Seven Steps to Showing Your House

Preparing to move and show your home in pictures or in person can be an overwhelming process. You may want to share your personality and decor with the world but you also want to give potential buyers the impression that they would be at home in the space. Looking at houses and explored multiple properties over the years I’ve pulled together a short list of what stands out and makes a difference to buyers. These are the very same rules we applied when placing our home on the market and selling it within a weekend – full disclosure, this happened during 2021’s incredible market, but the rules remain relevant nonetheless.

  1. Cleanliness – I know I’ve been posting a lot about this over the past few weeks but it really makes a difference. When a home is clean it makes buyers more comfortable. Someone who cleans the stovetop and takes the time to vacuum the floors is also likely to switch their air filters regularly and see to it that minor repairs are completed before they become a major issue. This appeals greatly to home buyers as it means they will have fewer expenses repairing projects the previous owners ignored or worse yet, didn’t even notice.
  1. Declutter your surfaces – Making a space look loved and seeing your mail stacked on the counter are two different things. Buyers want to see themselves relaxing and enjoying the space. If they walk in the door and are immediately confronted with piles of paperwork, unfinished laundry, and knick-knacks to dust they are not envisioning Christmas morning, they are envisioning the daily grind and that does not appeal. Clearing the sorting bins from the laundry room may not seem like a big priority but when it makes the room look twice as big and makes laundry seem like a breeze, buyers are more apt to want to wash their stuff at your house instead.
  1. Let in the Light – Any space feels larger when the drapes are pulled back and natural light is able to pour through the windows. Even if all you have is an unobstructed view of the neighbors play set, the natural light makes a room feel airy and spacious and buyers are always drawn in by spaces that feel large and expansive.
  1. Define your spaces – If you have any awkward drop zones or oversized lofts – even if you don’t use them in real life, place a chair, small area rug, or table with a lamp to suggest how the space might be used. We have walked away from houses as buyers because we could not see how to utilize the awkward extra space. Take some guess work out of the equation and give buyers a suggestion – this could be a great place for a reading nook!
  1. Remove all evidence of pets – Buyers may have allergies and even if they don’t mind furry friends walking into a home where the smell of animals is the first sensory experience is going to cost sales. Animals can be hard on a home – potty training, muddy paws, and the telltale scratches on hardwoods or furniture. Buyers want to see the house and imagine their pets, not yours. The house we ended up buying had cats, but we didn’t know it until we got to basement storage area towards the end of our tour and found the cat tree. This is huge, we went through the entire property having no idea and were completely surprised, by the time we got to the basement we were already in love. See tip 1. 
  1. Finish work – We have seen a fair number of flips in this market and while it’s wonderful that people are finding ways to re-finish and re-furbish well loved properties there are some basic final steps that really get in the way of getting the higher offer. Finish work is a big one, caulking, door locks that are mis-matched, poor paint jobs, and in one house absolutely no transitions between different flooring types. When you don’t do the finish work well it makes buyers wonder what other steps you skipped or went cheap on. It’s a basic buyer beware, if a flipper didn’t take the time to do the easy finish work they may also have forgotten to ground your outlets or obtain proper permits or inspections for their work and that can leave buyers in a lurch or worse yet, legal proceedings.
  1. Bonus – Remove your pets! – We were looking at a home once and found a cat in the master closet. No mention was made by the sellers that the cat would be at home. Instead while surveying the storage options our relator asked, “Is that a live cat?” I looked up to see it move and no Halloween scare is as terrifying as thinking you are alone and coming face to face with an unfamiliar animal. The cat was fine, she didn’t hiss, and really I’m pretty sure we woke her from an otherwise cozy nap. Still that house went to the bottom of this list fast!

What tips do you have for making your home show worthy? Are there any staging ideas you swear by?

A Clean Slate and New Beginnings

I once read that cleaning your home is an attempt to control the chaos of the world. And logically it makes sense, I cannot right the world but I can dust this shelf.

When I’m dealing with a particularly difficult challenge the repetitive motions of cleaning give me the perfect amount of mental effort to reflect on my problem and figure out my next steps. The action is irrelevant, it is the larger purpose it is serving. Repotting plants or mending stuffed animals is not high on my list of fun projects but when I have a larger problem to tackle these rhythmic, repetitive actions soothe my brain and give me familiar exercise without taxing my already overwrought mind. 

Therefore, in our home when it is time to clean we typically follow a routine, when we are angry we sometimes scrub with a little more intensity, but when the cleaning becomes something we do to control or as an excuse to avoid a larger conversation then we know it’s time to let the cleaning go. 

Having an open heart and open hands is a blessing. It is a gift that we have so much that it needs organizing. And in the midst of the chaos of moving and transition it’s easy to fall into the comfort of cleaning in order to give ourselves the temporary illusion of control, and that’s ok. Sometimes it’s more than necessary. 

Sitting in discomfort is hard. Recognizing that your actions are indicative of larger issues is hard. Not distracting ourselves from all the conflicting emotions this moment has brought to our doorstep is hard. Feeling all of the feelings is hard. There’s a lot to feel, a lot to love, a lot to mourn and a lot to rejoice. And sometimes rather than clinging to a scrub brush we need to cling to each other because this wild ride is just getting started and it’s going to get a whole lot messier anyway.

An Unexpected Exercise in Letting Go

Today the house photographer came to take pictures of our home, he did a lovely job. Since we moved into this house it has not been this clean. We scoured every surface, emptied every bin, drawer, puzzle, and verified contents. We donated clothing and shoes. We purged and polished, organized and eliminated. We have been up late every night this week preparing for this moment. To be honest, clean houses are totally overrated. Yes, it’s lovely to feel like I live in a hotel, to walk into the bathroom and see nothing but soap on the counter. But this space no longer feels like my home and really, isn’t that a deeper meaning?

We’re preparing to share this space with the world, to sell it to the next family in need of a home. People who are not us but will fill the same cupboards and shelves with their belongings. People who will love this home and make it their own. That is what this exercise is designed to do, to remove the personal and create a blank slate where another family can see themselves living, laughing, and coming together. 

It feels good to be done but this is the beginning of the cleansing, not just the surfaces and floors but the beginning of this home no longer being ours. We are moving toward our new home and towards what is to come, shedding our skin and stepping away from this home and the lives we have built together here. 

When this ritual is all done and this space is ready for a new family to love, learn, and grow we will gone. We get to take the friendships we have made with our neighbors. We get to build something new and different. All of these are bittersweet gifts as the ease of, “I made too much dinner, please eat with us,” and unscheduled playdates that last until bedtime will no longer be part of our routine.

This home was a cozy cocoon that held us safe all through new parenthood, grief, resurrection, and the pandemic. It has given us more than we knew we needed. It taught us how to be good neighbors, the value of a good play structure, walking trails, and the beauty of a garden. It has given us everything we needed to thrive and we have been nourished and nurtured within its walls, climbing them like ivy until we found there were no more walls to cover, no more updates to make, and we are ready for wilder wider spaces.

I am so grateful for this home and its gifts. I am grateful for the people we have known, the first steps and parties, the blowout fights and crying fits, all of those moments have brought us to where we are right now and I am truly grateful that this space has been so patient and generous with us. We could not imagine where we are now when we began our journey of homeownership so I won’t project where we will be in the next ten years. I will only say that I am grateful, fortunate, and so humbled by all we have been given so far.

Moving Forward

Right now we are house hunting – and really, who isn’t? So many of us purchased our homes with a certain lifestyle in mind, basically, “we’ll be here on holidays and weekend mornings.” The rush of our lives precluded us from ever settling or coming to rest in our residences. Now that our society is shifting away from activities outside of our homes and closer to our front doors we are all scuttling around like hermit crabs, quick to switch to the larger shell that gives us room to grow. 

We all want spaces to work, live, and play outdoors. A few weeks ago Saturday Night Live did an entire bit equating Zillow searching to pornography – and they’re not wrong. Looking at other people’s properties, even if they are just dream houses, still inspires us. The idea of a different life in another home, a little more elbow room to share each other’s company is all very exciting. Our homes are becoming not only where we live and rest, but also where we work, where our children study, and our animals monitor the comings and goings of the Prime truck.

The hunt for somewhere to belong is not just practical it is leading to some existential questions as well. Where are our people? Where do we belong? Our extended families are located here – but where does our nuclear family fit? These are big questions and it is such a relief to not be the only ones having these difficult conversations. Talking with friends who are going through the same challenges has left me feeling supported and like we are not the only ones searching, not just for a home but for our community and our place in a new world. With an opportunity now to live and work anywhere it begs the question – who are we and where are our people?

As we all come out from our shells and (vaccinated) go back out into the world, where we call home is meaningful. Our homes connect us to those places we value, those people who have helped us get through this year, and we realize not only the value of close friends, family, support networks, but also of supporting our local businesses and those community resources that have sustained us through this pandemic. 

We know much more about the disease now, and we know who we can and cannot depend upon in our lives. The people who stepped up, who reached out, and who helped sustain us will be our friends for life. And finding a home surrounded by a larger community that feels like home, that supports us, grounds us, and gives us room to dream of who we will be next is our good fortune. 

As we continue looking I wonder what have you found most valuable in your home? What fixes have brought you comfort and joy? What updates are you looking to make? Or if you’re looking, what is most important for your next home to have?