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10 Steps To Take Before Putting Your Home On the Market

November 14, 2011 · 69 comments

in Home & Garden, Personal Finance

I watch quite a few home shows, and I have to say I love them.  Watching these shows gives me an opportunity to briefly live in another part of the country, or even the world.

One thing that many people on the show have in common  is this:  They want to upgrade to a bigger home.  Maybe a second child is on the way, or a tax credit becomes available and people feel like they must move now to take advantage.

But Do These People Really Have To Move?

Obviously, I do not live in the people’s shoes that are on these shows, but often when I watch, I wonder “why are they leaving”?  Quite often, prospective ‘movers’ walk through a new home and say “well these countertops aren’t  granite, waaaaahhhhh”.  They want a massive amount of amenities in a new home but at a low, low price.  In the end, they buy a more expensive house and then spill a bunch of money into the upgrades.  (In other words, the new home may be in even worse condition than their current home, but maybe a little bigger.)

Instead of deciding to up and move the minute a house feels a little cramped or outdated, why not really take a close look at your existing living space instead?  You can even involve a friend you trust that has an aptitude for design or just has good home ‘vision’. (Obviously if your neighborhood has suddenly become a crime zone or you need to relocate for work, your focus needs to shift from following these steps to make your home more sellable than to decide if you need to move or not.)

10 Steps To Take Before Putting Up The FOR SALE Sign:

  1. Identify A Third Party That Can Help You With the Process.  If you and/or your spouse evaluate your living space, you may just see things a certain way to justify a decision to move.  Walk through the house with your ‘home helper’ and list everything you don’t like about the house and why you need to move.
  2. Declutter.  Maybe the reason you feel like you are outgrowing your space is because of all the excess toys/books/knick knacks laying around.  I know I feel very unsettled when the family rooms seems ‘out of control’.  Don’t know if it is a lack of feng shui or what, but I know I am not calm and serene when books are stacking up and mail is strewn across the table.  Also, be ruthless about what goes into the donation or trash pile.  Is the shelf full of Precious Moments figurines really still appreciated? Are there some bikes in the garage that are no longer used?  Are there other children out there that could benefit from some of the toys that are strewn everywhere in the basement?
  3. Create Usable Storage Space.  Once all the extra stuff is gone, look around and see how what is left could be properly stored.  I have this issue with photos and mementos from the kids.  I have boxes that are falling apart and are crammed with old drawings, reports cards, etc from the kids.  I want to keep these items, but I don’t want them sitting in a collapsed box in my bedroom.  Actually, just seeing that box is frustrating for me, and I see it every single day.  Look at how you are storing mementos and such.  Are random boxes of ‘stuff’ taking up usable space in your home?  Is there a way instead to store important items that are not accessed much in a different way that would not make you feel closed in?
  4. Clean and Polish.  Once everything has its own place in your home and the clutter has been donated or thrown away, look at your home and make the most of what you have.   Make those kitchen cabinets and counter tops sparkle.  Clean out the refrigerator inside and out (and behind).  Have the carpets professionally cleaned.  Vacuum the blinds and wash the windows.  In other words, clean your house like it actually is going on the market, and you know you want top dollar for the house!   Clean to impress, not to just get it done.
  5. Evaluate Each Room.  Now that each room is cleaned and organized to perfection, sit and think about how you use each room.  Does the dining room sit there empty 360 days of the year?  If so, then maybe that room needs a different purpose.  Does one of the bedrooms act as a catchall for leftover stuff?  Then you need to change your habits and not bring things into the house that are just going to sit in a spare room, never to be seen from again.  You can rearrange furniture, do whatever you like to try and get the most out of each and every room in your home.
  6. Decorate!  Now that your rooms are nearly perfect as they are, see if there is an extra touch that can be added to make the room more aesthetically pleasing.  Maybe it is a nice centerpiece on the table or a new painting on the wall.  Design the room in a way you like and can appreciate.
  7. Walk Outside.  Stand at the sidewalk and see what you do and do not like about the look of your home.  Do you hate the color of the front door?  Have the plants gotten overgrown?  Have you always wanted a little bench underneath the giant maple tree that you could sit at and read a book?  Making inexpensive changes to your yard can make a big difference about how you feel when you pull up in your driveway each day.
  8. Take Some Time To Think and Then Walk Through the Home Again.  Now that your home is spotless and clutter free, live in it a little bit.  See if there is a new paint color you would like on the wall, or maybe there are other ways rooms could be repurposed.   Do you still feel cramped?  Do you still have a negative feeling about the house?  Make a list of things you still do not like.  Is the Formica countertop really wearing on your nerves?  Is the pink tile in the bathroom an eyesore?   Do you still have legitimate complaints about the house?
  9. Think Renovation Instead of Relocation.  Every home has some areas that need improvement, and maybe it is the countertop.  Instead of picking up and moving to find that perfect kitchen, could a few changes be made to your own kitchen instead?  Remember, moving is an expensive endeavor, and you will spend thousands of dollars in closing costs, realtor fees, and more if you do move.  Not to mention that the new house will not be perfect either and will most likely need some improvements.  Add up just what the ‘sunk costs’ would be for moving such as the closing/realtor/mover fees.  What if you spent that amount of money renovating your current home intead, would that bring you closer to owning a dream home?
  10. Think About Why You Want To Move.  Is it because there are so many ‘deals’ out there in the market and you can now buy a huge house for the money?  If that is the case, then disregard that thought.  There is never a guarantee that your house will not go down in value, and there are huge costs that accompany a huge house.   Buying more space than you need just because you can is still a waste of money, and totally unnecessary.  Sit down an evaluate why you think you need such a big house instead.  Maybe you need to evaluate your spending habits in general.

Moving Is Not A Party, No Matter How Much Pizza You Buy

There are so many things to consider when deciding to move, and when you do move, it is a lot of work.  Face it, moving is not a fun experience.  Nobody really wants to spend a Saturday helping their friend move even if there is some free food involved.    Instead, put that effort into your current home and maybe you can avoid moving altogether. If in the end you still find that your current house is ‘not for you’, at least it will be in great shape to be sold if you followed the steps above.  Putting in the effort to maximize your current home is a no-lose situation.  You will either find you really do like your house and can save a ton of money and time by staying.  Or, your house will be probably be sold at a higher price if it is in pristine condition, as opposed to just looking straightened up for an open house.



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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

MoneyCone November 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

You make some excellent points Kris! Of course there are some genuine reasons on why people move, but I do see a number of people who find an excuse to upgrade and the tax credit in my opinion, was the worst one!


Kris November 15, 2011 at 8:57 am

One couple I watched put off their wedding so they could buy a house and take advantage of tax credits. Made me kind of nervous…


Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter November 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

Great post. Uncluttering is huge. When I sold my last house, uncluttering helped with the sale. The house looked so much cleaner and bigger and this appealed to the buyers. It is amazing how all of these little details can really influence the end result.


Kris November 15, 2011 at 8:57 am

Miss T, when you saw how much less clutter you had, did it make you want to stay?


Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter November 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I needed to sell to go back to school so I didn’t really have an option at that point in time. In our current house we try to keep clutter to a minimum though.


First Gen American November 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm

How many times have you heard the owners on those shows say “well if I knew my house could look this good” we would have stayed?

Although my house feels small at times, it really makes a huge difference when you reduce clutter. We just went through a big phase putting our boys together in one room and getting an office/guest room back. Wow..does it feel bigger again. I can only imagine how much more space we’d have if we didn’t have all the books and comics in our home.

Luckily for me, I have a big aversion to spending money, so upgrading to a bigger house makes me feel a little anxious. I’m happy to postpone that plan for as long as possible.


Kris November 15, 2011 at 8:55 am

If you think about it, you really don’t need much space for yourself. It is all the stuff we accumulate over the years that needs room. You are right, if you cut down on the ‘stuff’, you greatly reduce your need for space.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

These are so really great points. Moving is always stressful, among the most stressful life events, so your last point really hits home. I also like your admonishment to check your motivation for moving and make sure that the move is truly necessary and financially rewarding. This is a really helpful post, and home shows are VERY addictive.


Kris November 15, 2011 at 8:54 am

I do love those home shows. There was actually a house hunters that took place a couple cities over from me and it was so refreshing. The homeowner had a price cap of $150k, which was previously unseen by me! (Divorce seems to really ruin finances.)

I don’t know why people move just to move, it is such a pain.


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager November 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Also, remove photos and family specific items. This allows people to come into your home and envision what their family would look like instead of what your family already does look like.


Kris November 15, 2011 at 8:52 am

Jenna, that is a great tip if you do decide to move, that is for sure. A buyer never wants to feel like they are kicking someone out of their house!


Well Heeled Blog November 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm

This is great, because you will need to go through most of those steps if you do decide to sell. Also, if there is one thing I’ve learned from HGTV, it’s this: neutral, neutral, neutral colors!


Kris November 15, 2011 at 8:51 am

Exactly! You can’t lose by making your house look great. You can either fall in love with it again, or it will be prepped to sell!


20's Finances November 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I agree! Decluttering is such an important step! It’s amazing how much easier a house sells when it is well furnished. Too many furnishings make the house feel small. Great advice.


Paula @ Afford Anything November 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

“prospective ‘movers’ walk through a new home and say “well these countertops aren’t granite, waaaaahhhhh”. OMG, this drives me nuts!!!!! You want to see a real fixer-upper? Come look at my house! Sinking foundation, rotting wood, no gutters, holes in the siding. I can’t watch HGTV anymore; the people on there and their pseudo-fix-it problems make me crazy.

I especially loved your tip on cleaning thoroughly. Its amazing what a difference it makes.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:14 am

I keep on watching even though those young prospective homeowners drive me crazy. (Gives me things to write about :)) I remember when I bought my first house, and the only thing I really wanted was 3 bedrooms because I was always told that would help with resale value. There was linoleum everywhere, formica countertops, etc. However, I was just happy to have a house. Oh no, I feel another post coming on…

Yesterday I was in my bedroom and I heard a woodpecker pecking on the side of my house, looking for food. I get what you mean about ‘real’ issues, I am sure you do want to smack those home searchers!


UltimateSmartMoney November 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Some people also consider doing home inspection prior to listing your home. Either you can do it or ask one of your close friend to help you. There is also a third option to pay someone to do it.


Kris November 17, 2011 at 8:04 am

That is a good idea, especially if you definitely are going to sell and you are short on time. (Minimizes surprises.) I need a Holmes on Homes as friend.


Financial Samurai November 18, 2011 at 9:51 am

What about baking apple pie during open houses?! This is a sure thing, trust me!


Elisa Jed August 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

When you are outside, make sure to check your roof. Are there missing shingles that you just haven’t gotten around to fixing? If you know of a leak call a company that does roofing in Calgary to check it out beforehand.


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