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!

The Emotionality of Moving and Moving On…Why It’s so Hard for Most Sellers

Selling a home and moving is hard

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!

Selling your House? Why a Buyer-Based Interior Assessment is Critical

You have made the decision to sell… now what? The life changing event of selling one home and moving to the next is an emotional, financial and physical roller coaster for most sellers. This event ranks among the top five most stressful events along with death, divorce, illness and loss of a job.

Fear not! Find an ally and partner with an experienced REALTOR® in your local market who will educate you on what to do to sell-don’t guess. This process will surely entail conducting a , buyer-based interior assessment. You can do this yourself, by using the guidelines below, understanding you will look through the lens of the BUYER, as you make decisions on what needs to be done. One of the biggest mistakes’ sellers make is not realizing these decisions are not about YOU, they are about the BUYER. Ask yourself, would you buy your house in its current condition?

During the interior assessment, tour each room in the house (including attic, basement, garage) from an altitude of 30,000 feet, there is no need to open each drawer or cabinet at this point. You are looking for opportunities to make meaningful visual and physical (if needed) updates to the space that will welcome someone walking into it and entice a buyer to want to live there. Look at the furniture, carpet, rugs, lamps, artwork, accessories and discuss ideas of how to use them in new and interesting places. You will need two-and-a-half (2.5) feet to walk comfortably through the rooms without feeling physically or psychology crowded. Clear a natural path to easily navigate without stepping over or side-swiping your things – this is the perfect time to consider removing unwanted or extra items in order to open-up the rooms and help guide the buyers visual tour of your house. Also pay attention to the condition of the floors, walls, paint, lighting, odor, fans, exhaust, water damage, as those will be things that need to be addressed as well.

It’s critical to understand that most buyers will insist on a home inspection once they have a ratified contract on your house and while a house can’t “fail” a home inspection, it can receive a “poor” grade and require the seller to agree to a list of repairs or make financial restitution for these repairs as they scramble to save the sale. If you have real concerns, you may want to schedule a pre-inspection with a certified home inspector now to prepare yourself to address any big issues that may present a problem later.

There are fast, easy and inexpensive cosmetic updates you can do that will positively affect your bottom-line. Regardless of the listing price, all sellers want to maximize the sale to its full potential. You stand to gain, or to lose, both time and money in this unique transaction.

Your goal is a quick sale at top-dollar and it all starts on the inside. Conducting your own non-emotional interior assessment of your home from a buyer’s point of view is the first step.

Remember, your job as the seller is to make sure your home is delivered in a condition that will allow a qualified buyer up to one-year occupancy without making material changes. No one wants to move into an immediate project. Providing a 12-month window may be the difference between an offer and stagnation on the market saving time, money and emotional stress.

Your interior assessment is over, now what? You’ve complied a task list of some of the issues you’ve noticed that will need to be addressed before you house can go on the market. The list is typically longer than you would like, but this is not uncommon. Take a deep breath and keep moving.

Fast, easy and inexpensive updates to help achieve The Perfect Listing™:

  • Remove Your Personal Footprint. Packing up your personal footprint allows you to offer a clean, de-cluttered, clearly defined blank slate for buyers to clearly see the space they are considering for their own family. Don’t distract them with your personal photos and mementos.
  • Paint. Neutralize the walls, ceilings and trim. A neutral color palette let’s buyers see and feel the value of the room size and flow of the floor plan. It visually unifies and amplifies usable space and highlights the distinctive features.
  • Carpeting/Rugs/Flooring. Should be in excellent shape or replaced. Carpeting should be new or recently cleaned. It should be a neutral color, low pile like a sisal/berber blend. Area rugs must be in almost new condition, the right color and style and size proportionate to the room.
  • Light (natural and electrical). Recessed, overhead fixtures and lamps should all be utilized to provide adequate interior light sources.
  • Kitchen and Bathrooms. Cosmetic updates to kitchens and bathrooms to create a “move in ready” house. Upgrade hardware on cabinets. Utilize white bedding and white towels to dress bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Appliances and systems. All are in working order or repaired or replaced.
  • Add Plant Material. Live plants and flowers must be in proportion to the area or room in which they are placed and not distracting. Elegant and simple, while adding a touch of beauty.
  • Deep Clean. You’ll have to deep clean and organize the entire house (this includes attic and garage), but especially your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Take everything out of every cabinet and drawer, remove shelf and drawer lining and pack up, donate or toss non-necessary items to create space. Gather all warranties and critical house documents the new homeowner will need and place them in one drawer.

More than likely, this house is your most valuable asset, make sure to present it to the buyer in a manner that reflects value to them from the moment they got out of the car and are on their way to the front door. (Not your front door because remember… you are moving).

You can refer to the Pre-Home Inspection Checklist in my book, SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life.

Be a Smart Mover and good luck!

The Top 5 Biggest Mistakes Sellers Make When Listing their Home and How to Avoid Them

You or your client has made the decision to sell, and if you are a Realtor, you have told them what they need to do. You’re done, right? Wrong. Once the listing agreement is signed, the seller begins to panic. They are thinking, now what? They are asking themselves… How do I pack up a lifetime? Where do I start? Who do I call? What do I do first? They need help.

It’s emotionally overwhelming to them; and you, as their agent, can only offer so much guidance and emotional support. Assure sellers that it’s normal to feel discouraged at the beginning of a home transition process and very common to know little about the real estate and moving industries. No one escapes the uncertainty of the sales and moving process, as it’s universal no matter where you live, the size 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. So, how can you help?

Keep in mind that your initial focus is to guide the seller to create a visually well-designed listing to sell at top dollar. They need to create order out of chaos and achieve a high-end look for less. They need to re-define the process of visually packaging their homes to sell, saving as much time and money as they can. They must strip the emotion out of the process and, rather than approaching the sale of the house with fear, nostalgia or even anger, step out of the emotional quicksand. Encourage them to view their house as a valuable asset without emotion. Once they change their mind-set and approach the sale of the home in a business-like way, it becomes easier to get the ball rolling and logically prepare the home for a sale that will generate immediate buyer interest.

The 5 biggest mistakes sellers make and what you can do to help them:

  1. It’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER.
    Explain to the seller that the process is actually about buyers wants, needs and preferences and not about them. The buyer is in the “driver’s seat”. The seller’s job is to present a house as visually close to what current buyers expect and are determined to find. This dictates that cosmetic changes within their home will almost certainly need to be made to create a modern, up-to-date listing that appeals to a wide cross section of potential buyers.
  2. Believing your house is the exception to the rule.
    Explain that there are NO exceptions to the rule! Their job as a seller is to deliver a house in a condition that will allow a qualified buyer up to one-year of occupancy without making material changes. No one wants to move into “an immediate project.” Providing a 12-month window may be the difference between an offer and stagnation on the market — thus saving time, money and emotional stress.
  3. Not removing your personal footprint.
    Explain the importance of removing their personal footprint and stylized, seller-specific design choices. Their job as a seller is to understand the visual, financial and emotional impact of them NOT removing their personal footprint and how it may impact the buyer. Today’s buyers are easily distracted. Instead of focusing on the actual bricks and mortar, they’re suddenly intrigued by your personal items, asking themselves –” Who lives here? Are they happy? Why are they selling?” Packing up your personal footprint allows you to offer a clean, decluttered, defined blank slate for buyers to clearly see the space they are considering for their own family.
  4. Not conducting an interior and exterior buyer assessment.
    Tour the exterior and interior of the house and each room, looking closely at the way each space presents, but from an altitude of 30,000 feet. There is no need to open each drawer at this stage, but looking at overall presentation, identify “issues” that will need to be addressed and look for opportunities to make meaningful visual and physical updates in order to create value in the mind of the buyer. You will need 2.5 feet to walk comfortably through rooms without feeling physically or psychology crowded. Clear a natural path to easily navigate without stepping over or side-swiping your things. Their job as a seller is to gather the estimates for the recommended updates and make educated financial decisions based on the visual impact of these changes on list price and DOM (days on market).
  5. Believing your buyer will see the value of your home the way you do.
    Explain the importance of visually packaging their house to “speak” to buyers. The buyer and their agent have done their research, viewed the virtual tour, assessed the location; and based on THEIR personal parameters, want to tour the listing. Buyers will give themselves less than 10 minutes to decide if this could be “it”. Many will only devote 4 or 5 minutes and make a snap decision – yes or no. This means they will fly through your rooms in less than a minute or 2 and if they are distracted and a few things seem odd or cause them to pause and question, you’ve probably lost their attention. Their job as a seller is to ask themselves (and be honest): What will buyers see and remember in the 10 minutes they tour my house, and can they imagine themselves living there?

This is an emotionally exciting but stressful life-changing event for sellers. Realtors need to provide the guidance needed to make financially strategic and visually impactful cosmetic updates to their homes that will save them time and money. Empower them to take responsibility for their home transition to ensure a successful sale and smooth move to the next home. So, as their REALTOR and valued resource, guide them to make SMART MOVES!

“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.  


Brace for Impact: Successfully Navigate the Uncertainty of a Home Transition

Consult with an experienced professional home stager. The most important first step is to truly understand how to best position your home to sell for top dollar.