Downsizing: Selling Your Large House
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If you want to downsize during the current seller’s market, you may find that it’s harder than you think to sell your spacious home. The people who are most likely interested in your house — those between 35 and 45 — have already lived in their small, starter home as younger adults.
Buying a larger home like yours is usually a subsequent home purchase, an upgrade from their starter home.
“That market is small and more savvy because they are not first-timers,” said Theresa Downham, real estate agent with Nothnagle Realtors in Fairport. “Those buyers are a little older. They have kids that are older.”
These buyers work at near the peak of their career. While this primes them to make a large home purchase, it also makes them not interested in fixer-uppers.
“Selling to them means ready and no fuss,” Downham said. “They want the social status of a bigger nicer home in a nice neighborhood but they are really stretched for time. They hire out cleaning, yard and pool care.”
Many buyers want to see upgraded bathrooms, kitchen, roof and furnace, according to David Walsh, associate broker with Park Avenue Realtors in Rochester.
These areas are the most costly and vital aspects of a home, and also the most inconvenient to upgrade while living in the house. Also, aspects like wall-to-wall carpeting should go.
“People these days like hardwood,” Walsh said. “The house will sell for a lot more money.”
Walsh advises 3/4-inch tongue-and-groove oak. For the bedrooms, new carpeting could work, and tile or more waterproof flooring for the bathroom.
General remodeling also helps a larger home sell faster. The problem for many retirees is that they likely oversaw their home’s last remodel, but forget when it happened.
Michael Liess, real estate salesperson with Coldwell Banker in Rochester, said that he recently went through a home with wall-to-wall forest green carpet.
“Be very conscious if you’re appealing to the masses,” Liess said. “Take down the wallpaper and paint. Remove old carpet and update fixtures.”
He added that buyers may like the look of the 40s to early 60s, “but the ‘70s to 80s looks dated,” Liess said.
Outside, the curb appeal can help a home sell sooner. Robert Blain, real estate agent with Blain Realty, Inc. in Rochester, said that “colored flowers, trimmed bushes and the lawn looking good” make a big difference.
“The lawn should not have a lot of weeds,” he added. “The trim should be painted and the front door painted. “
Once the home repairs and updates are done, the home should be deep cleaned beyond normal maintenance. Blain suggested power washing the siding, deck, and sidewalk.
Spruce up inside with “spring cleaning” regardless of the time of year.
“Wash the windows,” Walsh advised “It’s a simple thing but it makes a home really sparkle. I’ve learned that early in my career and it never fails.”
Staging is the next step in the process. This means that the home’s furnishings are arranged in an eye-pleasing way, instead of completely removing all furnishings. Carolyn Stiffler, real estate agent with RE/MAX in Rochester, encourages sellers to remove knickknacks like Disney plates or Hummel figurines.
“They need to be given to family, sold or moved out,” she said. “Sometimes seniors say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize these things don’t hold their value.’ Other people don’t want them. We refer people to companies that do a whole house sale.”
Many younger people don’t want Grandma’s china, as these dishes can’t go in the dishwasher or microwave. Large, heavy furniture isn’t readily movable, unlike modern furniture.
“Pay an experienced Realtor and work together with their suggestions to present your property in its absolute best light that you can do,” Stiffler said. “The final price will reflect that.”
Things to Do Before You Downsize
Paring down your belongings will make both selling your home and moving from it much easier. Bobbie Goodridge, managing owner of Grandma’s Helpers, LLC in Henrietta, helps older adults downsize. She said the best strategy is to focus on one box or closet at a time, not a whole room.
Recycle or dispose of items that have no value such as old newspapers, broken appliances and excess food storage containers. Non-seasonal items untouched for months need to go.
Next, decide what furnishings and keepsakes you want to retain.
“I always tell my clients to look at things they really love,” Goodridge said.
You don’t need 20 keepsakes from your great-aunt. Select one or two items and photograph the rest that you donate.
Furniture often comes down to practicality.
“Think about the new space you’re going to and what is really going to work in the new space,” Goodridge said.
If you need the money and have some valuable furnishings, Goodridge said that consulting with an antique dealer may help you learn their value and an effective way to sell items.
Donating the items may also be an alternative.
“Donations are a great way to make yourself feel good about the downsizing,” Goodridge said.