How to Be a Good Home Seller
This week we will officially close on the sale of our first home. It's kind of a big deal for us. We've been married 32 years, but we were 25 years into this adventure before we "settled down" and bought a home.
The family who is buying our home wrote us a letter introducing us to their family and explaining why they felt our home would be the perfect home for their family. They knew we were considering multiple offers, so the letter was an attempt to get our attention. It worked. The truth is, we would have accepted their offer with or without the letter because it was clearly the best offer, but the letter made letting go easier.
Because of the letter, I began thinking of our home as their home to-be. In their letter, they told us which members of their family would get which rooms, so I began picturing them (even though I have never seen them) in the space, and it made giving up the space a delight instead of a source of sadness. It made me glad to think of a young family growing up there, enjoying the renovations we had done, and adding to the memories that occupy that home.
Having just purchased a new home, I had the buying experience fresh in my mind. I began thinking about the things I would want to know about our old house if I were just moving in, and I used my answers to inspire my behavior as a seller. For me, this was somewhat theraputic. Instead of getting rid of the house, I felt as though I was passing it on. The distinction may seem subtle, but it meant something to me.
What follows is my list of suggestions for how to be a good seller. If you are selling a home or plan to in the near future, I hope you will find them helpful.
Create a Household Binder
The first thing I did was go through my files and collect all the information I believed the new homeowners would want. Then I divided the binder up into sections and inserted everything into page protectors. Here are the things I included:
Leave Instructions/Label Things
Think back to when you purchased your home. Was there anything you had difficulty figuring out? If so, I recommend writing up simple instructions and/or labeling those things that may not be obvious. For instance:
Leave it Clean
Our new home was spotlessly clean when we moved in, and that was something I really appreciated. We wanted to provide the same courtesy for the buyers of our old home, so we hired a professional to make the place shine. You could, of course, do the cleaning yourself, but we were busy with renovations and moving into the new place and decided it was worth the expense to let someone else do the work.
Leave Things the New Owners Can Use
Things to leave behind for the new owners of your old home include:
It is obviously not necessary to go out and buy these things. But if you have them, and you don't need them in your new home, it will be nice for the new owners to have them.
Don't Leave Things They Can't Use
Please be very considerate when deciding what, if anything, to leave behind at your old home. I recommend running things by your realtor to get his or her input. Your realtor will have ample experience with regard to what kinds of things buyers appreciate and what kinds of things they do not. Chances are, if you don't want it, they won't want it, so don't leave things behind simply because you have no use for them. Discard all trash and remove all personal belongings from the property.
The sellers of our new home left us a huge stack of paperwork. At first glance, it seemed like a nice gesture, but when I finally sat down to go through it all, it took me an hour and a half, and I ended up discarding three-fourths of it. Do your buyers a favor, and do the sorting for them.
The sellers also left us a small mountain of paint cans and buckets. There was one color only on all of the walls in the whole house, so I'm not sure what all the rest of the stuff was even for. Since we had plans to repaint the entire interior, it was pretty much useless to us. We kept the paint for the exterior of the house and a couple of other items that were still pertinent to the home, but 95% of the cans got hauled off to the hazardous waste dump site.
Go the Extra Mile
As I pictured our buyers roaming through the house on their first day, aquainting themselves with the layout of the space, it occured to me that it would be fun to help them by sharing a little of the history of the home. Since I knew they had three young children, I decided it might be fun to create a treasure hunt for them.
The first thing I did was brainstorm which areas of the home were most unique or had a story behind them. Once I had decided on the rooms I wanted to highlight, I set to work writing "clues". I wanted my clues to be both informative for the adults and easy enough for a six and nine year old to figure out. I also wanted to include information that would be informative for the new owners - like where the water shut off valve is located and where to go in the event of a tornado.
I wanted to create a real treasure hunt, so I left a little surprise at the location of each clue. In some cases the surprises were treats for the kids (little notebooks, boxes of crayons, stickers). In other cases, they were gifts for the parents (Magic Erasers, disinfectant wipes, cleaner for the granite countertops, batteries, etc.). I tried to choose things that would be useful and appreciated. The final surprise was a basket of fruit with a few chocolates interspered. It makes me smile to picture the children running through the house excitedly searching for the next clue. I hope it makes their first day in their new home memorable.
We often talk about the buyer's experience when it comes to real estate purchases, but seller's are an important part of the process as well. Selling can be stressful and difficult, but it can also be fun. It is not necessary to do most of the things that I have suggested here when you are selling a home, but doing so can bless you as well as the new home owners. For me it was a fun and theraputic way to bid our old house farewell, and hopefully, make the new family's transition a tiny bit smoother.
1/22/2021 07:03:55 pm
What a sweet idea to create a scavenger hunt for the kids! This is a great list, and very helpful as we’re preparing to sell our first home.
1/25/2021 11:35:36 am
Thanks, Katelyn! I hope your selling experience is a good one and your move goes smoothly. ;)
1/25/2021 08:26:32 am
Wow, leaving a treasure hunt? You are SUCH a new home seller! I love that idea. I can't agree more about not leaving your unwanted stuff in the home. I worked with a client last week who had a basement full of old vases and garden pots. I guess she asked if she could leave them, but the new homeowner didn't realize how many there were until it was too late. We finally got rid of them all, but that is an extra project no one needs when they are in the process of moving in a new home!
1/25/2021 11:37:52 am
Thanks, Seana! You stated it so well - it's a project no new home owner needs. When you are moving in, there is plenty to keep you busy without being left with things to deal with that the previous home owner obviously felt were too burdensome to take care of themselves.
1/25/2021 09:09:37 am
What a lovely and thoughtful group of suggestions and tips! Having bought and sold six different homes, so much of this resonates. We too, once wrote a letter to a seller about why we thought we were the perfect buyers (it worked as well - they thought our daughter was cute!). We also have prepared and left helpful things for our buyers - though nothing as creative as a treasure hunt. AND, once we were left way too much stuff - the sellers were in a hurry and left things behind all over, including biscuits in the oven. :-/ We had a good laugh, but it all illustrates that home selling can be so stressful. Your ideas really help to bring thoughtfulness and lightness to the process.
1/25/2021 11:41:08 am
Thank you, Sara! Biscuits in the over would be a surprise for sure. When moving we once (accidentally) left all of our pot lids in the drawer under the oven. It was an international move from the United Arab Emirates back to the United States. I didn't discover the oversight until I was unpacking and couldn't figure out where the pot lids were. When I finally figured it out, there was no way to retrieve them.
1/25/2021 10:33:14 am
That is so sweet about the treasure hunt idea. I would love to receive that from the seller on the first day in my new home. Thanks for sharing.
1/25/2021 11:41:46 am
Thanks, Sabrina! I appreciate your comment.
1/25/2021 11:47:08 am
I love all of your wonderful suggestions for welcoming the new family into the home you were "passing on." The treasure hunt is so clever, and I'm sure was a lot of fun for the new homeowners. We've lived in our home for 35 years, and I don't think we'll be moving anytime soon. However, I was responsible for clearing out and selling my parents home that they lived in for almost 60 years. The letters from the buyers meant a lot. And ultimately, it was one letter in particular (and offer) that made us feel comfortable with who was buying the family home. It helped us let go knowing how much the family moving in would love it.
1/25/2021 12:05:42 pm
Thanks, Linda. Buying and selling a home are both very personal experiences. It felt like the right thing to do to embrace that rather than attempt to downplay it, and I think it made the experience better for both of us. Selling your parents' lifetime home must have been difficult and stressful. I'm glad you found a family who would love it as they had.
1/25/2021 02:03:39 pm
This is such a great post! I had completely forgotten about the idea if creating a home binder. I never thought how helpful this would be in the process of selling. I also love the idea of a scavenger hunt!
1/25/2021 02:06:35 pm
Thanks, Melanie! I appreciate your comment.
1/26/2021 05:58:54 am
A scavenger hunt! What a great idea. After reading about the buyers letter you received I'm thinking that a great idea for sellers too. You could point out what flowers come up in the spring in the yard, your mail carriers name, some good neighborhood restaurants. Anything that would make the home buying process more personal.
1/26/2021 07:12:26 am
I love your suggestion of writing the buyer’s a letter. In our case, we actually reached out to the previous owner of our new home with a series of questions. It would be nice to simply add that sort of information to the household binder, or in a personalized letter as you suggested.
1/26/2021 02:21:11 pm
What an incredibly delightful story about the treasure hunt and great tips for making the lives of the buyers so much easier. I've never bought or sold a home, and though I've used some of these tips (like the household binder) to help my clients by explaining how it would be useful if/when they sold, this advice is a step beyond. Great job!
1/26/2021 03:56:43 pm
Thank you for your kind comments, Julie. I appreciate the feedback!
3/21/2021 12:34:06 pm
Yes! That is a huge stressor and often out of your control. We actually ended up having a delay on our closing, so I totally get it. Thanks for your comment!
Leave a Reply.