember — people want to be able to visualize their own ideas for a home, so make it an inviting and welcoming place.