Short Term Storage: Godsend or Black Hole?

The self-storage industry is currently a $39 billion-dollar industry with positive projected growth over the next five years. This industry has figured out how to play our emotions like a fiddle.

Let’s take a look at what has helped to fuel the growth of this industry:

  • USA Today reports that 40 million Americans move each year
  • The U.S. Census Bureau states that the average American in the U.S. moves more than 11.7 times throughout their lifetime. And,
  • According to the LA Times, most American homes contain 300,000 items

There are many reasons we choose to rent a short-term storage unit and for some it makes solid financial sense:

  • Those of us that choose a more urban footprint and knowingly store larger everyday items we need frequent access to; winter clothes and sports equipment, outdoor furniture, bikes, lawnmowers etc. These folks have figured the monthly cost of short-term storage into the monthly budget and justify the rental cost.
  • The commercial use of self-storage as a way to house additional inventory they need access to.

And the rest of us? We are fueling the growth of this industry. Why?

We allow our emotions to affect the financial decisions we make. It’s that simple.

We’ve all done it. We are moving, again. We carefully pack away the heirlooms we will absolutely never use or display but cannot bear to give away, or the pricey furniture mistakes we have made, the items we are saving because “you never know, the kids may want them”. Trust me, the “kids” won’t want them.

Yet, we store them. We are using self-storage as a way to defer making difficult emotional decisions and its costing some of us dearly, month after month, year after year.

Let’s look at the current US Self-Storage Industry data:

Annual industry revenue                                                     $39 billion

Number of storage facilities (range)                                    45,000-60,000

Total rentable self-storage space.                                         1.7 billion square feet

Self-storage space per person                                               5.4 square feet

Percentage of households that rent a self-storage unit.   9.4 percent

Average monthly cost for a self-storage unit.                    $87.89

*Source: SpareFoot Storage Beat 3/20

What are 9.4% of US consumers storing in 5.4 square feet that they are willing to pay $87.89 per month for? Only they know.

What I know is why they are storing it and how it has led to the growth of a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Our emotional indecision. Yup, our inability to let go of our stuff.

It’s that simple. Our knee-jerk reaction to getting rid of anything we are emotionally attached to-so we don’t get rid of it-we store it.

Here is a typical scenario:

We are moving-upsizing, downsizing, rightsizing and need to make quick decisions. Many of these decisions are easy to make and will fall into 3 categories:

Pack to move

Donate

Dump

The closer we get to the move date, the more stressed out, anxious and emotionally exhausted we become. Our ability to think clearly and make good quality decisions degrades over time. So, what do we do when we are running out of energy, time and can no longer make decisions?

Put it in storage!

Godsend.

We look locally for the best deal-one month free, two months free and happily choose to hand over a credit card for easy monthly pay and walk away knowing that our “treasures” are safe and secure. We breathe a sigh of relief and check this item of the move off our list. We mentally move on.

What we do not realize is that when renting our storage space and signing at the end of a multipage contract with teeny tiny legalese-we have agreed to a timed rental unit cost increase that has already been laid out in the contract. The built-in increase has already been agreed to by YOU.

While we may see the monthly invoices and the thought is always in the back of our minds to “deal with storage” the weeks become months then years before many of us actually begin to pay closer attention to the increases and decide to address these emotionally deferred decisions once and for all. Others look back years later not even remembering what they put in storage originally.

Black hole.

So, how do you avoid being a casualty of the self-storage industry?

  1. Take the time to truly think through the COST of storing each item over time.
  2. Set a time frame in which you agree to rent the space-6 months or 1 year
  3. Ask to see the fine print in the contract regarding automatic monthly increases
  4. Ask to be informed before a monthly increase will occur
  5. Create a visual and physical inventory of stored items-include measurements

Short term storage is a Godsend for many of us who need to utilize this readily available local option and have firm grip on exactly what is being stored, why it’s being stored and for how long.

It’s a black hole when used as a way to delay difficult decisions about the disposition of household goods, heirlooms and mementoes that we cannot let go of, put out of our conscious minds and not consider the rising cost of this option.

So, if you are one of the families using a short-term unit, ask yourself if you are ready to make decisions to dispose of the “treasures” you have stored in the 5.4 square feet once and for all and take a trip with the $1,000.00 yearly savings instead.

The Top 10 RED FLAGS that Send Buyers Running to The Nearest Exit

Today’s qualified buyers expect perfection and are willing to pay for it. They will continue their home search until the residential sales process wears them down and/or they reconcile their wants and needs with their budget and availability and pull the trigger. Instant access to designer MLS photos and videos puts sellers in a difficult position from the get-go – the house must be perfectly presented, both visually and physically, or the buyer will quickly look elsewhere, without apology, and head for the door.

Over the last 15 years I have assessed thousands of homes (both interior and exterior) in order to package them to sell for top dollar, and I know, even in an older home, there are things that can be done to appeal to this new buyer. Yet, many sellers choose to believe that buyers will overlook certain critical issues and focus on the overall value of the house. WRONG. The buyer will equate the “value” of the house with what they “see” and what they see will often create questions about what they DON’T see. These 10 issues a buyer encounter will ALWAYS cause a buyer to pause mid-step in their tour, question the cost to them and potentially head for the nearest exit:

  1. Water Stains or Standing Water
    • Ceiling and wall stains from a bathroom, kitchen, laundry or built-in bar that had a leak and the repairs were not done correctly and the visual evidence of the repair is obvious.
    • Standing water in basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or yards.
  2. Odor
    • Food: fish, curry, onions, grease
    • Pets: dander, urine, feces, litter boxes, animal cages
    • Smoke: cigar and cigarettes
    • Must, mold, mildew and dust
    • Moth balls, old shoes and dirty clothes in closet
  3. Obvious Delayed Maintenance
    • Rotting wood on windows and doors
    • Leaking sky light
    • Peeling paint
    • Large interior wall and ceiling settlement cracks
    • Large exterior cracks in foundation, garage, driveway
    • Exterior stains on brick, siding, roof and chimney
    • Cracked or cloudy glass windowpanes and door glass
    • Unfinished building projects
    • Rotten, broken and falling down fence and outdoor structures
  4. Signs of Rodents, Pests, et al.
    • Rat boxes, mouse traps, obvious feces and urine, roaches, termites,
    • Odor and evidence of infestation inside house in the attic, crawl space, storage, garage and outbuildings
    • Outdoor exterior evidence of termites in wood shingle exterior, and ground abutting the house and fence
  5. Original Kitchen and Bathrooms in Older Homes
    • Small kitchen cabinet size, poor or odd layout, old and mismatched appliances, stylized back splash and cheap counter tops
    • Original tile floor and walls in multi-color design, built in soap dishes, toothbrush holders, glass holder, cracked bath and shower doors, cheap builder faucet and hardware, older toilet
  6. Old, wall-to-wall plush carpet
    • Worn, stained, smelly and non-neutral colored wall to wall carpet covering hardwood floors
  7. Creepy Unfinished Spaces
    • Unfinished basements, attics, storage areas, stairways, doors and windows no longer in use but visually and physically unsecured from exterior
    • Basement utility laundry room with poor to no lighting, cracked flooring, lack of storage space
    • Spider webs, dead bugs, shredded insulation
  8. Old and Broken Lighting
    • Poor light and degraded older interior and exterior fixtures that are not working or with cracked glass panes
    • Oversized ceiling lights and fans, brown ceiling fans, inadequate bedroom, bath and hallway lighting
  9. Brass, Brass and More Brass
    • Shiny yellow builder-grade brass switch plates, lighting fixtures, trim in bathrooms on tub and shower doors, bath fixtures and hardware
  10. Old Wallpaper and Bold Paint Colors
    • Older wallpaper (even if it was expensive) and a kaleidoscope of seller specific wall colors

Any one of these 10 issues may present listing and closing problems for a seller, who wants to sell for top dollar and maximize the value of their asset. If your house has 2 or more of the above issues, I suggest that you purchase SMART MOVES and complete the interior and exterior house assessment (starting on page 24) in order to understand how you are sabotaging the sale of your own house and what you can do to fix it.

Prepare yourself financially, emotionally and physically for the next home transition. Read more in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

The Family is Moving. Who Will Do Most of the Work?

Mom, of course. Is she ready?

If you’re a mom, you understand immediately that most large family initiatives, like moving, will naturally fall to you to research, coordinate and supervise, ensuring that all “i’s” are dotted, and the “t’s” are crossed. Who better, right? Over the last 14 years of guiding 2000+ families through successful home transitions, I’ve seen this scenario play out again and again. Let me share some family moving tips to help you.

Mom Can Do It All – Family Moving Tips

The decision to sell and move is a major emotional, financial and physical life-changing event. Once the initial euphoria has worn off, promises of equitable distribution of duties by other family members can fall by the wayside and who is left holding the bag? Mom, of course. A recent article in Forbes sheds some light on the fact that Women Are Working More Than Ever, But They Still Take On Most Household Responsibilities. No surprise here. Are you ready to add the responsibility for this huge event to your already overflowing list of things to do? If so, you will need to know what to expect over the course of the transition and where to spend your time and money in order to minimize the anxiety that you, the family and even your pets will experience.

If you are like most moms, once the listing agreement is signed, you begin to panic. It’s the first official step in the process of home transition and the beginning of an intense, emotional roller coaster. Your mind goes into overdrive and you ask yourself, now what? You grab a notebook and a pen and then freeze, asking yourself… Where do I start? How do I pack up a lifetime? Who do I call? What do I do first? You realize that you need help-and fast. It’s overwhelming and you need a plan. You are not alone.

No one escapes the uncertainty of the sales and moving process, it’s universal, no matter where you live, the size and price point of your home, what you’re packing or where you’re going. There is no way around the process of selling and moving… only through it. I assure you, you’ve got this.

To begin, take my advice and avoid the 5 biggest mistakes most sellers make when getting their house ready to list and sell. Remember:

  1. It’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER
  2. Believing your house is the exception to the rule.
  3. Not removing your personal footprint.
  4. Not conducting an interior and exterior buyer assessment.
  5. Believing your buyer will see the value of your home the way you do

To ensure a successful sale and move, you will need to:

  • Strip the emotion from the decision-making process and adopt a business-like approach to the sale.
  • Change your mindset from homeowner to house seller and consider your home a house. It is now a marketable asset, so design it to sell for top dollar.
  • Understand current buyer expectations and what fast, easy and inexpensive updates will need to be made to meet these expectations and generate immediate interest.
  • Consider the sale of the house and move as one continuous process to save both time and money. If you are at least 60% packed to move, you can accept an offer with a faster close date than you anticipated. You’re ready.
  • Understand and research local storage and moving company options and compare apples to apples. Take charge of organizing the packing process and explain the way that you want it to be done. Movers are not the decision makers – you are.
  • Read all contracts carefully and understand the “fine print” about last minute add on’s, insurance options and damages. Get it in writing!
  • Keep a binder or online spreadsheet of all house related information in one place. You will refer to it often throughout the process and way beyond the unpacking of the last box in your new home.
  • Breathe. You will get through this, everyone does.

So, are you ready? Do you know all you need to know about the real estate and moving industries to create a successful home transition for your family? If not, you need a secret weapon that thousands of sellers rely on to act as a “cheat sheet”, SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Order your copy today. Make the decision to be prepared and be a Smart Mover!

Caroline Carter is the founder and CEO of Done In A Day, a Washington D.C. and Palm Beach Gardens, FL based home transition company that has moved everyone from the Who’s Who in politics, business and media. She is a frequent guest expert on TV, radio, podcasts and in print where she discusses how to take the pain out of moving and moving on. She has just released her first book SMART MOVES – How To Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Follow her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Selling? Do you Lead with Head and House or Heart and Home?

We’ve all made life-changing decisions by following our heart. We’ve been told that if we follow our heart and trust our instincts, we will find our passion, our true love, the life we were meant to live or the home of our dreams. Without conscious awareness our emotional stories and positive and negative experiences are playing out in the background of each of these decisions and largely affect the success of the ultimate outcome. Often, we are happy with the results.

But…

What if following your heart and trusting your instincts is the wrong approach to making a life-changing decision, specifically a real estate transaction?

I am referring to the sale of your house and following your heart can actually prevent you from selling at top dollar or at a price point you’re willing to accept. In order to compete and successfully sell your house in today’s market, sellers need to lead with their head, not their heart. To begin, they need to acknowledge one key fact:

Selling your house is not about You, it’s about the buyer and they are in the driver’s seat.
Your job as a seller is to present a house as visually close to what current buyers expect and are determined to find. This dictates that changes in your home may need to be made to create a more modern, up-to-date listing that appeals to a wide cross section of potential buyers. Remember, you are not buying your own house and buyers do make snap decisions about “value” based on what they see.

Fair? No. True? Yes.

As a result, what sellers expect to sell and what buyers expect to buy have never been more at odds. A new mindset and strategy is needed for sellers to be successful.

To find out if you are truly ready for the challenge of selling your home and moving on ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Are you confident that you are able to look non-emotionally at your home? Can you change your mindset from seller to buyer and consider it a house rather than your home? Remember, we buy a house, make it a home but need to turn it back into a house in order to sell at top dollar. This may be the largest asset you own, so removing the emotion from the process to maximize return is critical. Yes or No?
  2. Do you understand that the buyer will NOT value your home in the same way you do? Can you view your house and property as it currently presents and agree that your opinion about its value is not what’s important, but buyer expectations are, and their definition of value is? Yes or No?
  3. Are you willing to consider that fast, easy and inexpensive cosmetic updates may be necessary to sell your house in order to meet today’s buyer expectations? This is where your emotional story comes into play. This emotional roller coaster can seem obvious and most people say they get it and know it’s coming, however, what I see most often is sellers nod in agreement, but when discussions start on how to better position the property and make the necessary changes or upgrades in order to attract the largest number of qualified buyers, the push back begins. Sellers start to evaluate what is “fair” or use the logical argument that it doesn’t make any sense to put money into a house they are selling, but I remind them no one wants to move into a “project”. This is how the emotional story affects the decision making process. These changes become personal and the emotional story playing in the background is the real attachment to your home and the life you have built there. Yes or No?
  4. Are you willing to take more responsibility for the visual presentation of your asset in order to sell at top dollar? In today’s real estate environment, sellers need to take more responsibility for and control of the presentation of their asset. The Realtor may or may not be in a position to expertly advise you in this area, and it’s not their job. At a minimum, you must remove your personal footprint and take a look at the paint, flooring, carpet and lighting. Yes or No?
  5. Are you prepared to embark on one of the five most stressful life-changing events? This process, like death, divorce, illness and loss of a job, creates anxiety and uncertainty over time with no guaranteed outcome. It takes commitment to weather the emotional ups and downs of selling a house, not take it personally and understand that this is all part of the game. There is no way around it, only through it. Yes or No?

If you have answered “yes” to the above 5 questions, you are ready to embark on the sales process and create a smooth transition to your next home. Congratulations! You are more prepared than most sellers for the emotional roller coaster ride you will experience from the moment you decide to sell until the last box is unpacked in your new home.

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions you may need to rethink your seller mindset and ask yourself why you are not able to view your asset from a buyer’s point of view. Remember, in this particular situation, head and house, not heart and home will lead to a more successful outcome every time.

Read more in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

How to Save Time and Money Creating the Perfect Listing™

It’s go-time, the decision has been made to sell the house… now what? Any Realtor® will tell you that people are passionate about their homes, their style, their things, so trying to objectively decide what needs to be done before a house gets listed can be fraught with emotion and push back.

RE Rule 101: The seller wants to maximize the value of the asset and the buyer wants the best deal they can get for the property. Period. The seller needs to maximize their time and spend as little as possible in order to get the house ready to show.

One thing I always tell sellers, it’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER. A seller’s job is to allow a qualified buyer up to one-year occupancy without making any material changes – no one wants to move into “an immediate project.” The seller needs to present a house that is as visually close to what current buyers expect, in a manner that reflects values to them from the minute they get out of the car and walk up to the front door.

The Devil is in the Details. As you create the plan to get the house ready. Organization is key and much can be done by the seller, saving time and money.

  1. Organizing and clearing out rooms of extra furniture and personal items. Touch everything you own once. Clean, sort (keep, store, donate or dump) the entire house and remove your personal footprint. Only keep out the furniture and accessories you will use for staging purposes only.
  2. Deep Clean. Whether you do it yourself or hire a service, do a detailed thorough cleaning of the house, including windows and store the screens. There is a psychology behind clean houses that helps the home selling process – a study at Indiana University found that clean houses were perceived by people to be linked to healthier individuals.
  3. Set the Interior and Exterior Template. When staging a house or what I call setting the template, you do not have to break the bank. Below are some guides for common, inexpensive, cosmetic updates and home improvements that can be done to increase the visual value of the house. As you go through each room and look at the furniture, be open to and look for new ways to stage the space that will open up the room.
  • Paint – white or light grey walls, white trim and ceilings. New paint is an easy and inexpensive way to make your house look fresh and new.
  • Carpet/Flooring/Lighting – new carpet and pristine floors are a must and worth the small investment. Make sure all lights work (inside and out) and have as least soft white 60-watt light bulbs – you can use 100-watt
  • Foyer/Living Room/Dining Room – showcase a tiny space in the entrance/foyer to welcome buyers and create a focal point in the living room and arrange furniture from there. Remove the leaf from the dining room table to create a smaller piece of furniture, making the room look more spacious. Purchase and place the correct style and size plant material to provide a tasteful accent near the entry, on tables or mantels.
  • Great Room/Family Room – place the furniture in a visually and physically logical format that highlights the width, depth and unique assets of the room.
  • Kitchen – Severely limit what you keep on the countertops – only essentials and pack or remove the rest. Appliances in working order.
  • Master Bedroom/Other Bedrooms – Buyers are looking for a sanctuary and are willing to pay for perfection in the master bedroom. A mirror over the dresser will make the room look bigger. Bedrooms should contain the same basic furniture, a bed, side table, lamps, chest of drawers, area rug or new carpets.
  • Bathrooms – clean and if necessary, install new vanity and countertops in white. I use the Home Decorators Collection at Home Depot.
  • Laundry Room/Basement/Bonus Space: Washing machine and dryer must be functional, vented and have adequate drainage. Basement or lower level family rooms need to be clean, bright with new carpet or polished floors. They don’t necessarily need to be staged but can be vacant if the rest of the house is visually and physically perfect.
  • Garage/Exterior Lighting/Landscaping – garage must be clean enough to see width and depth, including storage capacity. Exterior lighting must work and be clean. Trim trees and landscaping that blocks the façade. Remove dead trees, limbs, shrubs and plant material, edge gardens and spread brown mulch (not red or black).
  • Exterior Paint/Shutters/Front Door – no chipped paint. Replace house numbers with Baldwin 4-inch polished brass, nickel or black.
  • Exterior Cleaning – Power wash everything, including the outdoor furniture and grill
  • Outdoor Furniture – create conversation areas

I realize that no one actually “lives” this clean, but you must try to exist in deep clean mode in order to sell. Transitioning a principal residence is an emotional, financial and physical challenge. While the journey is different for everyone, the home transition process is the same. Saving time and money is key for any seller.

Read more about The Devil is in the Details in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

The overall impression you have created is a positive one that highUnique assets of your house

The Sound of Time… What to Expect When Your House is Finally on the Market

The goal was to design the house to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers. You’ve done that. The emotional roller coaster is back at the station and you are ready to unbuckle and jump off the ride. Oh, and by the way, you’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally and not sure what comes next.

The good news is the hardest part of the process is over, hopefully you have sorted (keep, store, donate or dump) your things and deep cleaned your house, inside and out. The overall impression you have created is a positive one that highlights the unique assets of your house.

For most sellers, this is their most valuable personal asset and they are looking to maximize its value, while the buyer is looking to make the best deal they can.

The house is 100 percent clean and the rooms are well-designed and without clutter. The challenge now is to actually “live” day-to-day while maintaining this artificial environment. The perfection you will maintain is for good reason, which is to sell the house quickly and for top dollar. It will be worth it, but it may not happen immediately.

Realize that during this time, the routine you established and relied upon each day will be non-existent. Your Realtor® or agent will schedule your house on their office’s weekly tour of new listings. After this tour, the agent may ask their colleagues to suggest a list price or price range based on the tour. The agent will share this information with you, even though YOU will decide on the price, not them. In addition, your agent might host a morning coffee, buffet lunch or cocktail preview where agents can bring qualified buyers to view the listing before it hits the MLS. Other agents use the Friday before the weekend open house to schedule showings by appointment only.

Many homes do sell this way, which is why it is done and will reduce the days on the market to zero. If you prepared your asset to sell and you are lucky, this could mean no disruptive showings. It obviously does not happen with regularity for most listings, which is why you will most likely proceed to Plan B. You wait…

No one can predict how long the sales process will take. It’s based on many factors – location, presentation, price point, current market, time of year and number of qualified buyers that show interest. Your job is to wait for the offer – so stay calm and work closely with your agent as they expertly market your house and hopefully find the right buyer. It will get harder the longer you do it and I know you will start to hear it, ticking, ticking, ticking… the sound of time.

You’re in a virtual no mans land of uncertainty as you wonder what each day will bring. You must keep your emotions in check as your Realtor shares negative feedback from agents and buyers… or no information at all. Remember it’s all individual perspective and the next buyer may tell you it’s exactly what they have been hoping to find. You can’t take any of it personally. TRULY remain calm. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. This is all part of the process.

Living in limbo without our normal creature comforts is an incredibly difficult situation for most people, so treat yourself to a little TLC and know this emotional roller coaster will hopefully be over soon.

Read more about The Sound of Time in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

How to Avoid the Top 3 Emotional Mistakes Most Sellers Make

Transitioning a principal residence is an emotional, financial and physical challenge. While the journey is different for everyone, the home transition process is the same and needs to be anchored in hope, humility and humor.

Be warned… as most Realtors® know, when it comes to life’s major stressors, selling a home and moving, even once, lands in the top 5, along with death, divorce, illness and loss of a job. The good news for sellers is that you can rely on a good Realtor to help you through but understand you must also help yourself. I refer to it as “emotional ivy”. Like English ivy clinging to brick, your “emotional ivy” – the way you’ve made your house a home throughout the years – is so pervasive that it affects every decision you make about the upcoming move. You’ll have to rip the “ivy” out of every nook and cranny and off each surface to which it clings and that’s not easy.

The top 3 emotional mistakes most sellers make as they get ready to list are:

  1. Not being able to let go of personal items.
    Some of us refuse to let go of our things, even if we really don’t want them or use them. We look at some item and think “work of art”, while someone else thinks “garage sale”. According to the LA Times, most households in America have over 300,000 things stored in them and many people also rent off-site storage units filled with more stuff. Bottom line: we are all treasure hunters and ultimately you are the decision maker on what to keep or let go, but one thing I know for sure is the BUYER doesn’t care about any of it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your house is the exception to the rule and a buyer will look past your things.
  2. Not removing your personal footprint.
    Remember, it’s important to remove personal photos, tombstones, diplomas, and the like, because all that does is distract the buyer.
  3. Not understanding what the BUYER values.
    The buyer wants the ability to move in and do nothing for one year. Think white, beige or light grey walls, with white trim and ceilings. New carpet and floors in pristine condition. Here is a simple key to understand the buyer: they will walk through and give themselves less than 10 minutes to decide if this could be “it”. Many will only devote four to five minutes and make a snap decision – yes or no. This means they will fly through the rooms in a minute or two and if they are distracted and a few things seem odd or cause them to pause, you have lost their attention. You do not want to leave an impression that it’s too big a “project” for them to consider or pay for.

Remember, touch everything you own once. Clean and sort the entire house and remove your personal footprint. Our “stuff” produces a great amount of stress, anxiety and expense when we try to pack, store and move it. A smart seller will realize they have four choices when it comes to every item in the home:

  1. Pack it
  2. Sell it
  3. Donate it
  4. Dump it

Procrastination and delayed decision-making is not a strategy. Remember that you are staging your home to sell, while packing for your move at the same time.

Read more about how to Brace for Impact in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

Would You Pay Top Dollar for Your Own House?

If the answer is a resounding yes, you’re ready to list. If the answer is no, you’ll need to understand why it is a no and create a strategic plan of attack to create a yes. Realtors are often called upon to outline exactly what a seller may need to do to get their house ready to sell at top dollar. Do you know what to do to get your own house ready to list?

Most sellers realize they are expected to do a few things to “spruce up” their home before they sell. Do you understand exactly what you need to do and why? This information is vital to understand to positively position your house to sell. This is just one part of the larger “total home transition”, but a critical part that will directly affect the list price, DOM (days on market) and ultimate sales price of your house. The biggest mistake sellers make is not looking at their house through the eyes of the BUYER and not making the necessary visual and cosmetic updates in order to meet BUYER expectations. Ask yourself, would you pay top dollar for your own house? If not, you need to understand why not and what to do about it.

We strongly encourage sellers to do a thorough (buyer-based) interior and exterior assessment of the house and property, in order to determine what “negative” issues need to be addressed to entice todays buyers. Be objective and non-emotional when you do the assessment to create a task list and remain in control of the process. Gather the estimates to make a decision on which items will create the most positive impression and ensure the highest ROI (rate of return) on your investment. Don’t get overwhelmed or be discouraged, it’s just a list. You have control of what you will ultimately decide what you will do and what you are willing to spend to do it. Understanding the financial impact of the decisions you will make is part of the process.

The next step in the Total Home Transition process is to create your 5-step plan of attack to turn your home into a marketable asset that is ready to list and sell at top dollar:

  1. Determine a launch schedule and define the scope of work to be completed.
    Download a blank calendar to use as a planning tool and create a transition binder for yourself to stay organized during this part of the sales process. Decide on the date the house will be listed with your REALTOR and work backward on the calendar to schedule the work that needs to be done and add all key dates, notes, vendor estimates, meetings, receipts, etc. This binder is a critical part of the organizational process and you will refer to it frequently throughout the course of your home transition.
  2. What can I afford to do? What can’t I afford NOT to do?
    Once you have compiled the task list of items to be addressed, sellers tend to look at the list from a financial point of view only and have likely pre-determined the cost of what is “fair” to prepare their house to sell. Fight this basic instinct to save money or hassle in the short-term and prioritize the list by visual and physical impact to the buyer. If funds are limited, consider painting the walls white and installing new neutral carpeting and repair or replace flooring that is old, scratched, peeling, cracked or generally in disrepair.
  3. Working with a Pro and dealing with the Trades.
    You will need to hire professionals for most if not all the work that needs to be done. If you don’t have a list of the required trades at your fingertips, your REALTOR, friends and neighbors can make trusted recommendations. Don’t rush. Get several estimates to compare apples to apples, check for online reviews, ask for licenses and inquire about Workman’s Compensation insurance. Do your homework. Establish deadlines and financial consequences for not meeting them. Expect to pay a deposit and hold the balance payment until the contracted work is completed.
  4. Decide to stage or not to stage.
    Will you be using your own furniture, rugs, lamps, artwork and accessories to accentuate the width and depth of each room and highlight the unique assets of the house for the buyer? Or, will you hire a staging company to install a more updated color palette with right-sized furniture? Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can and should stage only the main floor of the house to save money. This is NOT a smart move. While you may save money in the short term, the positive visual impression does not last when the buyer goes to the second floor and sees vacant or sparsely furnished rooms. The energy drop is often negative and creates needless questions in the mind of the buyer.
  5. The Roller Coaster Ride Continues.
    You have identified the timeline, task list, budget and vendors and have scheduled the work that needs to be done. You have made the decision about how you will stage the house. Now it’s time to begin strategically sorting and packing the household goods you will not need access to over the next few months. Stay focused on the “big picture” and understand that you are sorting and packing now to put yourself in a position of negotiating strength to accept a cash offer with a fast closing. The next phase will be much easier if you are already are 60% packed to move.

Remember: Procrastination is enemy number one! Home Transition is an emotional, physical and financial roller coaster. To succeed over time, you will need to focus, pace yourself, stay organized and set aside time each day to breathe and center yourself. This process can weigh heavily on your mental well-being and physically strength and endurance. It is truly challenging and often the most difficult part of the process. Understand what to expect and commit to accomplish this with determination and as little drama as possible.

Read more about the Plan of Attack in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

The Most Important Photo in Your Virtual Tour is the Money Shot

It’s impossible to find a Realtor® today who doesn’t drive home the importance of curb appeal. An attractive and well-presented exterior can mean the difference between a house sale and a house that sits on the market gathering dust. Sadly, you can have a house with a beautiful interior that is never seen due to the negative assumption from agents and buyers based on the exterior presentation. It follows that improving the visual appearance of the exterior of your structure and property is one of the best investments you can make as a seller.

According to the NAR, 63 percent of homebuyers will ask for a showing after viewing a house online. The first thing they will see, even in pictures, is the exterior of your house. They have viewed the listing online and are impressed enough to schedule a showing, so be sure what they see in person is in keeping with the positive impression they formed when they viewed the listing online.

So, what defines a curb disaster? Let’s start with a roof that’s missing shingles or is dingy. Is algae growing on it? Are there oversized trees that prevent you from seeing the front door? Can you read the house numbers or are they dark, dull or non-existent?

The minute I drive up to a house, I notice every aspect of the exterior façade and surrounding property, I am consciously trying to frame the exterior photo in my mind. You can do this too. Step outside and cross the street. View the exterior of your house as a buyer would and ask yourself if what you see welcomes you into the property.

Ask yourself the questions below and “score” your exterior in relation to the necessary visual perfection that buyers expect today.

  • What color is the house, shutters and front door?
  • Is the color combination complementary?
  • Do I see any peeling paint?
  • Do the shutters or the house need painting?
  • Is the siding in good condition or the stucco cracked?
  • Are the gutters overflowing with leaves?
  • Is there outdoor lighting? Does it work?
  • What is the condition, size, and shape of landscaping (trees, plants, flowers)?
  • Are there any shingles loose or missing, does the roof need to be power washed?
  • Are the windows clean and void of cracked panes?
  • Is landscaping or plant material blocking the front façade of the house?

Buyers expect a well-manicured exterior. Front and backyard areas are now considered “must-haves” and if they’re well-maintained, will prevent buyers from quickly returning to the car before they even make it to the front door. One word about backyards – they are not even called that anymore and in some real estate markets they’re referred to as “outdoor retreats”. In 2019 and beyond, it’s all about what’s dubbed as “indoor-outdoor living” and “bringing the indoors, outdoors”.

Your exterior assessment will address any and all issues with the entire outside, beyond just cleaning up, so make sure you really look at:

  • Front façade, front step and front door
  • Paint and shutters
  • Roof and chimney
  • Bricks and mortar
  • Windows and aluminum siding
  • Exterior lighting/outlets
  • Driveway and landscaping
  • Fences and hardscape
  • Decks and Pool
  • Guest House, Shed, Pool House or Playhouse

Look beyond your own personal preference and taste and ask yourself: Does my home have the curb appeal to sell quickly and for top dollar? Would YOU pay top dollar for this house? If the answer is no, then get your plan of attack together and begin the process of making sure your property is the best shape it can be for the BUYER.

Take charge of your own exterior assessment, and refer to Chapter 3 in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life.

Remember it’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER and make sure you lead your online virtual home tour with the money shot! Be a Smart Mover and good luck!

“Houston We Have a Problem…”

When selling or buying a home beware of the disconnect!  In a seller’s mind their objective is simple: I want to sell my house as quickly as possible for the highest possible price, spend the least amount of money and do the least amount of work.