How to Sell a House While Living in It
Trying to find out how to sell a house while living in it? It can be tricky but check out these helpful tips.
Any real estate broker would prefer to show an unoccupied house over an occupied one for several reasons: They’re easier to show, more available, and generally appear more spacious.
However, that’s not always an option for many homeowners—not everyone can move in with their in-laws or juggle two mortgages while waiting for a house to sell on the market.
As such, when selling a house that still feels like home, it’s critical that you make your house accessible and visually appealing to future buyers. In this guide, we’ll go more in-depth into how to sell your house while living in it to help you hand over the keys with ease.
Tips on Selling the House You’re Still Living In
When potential buyers step into your home, they want to picture themselves living there without overtaxing their imagination. While you’re still residing there, this can be challenging, but the following tips will make it easier for you to sell your house and stay sane in the process.
#1 Depersonalize Your Space
Potential buyers need to visualize themselves living in your home. So, your child’s soccer trophies and spouse’s rare beetle collection will more likely than not get in the way of that. You’re moving anyway, right? So why not get a head start and pack up all those family keepsakes and souvenirs.
The idea is to keep all visuals as neutral as possible. So if you have any political or religious artwork, it’s a good idea to put those away, too. Consider replacing any empty wall space with still-lifes or landscape and nature photography.
#2 Keep it Clean, Inside and Out
Keeping up with the cleanliness of your home isn’t like a high school math test when you cram the night before. Your house should be pristine at all times. We know it’s easier said than done. Still, you never know when an agent will give you a call or happen to be cruising around the neighborhood with a prospective buyer.
So consider making a check-list that everyone in the house can follow to maintain your home’s cleanliness:
- Wash the dishes right after use
- Wipe down the kitchen countertops
- Clean and disinfect bathroom surfaces
- Vacuum and dust at least every other day
- Ensure everyone makes their beds in the morning
- Create a ritual of picking up anything that shouldn’t be on the floor
- Choose the grill in the backyard to cook over the kitchen stove
- Keep the kid’s playroom nice and tidy
- Use a lint roller to clean furniture and pet areas
We realize that all of this can be exhausting, so hiring professional cleaners or landscapers is not a bad idea if you have the extra money. Keep in mind that curb appeal goes a long way, and a home’s exterior always makes the first impression. The goal is not only to make, but to keep everything looking fresh, new, and inviting.
#3 Stage Your Home
While this may come with a cost, it’s no wonder people hire professional stagers for their homes. With an average investment of 1% of the sale price put into home staging, about 75% of home sellers saw an ROI of 5% to 15% over the asking price, according to data from the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA).
You may be wondering if home staging is possible while you’re still living in it, and although the answer is yes, it does come with its own set of challenges. You may need to put a few of your furniture items in storage and remove knick-knacks around the house. But if you can maintain the home’s fresh appeal while it’s on the market, the chances are that it will pay off.
#4 Identify Items for Safekeeping
This tip won’t help you sell your house, but it can give you peace of mind. Many people will be touring your home, and if you’re still living there, you likely have some remaining valuables.
Whether it’s a great-grandmother’s emerald ring, your father’s commissioning portrait, or documents with personal identifying information, they should all be locked in a safe or removed from the house. Here are a few bits of advice:
- Enable passwords for desktop and laptop computers if you haven’t already
- Secure all mail, personal documents, and valuables in a safe
- Double-check night tables and any other places you often set down valuables
#5 Acquire Professional Real Estate Photos
Did you know that 93% of home buyers used online websites when searching for a home in the United States? While it may seem like everyone nowadays is a photographer thanks to smartphones, a lot separates amateurs from professionals, especially regarding real estate photos.
According to Redfin, professionally photographed homes priced in the $400,000 range sold three weeks faster and for more than $10,000 relative to their list price than their counterparts with amateur photos.
#6 Pack Up the Pets. It’s Time for a Holiday
This may be a tough biscuit to swallow, but a pet is not something that should be in any house or backyard during an open house or showing. The only exception here may be Sherry, the goldfish. Even then, make sure her tank is sparkling clean and freshly scented.
In addition, there should be no evidence of pets living in the home. So give those beds a good wash, pack them up, and don’t forget to give extra attention to all of the areas Fido likes to stretch and hang out. This includes packing their food, eating and drinking bowls, and toys.
Pets can also shed and leave lingering odors that may turn off or trigger a potential buyer’s allergies. So whether it’s doggy daycare, uncle Jerry’s cottage, or a trip to the dog park, it’s best to remove your pet and all traces of them from the house.
#7 Get Out for the Day
As your house entertains prospective buyers, now’s probably the best time to consider day trips with the family, picnics in the park, or making reservations at your favorite restaurants.
Leaving the house also applies to showings. Don’t forget that you want the potential buyer to feel like this is their home, not yours. Agents and buyers should have the comfort and space to speak freely. And let’s be honest, it’s awkward if the homeowner is hovering around them or off in the corner of the room, sitting quietly.
Reasons You May Want to Sell Your House While Still Living In It
We completely understand if the thought of moving the family to the in-laws for an indefinite period of time is not a flattering one. We also realize juggling two mortgages is impractical for most people.
Both options come with risks and costs, even if you could. For example, what if you purchase another home while waiting to sell yours? The market may crash, or the closing may be delayed, and you’re stuck paying two mortgages longer than expected. Even if you don’t buy a second house and choose to stay with the in-laws, you still have to pay for storage and live under someone else’s roof.
Or, perhaps, you want to take advantage and work on those long-overdue repairs, replace the back deck, or brighten up the place with a fresh coat of paint. At some point, your house will go through a home inspection. It may even be prudent to do one on your own ahead of time and fix any noted repairs. Doing so could help the home stand out and increase the chances of getting your asking price or above.
A Simple Solution to Selling a House While Living In It
When selling your house while still living in it, you must maintain its clean, professional appearance, remove any valuables, and leave your home during showings.
But what if we told you that you could not only sell your house while living in it but that you could sell your house and continue living in it?
If you’re considering selling a house for cash, a sale-leaseback allows homeowners to sell their houses, convert their home equity to cash, and continue living in the home as a renter. Doesn’t this sound better than moving to the in-laws, juggling two mortgages, or trying to discover how to sell a house while living in it?
Deciding to sell or buy a home can be one of the most significant decisions a person makes in their life. But there’s no need to rush or jump the gun when a sale-leaseback will buy your current house at its market value and allow you the extra time you need to find the new home of your dreams. Talk to a financial advisor to see what solutions make the most sense for you.
National Association of Realtors. Why Staging Matters, Even in a Seller’s Market. https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/styled-staged-sold/why-staging-matters-even-in-a-sellers-market
Statista. Use of online website for home searching in the U.S. 2018. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1047815/frequency-online-website-for-home-searching-usa/
Redfin. Homes Listed with Professional Real Estate Photos Sell Quicker and For More Money. https://www.redfin.com/blog/professional-real-estate-photos-sell-homes-for-more/