By Brett Martin of Popular Mechanics
We put our house on the market recently. This was our first home, which we’ve lived in for more than a decade, so we expected to invest a lot of time cleaning, organizing and making some minor repairs that we’d been putting off. Here’s what we didn’t see coming.
White and bold wall colors are no-nos
We worked with a stager — a person who specializes in making homes more sellable. Walking through our house with her was humbling and a bit exasperating. In the past four years, I’ve painted every single room in the house and applied a decorative finish in the kitchen. I’d repaired any problems with the walls and filled all nicks, cracks and holes to make the walls look smooth. I used paints that were easy to clean to keep the walls looking fresh.
The problem? The colors. The white in the foyer and family room (too bland), the green in the dining room and the ocean blue in the kitchen (too bold), the blue-gray in the basement (too dark) and one bright red wall in our older son’s bedroom (too bright) were all the wrong choices to entice buyers. We ended up having to paint nearly every room in the house a neutral color.
What ‘cut the clutter’ really means
We knew the real-estate mantra that having the house tidy and organized, with only the minimum amount of furniture in each room, makes the space appear larger and more enticing. So we knew we’d have to clear out plenty of clutter. We didn’t expect to have to take out almost everything.
Three bookshelves in my office, one apiece in three bedrooms and one in the basement all had to go. That meant packing up and carrying about 600 books to the garage. We also had to remove sofas, chairs, dressers, cabinets, lamps, televisions, a desk, kitchenware and one-third of the clothes in our closets. Our garage is now filled to the limit with furniture and full boxes. Be prepared to park your car outside.
It’s not your home anymore
We’ve lived in this home for more than a decade, so the walls are covered in plenty of family pictures. Our stager wasn’t impressed. She told us that almost every picture had to go. To show the house, the walls had to be almost bare, with the exception of a strategically placed mirror or two and a couple of small scenic pictures in nice frames. This removes personality, allowing potential buyers to see the house as theirs, not yours.
The walls are in worse shape than you think
Once you start removing the clutter, you’ll find all kind of unpleasant surprises. Once we removed those dressers, we found myriad nail holes, gouges and cracks that were easily visible in the naked walls. They required filling the holes and fixing the damaged spots, then sanding the walls smooth and then vacuuming up all the dust. It proved to be a time-consuming project that we hadn’t planned to undertake. On the plus side, the new homeowners are going to have perfect walls.
Those large items might not come back out so easily
You may tell yourself that anything you got in a room in one piece will come back out in one piece. But as anyone who has ever moved can attest, getting a large item, mainly a sofa, through tight doorways can be like trying to solve a puzzle that weighs several hundred pounds.
Our absurdly heavy sofa with a hideaway bed refused to come out of a room. No matter how we twisted, flipped or contorted the couch, it jammed against the wall opposite the doorway before we could get it out. I ended up taking it apart and removing the bed to get it through the door.
Some cleaning projects will be frustratingly stubborn
A decade’s worth of hands running up and down our handrails had caused the brown-stained wood to turn dark and ugly. The wood grains were nearly black. We had cleaned the railings periodically with a wood cleaner, but it didn’t remove or prevent what looked like black stains running the length of the rails. Finally, we used a liquid dishwasher detergent mixed with water to cut through the grease. Then we used a lemon-based furniture cleaner and a lot of vigorous scrubbing to get the wood clean. There are going to be projects that won’t come clean with just a sponge, soap and water, especially if you’ve lived in a home for many years.
Fix those nagging problems — but don’t expect them to be easy
The pop-up sink stopper in the bathroom sink hadn’t worked in awhile. It was a problem we could live with — the water still drained just fine — but I wanted to fix it before listing the house; even small, neglected problems could put off buyers.
What should have been a simple fix turned into a major project. The replacement stopper wouldn’t work either. Since one of the faucet handles was cracked anyway, we decided to replace the whole faucet and drain assembly. After three trips to the home center — one for the stopper, one for the new faucet and then one to replace the shutoff valves that decided to start leaking after being turned off for the first time in years — and spending plenty of time working in the tight quarters behind the pedestal sink, the faucet and drain worked great. But it shot an entire afternoon.
Everything will take longer than you think
We made the decision to sell our home in early April. My kids and my wife, who’s a teacher, were on spring break, and I took the better part of the week off to get the house in order. With all four of us working, we expected to have the house ready for listing by the end of the week. And by working 12-plus hours a day, we almost made our goal.
We ate up four days filling nail holes, sanding and giving each room two coats of paint, which put us behind schedule. We also ran into the common problem most people face when they prepare to move: We had a lot more stuff than we thought, and it took a long time to pack it up. It also made us wonder why we didn’t have a garage sale a long, long time ago.
The house won’t stay clean
With the house freshly painted, thoroughly cleaned and filled with just a minimal amount of furniture in the rooms, our mission of making the home look large and inviting was accomplished. It actually looks better now than when we bought it. But maintaining that clean and organized look is a challenge that we have to answer every day because of constant showings.
Despite a new family-wide policy of not wearing shoes indoors and not touching the walls, the house won’t stay clean. The floor in the foyer seems to magically attract mud, the carpet constantly needs vacuuming, schoolbooks and backpacks appear throughout the house and the walls get dinged and need to be touched up. Some of this is unavoidable: You can’t live in a house without kicking up a little dirt. It’s what we’ll be dealing with until the house sells.
This article was originally published on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.