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.