Earlier this month we sold our house.
And as many of us know, selling is no walk in the park.
In fact, as far as stress levels are concerned, it’s up there with death and divorce.
Add to that three boys, a shedding and mostly indoor pooch, a buyer’s market, and all the usual shenanigans, and it certainly was Very Full On Dot Com.
Now I’m on the other side though and have let the dust – and exhaustion – settle, I’m ready to review and recap all the things we did that helped us get through the campaign, particularly as we juggled our busy family life, school holidays, work and the fabulous Roxy Rowse.
So, if you’re thinking about selling or wondering how we got through it, I hope the following tips and traps provide some useful info.
Preparing for photos and first open for inspection
We found that the lead up to the professional photos and first open was the most stressful part of the entire campaign, including auction day itself.
We knew, having lived in our house for 12 years, that this would be a huge task.
I started some general decluttering last year, which included having stalls at two Round She Goes Secondhand & Vintage Markets in an attempt to offload some of my clothes. (You can read about that in detail here if you’re interested).
Over the summer, we began a few specific projects – sorting the garage, organising a hard rubbish collection, selling off some stuff on second hand sites.
Then, from late January until we decided in mid February to put our house on the market in March, we spent at least a day each weekend working on the house, going through every room and cupboard in the house.
Who knew we had so many puzzles?
We were really mindful of spending concentrated and productive time on house stuff and getting the kids on board too, but we also wanted to pace ourselves, knowing it would be a marathon, not a sprint.
With this in mind, we spent one day of the week, usually Sunday, to recover, do something fun and focus on something else.
Instead of folding tea towels for example …
Not only were we steadily working our way through the garage, and then every room, cupboard and draw in the house, we were also co-ordinating all the jobs that needed doing to add value to the house.
Even though our house was well maintained, the jobs we wanted done included:
- A professional exterior house wash and washing all windows internally and externally. Our weatherboards and awnings came up brilliantly with a good wash;
- Cleaning and oiling the decks;
- Cleaning the oven and stove top;
- Some painting which included a few touch ups, ceilings and walls #KIDS;
- Repairing some chips in our stone bench top;
- Wiping down every wall, door and inside every drawer and cupboard to eradicate dirty hand prints, dog hair and endless crumbs.
The other challenge was co-ordinating the tradies for the jobs we outsourced, as certain jobs could only be done after others i.e. we had to have the house washed before the decks were oiled.
In the end, we managed to do all of the above in the two very busy weeks from the time we signed up with our agent to the day our professional photos were taken and it was Crazytown with a capital ‘C’.
Thankfully, we had ten days between when the professional photos were taken until the first open, so we had a break from the cupboards/garage/drawers while we focussed on how the house would be presented.
Managing open for inspections
By the end of our six week campaign (we ended up selling a couple of weeks after auction), we had our routine for opens down pat.
A good three hours before the open, we’d begin prepping the house.
Our routine – If it was a Saturday and during the school holidays, we’d begin by dropping the kids at a grandparents/friends. (If we didn’t have this luxury, they would have had to watch a movie or play outside, out of the way).
Once the kids were gone, Mr SnS would deal with Roxy’s stuff and then start on outside – putting away bins, sweeping, weeding, dog poo and cleaning windows that needed attention and so on.
Our fab cleaner Diedre would do the bathrooms and floors while I dusted, put away stuff, packed the cars with more stuff and styled each room and surface.
For every open we emptied the laundry (all dirty clothes, clean washing and all baskets), removed school bags, notices and cleared all the crap off the kitchen bench.
Half an hour before the open was to start, we’d walk around the house and turn on every light, light the candles and style the alfresco area. Then we’d leave the house, to return an hour or so later.
Flowers – It can be expensive to furnish the house with fresh flowers every week. To save cashola, I did a few things.
Firstly, I bought flowers from the supermarket and tried to find big bright bunches for a reasonable price.
Then, after a week or two I realised it would be more cost effective and time saving to buy longer lasting natives. If bought on a Thursday, they could last up to two weeks which equates to 4 or 5 open for inspections.
I also cut flowers and foliage from the garden to either extend the life of store bought posies or for smaller vases.
Indoor plants – still on the botanical theme, I went to town and made sure there were plenty of indoor plants scattered throughout the house.
Not only are indoor plants a more economical alternative to flowers over the longer term, they provide a freshness and focal point in any room. Bonus points that you can take them with you when you move.
Hot tip – take your planters with you when you go to buy plants to make sure they fit.
I also lashed out and bought some of these brightly coloured planters from Gorman which added some colour and personality to our bedroom and the kids’ bathroom.
Scents – I was very intentional about how our house smelled during inspections. With three boys and a pooch, it might not surprise you to hear that our house doesn’t always meet my standards in the olfactory department!
While the agent recommended against using scented candles as they overwhelm or irritate potential purchasers coming through, I chose specific scents that I hoped would not overwhelm and would compliment the floral scent of the fresh flowers scattered throughout the house. I also used diffusers (using the same scent as the candles) which were more subtle but just as effective.
Garden Check – before each open, we checked the backyard for dog poo, pulled out any new weeds and swept the porch.
Styling and Decluttering – I styled each and every one of the cupboards and surfaces, including the entire kitchen, pantry, linen and other storage cupboards and every table.
As well as making everything look inviting, the goal was to highlight the space, practicality and versatility of each space.
I also made sure that things were pared back somewhat, and packed away a good portion of my kitchen into packing boxes, ready for our move later in the year.
Pantry – we have a huge pantry, but it’s usually full, so it took a bit of work to pare things back and create a balance of style and function. I like it so much I’m planning to keep it this way until we move.
Bed linen and towels – I decided I would keep the house pretty much exactly as it was in the professional photos, for consistency for potential purchasers but also to simplify things for me and take away any more decision making stress before opens.
With that in mind each bedroom and surface was styled exactly the same way throughout the campaign, down to the same towels in the bathrooms and duvet covers.
When it came to bed linen, I washed the sheets in the five day break between Saturday and Thursday opens.
For the towels, I used the same sets for each open but didn’t use them in between, so they were “display only” – I just took them off and put them away to bring back out for the following open.
The kitchen – we kept things really simple during the campaign, opting to BBQ and reduce any mess/clean up wherever possible. As I’d also had the oven professionally cleaned, I avoided using the oven for the whole campaign. The first thing the kids asked for when we sold was if we could finally have a roast!
Managing kids and opens
Keeping the kids’ bedrooms and their stuff under control was one of the trickiest aspects of the whole campaign.
Our kids’ bedrooms are untidy at the best of times and it was a challenge for them (and us!) to maintain their rooms during the campaign. We’d decluttered their rooms before the first open and then tried to find a compromise about what they could take out in between times. I also styled their rooms making it clear that kids lived here instead of packing all their stuff away.
One of our kids was especially unhappy with having a “styled” bedroom where some of his favourite things (including his remote control Lego train) were not accessible, but he put up with it knowing it was a limited time. We then relaxed things considerably between Sunday and Thursday opens to make up for it and have let things slide in a big way since we sold to give them a break.
The school holidays were another level of pain, as it was unreasonable to expect them to not play with their stuff. In the end, to minimise their mess and my stress, I took them out as much as possible (thankfully it was the April school holidays so the weather was great) and let them have more screen time than usual.
I also called in a few favours and had the kids looked after by friends after the auction when I was low on energy but still had to face three opens in a week.
Once the kids were back at school, it was much easier to manage, especially if the Thursday opens were scheduled in school hours. For Saturdays, an early afternoon open was much more achievable than a morning open.
Managing work and opens
Prepping a house for sale can easily be a full time job but with two jobs and the kids, I had to be pretty organised to not descend into The Overwhelm. Beginning the process of decluttering 6 to 8 weeks or so before the professional photos were taken definitely helped.
Once the opens were underway, as I work part time for myself, I tried to keep my work to Monday – Wednesday, with some admin on Friday mornings. Thursdays were devoted to open prep as was all Saturday morning.
The week of our Saturday auction, I was away for work on the Monday/Tuesday which meant I had to hit the ground running when I got back to be sorted for the Thursday open during the first week of the school holidays. This was manageable because the kids were out of the house most of Thursday.
I found the hardest thing about having the campaign go over the school holidays was using up my child care options for work, leaving me less help and child care options for pre-open tidying/cleaning up.
Managing dogs and opens
We adore our pup Roxy, but as she’s a black labrador who is a mostly inside dog who also sheds, we needed a plan to manage the opens.
The morning of each open Mr SnS packed down her crate and packed away her dog bowls and dog bed.
Once we started cleaning and tidying, we kept her outside as much as possible.
We were very lucky that our village came to our rescue to help with the open logistics.
We have a friend who lives in the next street who was happy for us to leave Roxy in her yard with her dog before and during the Thursday opens.
On Saturdays, other friends who are exploring whether to get a dog for themselves, picked Roxy up and took her for a walk and a playdate while we prepped the house and during the open..
These friends were lifesavers as we didn’t want the house to have a dog smell or for there to be black hairs throughout the house.
To wrap up
Selling a house is stressful, especially in the current market.
Now we’re done though, I’m super excited about our move into our new house. I am also excited that I will not be selling again any time soon!
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So over to you, how did you manage selling and opens? What tips would you add to mine?