Hello, friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! Today I am finally sitting down to write down all of my thoughts on how to quickly sell your house. As you may recall, we put our Maryland house on the market last November, immediately after Halloween. Traditionally, that is not a “hot” time to be selling a house with the holiday season approaching, and I was extremely nervous. We needed to sell it so that we could move as a family to North Carolina. The alternative situation was that Chris would go and I would stay behind with 3 kids and a house to keep clean and sell… That idea terrified me! However, after being on the market for one weekend, we had in two solid full price offers and went under contract right away. In the few weeks leading up to listing our home, we put in a lot of work to prepare the house for its best possible debut impression, and today I am going to tell you all about what we did to sell our house in just one weekend. (All photos courtesy of the MLS listing and taken by our amazing realtor‘s photographer. This post contains a couple of affiliate links.)
I cannot stress this one enough…. declutter, declutter, declutter! Most buyers want to get the most space for their money, and the best way you can show off how much space you have is by keeping it clear of clutter and staging it with furniture that best suits the space. There are so many ways in which you can declutter so I am going to talk about a few of them.
Furniture: First of all, as I mentioned above, make the furniture fit the space, and get rid of extra furniture that isn’t needed. Since the time we moved into our Maryland home, we had two sofas facing one another. However, to make the room feel larger, I sold my vintage blue sofa and instead brought in my two vintage tulip chairs with a drum table. (You can see what the room looked like before here). While this isn’t an ideal comfortable living room situation, visually it made the space cleaner and more neutral.
In the dining room, I removed a cabinet, and in Emmy’s room, we sold her beloved vintage hanging chair. She honestly didn’t sit in it as much as we’d hoped, and the thought of selling it and using the money to purchase new decor for her new room helped win her over. Removing that chair made her bedroom feel much larger and left more space for buyers to appreciate the two windows her bedroom offered. We also sold the vintage trunk she used as a nightstand and moved her bookcase to the side of her bed, leaving more wall space again, allowing more room to appreciate the windows the bedroom offered.
Accessories: Let’s be honest here; I’ve always been a person who likes her stuff. Minimalism always has a certain appeal to me, but I tend to lean towards maximalism naturally. When it came time to sell the house, it was time to peel back some of those layers. I removed some of our layered textiles, like the layered run in our living room. Secondly, I removed curtains from the living room and dining room windows. One of the biggest appeals of our home was the amazing views from those rooms. Removing those drapes allowed the buyer to simply soak in the large windows and the glorious country view.
Extra decor, art, and plants also had to go. As you can see, I did keep some of the larger plants that helped give the home life, but I scaled waaaaay down from what it had been. I also removed much of the art from the walls, patching and touching up paint as I went. I had planned to remove all of our family photos, but my realtor assured me that it wasn’t necessary. She said she actually loved our family photos which were tastefully done and weren’t cluttering up the spaces. The one place I did remove them was in our bedroom from the picture ledges I had. However, rather than remove the picture ledges, I filled them with books so I wouldn’t have to fill more holes. 😉
Kid Clutter: If you have kids, you know that they come with a whole lot of stuff and generally they have one room in which to store it. Believe it or not, that photo of Emmy’s room above is extremely decluttered! It still has a lot of pattern and color, but we did have to live there while we sold the house and some concessions had to be made. We didn’t want to completely strip our kids of the things that made their spaces theirs. In the weeks leading up to listing, Chris and I helped both of our kids go through all of their toys, decide which to keep and box up for the new house, which to get rid of, and which they absolutely needed out to still play with. It was a tough process, but one that paid off in the end. Additionally, I posted a lot of their items on facebook marketplace, and they were always happy to come home and find that they had made a little money that day.
Sawyer had loads and loads of assembled legos all over his dresser surfaces and shelves. He decided he was ready to part with several legos, so we sold those on facebook marketplace. The others we took apart in pieces, placed in large ziploc bags, and boxed up to prepare for the move. Just removing all of those legos made his room feel much cleaner and it would be easier for a potential buyer to see the room itself. Side note: We were lucky to have an unfinished basement area to place boxes in, but if we hadn’t I would have used a Pod.
Of course, as we went through the decluttering of kids spaces, I had to say I was grateful that Wilder was still so young and had not yet amassed loads of clutter. His room was pretty much ready to go from the beginning!
One small tip I want to mention in the decluttering department before we move on to the next topic is that I highly recommend renting a dumpster. We rented one for two weeks and it allowed us to easily toss things that weren’t worth moving (years of furniture refinishing in that garage left me with lots of waste). We donated, gave away to friends, and sold absolutely everything we could, but there was plenty that wasn’t worth it and the dumpster made life so much easier since we didn’t have to take the time to make several trips to the dump. With limited time on our hands to get the house ready, it was a lifesaver.
2. Make Affordable Updates
House Fixtures: It’s amazing how small inexpensive updates can change a space completely! Chris and I got to work changing a few dated light fixtures we still had in our bathroom and we also had the vanity countertops replaced in our upstairs bathroom with inexpensive cultured marble. The countertop was nothing special and not anything I would actually purchase if we were going to stay there, but it was a step up from what was in the house, neutral, and made a big difference. We also replaced the dated faucets with inexpensive finds from Amazon.
As you can see, this bathroom was still pretty dated, but now it was neutral and simple enough that it didn’t stand out as the eyesore it had been. We used this vanity light from Amazon (which is now only $60!) In our vanity area as well as the kids Jack and Jill vanity area on the other side. Having the same light helped unify the space. I also ordered two of these oil rubbed bronze faucets for cohesion. They were only $37 each so this fix up was really very affordable and paid off in the end.
Paint: Paint is one of the cheapest and easiest updates you can make to a space. In all the years living in this home, we had never painted the trim or walls in our upstairs bathroom. It was one of those neglected spaces we thought we’d get to one day when we had the money to fully renovate it. That day never came while we lived there, but we had to improve it to sell it. We sanded, primed, and painted trim and walls in white paint that we already had on hand.
Neutral paint will also go a long way. We’ve all heard the buyers on House Hunters declare that they could never live in this place with its red walls, or whatever color was on them. When walls are white or gray, or softer colors, it’s much easier for a potential buyer to see themselves living there. Years ago, I had painted the kids bathroom vanity a bright orange (I don’t know what I was thinking!!!!). We knew this vanity needed to be repainted. I sanded it down, and painted it with the same black I had used years ago on the master vanity. I left the colorful vintage rug in place as it hid some tooth paste marks from the kids, and added a little personality as well.
Our downstairs bathroom was primarily used by Emmy, who loved it in pale pink. However, as it was on the main floor, it was going to be one of the first spaces buyers saw. We painted over the pale pink with a couple fresh coats of shell white we had on hand and neutralized it. Emmy wasn’t too thrilled with it, but it made a difference to buyers!
Caulk: Chris removed the old caulk in our bathrooms and caulked them again with fresh white. Ours wasn’t in bad shape to begin with, but new white caulk will go a long way to make a bathroom look much fresher and cleaner.
Secondly, our kitchen sink area had taken a beating from years of use with butcher block countertops. The clear caulking around our sink had pulled away and was a mess. I peeled all of the old caulk away, and redid the area around the sink which freshened it up.
Additionally, one thing to note if you have non-sealed butcher block countertops is to sand and oil them before listing. Once the caulk had settled for 24 hours, I sanded our countertops down with an electric sander, and oiled them with mineral oil. They will look clean and refreshed!
3. Yard Clean-up
Your yard and exterior is the very first thing that potential buyers will see, so it’s imperative that you have your best foot forward. We were blessed in that we had friends who wanted to thank Chris for his years of coaching the local soccer program and their family showed up with chainsaws to help us cut down a tree that had died in our front yard. They also hauled it all away in their truck. It was such a gigantic help so that buyers didn’t drive up our driveway lined with maples to see one glaringly very dead.
In addition to removing the dead tree, we raked, weeded, and mulched.
Our home went on the market early November, so I also added some seasonal touches to our porch in the form of pumpkins and mums. These additions created a homey welcoming to our buyers.
4. Pre-inspection / Getting House up to FHA Loan Standards
If you have ever sold a house, you know just how stressful the inspection phase can be once you are under contract. What may seem like a done deal could be destroyed by surprise issues that come up during inspections. Or if your buyer has an FHA loan, your home might not meet the very strict guidelines the government adheres to if they are going to provide funding to your buyer. Because we really needed a quick sale, and did not want anything to fall through, we hired one of the area’s best home inspectors to come inspect our home BEFORE it hit the market. He spent about 3 or 4 hours thoroughly going over every aspect of our house. A couple of days later, we received a report with every single thing wrong with our home on it. Working closely with our realtor, we decided which items to tackle and which were minor and could possibly sit.
The pre-inspection cost us about $400, and was worth every single penny. I will absolutely follow this step every time I sell a house in the future. We all live in our homes and see them every single day and maybe don’t notice the little things that are starting to fall apart. A home inspector will rip your house apart, but as long as you can fix everything before you list and not risk a buyer walking away, it’s absolutely 100% worth it.
Because of our home inspection we fixed some minor plumbing issues, had the gutters and downspouts cleaned and flushed, repaired some wood rot outside on the windows, and more. We also were made aware of a couple of items that would not meet FHA standards. Those items were an absolute priority to fix. We had purchased that house in 2011, and were not using an FHA loan so the items that had been flagged for that during our inspection 7 years prior hadn’t really mattered to us. However, we didn’t want to mess around and lose potential buyers since so many people use FHA loans these days. One of the major items that needed attention was our porch railing. We had it replaced and painted to match the existing exterior trim and were really happy with the outcome.
In the end, our buyer did not use an FHA loan, but we felt a lot more secure in our house listing knowing it would meet FHA standards if needed.
5. Add generic personal touches
While you don’t want to have family photos all over the place as that is way too much personalization, some special unique touches are nice and welcoming. Specifically, things that let the buyer know you’ve loved the home. Those little things can let the buyer know that you’ve loved the home and thus taken proper care of it. We used our chalkboard wall to add a little quote about home.
Secondly some items that are specific to the area you live in can be a nice touch as well. In our kitchen on our chalkboard door, I made a list of some of our favorite local places. When it came time to finally list and open the house up for tours, I made printouts of this list and left them on the kitchen island for buyers to take. We received feedback from the agents that they prospects all really loved that idea. Our old house felt like it was really out in the country, but truly it wasn’t far from lots of fun places and we wanted the buyers to know that. It was a country setting with access to various activities.
6. Be Flexible with Your Showing Schedule
Get out!!! When someone wants to come see your house, get out!!! Years ago, when we were shopping for our very first home in Louisiana, the home owners were in the house while we looked at it… it was so so weird! Never under any circumstances do that. Your potential buyers will feel like they’re imposing on you, they won’t have the freedom to discus price, things they would change, etc. We ended up buying that house, but that rarely happens.
I had 2 big kids, a nursing baby, and 2 dogs but any time there was an appointment made, I hightailed it out of my house, kids, baby, dogs in tow! The day that the photographer came to shoot our house, my realtor called me. Although the home wasn’t on the market yet, some people were in town and wanted to come see the house and would I allow them to come in early. The answer in that situation is always YES. The kids were in school, but I strapped the baby on, put the dogs on leashes, and headed out for a walk while the potential buyers looked. They ended up having questions about the property lines, and asked me to come back and answer them. I obliged, walking home with the dogs and baby and answering their questions. In the end they decided the slope of the driveway and yard would be too much for them as they were aging, but I received great feedback and they absolutely loved the house otherwise. While it wasn’t a sale, it was nice to know the house showed well.
Friday morning the house went on the market, and I received call after call coming in from agents wanting to show the house. I said yes to every single showing and we ended up with something like 10 or 11 total. That weekend was Emmy’s soccer tournament and as I mentioned, Chris was coaching. That meant that during the tournament, I stood on the sidelines with a baby strapped on and dogs on leashes the whole time. I should mention, we have one dog who has a bit of anxiety and can be hard to handle. Sawyer helped me a bit with the dogs, but it was UTTER INSANITY and so stressful. When the day ended and we were all on our way home, we got a call for an evening showing, so our family just ended up driving around with the dogs. I just kept telling myself that hopefully it would pay off and we would have an offer by the end of the weekend and prayed that it would be the only weekend we would even have to be open for showings. The point is, I know it can be really hard to get out of the house with certain life circumstances, but it’s imperative that you do it so you don’t miss out on any potential buyers, or even better a bidding war.
After one weekend on the market, we had two full price offers come in on Monday and Tuesday. We also had word of another offer coming in, but they didn’t make it in time before we sat down with our realtor to discuss all of our options. In the end, we chose the offer that was full price and asked for no closing help because it would give us more money for the down payment of our hew house.
The month of October was absolutely challenging for us. We made repairs, painted, cleaned, cleared clutter, and worked our tails off, all while shuffling kids here and there, and with a baby underfoot. While it was hard, the payoff was well worth the work. If you are selling your house, I hope that these pointers help you so that you get the absolute most money you possibly can. As always, feel free to comment here or emial me with any questions. Wishing you the best of luck in your home adventures!