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?


    • says

      ARGH!!!! That dang bear. I’m going to spray paint him white when I get him.

      * to anyone not up on this bear issue, we have been trying to block that ad for around a week and he keeps slipping through. GRR!


  1. says

    I love your sales flyer – such personality and I can see that it would really attract buyers. I also love your take on “depersonalizing.” I subscribe to a similar mentality myself.

  2. Maureen says

    I am so excited to follow you guys on this journey! I have a 1956 Cape Cod and always feel like there is something to do. Seeing you guys start from scratch makes me feel less overwhelmed. lol

    Love how cozy that living room is!!!

  3. Melanie says

    So happy sad about leaving your house! It’s really inspiring to see you guys start with a home that needs lots of love and transform it into something that screams John-and-Sherry-(and-Clara-and-Burger).

    Did you guys happen to leave a hidden time capsule letter in your house or backyard like you did with your very first house? :)

  4. Lesley says

    Oh the possibilities….

    Since it doesn’t take much time or money to paint/repaint. Are you considering painting any rooms that are slated for larger renovations, but are currently a total mismatch for your decor, so that it looks a little nicer in the interim? Or does leaving it motivate you more to ‘get on that’?

    • says

      We can’t wait to paint, but downstairs we have lots of wallpaper to strips first! We usually just paint rooms as we go. I think it takes us about 2-3 years to get them all done, so we don’t do anything speedy like paint them all white while we think about long-term colors. It’s more like we go from room to room and once we have a clear “direction” for the color we’ll jump on it whenever we have the energy. And sometimes we choose things like art/rug/curtains first and base the wall color off of that :)


  5. Mary says

    Do you know how lucky you are to just have to move across town? In 3 weeks we are moving from Memphis to Santa Barbara! AND to a much smaller house! My tips for staging are: to PURGE! Clean out closets so you can see most of the floor & rent a storage unit if you have to! Also, have a friend come over to help you stage, sometimes it is easier for them to look at your house with a fresh eye & suggest things you have a hard time seeing because you live there everyday! We are not brave enough to go the sell by owner route, so we hire a good agent & LISTEN to him/her! (crazy, I know!) I get a little crazy when my house is on the market:constantly cleaning & sweeping & wiping down sinks…I yelled at my 8 yr old son when he went to the bathroom because “I am not hearing that hit the water, you better wipe that down!”. Bad mom! But we did sell the house in 7 days! Can’t wait to see what you do with the new house! Good luck!

  6. Beth says

    Thanks so much for showing the “before” pictures with everything in piles. This is real life! The transformation is what motivates me. If Sherry got it done I can too!! Ha! Ha! What I really need is one of these people who are correcting your spelling to come wipe down my baseboards since they have so much time!

  7. Jenny says

    Typo alert (I can’t see it in the comments already)

    “probably thanks to doing lots of fun things with here here leading up to the move”

    Do you mean ‘lots of fun things with her leading up to the move’?

    Good luck unpacking and arranging (that’s my favourite part!)

    • Jessica says

      Seriously?! You took the time to correct that? Typos happen to even the most careful editors. Clearly, you can deduce that she meant “her here,” without taking the time to make yourself feel superior and correct someone’s typo. Good grief, it’s obnoxious!

  8. Katherine M. says

    Congratulations on getting moved to your new home!

    When my husband and I sold our home five years ago, we requested real estate agents give us at least 12 hours notice so I could get the dogs to a sitter for the day. This also enabled me to bake chocolate chip cookies for each showing. I bought quite a few packs of those “break and bake” cookie dough packs and just popped some in the oven before we left for the showing. The house smelled like cookies and we heard people kept referring to our house as “that house with the really good chocolate chip cookies.” =)

  9. says

    How timely this is! We are listing our house next week and have been doing all those little detailed chores as well. I hope we have as good luck as you did! Three showings! That’s awesome. Congratulations!

  10. Steph Nelson says

    So crazy that this day is here!! Glad everything seems to have went OK, no trucks in the ditch or anything!! The bedroom rug looks great in the living room! :)

    • says

      Haha! Clara’s new favorite movie. She walks around telling people she has a brother named “Broze” (clearly based on Buzz) and everyone looks at me like I’m prego and I’m like “uh, no – she watched Home Alone, and he’s imaginary.”


  11. Sophie says

    Moving week! So exciting! By the looks of your Instagram, Burger’s taken this whole moving thing in his stride. Has he settled into the new place yet?

    • says

      Oh yeah, dude thinks he’s the king of this house already. Haha! He found the best sun spot this morning and is still sprawled out in it.


  12. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    First – I’m secretly glad your just-moved-into house looks like mine did when we moved :)

    Second – I love reading through your list of things you did for staging. I totally agree on your resistance to neutralize and depersonalize, but the reality is that your choices were already tasteful and not too too too specific (no shrine to your favorite band in a corner of the living room or something).

    Congrats on the move!

    • Plein Jane says

      “Shrine to your favorite band” — haha! When we bought our last house, the realtor confessed she made the owners take out a “lifetime collection of kachina dolls.” Good call. I’m not sure I could have looked past that.