One of the most frustrating things to deal with is the situation where you’ve had to move before your house sells. If you have a short lead time before you move, especially for a work relocation, you may find yourself trying to coordinate the sale from a thousand miles away. Here are some tips to keep your sale on track.
First, remember that the average time it takes for a house to sell is two to three months, not two to three weeks. If you’re moving from a slow market, it may be on the market longer. If you do need to leave before your house has sold, you might want to designate a friend or relative to be a local contact for your realtor, to check on the house periodically, and to help prep for open houses. During warm weather months, you’ll also need to arrange for lawn care, as nothing ruins curb appeal like a weedy, over grown lawn. And don’t forget that lawn care is more than mowing, so include basic tasks like watering plants, weeding, and trimming shrubs as necessary.
In the winter, be sure that the heat stays on. If you’re depending on a smart thermostat to alert you if the heat goes off, you’ll also need to keep if Wi-Fi or internet connected. You’ll also want to arrange for someone to shovel sidewalks as necessary and check for water damage from ice dams or melting snow.
Be sure that you take good photos that show your home in its best light before you start packing. The more cluttered and haphazard your home seems in online photos, the easier it will be for people to skip over it. Go for wide shots that show rooms and provide a sense of how the house flows.
Make sure the house comes across as move-in ready. Get a handyman to make repairs to wobbly railings, fix any damage to walls or doors, and any other interiors. Paint interior walls, have carpets cleaned, and hire cleaners to get the bathrooms and kitchens sparkling. Make sure there are no issues with the outside, like sagging gutters, falling fences and missing screens on windows and doors. The less your house is seen as a challenging fixer upper, the quicker it will move off the market.
While it’s tempting to move all your things and leave the house empty, it may be better to leave the house lightly furnished, to help prospective buyers make sense of the house. An empty house may be too much of a blank canvas, and buyers may have a harder time seeing what makes a home inviting if it’s absolutely empty. A completely empty house may also make buyers think it’s been vacated because of problems. If it’s impractical to leave anything behind, you can use a professional home staging company to provide a lived in look in.
And arrange for an alarm or security company, especially in areas with a lot of vacant houses. You want to prevent someone from breaking in and causing damage, whether it’s partying teens or thieves stealing wiring and piping. Nothing will derail an open house and potential sale like a house that’s been trashed. You might also talk to your insurance agent and ask if you need to adjust your coverage now that the house is empty and on the market.
If you’re really concerned about the prospect of your house selling, you may want to look into renting it out for a couple of years. Management companies will do all the work of finding tenants for a fee. If you anticipate that your move is only a temporary relocation, it may make more sense to arrange to rent rather than sell your house.
One other important thing you should do if you move before your house sells is budget for a couple of trips back. You may not need to make them, but if you do, it’s best not to have to scramble to pay for them.