When to start packing-up the house & what to do with livestock

etr2002February 27, 2012

My husband and I are going to be putting our house on the market this summer or early fall. We've gotten mixed advise from the real estate community, so I wanted to go you for advice. We will live in our home until it is sold, but I do anticipate going ahead and boxing-up items that would be considered clutter and items that we don't really use a lot. Would it be better to start boxing-up and storing items that we don't use on a routine basis and make the home have an emptier feel to it or just clear-out clutter only? What I mean by clutter is, clearing-out the attic and closets and knicknacks on shelves and counters. I don't want to detract from the home and make it feel cold, but I also want the buyers to be able to imagine living there and not be distracted by our personal belongings.

One individual came into our home and immediately told us that we had to remove all family photos because we are a white family with a white son and two Ethiopian daughters and not everyone approves of this family situation. Would someone really not buy our home because we had a family picture displayed? She also said that anything depicting African culture - including a clock of the continent - would be a distraction.

Last question is for those who have livestock. What about liability if the potential buyers go to the barn and get hurt or let-out an animal? We have goats, alpacas, and a great pyreneese that I can't load-up and take to another farm for showings. I primarily worry about the male alpaca because he will spit on someone who agitates him or causes him to be afraid - it would be just lovely to have a potential buyer get spit on! We will try to keep the animals confined to the pastures when we know a showing is scheduled but that may not always be possible depending upon weather because they need shelter sometimes. Also, those unscheduled showings may mean the animals are roaming freely between pastures. Anyone have experience with this?

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Re decluttering:

You should take down family photos. It has nothing to do with the racial composition of your family though. Those are personal items that are valuable to you but hold no value for potential buyers.

From the sounds of it, you should shoot for your idea of "sparse and cold" and I'll bet you nail "decluttered."

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 3:39PM
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One thing is look at your home as if YOU were going to buy it. Photos? Am not sure if I would remove all--it sounds like the RE agent has racial issues. It should not matter to those looking.
Farm animals--most likely, anyone looking at your property has animals also, but maybe put signs up. Beware-etc. and your agents must be aware of issues and alert others. We too dealt with those issues and had no problems. We had dogs that were not people friendly, so we just went outside, did not, would not leave the property. Our neighbors had llamas and they same type of dog you had who managed to get out and come to visit so the agents were aware of that also. That is just something people in rural areas deal with. That is why we insisted that no one come on the property unless we were notified first. Another neighbor had wolf-dog mixed puppies and they got out occasionally. I call it the fun of living in the country.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 4:01PM
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I agree with billl--regardless of who or what is in your photos you want the prospective buyers to be imagining their stuff in your house, not looking at your personal items. Photos, trophies, award plaques, craft projects, etc. distract people from doing that.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 4:14PM
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Ditto- All personal photos of people and pets should be removed before showing the home.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 5:55PM
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Emptying out the house accomplishes 2 things: it makes the space feel larger and eliminates the distractions of what you and your family are about. You don't want them looking at your wedding portrait or grandkids' school photos on the fridge and feeling like they're in someone else's house. You want them to focus on the positive features of the house and be picturing themselves living there. That's what spare and neutral accomplish.

Will it be impossible to sell a house with family photos? Or with lots of knick knacks displayed all over? Not at all, but decluttering and depersonalizing removes a potential barrier to some potential buyers. And in this market, why take the risk?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 5:58PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Clean everything. No personal photos at all be it your pets, your family or your vacation shots, unless they are especially scenic and used as a large artwork piece. Clean again. Only 1-2 pieces of art displayed per room, and it should be of neutral content. Clean again. Nothing religious or racial or nude. Clean again. Pack up and store everything that you aren't currently using, including out of season clothes, unused small appliances, sports gear or gardening equipment. Clean again.

Paint fresh neutral colors and clean or replace the carpet. These are the absolute minimum basics to sell.

Then look at what's there and stage it. Decluttering and depersonalizing isn't staging. Staging is using storytelling accessories to create an inviting open ended invitation that welcomes visitors and turns them into buyers. Plants, candles, books, throws, pillows, and towels are all staging accessories that are added to the clean and uncluttered basic layer that you've created.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 6:44PM
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... and post pictures when you're ready to list! We'll happily provide suggestions about staging, etc. (We'll also critique the Realtor's pics) :-)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 6:57PM
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We've been shopping for a house for 5 months. What a nightmare. But...clean and neat was what always attracted us. Pictures didn't bother me at all, I actually enjoyed looking at family photos. But if there were thousands piled on shelves, I'd walk out. My immediate thought was dust!

We just put an offer on a house where the couple had collected artwork and various carvings from all over the world. They were tastefully displayed and added to the overall charm of the house.

We are such poor house shoppers, we spent more time looking at the interesting art work and didn't notice what kind of floors, appliances, cabinets, closets, etc. Had to request a second visit to see the real house.

The house was beautifully staged, the owner was an artist and really turned a ordinary house into a beautiful one. I'm still impressed and wish she would leave all her things.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Thanks for all the thoughts and words of wisdom! I'll get started on the packing and decluttering!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:04AM
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