Selling a home you've lived in for 20 plus years - Cary NC

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Preferred Realty

What do you need to do to prepare your older home for sale?

How do you prepare for downsizing?

Preparing an older home for sale can be a daunting task. If you've lived in your home for 20 sometime years, chances are you've stored a lot of "stuff" that is either sentimental or you thought you might use at a later date. Other things to consider are deferred maintenance or needed updating.

1) Declutter:

This may be one of the most overwhelming of all task. Even if you aren't moving, it would be a great idea to start decluttering now. Where to begin?

If you're an empty nester like me, you may want to start with your kids rooms. Have them remove items they don't want and take items they want to keep. You can do it gradually if time allows. When my kids came home for a visit, I would ask them to pull 10-20 things from their closets that I could donate. I don't mind if they have personal things at my house. Their room will always be their room as far as I'm concerned. I just didn't want it to be a big job when the time came. I certainly don't want to pay to move items they don't want should we ever move. Asking them to pull 10-20 items I could donate was a small task they were willing to undertake while they were home. The first time they came home during the pandemic, they both completely cleaned everything out. I mean, they couldn't visit with friends so there was plenty of time.

Next would be to make a game plan. When decluttering, I know there will be some things that go to trash or recycling, some that are donated, items that can be sold, some things that will go to family or friends, and some that I still can't let go of. 

Mindset is big for me. I tell myself that I need to give away things that I can no longer use. I also think about the resale or furniture consignment stores I've gone into. I see so much stuff that people no longer want or use. I know some of it is from estates. I don't want to leave things behind that my kids don't want and have to deal with. If you have a few items to sell, you can do it on Facebook marketplace or an app. Make sure you do it safely. If you have a lot of things to sell then consider a yard sale or an estate sale.

For items you want to donate, find out the best local places for donations. I live in Cary NC so I like to donate to Dorcus Ministries, the local veterans association and Habitat for Humanity. A note in the pocket in Raleigh is another good place to donate clothing since they clothe kids in the community. There are also great resources for donating eye glasses, old cds and vhs tapes, and books.

If you have items that can be recycled, be sure to add them to the proper recycling bins based on your community recycling program.

Throw out items that cannot be sold, recycled, donated or given away. This is the very last option. It can be difficult because it may include old kids projects, old christmas cards and various sentimental things you've saved. Moving items from one home to another can be very expensive and take up useful space.  If your kids don't want their old projects and it holds meaning for you, take a photo then place it in the trash bin. It has served its purpose. 

Getting rid of clothes can be one of the most difficult things for some people. You have to find a way to part with clothes you didn't wear in the season it serves. It may not seem like it at the time, but you most likely won't miss those items. So, be ruthless when decluttering the closet. It will be worth it.

Don't forget about the garage and storage shed. It can be difficult to let go of tools and yard maintenance items.

When you're done decluttering, you should have things you actually use and items you're willing to pay a premium to move.

If this is overwhelming, ask your listing agent for recommendations for organization and estate companies who can help.

2) Deferred maintenance: 

As a professional Real Estate agent, I see a lot of deferred maintenance. Sometimes the home seller legitimately didn't know about the items. Sometimes they're very obvious items. Here's what you can do.

  1. Get a home inspection. There are pros and cons to this that can be discussed with your listing agent. Ultimately, be prepared to make repairs once you get it back. A home that is older and/or hasn't sold in many years will often have more items than a home that changed hands in the past 3-5 years. 
  2. Have your home pressure washed and gutters cleaned out.
  3. Get a check-up for your roof to ensure everything is in good condition.
  4. Have maintenance on your HVAC systems.
  5. Hire a plumber or handyman to check out your water heater and do necessary maintenance. 
  6. Have your listing agent walk through your house with you and point out items that need to be taken care of prior to selling your home.

3) Updating your house:

Sometimes people want to sell their house with the least amount of work. If your home is outdated and you're willing to have items updates in order to sell it, talk with your listing agent to see if it will pay off. Some items will and some won't. And... some things will cost you more money of not done prior to listing a house for sale. The current market conditions and the ideal buyer may determine what should and shouldn't be done.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is people don't want to replace the carpet. The excuse I hear most is, "I don't know what carpet they will want". A neutral carpet is fine. If it is dirty or soiled, that can hurt a sale more than you might think.

There is a reason investors can buy a house, update it and sell it for significantly more. That's because people don't have the funds to do it themselves and eye candy sells. 

If you have limited funds, talk with your listing agent to see how those funds can be used to maximize the value and sales price of the home.

4) Final Preparation:

Once you've decluttered, taken care of deferred maintenance and made necessary updates, you'll want to make sure your house is clean and staged to sell. Sometimes, the seller and/or agent can stage the house and other times a professional will need to be called in. This is something your listing agent can assist with. There isn't a "one size fits all" solution. Many variables determine what is necessary and what is nice to have done. Be open to what is recommended. You should trust whomever you hire to sell your house.

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Selling a home when you're in your golden years is a lot different than when you're starting out. 

If you're selling a home in Wake County or the Triangle, I'm happy to help. I have a lot of experience with preparing a home for sale and negotiating the easiest least stressful sale.




Posted by

Raleigh Cary Apex Realtor Carla Freund Realty

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Keller Williams Preferred Realty

By Carla Freund Realty Team

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Comments (13)

Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Condo and Home Specialists

Decluttering is the hardest part of trying to get your home ready for sale. So many just collect stuff that they never use, and then can't part with them. Get organized is the first step.

Jan 09, 2022 01:57 PM
Carla Freund

Absolutely, it is the hardest and possibly the most overwhelming.

Jan 10, 2022 07:07 AM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

Well said Carla Freund . It's amazing at what we can accumulate in as few as 10 years, especially if you have children. 

Jan 09, 2022 07:06 PM
Carla Freund

Yes, we do collect a lot more with children. And those mementoes of memories are some of the hardest to part from.

Jan 10, 2022 07:06 AM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Karla it has been ages since we connected just wanted to stop in and wish you a happy 2022 and wow what a powerful post you wrote hope it will get the recognition it deserves, Endre

Jan 09, 2022 10:40 PM
Carla Freund

You are so kind Endre! Happy New Year to you as well. Hopefully we'll connect more this year.

Jan 10, 2022 07:05 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Decluttering can go a long way in getting a home ready to sell and it definitely should be number 1 on any list.

Jan 10, 2022 04:34 AM
Carla Freund

Absolutely Brian. Sometimes a good decluttering and cleaning is all that is needed.

Jan 10, 2022 07:04 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

These are all good tips for those thinking of selling a home they've lived in for a long time. If they have the time, they should tackle just a little at a time so it's not as stressful.

Have a great day!

Jan 10, 2022 04:58 AM
Carla Freund

I agree Kat, they need to take one bite at a time.

Jan 10, 2022 07:04 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Great advice, Carla... then again, there are people like me who've lived in a house for over 15 years and who declutter at least twice a year and maintain what needs to be maintained right away. I've also seen houses where people have lived for two years and it's as if they've never done a thing for 20. :)

Jan 10, 2022 06:31 AM
Carla Freund

You are a rare one Nina Hollander, Broker. We maintain our house but I'm sure there are things we're not aware of. I do declutter certain rooms and areas but our attic and garage are in need of a good decluttering. 😬

Jan 10, 2022 07:04 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Carla - there are many advantages to longtime home ownership but sometimes there are also issues that can be the result of that tenure. 

Selling can be emotional even when it is a choice that seems to promise an improvement in ones life.  Having local real estate representation can be the first decision on the way to a smoother transaction.  And transition.  

Jan 10, 2022 06:40 AM
Carla Freund

Yes. It is also good for agents to prepare buyers for that scenario. When one of my buyer clients make an offer on an older home, I let them know it is possible the home inspection will be longer and possibly a bit more overwhelming than a newer home.

Jan 10, 2022 07:02 AM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Great points for sure Carla. Selling a home after that long can bring many surprises

Jan 10, 2022 09:43 AM
Carla Freund

Yes it can. The seller are usually just as surprised as the buyer.

Jan 11, 2022 06:30 AM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is excellent advice to share. We are among those that have a lot of stuff that we need to get rid of.

Jan 11, 2022 10:36 AM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Baby steps. One closet, one room at a time. Haha. When I get into Spring Cleaning and purging mode, I tend to overdue it and get overwhelmed. Your list can help folks stay focused. Good one, and Happy New Year. D

Jan 14, 2022 08:33 AM
Carla Freund

I can easily get overwhelmed as well. I have different tactics. One day I might just spend 20 minutes going through the house picking up anything that should be thrown away. On this wintry wet cold day, my goal is to clean out my clothes in my master closest. Just 20-30 minutes and I stop. I can get a lot done when I set a time limit.

Jan 16, 2022 09:48 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Carla Freund - These are all excellent tips. I'm in the process of doing all the things you mentioned because I'm not going to live forever. Through the process these past few years, I had to unpack all the boxes of stuff that was easier for me to seal up in boxes from my husband who passed away, thinking my kids would want the stuff I thought was important. As it turned out, most of what I saved was no longer worth having due to age and deterioration. I also went through all my stuff I saved from when my kids were young and ended up in TX with me. They chose never to live with me and as I opened the boxes, I began to realize, their stuff was not as meaningful as I thought it would be. Now, I'm still going through my own things to make it easier on them or whoever has to clean out my house when I'm gone and it pains me to go through it but as long as I still breathe, I will continue. 

Jan 17, 2022 05:48 AM
Carla Freund

Patricia, my mother-in-law was always worried about leaving money for her kids. She didn't have a lot but it was important for her. We advised her to live her life and enjoy it. The biggest gift she gave us was getting rid of things instead of leaving everything for the kids to take care of. The last couple of decades of her life, when we visited she'd always have things that were my husbands. She'd say, take these home with you or get rid of them. He opted to get rid of 95% of the stuff. She and her husband did the same with their things. They had things in their home that they wanted or needed and did away with the other things no one was using. In the end, her husband's daughter took care of the final things since she was the only one in town. I have things I love and I know my kids won't want them when I'm gone. I'd rather give them to someone who will use them now.

Jan 17, 2022 08:31 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP

Carla Freund - Wise advice for sure! You nailed it! I guess the moral of the story is, leave something to be desired but only if you're still alive and the person you want to give it to accepts the gift because you asked without making them feel like they have to take it. Leaving things behind to cause others to do what you couldn't do may result in terrible disappointments to the recipients. I guess the best way to go out in style is to leave no stones unturned and clean up after yourself before the inevitable happens while you can. 

Thanks for a great post to ponder!

Jan 21, 2022 03:39 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Carla, living in a home over 20 years sure does have LOTS of memories, and lots of sifting to see what you truly NEED to move to the new home.  Great post.

Jan 22, 2022 07:20 AM
Carla Freund

It really does. The memories are one of the hardest things for people to leave.

Jan 22, 2022 07:45 AM
Joyce Marsh
Joyce Marsh Real Estate LLC - Daytona Beach, FL
Joyce Marsh Real Estate LLC - Coast & Luxury

This seems to be a topic that is top of mind for many people whether you’re selling or not. I think I’m getting the clothing part somewhat under control but not too much in the paperwork and file area.  Good luck with yours!

Jan 25, 2022 04:26 AM
Carla Freund

I think there are people who would sell now but they're overwhelmed with the decluttering part. That's why we're here to help them.

Jan 26, 2022 11:21 AM