Military families, particularly those on active duty, are no strangers to multiple moves. At any one time, you may be renting out one property, attempting to rent or sell another and looking to rent or purchase a home in a third location. It’s a cycle that repeats itself with every PCS or change of orders. But just because this process may be old hat to you doesn’t mean it’s easy. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. Your greatest resource during an open house, and throughout all the stages of selling or buying a home, is your real estate agent. They know what will appeal to the local market and will also have a rich network of area vendors who can provide extra assistance with tasks you need to outsource. With these suggestions for how to prepare your home for an open house, you can spend the time you have in the most productive way possible. And that extra time you free up can be used to make sure your next home is just right, too.
Up your curb appeal.
Let’s start outside, the first impression of your home that a prospective buyer will have. Stand outside of your house and take it in from a stranger’s point of view: exterior paint, doors, landscaping, even the condition of your mailbox and the numbers on your house. What do you see? It’s easy over time to stop noticing the tools or toys scattered across the yard, the weeds that have taken over your walkways or the siding that’s long overdue for power washing. Take it all in very critically, as guests of your open house no doubt will, too. Put the things away, pull the weeds, sweep the sidewalks, etc. If need be, recruit a taskforce of friends or neighborhood kids and reward their efforts with pizza.
Keep it clean.
Cleanliness makes a home look well cared for. If you don’t have the time or inclination to take on some heavy-duty cleaning, consider investing in professional house cleaners to do the dirty work. Yes, you want to make sure there isn’t mess scattered about, but being ready for an open house means you need to make sure the windows, surfaces and carpets are clean as well. Consider this effort a good investment of time and/or money. You should also be mindful of smells — they can prevent a sale, too. Potential buyers can be particularly sensitive to a home that smells like smoke, mold/mildew or pets.
Remember less is more.
A prospective homebuyer should be able to envision himself or herself living in your home. That’s difficult to do if your house is teeming with knickknacks or doodads. Take this opportunity to purge and prune your belongings. If it’s not useful, necessary or likely to make you smile, consider finding it a new home. Bonus points if you donate to a local homeless shelter or charity of your choice that accepts gently used items to redistribute to others who could benefit from them.
If it’s useful and necessary, but not necessary anytime soon — like out-of-season clothing or sports gearbox it, label it and store it somewhere else, either off-site in a storage unit or neatly contained in a basement or crawl space. Your home will appear more streamlined, tidy and spacious. An added benefit is that everything you deal with now is something you won’t have to sort, clean, donate or throw out wherever the military next sends you.
Insert tasteful additions.
Once you’ve packed away the things you don’t need or that may come across as clutter to a prospective buyer, think about what would make your home welcoming to others. Your real estate agent can provide valuable feedback about how best to stage your home for maximum impact. (S)he will either have access to items you can use to enhance the house for the opening or will be able to make recommendations for things you can do that will achieve the desired effect. For instance, you can put out fresh flowers and set your dining room table. You can take a break from those energy-efficient bulbs and swap them out for higher wattage ones that make spaces look bigger and brighter. You might invest in decorative fragrant soaps for your powder room or buy a new shower curtain at your local dollar store. There are dozens of small and inexpensive touches that can make a big difference.
Make it neutral territory.
You want to create a setting that makes it easy for potential buyers to “see themselves” in your home. The license plates or hand-engraved memorabilia of all the places you’ve called home as a military family? That’s your family’s beautiful story. Guests in your home should be able to imagine their future adventures. And that can be difficult to do if your design aesthetic is more colorful or eclectic. No judgment here. Be you. But if you’re hoping that someone else is going to buy your current home, tone it down a bit. Neutral-colored walls with pops of colorful accessories, like throw pillows, are generally pleasing to most folks.
Protect your valuables.
Find a safe place for those beloved family photos, children’s art pieces, etc. Put away any medications and firearms. Secure your valuables. Don’t leave out jewelry, confidential documents, change jars or anything that might be tempting to someone who is less than scrupulous. While we all hope that only people keenly interested in buying will come to an open house, the truth is that for some people it’s just a spectator sport. Don’t make it easy for them to take advantage of you. Make sure you ask your real estate agent what they do for security during open houses.
Hide the critters.
Arrange responsible care for dogs, cats, snakes, hamsters, toddlers and living things in general who aren’t part of the home-selling process. Plan to have a friend or family member entertain your little ones. Research doggy day camps in advance, if necessary. If you have a pet that can’t be removed from the house, then figure out a way to sequester/confine/corral him out of sight and out of mind.
Use all your social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…) to promote your listing and open house dates. Leverage your network and your network’s network. After all, you may not know that your neighbor’s cousin’s brother’s half-sister’s firstborn child is looking for a home in the area. Get the word out. The more people who attend your open house, the better.
Now take a deep breath. The outside of your house looks great. The inside is clean and welcoming. You’ve got a head start on your next move after the donation run you’ve made and the boxes you’ve already packed. You and your real estate agent are ready to host a successful open house!
This article originally appeared on the Millie Journal.
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