Prepping Your House to Sell: Make a Plan

On my 39th birthday, I looked ahead to my 40th and was fearful.  I was afraid I would be depressed by encountering that big milestone emphasizing how fast (and how much!) the years were flying by. So a year ahead of time I presented my husband with two options for preventing a mid-life crisis upon my 40th birthday.  I knew either of them would take a lot of time to plan and execute, so I wanted to give him plenty of advanced warning!  I told him I would like to receive either a) a diamond ring (since I had never received an engagement ring; we were too poor at the time and hadn’t prioritized for it since… word to the wise:  that is definitely one of those things you have to do AT THE TIME or chances are it won’t get done, lol) or b) a new house. Considering that we were 7 humans and 3 large dogs living in 1200 square feet on 1/6 of an acre at that time, this was understandable, I think…

What is involved in prepping your house to sell in today's market? This series will get you from the planning stages to putting the sign in the yard.Fast forward to my 40th birthday, in a new house thousands of miles away from the old one. No, I did not get the diamond ring, but I got 2200 square feet with a full unfinished basement and 8 ½ acres to run around on! We didn’t move JUST to accommodate my 40th birthday request; but it definitely helped, when that day came around, to be settled in a beautiful home, with no neighbors close enough to shake hands through our respective windows…

But there was a LOT of work done in that intervening year. Prepping your house to sell is a large endeavor, as is moving across the country and then getting the new house ready to move into.  Makes me tired just thinking about it.  But guess what, I am thinking about it.  We are planning on putting our current house on the market as soon as we can get it ready. (No, there is no milestone birthday coming up this year… lol.)

So to help motivate me to tackle this project diligently, I’m going to bring y’all along for the ride. :-)

What does it take to get a house ready for sale these days? It’s a little different than it was 9 years ago (yes, you’re probably proud of yourself for doing the math, but let’s not go there). The housing market has become much more difficult, and the internet now plays a much larger role.

But it is a doable project nonetheless; it just takes a little planning and diligence. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about several aspects of getting a house ready to put on the market. Today we’ll start with creating a plan; in future posts we’ll talk about decluttering, cleaning, curb appeal, and staging.

I think perhaps the most important thing to do when seeking to sell your house is to create a plan from the very beginning. Knowing what tasks need to be accomplished and creating a schedule to do them will help keep you motivated, and it will also streamline the whole process so it is less stressful (because there WILL be stress; let’s be real here — but whatever we can do to minimize that is a good thing.)

  • Set yourself a deadline. This is one of the most vital parts of making a plan. Decide on an exact date by which you want the house to be listed. If you are reading this as I post, in early January, you may want to list the home by mid-February or early March. Spring is obviously a great time to have a house on the market, because that is when many people are looking to buy – so they can move over the summer and be set in their new home in time for the new school year. (Although don’t ignore January and February — if your house is ready now, go for it. That’s when there may be fewer buyers, but most of them are serious — not just lookers. And there are fewer homes on the market, which means less competition. Definitely worth it if you can swing it.) But if it’s another time of year for you, that is not a problem. The next best time to be trying to sell is in the fall. So you might want to aim for late August or early September.
  • House Prep To Do ListDo a walk-through, room by room, and list EVERY LITTLE THING that needs to be fixed or cleaned or painted or organized or in some way dealt with. In the current sluggish housing market, I want my home to stand out from others that are listed. One way to do that is by paying attention to detail and making sure it is move-in ready. That means that everything needs to work as it should and there should be no projects yet to finish.
  • With list in hand, make a schedule of when to do each task. Decide who will do what. In my family, I am the painter, cleaner, and organizer; and my husband is the carpenter, plumber, and electrician. Some things we work together on; some things we have to hire someone to do. Making a schedule at the beginning means there is less chance of missing the deadline. Or it might mean we have to change the deadline as we see the monster-load of work that needs to be done… and that’s ok.  But making a schedule will confirm what is a reasonable deadline to shoot for, and for me it is what gets me started and keeps me moving along the way.
  • Work the plan. My husband and I tend to work from room to room, i.e. getting one room completely done before moving to the next, but there are obviously all sorts of ways to tackle the list. The key is being diligent. Keep thinking about all the reasons you want to move and how your life will be improved after the house is sold.  (This reminds me of that part in Julie and Julia where Julie asks why they moved and her husband says, “Repeat after me: 900 square feet.”  I use this technique — I just keep telling myself how happy I’ll be when I am done, for such and such a reason.  It does work, y’all, really!)
  • Part of the plan needs to be to interview realtors, and it is best if this happens early on. You don’t need to be ready to list the house in order to talk to realtors. They can be great resources for advice on how to prepare the house, what absolutely needs to be dealt with (for instance the broken handle on the microwave), and what can be left for the new owners to do (the roof may still have a few years left in it). One of the realtors we spoke to recently said that most people do NOT interview; they just sign with the first realtor that calls them back. I find this surprising. Why would you entrust the sale of your largest asset to someone you essentially picked out of a hat? Call several realtors, invite them all to come out and view the home (individually, of course, not all at the same time… that would be AWKWARD…), and hear what they have to say about what work needs to be done and how they do business and what price they would list for. Find out how many houses they’ve sold recently.  Ask how they would generate traffic to YOUR house.  Ask what makes them different than the competition.  And just chat with them — after all, you want to be able to communicate well with them; there is no way to know whether or not you can do that by a quick phone call.  When you decide on one, you can call them for further input as you work on getting the house ready. And they can begin to plan for how they will sell your home. It’s a win-win.

The Man and I are in the interviewing realtors phase right now; we recently generated our plan and are starting to work on our job list.  The schedule is ambitious but doable if we stay focused.  And one benefit of having teenagers is that they can become worker bees on this project, too!  Yea, baby.

Next week we’ll hit decluttering phase of prepping your house to sell: what, why, and how. If you want to be here for that, put your email address in the box in the sidebar to receive all new posts in your inbox; or you can follow me on social media by clicking on one of the buttons, which are also in the sidebar. Either one would make me SO happy! :-)

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