Moving Towards Sold. How to Get your Home Ready After 20 Years of Living In It

by Louis Guillama

Vice President of Real Estate Operations


You’ve owned your home for over twenty years. It’s been a part of so many memories – births, deaths, marriages, kids graduating from school, all those holiday celebrations, you name it. You’ve probably collected a TON of “stuff” too (and yes, that’s a technical term). You may have thought about selling years ago, but with the economy in a slump you decided to hold on a little longer.  Now that we’re into the recovery, you’ve decided it’s time to move on. Whether you are moving in order to downsize (or right-size) or just desiring a change of scenery, it’s going to take a little preparation to get your home ready for the market.  Here are some tips for making your home look its best AND selling it for the best possible price.

Step 1 – Declutter, Store and Paint

Decluttering is the process of reducing the personal items you display in the home so that buyers can get a feel for the space you are offering to sell.  Depending on how much stuff you have this can take some time, but it’s an important first step. Having the assistance of a professional stager really comes in handy.  By selectively removing personal items (family portraits and photos, collectibles, political items, expensive art/memorabilia, etc.) you are able showcase your home instead of your belongings. For those items that you don’t wish to keep, you may want to have a yard sale, give them away to a local charity or simply toss them if they are no longer useful.  For those that you do wish to keep, start packing those boxes and place them into storage somewhere. If you have some free garage space, use it; most buyers will just give it a casual glance. 

Step 2 – Fix It.  It May Not Be Normal

Having lived in a home for a long time, things break or otherwise stop working as they should.  But as humans, we learn to adapt.  Unfortunately, this ability to adapt sometimes works against us.  When we postpone, or outright ignore, items that need our attention, they have a way of blending into the fabric of our everyday existence; we no longer even notice them.  This is the condition known as creeping normalcy or creeping normality.

Have you ever been invited into a friend’s home and were shocked to find a large, ugly water stain on the ceiling of the family room or perhaps a large opening in a wall?  It may have been startling to you as the newcomer, but after seeing that water stain for the past year (or longer), the homeowners don’t even notice it.   As time passes, the significance of these conditions fade until they blend in with what we consider to be ‘normal’.  These types of departures, from mainstream normality, need to be addressed.  Creeping normalcy isn’t limited to repairs, either.  You may grow accustomed to seeing a 30 year old bathroom.  A buyer, however, may see a major project that they would rather avoid. 

Let’s have a reality check.  This doesn’t mean that you should renovate your entire home.  But you should invite the opinions of 3rd parties such as your agent, or stager, to better evaluate what needs attention.  Besides helping you determine the market value of your home, an experienced agent can help you prioritize your list so that you don’t waste time, money, or effort on less important issues.

Step 3 – Stage the Inside AND the Outside

Most people tend to stage the inside of their homes to make it a showcase for prospective buyers.  There is an important distinction between staging and decorating, and this sometimes leads to confusion.  Staging works to position each space (room) in the most positive light possible.  It’s not solely intended to make it just pretty.  While making it attractive is nice, striking a balance between appearance and function may better convey a purpose and appeal more to value.  A stager may recommend that you alter the position of a chair because it impedes the flow of traffic, or they may suggest that you move a particular article to another location to strike a better balance with another piece.   It’s an art form, and that’s why it’s better left to a professional that’s dedicated to this craft.  Our Daymark Realty service feels that staging is so important that they include a professional consultation with a local firm on every listing.

While staging the inside is important, let’s not forget about the outside.  Paint your front door, add some potted plants to the outside entry way, clean up the flower beds and bushes alongside the home, power wash the driveway, and re-arrange your patio/porch furniture.  Again, show the buyer what they could potentially do with the space while making it inviting to them.

There’s a whole list of items that can improve your chances of a sale.  Your real estate agent can walk you through each one.

Step 4 – Your Worked Hard.  Now Show It Off.

Professional photography is the key to showing your home at its best. Today, most buyers start their search online. There is nothing worse than having photographs that don’t properly represent your home because the lighting was terrible or the agent used a smart phone to save a few bucks.  Some buyers choose their next showings based on the pictures they see online.  To ensure your home shows its best, use the services of a professional photographer. Thankfully, just like with home staging, our Daymark Realty group makes this service available to you at no cost.

Step 5 – Let’s Sell It!

You’ve done all the hard work – decluttering, storing, painting, staging, etc. You hired an experienced professional who has priced your home to sell. It’s time to market your home and get it sold! According to the Triangle Business Journal, the average days on market for a home in our community is 56. Some sellers are getting multiple offers because inventory levels are low in their area or price range. In this market, your home should sell and if you follow the steps above, the chances of selling it for the best price are very good.

There you have it – our top 5 tips for selling your home in this market even if you’ve lived in it for 20+ years. If you’ve had experience with this and have some additional tips, please leave a comment below!


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