What We Did To Sell Our House Faster By Owner

Ok, so today our house looks like this:

We did get Clara’s room pretty settled though (we want her to feel right at home – and light blocking curtains are a must to get her to bed). We left nearly all of the curtains in our old house, but we wrote these guys into the listing as coming with us since she picked them out. And as for our new place, she LOVES it – probably thanks to doing lots of fun things with her here leading up to the move (like painting castles and a big piece of fabric for her birthday photo). When she came running into her all-set-up bedroom for the first time, she laughed, squealed, and skipped right to the window and played with her dolls. That’s my girl.

But as for the rest of the house… woof.

So – spontaneous decision! – while we get settled and find our underwear, this week is going to be moving week! Turns out you guys still wanted to hear a whole lot about the sale of our current house. So let’s do the dang thing. Here’s what we plan to cover in honor of Spontaneous Moving Week:

  • How we staged/sold our house (including a glance at our real estate flyer, a list of what we changed before showings, etc)
  • What we made when we sold our house vs. what we put in- budget breakdown included!
  • Empty house pics (dude, it’s trippy to see your house all echoey and vacant, but it’s pretty awesome closure too)
  • Moving day photos of our new house (we love having this Day One post from our last house to look back on)
  • A house hunting post about a few other homes we casually checked out (sort of like these that we did last time)
  • Other stuff that I’m forgetting right now because our house looks like this:

So onto the first bullet! We got a lot of questions like this:

“Did you stage your current home to sell it? I’d be interested to hear if you’ve made any small changes/put things in storage in order to make it seem less personal to potential buyers.”

“Would you be willing to share your For Sale flyer (obviously without any too-personal details like price and address)?

So here’s the little double sided flier we made in Photoshop (minus the address, price, and our contact info). Just click the image below to see it larger.

And here’s the back (again, just click it to see it bigger).

Turns out we’re not really staging rule followers in the traditional “neutralize and de-personalize” sense. The whole repaint-rooms-so-they’re-all-neutral-and-remove-all-personal-photos-from-the-wall approach isn’t really something we subscribe to since we sold our first house by owner without doing that, and it seemed to work out for us again this time around.

So when we were showing our house to potential buyers our frame hallway was still very much intact. We think it’s helpful to show off how cozy and personal a home can be. Chances are that it could “speak” to a prospective buyer more than a stark and stripped down house might anyway.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t do anything at all before a showing. Instead of taking things away, we mostly focused on making things look their best. Here’s our list:

  • We over-seeded the lawn a few weeks prior and let the rain do its thing to help the grass look fresh and green.
  • We mulched the garden beds and planted a few annuals (it definitely ups curb appeal and sends a “this house is cared for” vibe)

  • We organized closets, the attic, the basement (basically any nook people could peek into should look functional and not stuffed-to-the-gills)
  • We wiped down counters in the kitchen and bathrooms and quickly polished the faucets with some Mrs. Meyers so they looked and smelled clean
  • We rolled up the rug in the cooking part of the kitchen and stashed it at the new house, just to show off the cork flooring a bit more

  • We mowed the grass and used a leaf blower on the driveway, patio, and deck to clear off any errant pollen/twigs/leaves/acorns
  • We touched up any paint that was scuffed in doorways, baseboards, etc

  • We also tucked Burger’s food and water away since it’s stored in our walk-in closet and we realized that might be weird for non-dog-folks who were trying to feel at home.
  • We removed Clara’s bath toys along with her potty seat and sink stool from the hall bathroom so people without kids didn’t just see it as a “kids bathroom” (we left her other toys in baskets in the living room, nursery, and playroom since those seemed easy enough to see past)
  • We removed the bath mats in every bathroom to make them seem more spacious and show off the tile (matted stepped-on-with-shoes bath mats aren’t always that pretty, which tends to happen during showings).

  • We vacuumed, dusted, and generally cleaned things up (this included following Clara around for the last half-hour before the showing and singing the clean up song about a million times while we dumped stuff into bins and baskets)
  • I took a damp rag with a bit of mild soap (Mrs Meyers) and scrubbed the front door, which was still glossy and yellow, but had a haze of pollen. It really made a difference and only took five minutes!

  • We left the separate entry basement door unlocked during showings so people could easily check out that space without trekking down there and then finding themselves locked out
  • We put a little note on the microwave cabinet in the kitchen and said “there’s a vented microwave in here!” so people knew where to look
  • We tossed a runner on the table on the deck along with a few cups (even though the furniture came with us, adding some color and that sit-right-down vibe couldn’t hurt)

Most of those items just had to be done once before the first showing, and then keeping them up for the following ones wasn’t too bad. Sure, getting a toddler and a dog out of the house on time before each one was a little hectic, but we feel really lucky to have only had three showings this time around (we had 14 last time!). What do you guys do when your house is on the market? Any other tips for folks who are about to list?


  1. says

    Thanks for sharing that stuff. I was curious about that too.

    As far as tips, from a buyers perspective…people with cats…PLEASE don’t leave them there or their dirty litter box stinkin’ up the place. My Mr is allergic and nothing makes us turn tail out of a house quicker than when his nose closes up and he can’t breathe. One we went to 3 months ago, 4 of us all had to leave because of the cat and that left one person left who could go through the open house.

    While I am more partial to not seeing personal pics (more for privacy reasons), I must say it was quite interesting to see I was touring the home of a school bully (not mine) on an open house last year when I rounded the corner to see their mug hangin’ on the wall! LOL

    • Shannon K. says

      I’ll second the cat thing. We are looking to buy right now and one of the houses we looked at had a room closed that we couldn’t even look at because the cats were being kept in there. It also smelled overwhelmingly ‘catty,’ which was a major turnoff.

      We’re also looking to sell and I can’t decide on the painting. Our girls’ rooms are pretty obviously for children (bright, juvenile colors), they should probably be painted, right…? And our living room is a red color, which I know is not for everyone. Sigh. We should probably paint. I just don’t wanna.

  2. Julianne says

    Already starting to shape up nicely and feel like home! Clara is so cute….looking forward to seeing her grow up in your beautiful new digs. And thanks for the great posting on staging. It’ll come in handy in the next couple of months! :O)

  3. Jen says

    And just when I thought I couldn’t be more excited for today’s post, you go and expand it to “Moving Week”!! You guys are always the bright spot of my Monday morning. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the week.

  4. Debbie says

    whenever we’ve ever sold a home, we’ve always made sure to put out a box of disposable booties (can be purchased at home stores)& put up a sign asking that shoes be removed or booties be placed over shoes.

    • Kathryn says

      It sounds great from the sellers’ perspective. Who wants to clean up after a bunch of strangers have tromped through!?

      But have to admit, as a buyer it would seem a little OTT, like I was visiting a crime scene versus a place that could be my home.

    • says

      The sign is key! I toured a house with our agent the other day & didn’t notice the booties at the bottom of the stairs until we came back down the stairs! I felt terrible – but there was no sign. Oh and the booties were in a picnic basket, which I thought was weird & probably why I didn’t notice them.

    • says

      That’s a great idea, Debbie! We don’t wear shoes in the house (grew up that way), and I love idea of offering booties so we don’t throw that rule out the window when we do decide to sell. Here’s to keeping our new and expensive carpets clean!

  5. Karen says

    I am so excited to see what you do with your new house. It has issues in it that I am currently facing with my own 1970’s spontaneous foreclosure purchase that I have no idea how to tackle yet. How exciting!

  6. Constance says

    Another quick thought is that I think realtors advice “de-personalizing” a home by taking down photos, etc. b/c in most people are not that great at decorating and personal items on top of not amazing decorating is a double-dip into poor ambiance. BUT, with good, appealing and stylish decor, it a compliment, not a distraction to keep them.

    • Linda says

      Very true, I think – also, the concept of making sure closets and cabinetry look organized, with room to spare, is very appealing to most people, as is the idea that everything looks clean and cared for. Re pets – well, some people are hypersensitive and/or truly allergic, true, but scooping a litter box twice a day, or vacuuming after doggie on a regular, will make most homes just fine to prospective buyers.

      Certainly, a good pet parent is not going to evict a beloved pet for months on end during a sale (or worse, rehome), but a good pet parent also provides a very clean home for their pet in any event, sale or no sale. I knew going in that adopting my two cats might somewhat limit the pool of prospective buyers, but it’s all a balancing act between making a place your home, or just a place waiting to be sold again.

      Honestly, if I thought a homeowner got rid of their pet just to sell their house, I’d turn and run no matter how appealing the house was – I figure it’s spiritually full of bad karma.

    • Mary P says

      I agree Linda – I have a cat, but I don’t think my house smells like cat pee or has that much fur. I have two allergic friends who visit often, and they don’t have a problem. Regular brushing and cat box scooping do a lot! He “yells” at me if his box isn’t cleaned often – he runs out of it, looks at me, and meows in a mean tone. Clean it human! I was more worried about him getting out accidently during the selling process, more than anything.

  7. Alisa says

    I am going to be watching this post like a hawk for any other suggestions that may pop up! I agree with not neutralizing any colors. Our house hasn’t sold/rented yet, but the biggest compliment we’ve been getting during showings is on our use of color. Most houses where we live have the same colors used as decor in everysingleroom and we like to use bright pops whenever possible. Here’s hoping it works for us as well as it did for you!

  8. says

    I’m so excited for moving week! For some reason, I’ve always LOVED moving, when everyone else seems to dread it. I’m looking forward to all of these posts, but especially the photos of the old house emptied out, and our first glimpses of the new house with all your things in their new homes! So exciting!

    -Katie at AdventuringAtHome

  9. Jen. says

    We didn’t have a new house already when we listed ours, and renting a storage unit was the best plan for us — totally worth it to declutter our smaller house while keeping things we knew we’d need in the bigger house we were looking for. Plus, the movers (we hired since we were moving 2 1/2 hours away) stopped and unloaded the storage unit for no extra charge.

    Best wishes on your move! Can’t wait to read this week’s posts!

  10. says

    Oh it’s great that Clara transitioned to the new home and her room so easily … great planning and pre-work on your part! Thought of you moving this past weekend cause it was a hot one in Richmond and moving wouldn’t have necessarily been something I would have wanted to do in this weather! Hope you had everything in before the rain hit :) Welcome home guys! Robin

  11. says

    Love all these moving posts! We are making a big move from NC to MI next year and this is getting me ready for it. I hope everything goes smoothly for you this week :) :)

    • Elizabeth says

      I made a move from NC to MI myself… the first time, all our stuff fit in a small moving truck. When we moved back to NC, we needed professional movers. Amazing what happens after 8 years and two kids, lol. But the movers said a lot of people were moving from MI to NC when we did.

  12. says

    I would really love to start doing the photo thing you do with Clara with my two kids, but I am having a heck of a time with the photoshop part! As she gets older and has more lumps and folds in her shirt, have y’all still just used the “multiply” method described in her pst at 12 weeks? Or could y’all do an updated post on how you currently make it look so realistic? That would be awesome and super helpful! Thanks!!!

    • says

      It’s hard to really explain what we did to the number as she grew since our methods pretty much changed every time based on her pose/shirt wrinkles, but the best tip I can give you is that we always rasterized that text layer and then it was a flat image that we could manipulate (ex: we could use the distort tool to give it perspective, we could cut a slice off the edge and move it so it overlapped if that’s what the fabric was doing, etc). Hope it helps!


    • says

      I don’t see a reply button under yours so hopefully this will go in the right spot!

      Thanks for answering, I was REALLY hoping you weren’t going to say you manipulate it by hand! lol I was hoping maybe their was some magic effect I hadn’t found yet that just made the image conform right to the photo layer! Ah well, thanks anyway!

    • says

      Oh good grief…sorry to be a grammar loser like this, but I will die if I don’t correct that “their” to be “THERE”. My fingers have lost all grammar skills since having kids. I don’t know how that even happens.

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