Selling My House. Still Living In It. Best Practices?
February 27, 2014 7:35 AM   Subscribe

I've gotten engaged so it's time to sell the bachelor pad (2br/1ba/1k sq ft) and buy a bigger house with the Soon To Be Mrs Toole Box and her kids. Final Jeopardy: I'm still living in it.

The house has been painted, landscaping is being refreshed with new plants and mulch, we've found a Realtor that we love and we're about a week from listing.

I work from home during the day, so I'm going to try and make all showings take place in the evenings and weekends. I'm going to try and keep the home in 'ready to show' condition at all times. I wonder if this is realistic at all? At a minimum, I'd like 24 hours notice.

I would love to hear from home sellers, home buyers and Realtors about this process and some best practices that I can accomplish that will help me navigate this process and put my home's best foot forward.

Buyers: What did you like seeing upon entering the home?
Sellers: What did you do that really made the difference?
Realtors: What can I do to make your job easier?

I've heard of tricks as esoteric as burying a statue upside down in your yard to baking cinnamon rolls just before showing for the scent. Staging is another concept that I understand, but have no idea how to DIY.

If it matters, I'm in Florida. Thank you all for your help!
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any place you can go on short notice to work? Starbucks? Because while agents will tell you they can give you 24 hours notice, if comes down to a buyer saying "we want to make an offer, but we want to see it again" that could be way less than 24 hours.
posted by Oktober at 7:38 AM on February 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Oktober: Yep! I've got a Plan B in place to go to my nearest Panera to work for a wee bit on last minute notice.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 7:43 AM on February 27, 2014

Depending on how your particular market is and whatever, the first week or so it will be impossible for you to be home.

We listed our house about a month ago, and the first two weeks we had 30+ showings, with 2/3 of them in the first week. Usually the notice was about 2-3 hours in advance, but some of the time it was far less.

One thing I wish we had done was spent the 300 bucks or whatever to hire a home inspection guy to come in and do an inspection. The buyers did their inspection and found some things we needed to fix that we didn't notice were wrong with the house for whatever reason. Not that it's a huge deal, but we have weeks instead of months to arrange the repairs and that makes it harder to shop for the best price.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:45 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

We had to just get rid of the lot of extraneous furniture and chotchkies in our house. One room was formerly our exercise room - we put that equipment in storage and got an inflatable bed so that room looked more like a bedroom. De-clutter - just have blank spaces, blank tables, minimal artwork and limit your family pictures around so that people can see themselves in the space.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:47 AM on February 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Have someone who doesn't live in your home and can be brutally honest walk in and tell you if there is a smell. The number of times we walked into one and wondered aloud, "How many dogs do they have???" was astounding.

Also have them point out those little things you probably aren't noticing anymore. Remember how your hand moved a little when you were painting that trim and you have been totally meaning to clean that up but now that it has been there for 2 years you don't even see it anymore? Yeah, buyers will see that.

Pack up everything. Remove "you" from your house. You don't want them forming an opinion of you, you want them focused on your house. Even knowing to ignore all the personal taste and stuff it is still really hard to picture living somewhere that is so obviously lived by someone else.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh! If I had a showing on short notice I would work up to the time they pulled up, lock the computer, go out the back. Most showings were only 5-10 minutes, unfortunately. We kind of had to do this most of the time anyway because we have a couple of testy pets that I didn't want to cage for hours.

(great username, btw)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are tons of tips online for DIY staging. The basic tips are:

(1) Declutter. Everything off bathroom counters. Everything possible off kitchen counters. If you have over-stuffed shelves of books or knick knacks, un-stuff them. Your realtor should be able to help give tips on what parts of your home are too cluttered.
(2) Depersonalize - box up family photos and other knick-knacks/artwork that could throw off a buyer
(3) Make sure every room has a clear purpose in the buyer's mind. For example - we use one bedroom in our house as a general purpose utility/crafting room with an exercise bike, sewing machine, weights, etc. etc. Our plan when we sell our home is to pack up all that stuff and stage a fake bedroom like Bedroom #3 on this staging tips page.

One huge tip for living in a "show-ready" home is baskets. Put all your toiletries that are normally on the counter (toothbrush, etc) in a basket that can live in a cabinet or vanity. This makes daily clean-up much quicker. You can even do the same with common kitchen tools.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2014

Yeah, the house needs to be available at the convenience of the prospective buyers, not at your convenience. Do you really need more than an hour's notice to duck out for a short while? Figure out what you need and ask the agents to call that far ahead.

Put some stuff in storage. Take down family pictures, get things out of closets, clear out garages and basements if you have them. Empty-ish rooms and closets look bigger.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2014

So, presumably when you move, you're going to get rid of some stuff, since you'll be combining your stuff with your wife. Get rid of it NOW instead! Not just "stuff on tables or in drawers" - whole pieces of furniture.
posted by mskyle at 7:53 AM on February 27, 2014

As someone who is trying to buy a home, I can tell you that being able to see a home on a whim (maybe I see a listing that morning that I send to my realtor and ask to see it that afternoon) is a big deal. If there are homes that are harder to get into, we'll put it on the back burner and maybe forget about it.

Here are a few other things:
It's nice to see a clean home that reflects it at its best. It doesn't have to be immaculate, but it certainly helps.
A home that is thoughtfully laid out, furniture wise. I want to see that there's room for a dining table and a living room with a wall for a TV.
Kitchens and bathrooms especially should be very clean. Fresh towels, nothing on the counters, etc. I want to imagine living there-- including where my appliances can go. Things out= there's probably not enough storage. Also, don't block outlets in these spaces with nightlights or incense things or whatever. Let me see that power is where I need it.
House should be pared down. Don't crowd spaces with furniture. I almost said "especially bedrooms," but really all rooms. The best house we've seen was obviously well edited (as the garage was packed), but it made a big difference.
Seconding above comment: all houses should be smell neutral.
You should really be gone-gone if possible when a prospective buyer comes by. I want to be able to speak freely about what works, what doesn't, "they're asking how much for THIS?"-ing, changes to be made to the house, etc. without potentially insulting the owner.
posted by Flamingo at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I can help!

First of all declutter the fuck out of your house. You think your Beer Bottles of the world collection is uber cool, but it will put off 90% of buyers. Pack it up. Ditto your DVDs, CDs, Books and other things on shelves.

The statue you bury upside down in your lawn is St. Joseph. Why not? Who does it hurt?

Baking cinnamon rolls, cookies, etc. Absolutely! Smells of home have an emotional pull like nothing else. Also apple pie.

I recommend getting some 'ready to bake' items in your grocers 'dough case'. You don't have to do a full batch, just enough to make the air fragrant.

Don't over fragrance your home. Those plug in air fresheners give a lot of people head aches!

Spotlessly clean. Hire a pro to deep clean your pad.

If your furniture is big, remove some of it. Pull things away from walls, to make the place feel airy. If you have typical bachelor enormous, puffy leather sofa set. Think about just using the sofa, rather than the whole set.

Sell whatever it is you're getting rid of. The sooner the better.

Stage every room. If you currently have a "junk room" and think others will too and will be okay with it, think again. Pack up the junk, or better yet, get rid of it. Then stage the room as an office or a guest room. You can fake a bed with boxes.

Get new bed linens. You can get cheap 'bed in a bag' stuff from big-box stores, a lot of it on sale for about $49 (or less!)

Clean your windows and make sure they're open for showings. Lots of light, through clean windows makes people happy.

Dust the top of your fridge, doors, and ceiling fans!

Your house should feel fake and look like a Pottery Barn catalogue. You will cringe every time you walk into it. It will sell within a week.

I dunno why, but that shit works. Humans are simple.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:58 AM on February 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Everything Flamingo says. I've been looking at houses and it's surprising how many don't do even those minimal things.

I can't emphasize the importance of being able to see the house on short notice enough. What happens often is that there's an interesting new listing, and then since I'm driving around with the agent anyway we'll stop by a couple more while we're at it. That's when 24 hour notice just doesn't work.

Empty is best but if you need to live there then rent a storage unit and fill it with all of your junk.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pull your bedsheets and covers tight and smooth. Put extra pillows and cushions on the bed - nicely arranged!

Hide your laundry (in the car if necessary!).

Clean the windows, and make sure that the lights are on in hallways.

Put vases of fresh flowers in living spaces.

Did this in our old house, and despite himself's sceptical misgivings, sold in three weeks (second person to view the house).
posted by car01 at 8:11 AM on February 27, 2014

The one important downside to evening showings is that for people who are looking for a place with a lot of light, they're really going to want to see the place during the day. When I sold my place (a funky place that took forever to sell) it was really important that it be available basically always. Ruthless Bunny speaks the truth as I know it. You want the place to look sparse, well-taken care of and basically uninhabited and this is true outside (landscaping, etc) as well as inside. If the outside of your house is nothing special, consider investing a bit in some curb appeal items that make the place look nice on approach. All those little idiot light bulbs and battery replacement things you've been meaning to do? Take care of them.
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with others here, don't put restrictions on when you'd ideally like showings. When I was selling a house with a two-year old I still vacated the house on 30 minutes notice with her (oh so fun, with the toys! and the nap schedule!) because we really wanted to sell the house! I actually usually just took her a block or two away to a park where I could keep an eye on when the people arrived and departed, so I wasn't out any longer than I needed to be. Especially as a dude with no small children to deal with (I got the impression from your Q that the soon-to-be-Mrs. and her kids live somewhere else now, correct?), I feel like it is a no-brainer--get out when folks want to come. Yes, it is inconvenient, but selling your house faster will mean less inconvenience in the long run.

Also agree with Pogo-Fuzzybutt on the wisdom of getting your own home inspection done now. Every inspector is different, and they don't all identify the same issues (and at least where I was selling my last house, they don't have to have any kind of license or training!), but getting one done yourself could help identify if there are any major issues you should consider taking care of now, or you can do some research into a fair price to offer as compensation if you don't want to do it yourself.

Good luck!
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:35 AM on February 27, 2014

Declutter, declutter, declutter. It can't be emphasized enough. Everywhere. Room, closets, under cabinets. Make the home feel as big as possible by placing minimal furniture in the rooms. Make sure closets are as empty as possible. Even if it means renting storage or storing things elsewhere. Nothing makes a house seem small then opening a closet to see it stuffed with stuff. It means they have no storage the buyers won't have either. Don't have personal items out. Pictures, computers, etc need to be stashed away. As a person who has sold a few houses and bought a few, I can tell you that the wrong things out set the vibe for the house. You have to be able to put you life on hold it you are serious about selling the house. Done right, you may not have to live with it long. Staged our house for sale, did 13 showings in 2 days and sold within 7 days of listing. Great staging works.
posted by BostonCannuck at 9:03 AM on February 27, 2014

When I bought my house, these are some things I noticed:

The place was immaculate. Super clean, tidy, obviously freshly scrubbed. As others have noted, this allowed me to see the potential and good points of each room without any distraction. Even the deep-pile shag carpet (which I knew I'd rip out at the earliest moment) had been cleaned and vacced within an inch of its life.

There was not much in the way of landscaping, which thrilled me, since it meant I (horticulturist) would essentially have a clean slate to play with. Since I bought in November, I was tickled to have a folder of photos they had taken of the yard in spring - when the hundreds of bulbs they had planted were in bloom.

The owners were actually there when I arrived with my realtor, but after a quick introduction they disappeared. Could have been hiding behind the garage for all I know, but it was not off-putting at all to see/meet them, and equally nice that they vacated so I could look around at my own pace.

There was furniture, a few decorative items, and a few photos on the walls. Enough to give a sense of a home (and also allowing me to see where my own stuff might fit), but, again, not enough to be a distraction.

Again, it was mentioned upthread, but I think it bears repeating: I did not see a single thing that needed repair, renovation (other than for my own taste), or attention.

The other thing I might add, since you are selling: one of the nicest, most helpful things these folks did was to leave me a folder with every single owner's manual, receipt that might be relevant, and list with 'tried-and-true services that they had used (like the trash service, and the septic guys). This was so helpful and useful ! They also left a couple beers in the fridge and a nice note :)

Good luck selling your place, and congrats on your impending nuptials!
posted by PlantGoddess at 9:09 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of good tips already. We are in the process of selling our current place & just bought our new place. Two offers on the current place and these are the things that I think worked:
- Got rid of every picture that had friends/family in them and either packed them entirely or replaced them with landscape pictures.
- Got rid of every sports-team-related item (my realtor has had situations where potential buyers are put off because they don't like the sports team displayed; why risk it?)
- Packed away almost everything that was on a shelf except for a few decorative items and got nice, matching boxes for things like the kid's toys so we could throw them in there when picking up.
- Packed away extra furniture (we had too many dining room chairs, for example)
- Everything that got packed away was placed in a storage unit at a local joint. Easy enough to do, and our movers are picking it all up for us so it was little extra work.

The house we bought was mostly empty because the owners were already part-time in their new place and it was always clean. I absolutely agree with others that you shouldn't ask for 24 hours notice. We did get a few days notice sometimes, but 50% of the showing requests were day-of and a handful were within a few hours.
posted by bibbit at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a seller, my situation was a bit different as I moved out of my house and to another state about two weeks after I put it on the market. I was also selling at the absolute low point of the market so there weren't many showings. I had to leave the house only once for a showing. After I moved, it was: "I'm not there so you can show the house any time. If someone wants to look at my house at 2 in the morning, heck, do it."

My Realtor kept wanting me to do stupid stuff (like put shutters on the house) that I really do not think made a lick of difference. A lot of times I ended up doing it just to get her to STFU already. You can't really stage an empty house unless you go rent furniture, which I was unwilling to do.

When I got feedback from showings, I probably didn't make my Realtor's job much easier. "Oh this family didn't like that it didn't have an updated kitchen." "Yeah, well, if I redid it it would not be to their tastes; did you tell them once they buy the house they're free to redo the kitchen however they please?" Mainly once I was out of the house, I didn't want to pour a lot of money into a house that I wasn't going to get to enjoy.

So, I'm afraid I don't have much advice from a seller standpoint. I don't know how much was a result of the market (2008-2009, and my house sat on the market for 14 months), and how much was a result of me being an obstinate, penny-pinching seller. I think it was more the market conditions.

I've bought two houses. I think I'm a lot different than many buyers in that I'm mentally able to remove the current owners furniture and mentally put in mine, and mentally repaint and all that kind of stuff. (I do think a lot of home buyers would do well to try that!) For some reason, I can't do that mental stuff when I'm already in the home! ("What would this room look like if I painted it a different color?" seems a much easier task with other people's stuff in the home than with mine.)

The things I did notice as a buyer that were turn-offs were:

1. Obvious physical defects I'd have to spend a lot to fix. (And I mean OBVIOUS. One house I looked at looked like the top story was about to collapse in a strong breeze.)
2. Some outdated things. "Oh this house has 60 amp service. Can't put in central air without an upgrade to the panel!" "Oh this house has a dirt floor in the basement." However, things like "This kitchen is straight out of the 50s." didn't bother me -- It's functional, and eventually I'll redo it (I never did).

Examples of things that didn't bother me as a buyer:

* Oh, this door has a sign that says "Megan's Room." So let's see Megan's room. Mr. Realtor takes great pains to apologize for the fact that Megan's room is currently painted fluorescent neon green. But so what? It won't be Megan's room anymore and I can paint it a more sensible color.
* Wow this couch takes up too much space in the living room. My couch will not.

I did appreciate houses that had been updated (the second time around, when I had less of a budget than the first time).

Every buyer is different. You're not going to please all of them. You only need to please one of them and that's the one who decides to buy your house.
posted by tckma at 9:47 AM on February 27, 2014

When I sold my house (which ended in a 3 way bidding war . . yay me) the realtor told us pretty much what everyone else has said. If you are having photos taken to show online get someone who knows what they are doing to take them because some snapshots with your iphone won't cut it to make your house look great. 2 of my bidders came from interstate if you are in an area people tend to move to from out of state for work etc it is totally worth the expense.

He also suggested daylight bulbs in the light fittings, especially in a couple of darker rooms, put the lights on before you leave and with the curtains open it gave the illusion of more daylight in the room.
posted by wwax at 10:00 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently sold my house. I had a professional stager come in and work with me. Essentially, what Ruthless Bunny says. After filling two dumpsters, giving away a lot of furniture and boxing all my pictures and other personal items, the house looked like it was in a catalogue. I sold it within a month in a market that was not that hot. My agent also helped with what to get rid of and how it presents. She had 4 agents from her office walk it and give their feedback. I also work from home. I am not able to just pack up and go, I trade and have 2 pcs with 12 monitors on my desk. The agent had some sort of scheduling software. Times that I really could not not be there I made note of. The first week on the mkt when you will get a lot of showings (I had 31) I was prepared to leave. I had access to an online schedule of when there were showings. I would leave about 5 minutes before and return in a half an hour. Only a few times did I have to drive around the block until they left. There were a few times I could not leave but there were showings. I think one of them ended up putting in a bid. Admittedly, my house was about 4 or 5 times as large so it was easier to hide in my office, but when they came in, I smiled, said hello, thanked them for coming and told them to feel free to look around. The office was one of the nicer rooms in the house and most people that come into a home office with 12 monitors and lots of flashing numbers and charts have a tendency to ask questions or make some joke about NASA headquarters. I always told them they were welcome to come to the next launch.

I think you will find that most of your showings are during the day or on the weekend. Not many came by after 5:00 on a weeknight. Small families with a young child will have a few hours during the day to rush through. Professionals will not want to come during the day nor after a long day of work. They will come on the weekend.

The worst part of the process after the huge effort to declutter was having to make my bed every day and put a spread on it. Oh, and clean the dishes right after use every time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:04 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just want to say thank you again to everyone who responded in this thread!
Y'all are a wealth of information and I truly appreciate the time and effort to respond and help me out.

Keep those great answers and suggestions coming!

I hope this thread proves to be useful to someone in the future, because it sure as heck is to me!
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2014

We sold a home about a year ago and the realtors in our area are all using an appointment-setting service. We'd get a call, usually about a day before, that someone wanted to come by, and we'd get a chance to confirm it or reschedule if needed.

As for the St. Joseph bit...yes, we did it. We didn't at first, and then we did and it sold a week later. Make of that whatever you will. There's a novena that goes along with it. Mind you, you're asking him to pray along with you. Burying him "for luck" is superstition.

If you're not Catholic, I realize it looks like a fine line. But if you are, it's an important one. After the house sells, have the statue blessed by a priest and place it in a place of honor within your home. He moved around on short notice several times himself which is how he came be associated with the whole thing.

Anyhoo, good luck!

PS: While we were able to vacate the place while it was on the market, we did end up staging it after we switched realtors. She told us to re-populate the kitchen with a couple of nice place settings, a knife block, bowl of fake fruit, etc. The bathrooms were to be decorated as if they were "in a spa" - tall fat candles, new towels and a few other minimal elements.
posted by jquinby at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

24 hours notice? Wow. You must be in a really different market than we were. Here an hour notice is a luxury. Our goal was to sell our house quickly and to have a bidding war. That means you need a lot of people to see the house in rapid succession. Our Realtor made that happen.

- She personally went through every room with us and told us what to remove. For reference, we removed 2 storage pods from a 900 square foot bungalow. So basically, everything. Each room had only the minimum of furniture.

- Her landscape guy came and did the color planting.

- Once the color planting was complete, she put the "coming soon" sign out before the house hit the market. She made sure other agents knew it was going on the market on X date.

- She staged the house using reds and oranges so the colors would pop in photos. The photos of our house were amazing and perfectly showcased the 1920's details. She showed exactly what buyers in that neighborhood want. We spent some money on the photographer, but it was totally worth it.

- She encouraged us to price a little below the market. Since we were in a hot market, she was confident that would drive a ton of traffic. Also, the house was in great condition so it was a perfect candidate for a bidding situation.

- She had our house in the agents cavalcade and gave our the web listing that showed our photos.

- The photos went live 2 days before we started showings and had pretty heavy traffic. We knew that agents from the cavalcade were circulating the house to potential buyers.

On the day we hit the market, we had our first showing at 7am and it showed all day. By the time we had the open house two days later we already had an offer. The place was sold in under a week.

You may not be in a hot of a market, but the key is to hit the market at full speed. The longer the house is on the market, the worse it gets for the seller. Price comes down and you need to live in a show home for weeks/months. That's awful. Ask your agent how to get off the market quickly.
posted by 26.2 at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came back to say, have the house be as available as possible for any and all showings. Be flexible.

Let the realtor put the lock box on the house. We did. It was shown while we were at work. Our realtor went the extra mile and put little signs on all of the exterior doors that said, "Please don't let the Cat's (sic) out!"

On the key in the lock box, I got a cute key cover, everyone noticed it and commented on it.

If you have pets, arrange for them to be elsewhere. Our cats weren't really a problem, but we got cat box furniture for the litter box.

If possible, can the pets live with your fiance?

I made a list of all the upgrades and renos we had done to the house. I also put a book together of all of the tradespeople that worked on our house, electrician, plumber, HVAC, gardener, lawn dude, etc.

We also spent a small fortune doing all those little things you neglect around the house. Caulking any and everything. Pressure washing, carpet cleaning, touch up painting. I spent a few weeks doing all that stuff, don't regret a minute of it now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2014

We bought our house (in Florida) last May for a STEAL because the seller was a big game hunter and offshore fisherman and he had stuffed animals and fish all over the house. He had 4 showings in 3 months. If he had just taken all the taxidermy down and out of the house, he would've sold it at asking within a week. Just to give you an idea of how important staging can be.
posted by hollygoheavy at 2:05 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

One of the comments above reminded me of my answer in a similar AskMe about house selling: I spent what was in retrospect a very small amount of money taking care of minor cosmetic issues, all those things that accumulate and you ignore while living there, small holes in the walls, paint, etc, and I suspect that small investment paid off many, many times over both in sale price and speed of sale.

I just looked at two houses, both of which will almost certainly sell for tens of thousands of dollars less than they could have because the owners didn't want to spend a couple of hundred dollars on paint, spackle, and caulk. It's hard to see those things in your own place, but even if it means hiring a handyman it will really help to sell the house. Contractor-grade paint, flooring, and fixtures are ridiculously cheap, and most people don't seem to have the ability to look at a cosmetically-challenged place and see past the flaws.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2014

Came back to add one thing. I think the most important thing that let me sell my house in less than a month was that I priced it fairly from the beginning. I did not go with the agent who suggested the highest price. In fact, the agent I went with suggested a very slightly higher price than my original offer. I think I got higher bids because I put a reasonable and fair price on the house for my market.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:08 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've seen a bunch of houses lately as a prospective buyer. One of them had a tenant working from home, which the estate agent told us about in advance, and was not a problem. One very sad, overpriced, needs-a-lot-of-work house had the vendors at home, sitting politely in the front room while the agent showed me around the rest of the house. You sound more like the first situation so, totally, not a problem. If you ever feel you are veering towards the second, run away to that coffee shop immediately.

Hideous plug-in fake flower smells or similar instantly make me assume that you are trying to hide something, so don't do that unless you are trying to hide something - and it's probably worth going to quite a bit of effort to get rid of any bad smells instead.
posted by Lebannen at 1:45 AM on February 28, 2014

We sold our house in a week. Everything not needed was stuffed in to the attic. I kept new bath mats and towels that I only put out for showings. All counter tops were cleared completely. I kept a pot on the stove that contained orange peels, cinnamon, vanilla, and water that I would simmer for an hour before a showing. I would stick it in the oven to hide it during showings. Fresh potted flowers on the railing outside the front door. I would sweep/ vacuum/ quickly wipe down counters as soon as i got up every morning. All that with a baby, 3 cats, and a dog. Our house sold on the second showing in October. All that being said, I think we just got lucky. It was a small house too.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:06 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gah, one more thing - on the advice of the realtor, we painted the kitchen and master bedroom a nice, neutral color. They had previously been green and yellow respectively. The thinking was that kitchen and MBR get the most emotional scrutiny, and should be easiest for the buyer to imagine all of their crapola in there, so neutral color schemes are best.

The bathroom also rates highly, hence the advice on making it look spa-like. For scent, I think mrs. jq put a small reed diffuser in one of them. And n'thing everyone else on sealing up all the little holes and making any other repairs. It's bizarre what folks will find that has managed to escape your notice.

On that note - brace yourself for the buyer's inspection. There'll be a whole litany of things they want fixed or addressed. Nearly all of them can be negotiated. We spent a ton of time and effort sprucing the place up and still had an entire laundry list of stuff, some of which I am convinced trended towards the bogus, but that's how it goes. Inspectors gonna inspect.
posted by jquinby at 5:25 AM on February 28, 2014

Piling on the "at their convenience, not yours" bandwagon. When we were looking (almost 2 years ago), there was one For Sale by Owner house whose listing said "by appt only". We never did see that house - way too much trouble.

Just put a password on your computer, and be ready to shut down and vacate at a moment's notice.

And, yes, clean. Still cannot get over the people who had empty snack bags on the coffee table and dirty laundry overflowing the baskets.
posted by timepiece at 9:56 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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