Just because selling a home is often stressful doesn't mean it has to be.
Before taking out a mortgage on a new home, my husband and I have always sold our existing property. And it's only fair to admit that everything we know about staying stress free while selling is a result of doing things wrong -- sometimes very wrong. Based on the good, the bad, and the ugly moments in selling a home, here are five things we've learned about staying cool throughout the process.
1. Work with the right agent
The right agent makes all the difference in terms of stress. We've worked with an agent who wasn't familiar with our neighborhood, one who blew so much smoke that we were constantly confused, and an agent who insisted we accept our first offer, even though it wasn't what we wanted. We've also worked with an agent who was so honest it hurt but gave us a realistic idea of what we could expect, an agent who told us exactly where to spend our money and time as we prepared to sell, and an agent who saw red flags and steered us away from a sketchy buyer. Taking your time to interview agents until you find one that fits will help prevent stress and may even help you net more on the sale.
2. Edit what's in your house, then edit again
It took a few house sales to learn this trick, but it makes all the difference. Before the house goes on the market, remove everything you don't regularly use. Donate stuff you don't want, and rent a storage unit for items you want to keep, or ask a relative to let you store extras at their house until yours sells. The less you have in your home, the more it looks move-in ready.
Typically, your agent calls and says someone would like to tour your house at a certain time. You run around tidying, wiping down, picking up, turning on lights, and generally trying to make the house ready for potential buyers. The less you have in your home, the easier the process. Keeping it simple is key to stress reduction.
3. Set your own hours
Speaking of running around, I'm not sure how I manage to yell at everyone in my household as I tidy, but then again, I'm good at dual-tasking. I'm pretty sure I make everyone in my path anxious with my rabid "it must be perfect" cleaning frenzies. Now I limit the hours during which the property can be shown. For example, I may set 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. I'm not away from the house during those hours unless there's a showing. I do, however, have the property in show-worthy condition. As excited as I may be to sell a home, setting hours reduces the stress of a call that comes at an inconvenient time.
4. Have a plan for the pets
Between an ancient cat who once cornered a real estate agent and a dog who barks at everyone (particularly those he hopes to become best friends with), I know my pets can be nowhere near the house during showings. The cat has gone on to his greater reward, but the dogs are still part of the family. Here's my sanity-saving system:
- Fifteen minutes before the scheduled tour, I take one final spin around the house to make sure everything looks great.
- I grab the basket of dog toys, pick up their food bowls, tell the dogs we're leaving, strap them into their car seats, and take a nice drive.
- If I'm lucky, my agent texts to let me know the showing is over. If not, I meander back by the house like I'm stalking the joint (and hope to goodness no one sees me).
It sounds like a lot, but the dogs love the excitement, and I don't have to worry about their bothering anyone (or our house feeling like a kennel).
5. Know your triggers
I know where every dust bunny in my house hides. I'm not saying it's a superpower, but it is super annoying to those around me. I will not allow an agent to show my home unless I believe everything is just right. Because I know that messes, large and small, trigger me, I have a routine that helps avoid potential stress traps. It includes:
- Working with an agent who agrees to an open house the first weekend the house goes on the market.
- Planning a trip out of town for that weekend.
- Hiring a cleaning crew to come in early on the day we plan to leave town and deep clean.
Hiring a cleaning crew is worth every penny. It means that by the time I leave town and the agent holds an open house, the home looks and smells as lovely as possible.
Maybe your stress meter goes up when you must leave the house for a showing. If so, make it a treat. Drive somewhere for a cherry limeade or a chocolate malt. Perhaps you're triggered by negative feedback. Let your agent know you don't take criticism well, and ask them to filter the comments they get from other agents. If the thought of packing up all your belongings to make a move makes you break out in hives, come up with a written plan that breaks it all down into bite-sized pieces that are easy to accomplish.
Whatever the issue may be, address it before the house goes on the market. Going into the sale of your home with a plan in place may seem like an unnecessary step, but it can help you avoid the stressful obstacles most likely to trip you up.
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