You have lived in your home for more than 20 years, accumulating things every year. In fact, in many cases, you raised your children in that home. They, too, accumulated things and then those adult children didn't take their "stuff" with them when they moved on.
So now that you are ready to move to a smaller abode or a different locale, how do you tackle the chore of readying your home for sale so you can get the best price?
Mark Munro of Baird and Warner Real Estate in Barrington specializes in helping baby boomers and seniors sell their longtime family homes, advising them what improvements and changes are worth the investment of time and money, and which are not.
"People who have lived in a property for a long time, sometimes 40-plus years, and have also raised their families there typically have a great emotional attachment to their property," Munro explained. "In addition, most have not bought or sold a property in all of those years, so they aren't familiar with the current market."
"What they think was an outstanding addition 25 years ago, may not resonate with buyers today," he said. "So we often have to have a very careful discussion with our sellers about who their target buyer is and what they need to do to their property in order for that target buyer to develop an emotional bond with the home."
Munro then generally outlines several steps that he suggests they take before listing their home which generally involves decluttering, completing deferred maintenance and depersonalizing the home by removing things like wallpaper and unusual carpeting.
Munro suggests sellers cull down collections so that buyers are looking at the house, not the collection.
Curb appeal is another important aspect, so removing weeds, trimming bushes, cutting back overgrown trees and even replacing old coach lights is important.
In addition, sellers should paint walls an objective or current color, removing wallpaper which is very subjective; and clean carpets or replace them if they are badly worn or terribly out of style.
"We often have the discussion about replacing carpet with something neutral versus just giving the buyers a carpeting allowance to buy what they want," Munro said. "I always tell people that it is better to replace the carpet with something in today's style because you want to leave a vision in a prospective buyer's mind that allows them to picture themselves living there. You don't want them to remember a chore that they have to take care of later."
Cleaning or replacing old grout and re-caulking showers and bathtubs is also imperative.
Light fixtures are an inexpensive upgrade to make that adds lots of value, particularly in a bathroom, he continued. "Buyers notice light fixtures, especially ones that are 40 years old."
Kitchen appliances, on the other hand, do not need to be replaced as long as they are clean and in working order. That is not as true, however, if you are selling a very expensive home listing for $1 million or over. In that case, new appliances may be necessary, Munro said.
"Having adult children involved in the discussion and subsequent work can be very helpful," Munro said, "because seniors, in particular, often need both emotional and physical help during the process. If we can get everyone to pitch in to get mom and dad's house ready to sell, it is great."
But Munro can also offer a tried and true list of painters, handymen and others to help the seller get their home in shape for listing.
That is what he did for Irisa Putnins last year when she sold the Deer Park home where she and her late husband lived for 28 years and raised their three children.
After Munro gave her the list of things he suggested she do, he also provided contact information for a landscaper, painter and handyman who could help her.
Within two or three weeks, the home was ready to list.
"Everything he told me to do was 'spot on,'" Putnins recalled. "They had me do some painting; make minimal changes to a bathroom; have the bushes trimmed back; and move a lot of my clutter out -- either donating it or putting it in a storage locker. Then Mark's stager, Mary Loughman from Harmony Home Staging, came in and she rearranged the things I had left and made it look wonderful."
Because of this, the home sold in one day, Putnins said.
"Home staging is both a science and an art," explained Loughman, whose business is based in Fox River Grove. "You need to make a house appeal to the broadest possible audience by removing traces of the seller's personal style. Through furniture placement you then create an open, airy feel to draw buyers in emotionally."
You don't want to completely empty a house, however, because the human eye needs to see something in the room in order to get a sense of the space, according to Loughman. But small vignettes of furniture to add some color and warmth are fine, she said.
"Today's buyers are busy. They are looking for a home that is move-in ready -- a place where they can rationalize living for awhile without doing anything major. They don't want to buy a place with a to-do list. There just isn't as much nesting going on today as there used to be," Loughman added.
So Munro and Loughman team up to do some advance "nesting" before the home goes on the market.
"You want to convey an All-American, Hollywood image on the Internet listing because you only get five seconds to get an Internet shopper to like an image and click 'save' for the listing. So we do things like adding a chair with a pillow or a pot of flowers to the front porch to make it visually pop," Munro explained.
"We also suggest that sellers give excess furniture to their children; sell it; donate it or take it to their new home because a home with less furniture looks larger," he stated.
A great way to get rid of that excess clutter you have accumulated is to make plans for an estate sale.
They usually need to be planned four to eight weeks in advance, according to Christine and Cesilio Acosta, owners of Key Estate Sales, Inc. in St. Charles.
Key holds between 75 to 90 sales on Fridays and Saturdays year-round and a third of those involve homes owned by people who have lived in them for many years.
The rest consists of clients downsizing, combining households and foreclosures, according to Christine.
The average sale in this area runs around $10,000 and Key takes 30 percent of that for arranging and pricing the items, staffing the sale and promoting it to the public and their repeat customers.
"Don't throw anything out before we get there," she said. "Some items that homeowners think are trash can be quite valuable. Recently, we recovered a 1950s toy robot from a clients' charity pile that sold for almost $4,000."
Both Acostas are certified appraisers and they offer moving and delivery services during the sale to help customers move out their purchases.
Within a few days of the sale, the Acostas mail a check for the proceeds to the homeowner with a summary of the major items sold and at what prices.
Key also has an arrangement with a local charity that will come during the week after the sale to pick up all of the remaining items and issue the homeowner a tax receipt for the donation. So within days of the sale's completion, your home can be totally cleaned out and ready for listing.
Either before or after that estate sale, or in lieu of it if you don't want to hold a sale, Junk Remedy of Lake Zurich, a full-service junk and trash removal company, can help homeowners tackle the overwhelming task of cleaning out a house.
"We have learned that a home will appraise much higher if it is not an eyesore so we have partnered with several senior move management companies to help their clients get their homes into broom-clean, ready-to-sell condition," explained Corey Heidkamp, co-owner. "Typically, that takes no more than a day for us to accomplish and then the owner can hold an estate sale or immediately put the home on the market."
"We recycle and donate as much as we can from every job we do, throwing away as little as possible," he continued. "Anything that can be plugged in is palletized and sent to a recycler. Furniture and clothes are donated primarily to WINGS in Palatine or to House of Hope in Barrington. We also work off other individuals' and organizations' wish lists, filling whatever needs we can."
"We keep things out of the landfills and get to help some great local people along the way," he added. "We have donated over $1 million in repurposed goods since we have been in business and the client gets the donation tax receipt."
Junk Remedy gives free estimates, schedules a specific day and time for the work and handles all loading, labor, clean up and disposal fees. They are also licensed, bonded and insured.
"We meet with potential clients and find out how they want the job done and then try to be as cost-effective as possible. We offer a very significant bang for our clients' buck. Our minimum fee is $115 and it goes up to $550 for a full truck. All of the hauling, labor and disposal fees are built into the price of the truck. In addition, any goods that can be donated are donated and the client gets to itemize those donations," Heidkamp said.
Hiring a professional to handle this type of job is preferable to spending hours of free time doing it yourself, Heidkamp added, because time is money and getting the necessary Dumpster permits and paying the disposal fees can be time-consuming, too.
To contact Mark Munro, Call (847) 477-6937 or visit markmunro.net. Harmony Home Staging Inc. can be reached at (847) 477-5965 or at harmonyhomestaginginc.com.
To contact Key Estate Sales, visit keyestatesales.com or call (630) 677-1638. For more information about Junk Remedy, visit junkremedy.com or call (877) 722-JUNK.