Are you one of the millions of people who have either read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or watched her Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”? Both have inspired many people across the country (and the world) to look at their homes with a different set of eyes, to get rid of things that no longer “spark joy” and to organize what they keep more neatly. From a real estate perspective, it’s fantastic this show is getting so much notice, as helping people ‘tidy’ up and declutter before putting their home on the market is one of the many tasks of most real estate agents! We asked our resident tidy-ers their tips for helping sellers prepare their homes for sale, as well as how to keep them clean for showings and open houses. Here is part one of their responses. Be sure to come back next week for part two!“I’ve learned most recently, after getting my own home ready for sale after living and raising our kids for the last 18 years, that this is more overwhelming than I thought. Being sympathetic to how stressful this is has helped me to help my clients in a different way the last six months.
First, take it room by room, so it’s less stressful. Deciding what needs to be saved, donated or trashed is always important, but how to do that is even more important. Can they do this themselves or do they need help from a service (if they are older)? Is the house really in need of a lot of work? Maybe they’ll need a dumpster instead. So, it’s up to me to provide the relevant resources to help.
I suggest keeping as many of your unnecessary things packed up while the house is on the market. Things that must be put back into use on the kitchen counters, bathrooms, etc. might be easily put in a Rubbermaid bin each morning after use and store in a closet or pantry (this should not be a lot of things). I suggest that the kids get involved and use in a bin for their toys and help clean up each day so they can help.
Finally, I recommend to my clients that they treat every day like there could be showings. Leave the house in “show ready” condition. Make the beds, vacuum, no dishes in the sink, etc. If they keep the house like this on a daily basis, it makes it easier through the entire process.”
- Stacy Allwein, Team Leader/Realtor, CENTURY 21 Redwood Realty Frederick
Meredith Hannan, from our Ashburn office, also advises the use of bins for ongoing organization, as well as bringing in outside help:
“Sometimes I need to bring in outside help to get people to declutter. Oftentimes, though, just saying to clients, ‘Do you want to pay to move these items to your new home?’ puts a dollar amount on it all and they purge on their own. Also, I will send my clients pics of staged homes that were listed in the past so they get an idea about what their house should look like.
Once we are listed, I tell clients to put a bin on each level of their house. When a showing is scheduled, they can just throw everything in the bin and tuck it away in a closet/garage/storage room. That way, when they get home and are wondering where something went, it is probably in the bin. That’s much easier to do that versus searching through multiple drawers, cabinets, and closets.”
“It helps to tell them to think of it as starting to pack for their move. I tell them to buy a couple of pretty baskets for the main living areas so if they have a short notice showing they can shove things in there (especially toys).”
- Shelly Porter, C21 Redwood Realty Arlington
- “ Get clutter out from each corner to accentuate the architecture.
- Designate three bins: Keep, Donate or Undecided.
- Give a referral to PODS and JunkBGone.
- Tell them where extra storage can be found and help them get a deal.
- Include an estate or yard sale in their timeline for listing. Ask them to invite all their friends to help. (Bonus: I might meet new referrals!)
- Help them get their yard sale on Craigslist or social media.
- Tell them where Goodwill is and encourage them to make several runs.
- Take a look at carpeting. Offer them our (CENTURY 21’s) Lowe’s 10% discount if needed.
- Help them with paint colors that won’t grow stale to make their house ready for market.
- Help them with neutral art prints. I sometimes loan them my sofa mirror to give a dark room extra light and lend them my sofa covers, pillows, comforters or tablecloths to give updates where needed.
- I advise they clear all counters and mantles.
- Candles in the fireplace always add a nice touch.
- Make sure they have laundry baskets. When showing ask them to put all toys, etc. in the baskets and put them in their car.
- Remind them of cafes, libraries, pools nearby they can visit during showings so they can leave the buyers free to consider their new purchase.”
- Eileen Cosby, C21 Redwood Realty Reston
“When I meet with my sellers, the first thing I tell them is that their home should show like a model. I tell them to use the 3 C’s when getting their house ready: Cleanliness, de-Clutter, and Curb appeal. You want the buyer to imagine it as their home, so it needs to be extremely clean. When it’s a cluttered home, I tell them to pack up or get rid of the knick-knacks. Any flat surface should be clear or empty. Kitchen counters should only have what they use on a daily basis – ex — coffee pot. I tell them to remove any area rugs. This will make the room seem larger. It’s difficult to keep it in show-ready shape when you have young children. I suggest they limit to having one room as the playroom while it’s on the market.”
- Sue Pash, C21 Redwood Realty Stafford
“Before we list a property, we encourage the sellers to declutter and pack anything they aren't using daily. Our advice is that they are going to have to pack it anyway, so do it early and stow away in a storage area in the home, or rent a storage unit for a couple of months. This way they have a head start on their packing and the home shows well.
We also encourage them to remove everything from their kitchen counters. If they look at their competition online or look at model homes online (or in person), they will see that the homes are very streamlined and clean.
Occasionally, we will offer an incentive to school-aged kids to keep their rooms clean. We tell them if they make their beds every day and keep their rooms clean we offer a gift card to their favorite pizza place, fast food restaurant, museum, or the movies. This works well, and they feel some ownership in the process -- they're not just bystanders with no skin in the game.”
- Anne Overington, C21 Redwood Realty Fredericksburg
“Here’s one tip: I always tell the sellers to start their packing now since they plan to move anyway while keeping in mind the things that would help for staging the house. This helps them to declutter while working toward getting the home show ready. You really realize what you do or do not need when doing this!”
- Barbie Lee, C21 Redwood Stafford
Laurel Chinn, from our Fairfax office, follows a similar path as Barbie, but sometimes she has her clients pack everything:
“Call the mover and have them do a declutter pre-pack. They set up the meeting for the bid, and it gives them a hard deadline to really push and clear as fast as possible. Not seeing their stuff for a few months may make that item less important in their mind. But sometimes having moved "tossed" items is a good thing because it's getting the stuff out quickly, instead of waiting months while they do nothing with it and they’re stuck with stuff AND missing the market.”
“When I tour a house with decluttering in mind, I always provide a comprehensive, according to room, list of what should stay and what needs to go into storage, be donated, etc. This includes countertops, furniture, closets – everywhere. I've learned to leave nothing to the imagination as all sellers are a bit different in what they can "envision" as decluttered.
Then, I ask that prior to all showings they leave the house "photo" ready or "open house" ready.
Sometimes I'll provide large plastic Tupperware bins to throw items in and go through later. At least this gets things out of the way and then they can see progress which helps motivate them. It is really easy to get stuck in the weeds of clearing things out!
I have sellers keep this list on their fridge or a place where they can easily refer to it.
Many times, I have gone through and helped with this decluttering process...this is the stuff we real estate agents don't often get credit for or certainly paid for!”
- Natalie Caprano, C21 Redwood Realty Arlington
These tidy agents certainly have a lot of great ideas when it comes to getting your clients' homes market ready. Be sure to come back next week for even more fantastic advice from our Redwood rock stars!