Selling the home that's housed your life

Your house has been your home for decades, sheltering a lifetime of experiences, but now you’re wondering if it’s time to let it go. The weight of this question can feel enormous.

You’ve invested in this house, financially and emotionally. Years of mortgage payments, maintenance and renovations. And all those memories: the kids, friends, events, and celebrations. Good times and bad, all within these walls. All under this roof. If this house could talk, wouldn’t you love to just sit and listen?

Selling the home that’s housed your life is not easy, so why make the move?

It might be time to ask yourself some questions:

Is the house still a good fit for me? How much time and money goes into the maintenance? Are the stairs becoming a pain – literally? Do I need all these rooms? How would I even move my stuff out of here? Is this still where I want to put my energy? Has the home I’ve loved become a burden to my life? Remember, at the end of the day, the house is just a house. What’s inside those walls is what’s important, and you’ll take what you love with you to your next home, a space that works so much better for your life now.

Now you’re seriously considering a sale. What’s next?

Talk to your family. Being on the same page with your kids or others of significance can make for a smoother and easier transition. They may know service providers who will help meet your needs, and they can help sort through the decades worth of stuff; deciding what to keep, what to gift and what to let go. Maybe they’ll finally clear out some of their own treasures, like those 30-year-old hockey sticks! They can help get the house ready to show and, ultimately, be there for you on moving day.

Next, talk to a local and reputable Realtor. A Realtor will be able to provide a market analysis of what your home should list for, and will help you work through all that noise out there that seems too good to be true (it nearly always is). A good Realtor will never rush you to make any decision, but will guide you to the decisions that are best for you. And don’t get overly attached to the highest-priced homes in your area; just because the house up the block sold for an impressive sum doesn’t mean yours will, too. Ultimately, your home will fetch its own best and highest price if it’s priced correctly to begin with, is in great shape, and gets the buyers excited.

How do you find the best Realtor for you? First and foremost, find a Realtor you can communicate with comfortably. Whether it’s via text, phone, email or in person, communication is paramount to a successful sale, and a good Realtor responds with relevant answers to your questions in a timely fashion – always. Think of your Realtor as your partner in this journey, knowing they do a lot more than just price your home. They are a valuable source of referrals for services that include cleaning, repairs, decluttering, staging, storage and the move itself. Sometimes they will coordinate and pay for professional photography or a home warranty. They’ll help you understand those all-important contracts. They’ll advise you on getting your house ready for showings, market your home for maximum exposure, and will work with you to understand how good an offer is – or isn’t. And once you’ve got a purchase agreement, they’ll monitor the players all the way through closing to make sure everyone is staying on task. A good Realtor always has YOUR best interests at heart.

OK, now you’ve found the right Realtor. How do you get your house top-dollar ready? There are three simple rules to follow (and maybe a fourth): declutter (and clean), depersonalize and accessorize. And if needed – repair.

This is the time to take a long, hard look through your spaces. Walk through your house with the buyer’s hat on. What looks charming to you might look messy to them, or be a distraction from features in the house you really want them to notice. And it may sound silly, but buyers want to look at homes that don’t look like they belong to someone else; the more “you” that’s in your home, the less the buyers can see of “them.” Think of those polished rooms in decorating magazines; most of the personal items have been taken out before the photographers come in so that you and I, looking at the pictures, can imagine ourselves in these spaces. This is the effect you want to give to buyers. So, how to go about this?

First, declutter. Try the “Three Box” approach. Get three boxes and label them: 1) Give Away/Donate, 2) Storage, and 3) Throw Away/Recycle. The first box is where you put items that are usable and need a new home. The second are the things you definitely want to keep or you can’t make your mind up about. The third are the damaged or no longer useful items. And once a box fills up – move it and put an empty one in its place.

Consider doing this one room at a time. Once you’ve decluttered that room, don’t put anything back in. Another great decluttering tactic is to designate a room or garage as a staging area to put things until you can decide which box they go in. That way you can get the rest of the house in prime condition for photos and showings.

Depersonalize. As noted above, this involves removing traces of you and your family – photos, trophies, kids projects, toiletries. The fact is, only 10% of buyers say they’re able to visualize themselves in a house during a showing. And this is of the utmost importance: if you’ve got firearms or medications, always remove them or lock them up, out of sight. Thieves have been known to cruise open houses specifically for these items.


Accessorize. Invest in some new waste baskets, towels, artwork, etc, in neutral tones, to give the house a fresh, contemporary look. Think of those magazine rooms. The more neutral and streamlined, the greater the appeal to the greatest number of people. And though this tip might belong under the fourth rule, consider your wall colors. Brightly colored – or dark and moody – walls might give just the right drama to your room, but it can stop a buyer from seeing it as theirs. Freshly painted walls in light, neutral tones go a long way toward making a space feel like someone else’s next chapter.

Finally, the (maybe) fourth rule: repair. If you’ve got those few things that are noticeably in need of repair, fix them. Here are a few to-do’s that provide maximum impact in making your home buyer ready:

  • Clean the windows and light fixtures
  • Install bright (max for the unit) light bulbs
  • Leave your porch light on
  • Get a new welcome mat – something fresh and cheerful
  • Make sure your front door latch works properly and the door is free of nicks or scrapes
  • Power-wash the sidewalks and driveway
  • Keep the grass mowed and the edges trimmed
  • Take down politically themed front lawn signs, no matter who or what it’s for or against

Now your house is ready, so let the showings begin, right? One final thought: the house may now be on the market, but the goal is to get it sold, and being an effective seller involves understanding a few facts:

  • Harder houses to show get fewer showings. If buyers can’t see your house, you won’t get offers. Make the property available and respond promptly to requests.
  • There will be “no-shows” and showings that run late, and these are usually because of scheduling complications. Often an agent is showing a buyer several properties and won’t be able to keep their tour on track. Hopefully they’ll call and alert you, but know that this can happen and build in a little extra time beyond the appointment time to stay away.
  • And speaking of staying away – try never to be there during a showing. A seller’s presence can be very intimidating to prospective buyers, who will invariably feel like they’re intruding and most likely rush through the house, which means your house will fall off their radar. If you have to be home, confine yourself to one area, or outside.

There are many more things your Realtor is there to help you with during this important, life-changing time. Please contact me. I’m happy to meet with you, to answer your questions and get to know your needs. And in the meantime, watch for these future topics (and more!):

  • Today’s real estate market
  • An agent’s fiduciary duties to their clients and who represents whom
  • Today’s real estate process, including offers, inspections, appraisals, loans, contingencies, title work and more
  • Home warranties
  • What to do when a party to a transaction isn’t competent to sign a contract (Hint: all signatories have to be competent for a real estate contract in MN to be legally binding)

Looking forward to connecting with you.

Rob Schanilec is a Realtor with Century 21 Atwood - Professional Pride Group out of Northfield. He’s been involved in the Northfield community for 25 years as a Realtor, business owner (By All Means Graphics), has served on local boards and commissions (currently on the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau boards) and in 2015 was named the Chamber’s Business Person of the Year. Few things give him greater satisfaction than helping out others. Do not hesitate to reach out to him with any Real Estate questions or to set up a time to meet. 507-301-1772 •