Want to know what it takes to sell your house the first day it goes on the market? Would it thrill you to get three offers on that first day? How would you feel if two of those offers were with cash? And if one of those cash offers said they would forego getting an inspection done on the house … they wanted it that much?
I wish I could tell you. Really, I wish I could. Because it happened to me, and it was awesome. Unfortunately, there is an infinite number of variables going into selling a house. And for whatever reason, my husband and I were extremely blessed.
If it were easy to sell a house so quickly, my parents would have sold their house two years ago, when they first put theirs on the market. But they are still waiting for the right buyers to come along for their unique house. Our former house, however, is not unique. And that probably helped.
It is a plain house in a diverse suburb of Houston in a not-super-nice but also not-bad neighborhood. Built in 1977, it has 1,604 feet and four bedrooms. All the realtors we spoke to said they would market it as a starter home. These kind of stats make it accessible to a large number of folks.
Here’s some of what we did to get the house into shape for a quick sell:
Put on a new roof. That was costly. But had we not sold the house, our insurance company was requiring us to do it. They inspected us in the spring. We had hail damage so thankfully the insurance company covered all of the cost except the $1800 deductible. I think the beautiful 30-year roof was a selling point.
Repair the foundation. That also was painfully costly. But it was a must. You could see cracks in the walls. Most of our neighbors had gotten theirs repaired. It’s something pretty much everyone around here has to deal with. Our next door neighbor gave us the name of the guy who did their work, and we got an excellent deal considering how much most foundation companies cost. It was quite a sight to see those men in holes as tall as they were.
Install new used appliances. Our stove and dishwasher worked well enough. But they were very old and looked old. We scoured the deals at Home Depot, but we ended up finding an apartment complex that was selling all their white appliances because they were upgrading to stainless steel. White was what we needed, and theirs looked better than what we had. I also went to the Habitat ReStore and bought new cabinet pulls for my entire kitchen.
Paint the ceilings. This was no fun. I didn’t think it was necessary, but my husband swears it made the house look better. I agree the house looked a bit brighter and bigger. The new shade of white was a brighter white than what we had formerly. Here’s a lesson he learned: do not buy ceiling paint for the ceiling. Apparently celling paint is thinner than wall paint so that it will not drip as it dries, but the result is you have to apply it three times. What a pain! Your arms and neck get tired enough with two coats. From now on we are using regular paint for the ceiling. It works fine.
Plant flowers. I pulled lots of weeds and cut back several bushes and bought mulch and flowers. It was hot out there. Finally I hired my lawn guy to finish the small amount of landscaping. Flowers make everything look prettier.
Clean like crazy. It needs to be spotless. When I clean for myself or clean because a few friends are coming over, I get the house pretty clean. But when I cleaned for potential buyers, I spent time on the floor scrubbing at spots that I had assumed long ago were just stuck there. Turns out you can get some of those spots out with enough elbow grease and strong chemicals.
Stage the house. This was key. My realtor said that if the house looks great it won’t matter if the garage has a bunch of stuff in it. So we put LOTS of our furniture and belongings in the garage. I read several books about staging homes. You need to make the house look big – and having plenty of furniture makes it look crowded. Pretend you are a minimalist. Keep only what you really need and pack the rest away. For example, I have lots of necklaces, but I only kept about ten out on my necklace display. We had two dressers in our bedroom, and one of them had to go. So we cut down on all our clothes. I packed all but 33 items of clothing into bags and hid those bags under the bed. I put extra kitchen gadgets, mugs, and appliances into boxes in the garage. Books, decor, office papers, scrapbooking supplies, games … I cannot even tell you how much we hid away. We use a projector and screen to watch television and movies, but we took it down. We figured we could survive a little while without it. And NO pictures of yourselves or your family on the walls. All the realtors say you need to de-personalize the house so prospective buyers can picture themselves – not you – living there. Finally, I have no eye for decorating so I gave a friend a small chunk of money and we went to Hobby Lobby together. She picked out items and then arranged them in my house. She helped move the furniture around so it opened the space and flowed better. We put a tablecloth on in the eating area and set the table.
Hire a handyman. We had a lot of little things that needed to be fixed. My husband could have solved most of the problems, but with attending school full-time and working full-time he had enough on his plate. An experienced handyman can take care of the problems efficiently. But watch out: they can be expensive! I hired a guy who works full-time for an old friend who charged significantly less than average.
Find a realtor. I used Dave Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers website to find high-octane Houston realtors, and I interviewed three. All three seemed excellent, but I had to make a choice and I was happy with my realtor. She put a gorgeous sign in our yard. I couldn’t believe how big and fancy it was. But what matters the most in our area is to have a realtor with access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and is on har.com. It was crucial for prospective buyers to find us online and for us to have a realtor walk us through the process, making sure all loose ends were tied. If you live in Houston and need a realtor, I suggest Sandra Marconi. A realtor can also price your house well. All three realtors I interviewed told me the same price, so when the house sold the first day on the market I wasn’t quite as sad about pricing it where we did. Perhaps we could have gotten more money for the house, but we were so relieved to be done with the process that it did not matter much.
By the time we were done with all the repairs and staging, the house looked so great we weren’t sure we wanted to move out anymore! But we did and now it’s on to the next phase of our lives. Yay!
If you are trying to sell your house, I wish you luck. There are other repairs or changes that may need to be done to your house, but these were the big factors we dealt with in the three months leading up to the sell. There is a lot you can do to make your house appeal to buyers, but once it’s ready to go on the market all you can do is pray. We did a lot of praying. And don’t give in to frustration. Every situation is unique. I hope yours goes as quickly as mine did.
Tips for selling your house … personal photos!!!
Foundation repair … had to drill holes through the concrete driveway
There were 22 holes like this around my house.
Standing up inside the holes, the top of the workers’ heads were level with the ground.
New roof! We definitely needed it. While you’re at it, check out the overgrown flowerbed. Yuck.
What a lovely sign. It dwarfed all the other realtors’ signs in my neighborhood.
Here is our back deck. Clean and simple.
A spotless kitchen. Check out our new-ish appliances. I got a new hand towel and cleared all clutter from the counter.
The flowerbed looks much nicer like this.
My friend, Paula, set the table.
Paula also staged the living room. She picked out a few accessories.
And there it is! A plain suburban dwelling. That’s the house that sold in one day. We still can barely believe it.