The Pre-listing Purge
By, Amanda Spatola
What if I told you the only thing standing between you and a couple of thousand extra dollars was clutter?
Wait, don’t stop reading–Stay with me people!
Show of hands: Who’s seen or at least heard of the viral Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? Most of you? Great! For those who haven’t and are scratching your heads, Marie Kondo, a tidy and adorable woman, comes into her client’s lives and transforms their homes ninja-style into uncluttered, manageable spaces.
The thesis here is that our lives are filled with junk (thank you consumer culture), most of which does not bring us happiness, and in fact contributes to high levels of stress (think, “Where is that light blue sweater? It must be buried under the pile of of other light blue sweaters that I don’t like, but were 70% off at J. Crew last week”, or “Where is that tiny Lego man that goes on this tiny Lego boat? Is it in the toy bin with the tiny doll accessories [searches toy bin with doll accessories], nope not here, but found the plastic banana that goes into the play kitchen that I’ve been looking for FOREVER!”). Deeply personal examples of disorganized chaos aside, we all have too much stuff. Stuff makes us happy at the time of purchase (scientifically proven), but ultimately makes us sad as it accumulates and we begin to lose track of said stuff amongst other stuff.
I’m sure you can guess where I’m headed with all of this. The first order of business when deciding to list your home is preparing your home for market, which means preparing it for showings. Decluttering makes a house feel like a larger more neutral space, and allows buyers walking through to picture the space as their own.
Clean Out Closets.
Invasive? Yes. But buyers will be looking through your closets, and your medicine cabinets, and your pantries. Move off-season clothes to storage- doesn’t necessarily mean it has to leave your home— if you have an unfinished attic space, use it for this purpose. Get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in the last two years- donate, consign, anything. They are collecting dust and making your closet look cramped. I often tell clients to have a friend come over and help them with this task- it can be really hard to part with things, and sometimes a gentle nudge goes a very long way. Doing things with friends make them fun! Right? Same goes for pantries, kitchen drawers, and medicine cabinets. Clean. Them. Out. The goal is to make these receptacles of junk (there, I said it!) look clean and organized.
Also, I should mention that stuffed closets actually show in the new 3D technology many brokers use for virtual house tours. The cool thing is, people can zoom out and see a 3D floor plan of your home, then zoom in to specific rooms and navigate your home from their computer (WOAH!). The bad thing is, this virtual floorpan shows closets and everything in them, and there’s no editing capability, so be prepared for your future home buyer to giggle at your Goo Goo Dolls Tour shirt from ‘98.
Stage, don’t decorate.
And that does not necessarily mean you have to hire a stager and pay for new furniture. Keep reminding yourself that the whole purpose of preparing your home for sale is to leave each prospective buyer with the feeling that your house could be their house. Maybe the couch against the gorgeous French doors in the family room was functional for you because it allowed more floor space for your toddlers to use for block-building, but your buyers might be in a different phase of life and prefer to envision your family room as their entertaining space with accessible French doors that lead to an amazing back patio. Your couch is a great couch, it just might need a new place in the room. Goal: re-work rooms with existing furniture to make them feel open and spacious. Use existing furniture to suggest functionality that would appeal to the broadest possible number of buyers.
Let’s talk home accents: in the world of interior design, rich layers, textures, and patterns are fabulous BUT for staging purposes, take a minimalistic approach; a couple of pillows on the couch, maybe an open coffee table book atop the table, and throw blankets away. Personal experience: this was actually really hard for me when I listed my own house. A lot of time, energy, and thought went into how my house was decorated, and it was frustrating that I had to strip it down to bare bones. But the rooms showed better (both in real life AND photography) after being thinned out.
And now for a controversial topic: personal photos. Leave ‘em out or put ‘em away? Most brokers would suggest putting them away, but if your kids are particularly cute, I say, leave ‘em! Kidding. In all seriousness, it’s case-dependent. If you’re listing the perfect starter home for a young family, and you have a young family, I always suggest leaving a few pictures out. Knowing that another family has thrived in a home usually brings expectant parents a sense of comfort. Family pictures lining the wall leading upstairs? Not ideal and should be taken down for listing. One or two family photos tastefully placed here and there? Good to leave out.
Keep countertops clear.
Again, clean empty-ish space = BIG. When our house was on the market, I had an espresso maker and coffee maker in one section of our kitchen, a toaster oven in another, a fruit bowl, a key dish, and some cookbooks. Before showings, I ran around and put it all away (except for the nespresso, that’s a freaking fixture in my kitchen and its pretty!). Then I put it all back when the showing was over. Massive pain in the a**, but worth it.
I would actually suggest beginning the purge process the minute you even begin to entertain the thought of listing- even if it’s a year away. A good clean-out takes more time than you think, get a head start, and do it right. The Pre-Listing Purge is no joke!