Guest Post. Angela Stevenson is a real estate agent with Compass. She works with buyers, sellers and investors on the South Shore. She lives in Hingham with her husband and three children, 9 year old Marlo and 6 year old twins Louisa and John, who attend Hingham schools. When she isn’t out and about with her clients, you can find her with her kids, shopping local consignment furniture shops or enjoying the South Shore’s beaches. Angie can be reached at 774-269-9560 or on Instagram @hinghamhouseandhome.
The process of selling your home is not without its inconveniences. Add little ones to the mix, and you’ve got a whole new level of stress. As moms we know we can’t expect perfection, but with a little (ok, maybe a lot) of planning and a smart strategy, you can keep hassles to a minimum and achieve your real estate goals in the least amount of time with the best financial outcome. After all, this move is probably motivated by what’s best for your kids, be it more room for the family to grow, schools, job opportunities or family changes.
Aside from the changes your kids will experience moving to a new house, the most disruptive part of the process stems from keeping your house looking its best and being able to take your show on the road with short notice when buyers want to see it. If you and your agent can leverage smart staging, pricing and marketing strategies, you should be able to line up the right buyer in less time with less upset to your brood. The sooner you can accept a winning offer, the sooner you can get back to the business of sticky floors and endless legos (that is until you start packing, but that’s another topic all-together) Here’s what I’ve learned as a real estate agent helping South Shore parents navigate this process with little ones in tow.
We’ve all heard the real estate adage, “Location. Location. Location.” but when families with kids are selling it should really be “Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.” You can’t start this process too early. As soon as you decide it’s time to make a move, start paring down. I tell my clients, the goal is get your belongings to your “irreducible minimum.” I know it sounds a little strict, but it will net you more money in the end. You don’t have to convert to Marie Kondo style Minimalism, but you do want to take away all that extra stuff that distracts buyers from your home’s best features. Most buyers have less capacity to see through clutter than we give them credit for. You need to make it easy for them to picture themselves living well there. Houses that feel clean, serene and un-cluttered sell faster and for more money. Ask your agent to show you photos of homes on the market that sold quickly and for more than list price. Chances are, they are decluttered, nicely staged and professionally photographed (more on that below). If you are unsure where to start, have your agent, a stager or a professional organizer walk through your property and point out where you can cut back and what to highlight. It’s a misconception that you want to erase signs of kids in the home. You aren’t going for sterile. Rather, the goal is to keep living spaces open and storage spaces easily accessible, not cramped. The vibe of the house should feel pleasant and real.
Use this opportunity to sell, donate or toss items that aren’t going to make the move with you or that your kids will soon outgrow. Remember, when you get to your new house your kids will probably be in a new stage or it will be a new season, so think about what you will need several months down the line. You could very well be done with maternity clothes, high chairs or this season’s snow boots by the time you unpack at your next address. As for toys, limit each child to one laundry basket sized container and pack everything else away. Now is a great time for kids visit the library, meet for playdates and any activity that requires zero clean up. I promise your kids will be extra excited to see their things in a couple of months.
For extra furniture and items of real value consider renting a self-storage unit or using a family member’s garage rather than filling up your own basement or garage. Buyers also want those spaces to feel clean and unencumbered and clearing them will make for better home inspections, as well. Keep it green with donating/recycling first, but when all else fails, think seriously about a dumpster for big jobs. A 10 yard dumpster can be delivered in 24 hours and costs about $400 for 2 weeks. This is money well spent if it helps you avoid last minute dump runs during your move.
The bottom line is, put a price tag on your time and on precious space in your home. if an item is something you do not want to move (or worse pay a mover to move), unpack and take up precious square footage in your next place, it is not worth keeping.
Utilize Online Marketing
A home buyer’s first showing is online. With the technology and tools available to your agent today, he/she should be able to give prospective buyers a very good sense of your property before they come for a private viewing. With the vast majority of all home shopping starting on the internet, your first showing will be digital, which is why it is critical to use an agent who nails this aspect of marketing. Make sure you contract with a tech-savvy agent who uses a professional real estate photographer and utilizes digital tools like video, 3D virtual tours and targeted social media marketing. They should be able to tell you who your target buyer is, and how they plan to reach them online. A strong, accurate and engaging online representation will help reach the right home shoppers and will aid in weeding out those who aren’t a fit. When it comes to showings, quality over quantity means less scrambling to get the house ready or kids and pets out quickly.
Of course you want as much money for your house as fair market value allows, but aim too high and you may be going through this process longer than you planned. The best time to capture a buyer is in the first several weeks your home is on the market. Right now on the South Shore, we are experiencing low inventory and a seller’s market. If you already have an accepted offer on your next house and have to sell in order to buy, you may loose your chance if you don’t accept an offer within a certain timeframe, so try to be realistic. In some price points and towns there are 10+ buyers ready to make offers for each listing. As a result, homes are selling quickly, often for full pice or more in mere days. Lately, if a house has been on the market for several weeks or months, a buyer’s first question is “What’s wrong with it?” Often there is nothing wrong with the property other than that it is priced too high. Here’s where you need to rely on a professional. Your agent should provide you with a data-based comparative market analysis of relevant homes in your area. Ask what the average time on market is for houses like yours and set expectations accordingly.
If you are in a hot market or price point, make sure he/she is equipped to navigated a multiple offer situation so you pick the right buyer the first time and don’t leave money on the table. It’s trickier then your might expect. Remember the common theme here — the faster you sell, the less disruption for you and your kids and the more money for those bunkbeds your promised them.
Get Out of Dodge
Once your home is decluttered, staged, photographed and ready to be shown (need a break yet, Mama?), consider leaving town or camping out with friends or family for the better part of opening weekend. Hopefully, you can turn this in to a fun distraction for your little ones who will probably we wondering what exactly is going on and where all their toys went. Recently on the South Shore, open houses have become a key tool in a seller’s strategy. Many of our buyers come from the Boston area where they are used to open houses rather than private showings, and others simply prefer them because of convenience. Consider allowing your agent to hold a brokers’ preview and two open houses your first weekend. The first days and weeks your house hits the market is when it gets maximum exposure and buzz — capitalize on that! The most serious and qualified buyers will show up ready to write offers if they fall in love with your space.
If your house doesn’t sell right away, don’t lose faith. Try to be as accommodating to private showings as possible. Blocking out certain dates and times or requiring too much notice can label your house difficult to show and leave buyer’s agents less enthused about bringing their clients’ through. You can’t sell what you don’t see, so if access is tough you are going to limit your buyer pool. To make it easier to get out on short notice, keep a large bag or plastic tote handy. When the showing request comes in, or before you head out in the morning, stash your counter top clutter, mail, little toys, even laundry inside and stow it in the trunk of your car. As for kids’ stuff, remember your expertly packed hospital bag? Same idea applies here. If you are home with your kids, keep a bag packed with their essentials — have snacks, lovies, water bottles, etc. at the ready so you can grab and go.
Image via The Bucketlist Family
Cut Yourself (and Your Kids) Some Slack
This is a time of change for your family and it is going to put a strain on the routines and schedules you’ve worked so hard to build. Don’t forget to breathe. I remind my clients to take it one step at the time. This is all temporary. You are probably on this road because you’ve got a goal that’s right for your family in the end. You’ll be back on track with cooking, entertaining, messy projects, and packed playrooms in time. Right now, it’s not a bad idea to ease the burden if you can with a little extra screen time, paper plates, simple meals, and outings to keep the kids busy. Yes, those extras are going to cost a little, but will ultimately help you net more at the closing table. Happy mom, happy kids, happy house.