How to Live in a House for Sale

ForSale_SibcyCline.jpgYou’re excited. You’re finally ready to move. Maybe it’s because your family got bigger. Maybe it’s because you want to shorten your commute. Maybe, you’re just ready to upgrade in general. Whatever the reason, it’s time.

There’s only one problem. You’re waiting for someone to buy your house.

In the words of the immortal philosopher Homer (Simpson) – “D’oh!”

So here are 5 tips to help you live with a house that’s for sale:

1. Declutter

If “location, location, location” is the real estate mantra, then “declutter, declutter, declutter” is the seller’s mantra. Few things hide the value of a home like closets filled with unnecessary goods, out of place items, or just junk. It’s hard to see the value of your home when all a buyer can see is your collection of National Geographic magazines from the 1980’s.

So how do you live in a cleaned house? By thinking “simple.” If we’re honest with ourselves we rarely use everything we own, even over the span of a few months. Most closets can be emptied of everything that is non-seasonal. And if your co-worker asks why you keep wearing the same shirt to work, just tell them that you’re a cartoon character. The same can be said of kitchen cupboards, basements, and most kid toys. You may even find that the less stuff you have, the better you like it!

2. Stay Clean

This will be your biggest challenge. Especially if you have kids or pets. Both tend to forget that “cleanliness is next to sold-li-ness”. Or something. But staying clean is one of the most important things you can do. You went to all the effort of decluttering your house, why waste that effort now? Clean spaces always feel more inviting. They also allow potential buyers to project their own visions onto the space.

Unfortunately this may be the hardest one to live with. It’s hard work keeping your house clean. Especially if you have a job, kids, volunteering, sports etc… So the best advice here is to stay focused on your goal: selling your house. You may need to remind yourself daily that keeping your house picked up is one of the best ways to increase the selling price. (Some days you may need to do this several times….)

3. Fix the Little Things

Little details add up. Sure the wobbly knoll post doesn’t seem like an issue by itself. But combine it with a bad paint job, some scratches on the floor, and creaking door – and suddenly you’re telling the buyer that you didn’t really take care of the house. “Who knows what lurks in this house?” is the message you’re sending. By taking care of the little things you’re reinforcing the first two points of a clean, comfortable, well-maintained home.

This is actually a great way to involve the kids (if you have them) or as a possible “date night” with a spouse. Yes, my idea of a date might be a bit different than yours! But the idea is to change these projects from work to something you can do as a family or with friends. Invite people over for a painting party. Let the kids spread mulch or plant flowers. If you have to do it anyway, you might as well have some fun!

4. Know When to Stop

The flip side is knowing when to stop. Yes the little things matter. But you can always find something new to replace, repair, repaint, or re-purpose. That’s both the excitement and curse of home ownership! Don’t let it overwhelm you. Know when to make that break. (This is when your Realtor’s knowledge of the local market will come in handy.)


5. Get Out of the House!

Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply get out of the house. You’ll need to do this during showings anyway. So you might as well start looking for things to do away from home. The upside is the more time you spend outside of the house, the less time you’ll need to spend cleaning up the house.

What can you do in your neighborhood? What local restaurants do you want to go to for “the last time”? What playgrounds can you take your kids to? Do you know where you’re moving? Go visit the local stores. Not sure yet? Check out what different neighborhoods have to offer. You might even find your dream home while you’re trying to stay out of your current home!

It can be demanding, stressful, and frustrating to live in a house that you’re trying to sell. But think of the rewards of finally getting it sold. And really, at the end of the day, that’s your primary goal. In the meantime, good luck!

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