It won’t feel official until we sign the papers, but we SOLD OUR HOUSE. With three days of showings and ten offers, it was an insane time of joy and relief. We are totally going to miss the place that was our first home. But are so glad to get to move forward. More on that part later when we know where we are going. (Insert minor freakout: we move in 5 weeks and DON’T KNOW WHERE WE ARE GOING.) For now, I thought I’d leave you with some tips to sell your house, FAST.
The market has everything to do with it. I would also use a sharp realtor who knows your area, the correct way to price your home based on comps, and is good at negotiation. Personally, we also believe in God’s timing and plan, but there isn’t really a way to figure that out ahead of time. Before we begin on the tips, realize you need to be as smart as you can about timing and the market. But keeping all that in mind, here are my tips to sell your house fast.
Caulk in the Name of Love
Young House Love introduced me to caulk and now I can’t walk into a house without immediately noticing what needs to be caulked. What is caulk and where does it GO? you may be wondering. In short, EVERYWHERE. Trim to ceiling or walls. Cabinets to walls. Around toilets or bathtubs. If things are properly caulked, you’ll never notice. If not, you’ll see weird gaps and things just look messier and unfinished. Here you can see (in two different rooms) uncaulked molding and caulked molding.
Now you’ll see it everywhere. It’s really not hard to do, though I’ll warn if you’re messy like me, you will have this on your hands, in your hair, and pretty much on places you didn’t know existed for days. Have a tarp or towel and a bowl of warm water. YHL has the best tutorial on this so if you want to dive into caulk, go check that out, and realize that there is no turning back. On the left is the pre-paint, pre-caulk window sill. On the right, completed. BOOM. Polished. Finished. A $10 fix.
TIP: Use baby wipes to clean your finger! I tried soap, water, even paint thinner, but baby wipes beat them all.
Freshen and Tone Down Your Paint
In a great market, people will buy a house when every room is purple. But I would wager that they would pay more for the same house with more neutral walls. Why? Paint is a cheap fix; people should be able to see past paint. But we often don’t. We are super visual and it really does make an astounding impression on you even on levels that you might not be able to voice. (Check out my post on how to paint walls!)
When we bought our first home, we looked at one house and hated everything. It was a whole lot of ugly, but what really bugged us was the floor plan. “I’d never live in a house set up like this,” I told Rob. We thought we could see past the wallpaper and the mustard yellow kitchen counters to see the bones and the bones were just bad. But then we bought a house with the exact same floor plan. And we didn’t notice until we had lived there a month. The house we bought was the exact same floor plan but had neutral colors and a few updates. While we thought the bare bones of that first house bothered us, we didn’t even notice those problems with a new coat of paint and a few other small updates.
Paint matters. Color matters. It doesn’t mean your house won’t sell, but it could make a huge difference in ways you can’t even imagine. Ask your realtor about colors, but in general you want lighter, more neutral colors that make rooms seem larger and more palatable to strangers. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean people don’t LOVE your red kitchen. (I love red walls, by the way.) But it may detract potential buyers, and that’s all you care about.
Here are a few before and afters and if you want to see the full before you can check the old blog for the last go-rounds. I think the new color in our dining/formal living makes that space huge!
Tip: My favorite choices come from a leaflet you’ll find in Home Depot in the Behr section called Lights and Brights. Fabulous choices, but all very palatable.
Hire a Handy Man
Every house needs a few things done that might be above your pay grade. Rotting wood, sticking doors, crooked fences—these all might be things that would make your home more well-maintained and ready to move into. Your realtor can probably take a quick walk-through and point those things out. (If s/he doesn’t have time or suggestions, find another realtor who will do the work.)
Ask around for recommendations of reliable and affordable handymen (or women) and take care of those issues. (Again, your realtor probably has a good list.) We did some of this, but left some of it out and we are now probably going to end up paying more on the tail end because the inspector noticed them. Anything you can keep the inspector from flagging will save you money. (Please know I don’t mean HIDE things, I mean actually take care of them before the inspection or even before people come to see your house.) The best idea, of course, is to take care of these issues as they arise, but most home owners fall prey to that idea of deferred maintenance. Don’t do it! But if you did, now is the time to take care of those things. Little things add up at the closing table.
Clean It Up, Clear It Out
This is one of the hardest steps for me. I am not as messy as I used to be, but I am cluttery. I don’t throw things out or deal with them in the moment. Rather, I save everything for months until that one moment when I’m like, WHAT AM I SAVING THIS NAPKIN FOR?? and throw it all in the nearest trash can or set it on fire in the outdoor fireplace. I know this, and yet I continue to do this. Forever. Even if you’re better about things than I am, maybe your clutter is in the form of your million pairs of designer shoes or your husband’s tie collection or your kids’ toys. Round all those things up and find a lovely box to store them. Preferably at a friend’s house until the house sale thing is over.
Outside you may not have things, but you probably have limbs, leaves, and other foliage things that need trimming, pruning, or clearing out. Clean the gutters. Trim the trees. Shape the bushes. Edge the lawn. Start noticing the lawns in your area as you drive home. Which ones do you like? Why? For me it’s often that really manicured look that comes with well-kept lawns and well shaped bushes. If you’ve got extra cash, pay someone (even just once, the week before listing goes live) to come do this for you. Inside and out, your home should appear well-maintained and groomed. Our house before…
Hide Your Weird Under the Bed
What’s your weird thing? (No, really—I’d love to know in the comments.) Maybe it’s those big-haired trolls from the 90s. Or perhaps you like something a little more refined like porcelain figurines or antique clocks. When your friends, who get you, come in and see your collection of glass dolls, they still like you and aren’t terrified, because they are your friends. Strangers walking into your home will see all those waving-hand cat statues as a sign they should say goodbye. Don’t literally put it under the bed (see: clean it up and clear it out), but definitely hide those special things that make you unique. Your “unique” is a potential buyer’s “way too weird.” This photo, from a current listing in Houston, shows a house that needs a little paint help and some weird fixing.
Though it may not be the most fun afternoon, have a trusted and honest friend (or your realtor) do a walk-through. What catches his or her eye—in a bad way? It’s amazing what you get used to seeing that is a huge waving rainbow glitter flag to other people. Look at me, look at me! says your cracked and dirty fireplace that you never, ever noticed. Hi, I’m disgusting! say the dead bugs that have been collecting in that pendant light in your breakfast bar. What bugs? you say. That’s why you need your friends. (And realtor.) We get too used to seeing the things in our own home, but strangers will see them right off the bat. Find them and fix them. This kitchen? A little more than an eyesore. (From a real listing in Houston right now!)
Bring Out the Big Guns.
I’ve been moving toward more safe cleaning for our household for a while now. I love using lemons, vinegar (though I HATE the smell), and baking soda, but there is a time and place for Kaboom. This is that time and place. And unless you are gifted in the cleaning arts, it’s a great idea to hire someone to come even once to clean professionally. Our house looked good before she came. Then it looked AMAZING. If there is a time to use the biggest, baddest cleaners and bring in a professional, this is the time.
There are so many affordable things you can do to make your home look fresher, cleaner and newer. I change out the burner pans every two years or so. For under $10, I can replaced the messy, crusted, burned pans under my burners with shiny, new ones. I was too embarrassed to even take a picture of the before. But this is a 7-year-old stove top, and I think it looks pretty fresh.
Our toilet seats had long been screaming for a replacement, but it was one of those things we got used to living with. The finish was cracking, revealing the brown wood underneath. (Which really looks less like wood and more like poop when you go to use it.) For $6 a piece, we bought new toilet seats. Viola! Fresh-looking toilets.
Curtains are another quick fix that make so much difference. I spent just over $50 buying four panels from Ikea and two rods from Walmart. Rob hung them high (a trick for making rooms look taller) and I can’t believe the difference. Our room looks more finished, more expensive. I like them so much that I actually wrote into the contract that we would take them with us. I’m not the most into curtains, but a few nice, sheer panels can really add to a room’s appearance.
These photos really illustrate this, even if you’re looking past the bad quality of this first photo (I had to download from online) and this second one, taken by a pro.