Home & Garden

Selling? How to keep the house ship-shape

Every real estate agent has stories about late-night calls from clients who “just can’t take it anymore.” They’re stressed out by the constant need to keep their property in showcase condition until it sells. That means not a single toy on the floor, dish in the sink or wrinkle on a bedroom comforter.

“Even sellers who aren’t really slobs can go nuts from all that pressure for perfection,” says Tom Early, a veteran real estate broker.

The longer the selling time, he says, the more stress on those who live in the home.

“After a month of showings, the strain really builds up for families with kids,” says Early, a past president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents.

But he says sellers should strongly resist the urge to let go of upkeep during the showing period.

“Inevitably, the day you let down your guard is the day when serious prospects come through. You never want them to see your dirty boxers on the bedroom floor,” Early says.

Here are a few suggestions for sellers:

1 Start your listing with your place clutter-free.

Vicki Norris, a professional organizer and former real estate agent, knows how hard it can be to keep a home in showing shape. This is particularly difficult when the place must be sold for a compelling financial or health issue.

“This can lead to what I call ‘situational disorganization,’ which occurs when life takes you off track,” says Norris.

Norris urges sellers to de-clutter thoroughly before heading into the market. That means sorting through all your superfluous belongings and removing those items you can do without until your move. It also means consolidating your remaining possessions.

“For example, collect all those CDs and DVDs lying around the house and put them in a single well-defined entertainment area. Then do the same for your books, toys and other like items,” says Norris, author of “Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good.”

2 Stash excess belongings in a rented storage unit.

Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home,” says one approach is to pack your collections in cardboard boxes, stacking these neatly in your garage. Yet as Davis says, many sellers are better off carting those boxes, along with excess furniture, to a rented storage unit.

“Storing a lot of stuff in there makes the garage looked cramped,” he says. Moreover, there are other advantages to off-site storage. “You’re far less likely to be tempted to retrieve items – like that gourmet waffle iron you hanker for on Sunday mornings – if they’re kept in off-site storage rather than in your garage,” Davis says.

3 Invest in high-quality cleaning services.

Though it could cost a few hundred dollars, one in-depth cleaning could spare you the need to repeat the process for another 60 to 90 days, though light cleaning, as Davis stresses, must be tended to daily.

4 Hold a family meeting to discuss upkeep. After a home has been on the market for several weeks, owners sometimes lose focus.

“As the days pass, it’s natural to start losing your vigilance. Nobody wants to live very long in that ‘camping out’ mentality,” Davis says.

Children especially need to be reminded of the reasons a home must be kept clean and orderly. One way to drive home this point is for all in the household to take part in a family meeting designed to refocus on their goal.

“Tell the kids you understand that it’s annoying to be constantly reminded to stay tidy. But try to get their cooperation by asking for their ideas on how to keep the house straightened up,” Davis says.