Selling my House in the Ghetto
So 2014 and 2015 have been eventful. We have sold our house and bought a new one. I have learned a lot about the process and feel that I should pass on some of the knowledge that I have gained because selling a house in this market...well, it sucks. Most people are lucky to make a profit on their house-we were not this lucky. We owned a home that took a huge hit when the bubble burst. Our home went from being worth $122,000 to $97,000 and it was going to continue to decrease in value. Some houses in our neighborhood had sold for $70,000 or less. The "crazy cat lady's" house sold for $25,000 because it was so messed up inside. So we decided to spruce up our house and put it on the market in June of 2014. We managed to sell our house by February 2015 for only $2000 less than our asking price AND it was the most that any property had sold for in our neighborhood in several years. So, 8 months on the market, not bad.
Before I start, let me just say that I have a newly found hate for HGTV, TLC, and every home improvement/flipping/sales show ever EVER made. They have absolutely made it so that, if you live in your house while you are selling, you are going to have a bad time. Buyers now expect that when they walk in your house, that it should look like a showroom directly out of IKEA or pier one imports - in fact, it should not look like people live there at all. This is a challenge when you have two small children.
I made peace with the fact that this was what I was going to have to do. So here is how I started.
1. Get a storage unit: You will be decluttering and you will need some place to put everything. If you do not have a basement (in our case) a storage unit is the next best option. We chose a climate controlled unit so that we could safely put candles, pictures, and other items that are sensitive to temperature changes in there.
2. Declutter and Depersonalize: Pack up all your family pictures and extra knick knacks. If you have cubby sized shelves, keep it to one knick knack per shelf. Long shelves should have enough stuff on them to not be empty. If you have kids, organize toys into bins and baskets that cleverly hide the items. Put some toys in storage. You can always do a toy swap when they get bored. We did this several times, taking toys to the unit and bringing back toys that they had not played with for a while. Use this time to get rid of stuff that you don't need or use anymore and ship it off to goodwill.
3. Paint: Take the time and invest the money. Paint can make such a huge difference in how your house is perceived by buyers. Pay attention to trends in color, but keep it neutral. We painted our master bedroom/bath and office varying shades of gray (because gray was super popular in 2014). I kept it varying shades of beige in the living areas and guest bath. Now, I broke this rule when it came to my kitchen. I was feeling bored after painting every room neutral, so I painted my kitchen a bright, trendy color: Aqua. I painted the area above the chair rail a creamy color, and the bottom Aqua...and. I. love. it. And it was super popular with people that came through the house. This could have blown up in my face. You may not get this lucky, so stick with trendy neutrals if you can. Stay away from reds/pinks...reds are challenging to paint over and are a huge turn off to buyers.
4. If your kitchen is the epitome of unattractivness (like mine was) and you do not want to invest thousands of dollars - refinish instead of replace: I found these awesome kits called...
Rustoleum Countertop Transformations and Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations
I found my kits at Home Depot, but they are available at amazon on any number of websites. They allow you to refinish your hideous faux butcher block counter top and old gross cabinets. Now, I am not saying that these kits are not a lot of work - because they are. It took me a good two weeks to finish both. But the results were SOOOO worth it. It helps to have two people working on the project. I basically did both by myself since I was on summer break and my husband was still working full time. The worst part is definitely the sanding the counter and removing the shine from the cabinets. Sanding the countertop is messy, time consuming, and leaves your arms aching (even if you use a power sander) and feeling like a couple of cooked noodles or, if you use a power sander, like your whole body is vibrating for hours afterward. Stripping the cabinets of the layers of grime, grossness, and shine is both stinky and gross. It requires a well ventilated area and lots of extra steel wool. There is a lot of waiting overnight for things to dry. But in the end you will spend a couple of hundred instead of several thousand dollars. I also added hardware to my cabinets which had no hardware to begin with. This changed the entire look of the kitchen to something more modern.
Apparently my cabinets were so hideous that I tried my best to never get them in a picture...EVER. The best before picture I could find has just a tiny corner of a cabinet, but a decent picture of what the counter tops looked like before the refinishing. As an added bonus, my daughter just happens to be in the picture (she was not yet one) - she is 4 now.
The project was arduous, but I developed some DIY skills in the process and the kitchen got rave reviews when people came through the house.
5. Stage, Stage, Stage: My real estate agent said "less is more" and in not so many words, said that my accessories looked crappy. So I browsed the magical internet viewed other houses for sale and how they were staged. I ventured into pier one imports and ikea and eventually gathered a variety of accessories that were nice but not too personal. The accessories were innocuous, but filled the space.; making it looked lived in, but not lived in by anyone in particular. I set my kitchen table and outdoor patio table as if a meal was just about to occur; complete with an aluminum tub of glass bottles of coke, cloth napkins, wine glasses, candles etc. At first, I felt all of this was ridiculous, but then every person who came through the house, complemented the way it was "decorated." Other real estate agents commented on how well staged the house was. So, an investment in a bunch of over priced accessories paid off.