Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to sell your house by owner: before the "for sale" sign

This is Part 1 of How I sold my house by owner in 3 weeks so you can too!
You may want to follow the personal journey starting here.
This is not to downplay the job of a Realtor. If you have the time and tools, you may be able to keep the 6% of your home's sale for yourself like we did.
Confidence is very important starting this journey. I talked about a big reason for mine here.
I had Realtors calling & knocking on my door explaining the odds were against me selling, telling me my price was too high in comparison, and insulted me with "when you're ready to sell it, give me a call". Here's a little glimpse of how many homes are for sale within 3 miles of my house. Red dots represent homes for sale. 
Looks like a pubescent face, right? Directly in my neighborhood there are handfuls of homes for sale by Realtors that were for sale for a long while before mine was & are still for sale now, after mine is sold.
Our house sold by owner in 3 weeks for more per sq. foot than the comparables & we kept every bit of the money! Sound good to you?
This is how I did it, so you can too!

We took 3 days to clean out the house.
Room by room, we got to bare essentials.
The bottom line is buyers want to see space, not stuff.
Clothes, furnishings, toys, etc were divided as follows:
Keep the minimum for use now,
Store what’s necessary for later,
Give it away because it’s rarely used or has run its course.

You may wish to hold a garage sale, or list big items on We were working with limited time so it made most sense to donate, keep an itemized list, get a receipt, & use it as a tax deduction. Be careful to evaluate the time vs. your true need for $ from the items in question. Is it worth the time & effort of a garage sale that may end in $150 at best? Is it better to sell high value items on & donate the rest in the interest of time & for the sake of getting started on selling & showing the house? Either way set realistic time limits & stick to them.

The space you’re selling should invite the potential buyer to imagine their stuff there.
Pay careful attention to counter, closet, wall, & floor space (limiting furnishings, toys, & storage); less is more.

Don’t forget the pantry, bathroom, & kitchen drawers. Toss rarely used and expired toiletries, organize utensils & clear junk drawers.
This works better for you too. You’re moving, which means you’ll be packing. The more you toss or donate the less you have to pack & unpack.
Think: they’re buying the life-style this home offers.

One of the first couples to tour my home, had already looked at the home’s website (more on that in step 3). When they came in they were discussing where their own furnishings would fit. This is a good thing.

Think: hotel room or vacation rental: welcoming, but generic. Most importantly, you don’t walk in & feel like an intruder. Rather you are free to make yourself at home.
(This is in large part done by the previous step. Opening closet doors & seeing empty shelves & hanging racks create just the “imagine yourself here” image you want for potential buyers.)

Replace ALL owner-specific artwork & decorations.
This is the time to bite the bullet and paint that owner-specific hot pink wall! You want to sell, and the buyer may share your great taste in homes but may be turned off by your choice of navy blue & green in the bedroom because they have all girls. You want to make it as neutral as possible to keep from turning away buyers.
Your goal is limited furnishings not zero furnishings. Let’s say: fill 1/3 of the shelf or main wall. Choose furnishings to scale that highlight the space the home offers.
My mantle was filled entirely with family photos, and because it’s a central focus of our living space it needed something to appropriate scale to highlight the great space.  I scored clearance items that filled in the gaps.  You may borrow generic items too if needed. Tasteful seasonal décor is the way I went because it was fall & those colors are warm & welcoming. (see Step 2: photos)

Some thrifty decor ideas: bowls of vibrant colored produce (lemons, apples, pears, artichokes) on bare kitchen counters, bargain blooms on tabletops, a pumpkin on a coffee table (in season).
We had several people, including a Realtor, assume we had the home professionally staged. I even had interested buyers question if it was for sale furnished. This is a good thing.
Consult my photo album for more ideas.
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  1. Have you seen YHL?
    I pointed them in your direction!

  2. OMGosh!! I just came across this blog through Pinterest while looking up tips about FSBO. I clicked on your link for your home website, and when I saw the pic, I was like wow, that house looks really familiar. Then I noticed the street address. I was like hmmm, no, this can't be the street I live off of. And you know what, it is!! I'm on Hartford! Lol this is crazy! But anywho, I might be doing the same as you. Thanks for the tips!

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