Photo shoot time! Your house sells on pictures. “Real estate photos are the new Sunday open house, since almost everyone will see your home for the first time in a real estate ad,” Stanton says. Your Realtor will likely hire a professional for this, but here are a few tips: Clear all counters. Move trash bins out of view. Low-hanging art makes ceilings look higher. Fresh flowers always add class.
Book a mover, and start packing. Get estimates from moving companies, and check their reviews, references and insurance. “You’d be surprised how many movers misrepresent themselves. Companies are out there without licenses or protections,” cautions Greg Gunderson, president of Gentle Transitions. Gather boxes, tape, packing materials and labels to begin packing up, moving things to a storage rental or pod. Focus first on heavy-volume clear outs (the attic, garage and basement), then move on to bedrooms and closets. “Get 75 percent out,” recommends hoarding expert Matt Paxton, author of Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff, published with AARP. “The potential buyer needs your home to look like they can fit their stuff in it, so storage areas and closets should be nearly empty.” Also, pare down what’s in kitchen cabinets to make those areas feel roomier, he says. “Only keep enough plates and cups for four to six people. The more space, the better.”
Get specialty cleaning done. Have the windows and exhaust fans professionally cleaned, for instance. Use a power washer to remove grime from driveways, patios, outdoor stairs and mildewy siding, or hire someone to do this.
Rehearse the crazy days to come. Open houses mean you and your pets need to clear out. And moving day is even busier. Recruit family and friends to help you cope with the craziness ahead. “You need to know where you’ll take your pet every time someone wants to view your home and who’s going to handle the dog or cat on moving day,” Gunderson points out.
Final polishing. It’s time for a final, professional indoor cleaning, including waxing and polishing the floors. Be certain to deeply clean the fridge and oven one last time. Cooks will look. Focus on making the kitchen a place where people will love eating and gathering.
Store the goods. Bring precious valuables, extra cash and your most important documents to a trusted friend or family member for safekeeping under lock and key.
Firm up the price. “The last week is when you get the most marketing intel,” Stanton says. “Your agent may know current buyers in the area who are willing to make an offer, and there could be pent-up demand.”
Make a final sweep. Neaten the closets, the freezer and the garage; inspect for unsightly cords, nicks or smudges. Make your home pristine, as in a magazine spread.
Prepare to be away. Ask your Realtor when you should leave and when you can come back, and plan a nice diversion for the time. If appropriate, bring a go bag with medications, food and items such as your laptop, charger cords and checkbook.
Take a deep breath and one last look around. Get a good night’s rest. The bidding war is about to begin!
David Hochman, a contributing editor to AARP The Magazine, is a journalist and features writer based in Los Angeles. His December 2020 AARP Bulletin story on nursing homes, “18 Weeks,” has won several national awards.
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