Question about an Empty House vs. Still living in it

kokeApril 14, 2009

Got many helpful tips,suggestions and advice on selling my home.

Now, I am wondering if it would be better to have a buyer enter an empty house or one that still has us(the homeowners)still living in it?

We bought a home that no one was living in it and I was visualizing my furniture in it and what we would need to buy.To me, I kind of thought that was good because I didn't see what the homwoners had in the line of furniture etc.I do remember the very first house we bought when we were married(41 yrs.ago) and the people lived in it at that time.It was hard to see where we would put certain things because their things kind of took over.But, being newly-weds and wanting a home,we bought it and stayed for 33 yrs.making improvements as extra money came.Then, We built a home,now we must sell it.

So,does anyone have an opinion about whether an empty house is better for a buyer to walk thru or not....Thanks,Mary Ann

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As a BUYER I actually prefer to view an empty house. I have good spacial sense and bring along a tape measure so I know if my furniture will fit . I get to examine the condition of flooring and walls etc. However, if you're going to sell an empty home you should make sure the house is immaculate, carpets cleaned, walls freshly painted. Every little detail has to be impeccable because you can't hide anything when the house is devoid of furnishings.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 10:49PM
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Everything does need to be perfect if it's empty because all the flaws are readily visible without furnishings. As a buyer, I would prefer to see a house empty too because then I can better see what's wrong with it. As a seller, I'm not so sure that would be a good thing. The house I live in now is approaching 40 years old and it's far from perfect and no amount of painting and cleaning will make it so. If I were selling it I wouldn't want it empty.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 11:21PM
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Do a forum search on this very question. You will find many, many folks on this forum prefer empty houses (myself included) due to lack of distractions and the ability to see imperfections. This means the house has to have few glaring flaws.

I sold my last house empty in under a week. The house was from the 1920s and small (just under 1500 sq ft). I knew this house would show better empty due to the ratio of large living room to square footage as well the fact that I redid the wood floors and the place looked like a dance hall. There was no way a staged house or a lived in house was going to give as good a first impression as this house did empty. I had repainted only the first floor. The second floor bedrooms were pumpkin, raspberry, grey and the paint was scuffed and scratched. I hooked my buyers as they walked in. The house was far from perfect.

Another reason I will never sell a house while I am residing in it: Showing a house is a PITA and I cannot be bothered (another reason why I will always pay for a Realtor). I'd rather travel to the house a few times a week to make sure it is secure and dust free (empty houses do get dusty), that the bathrooms are clean - you can contain bathroom mess by leaving one roll of toilet paper in ONE bathroom only - that lights are on or off depending on which was the house shows best and all the other little details involved. Or, I would hire a service if I moved too far away.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 11:53AM
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There is a reason why builders furnish model homes. It does help to sell the house if there are some furnishings in it. Most people (not those on this forum!) have a hard time visualizing if their bed will fit the bedroom, where their couch will go etc. People will also linger longer in a room that is furnished or staged well. It takes longer to look at a room that has stuff in it, rather than 4 blank walls. The trick is to have the right stuff, in the right amount. Too much stuff is a turnoff.
So I guess the ideal way to sell a home is not to live in it, but to have it staged - like a builder's model.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 2:19PM
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There's no one cut & dried answer to this question, IMO.

A few weeks ago, I toured an expensive coastal home with a young, single, male owner. Furniture, what there was of it, gave the impression of being leftovers from his dorm days. :)

That home would definitely benefit from a professional stager. It needs furnishings that back-up & show an environment commensurate with the luxury price tag. Instead, we were confronted with a worn (and dirty) forest-green futon in the master bedroom. I'm usually oblivious to furnishings but that darn futon even got to my sensibilities.

When we purchased our current house there were 5-6 people living in the home plus a dog. Did I mention it's a TWO bedroom house? It was literally stuffed to the ceiling with furniture. To reach the living room sofa one had to literally climb over a recliner, dodge a 4' square coffee table, & then take a little hop, skip, & jump onto the sofa. We were able to see past the furniture warehouse environment but I believe the seller would have gotten a higher price had the home been cleared out & staged. It had good bones but those bones were sure not clearly visible. On our second visit, we actually moved furniture so we could take a look in a closet.

So, there are both sides of the extreme. Most fall somewhere in between. My rule when we've sold has always been remove 1/2 of everything from each closet, cabinet, shelf, etc. Then, take a hard look & remove about another 25%. I aim for all spaces to be no more than half full.

I like to use large art pieces on the walls & remove furniture to free up floor space while the art still provides a sense of "furnishings" for the room. I do NOT remove family photos. They've helped me sell a house, or two, so I fearlessly leave our "Rougue's Gallery". I always leave my piano because...well, pianos are 'homey'. For that same reason there's always a nice selection of books placed around the house. I also always have a vase of something fresh in the kitchen...sometimes, it's just a vase of varying types of hosta leaves; other times it's flowers.

I saw something at an open house recently that I thought was a good idea. The agent had about a dozen disposable cameras on the dining room table with small note pads & pens. Many people drop in at an open house not anticipating the stop. Being able to take pictures was a great marketing idea, IMO.

On the whole, I think decluttering (including too much furniture), deep cleaning, paying attention to curb appeal, a fresh coat of paint, & the right price is all that's necessary.

All that said, there ARE some homes that just show better empty. The larger the home, IMO, the less likely it is to show best completely empty. Many times, I think a smaller home shows best with just one room minimally furnished. I once had a condo development I had to sell out that was geared towards young families. I spent my entire staging budget on furnishing one of the smaller bedrooms in VERY upscale nursery stuff...designer fabrics, artist murals, etc. I had good luck with that approach.

So, it all depends on the property, the target market, the general economic climate, & the location of the property. No one-size fits all, IMO.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 3:02PM
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I saw something at an open house recently that I thought was a good idea. The agent had about a dozen disposable cameras on the dining room table with small note pads & pens. Many people drop in at an open house not anticipating the stop. Being able to take pictures was a great marketing idea, IMO.

If the house were empty I wouldn't have too much a problem with this. If I was still residing in the house I'd have to tell the Realtor, "thanks, but no thanks". Pictures would be a great tool for someone casing the place to return and rob it later. What better way to know exactly what you want to steal and where it is placed than to have pictures to refer to later? I understand someone can do the same bringing their own camera, but why help them out?

And, yes, we've had this discussion about the pros and cons of allowing pictures to be taken of the interior of a house on the market. I've clearly been in the con column for occupied houses.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 6:41PM
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We found a home and property we really love.
The house was empty whereas all other desirable homes had all the furnishings. It was a turnoff seeing stuffed closets and other areas as it's a sensory overload. We have settlement in May.

The home was clean as a whistle with new hardwood floors and fresh paint. My only " problem" was thinking ahead to furniture placement since there is a great room ( unlike the current separate living and dining rooms). There is also a room with a fireplace adjoining the kitchen. I think I would have been interested to see how the current owners used that space.

I wondered if an empty house showed a sign of desperation with the owners already having moved. Would the offers be as good?

We are painting and addressing any flaws and problems with our current home. I would like to remove a lot of items, store all the pictures and wall art as the current picture hangers will be removed prior to painting.

Unfortunately PODS does not go to the area of the new home or I would pack a container to be delivered there just after settlement. It would make life a lot easier.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 7:50PM
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I would rather see the house with your furnishings in it. It is so much cozier than an empty one that looks so cold and uninviting.
This is just a personal thing, but when showing model houses, they are "furnished" to an extent.

I do think that an empty house shows "desperation" with the owners already.

Good Luck

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 6:30PM
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I'd rather see an empty house. Like others have said, the flaws in an empty house are easier to note and I just don't like walking around inside a stranger's home -- and that's the way it feels when all of their belongings are there.

Triciae (above) mentioned walking through a young bachelor's pad, and the furnishings clearly left her with a negative image of the place. The homes in my price range are not showplaces, so someone's out-of date or unattractive furnishings or flowery bric-a-brac could be a negative distraction.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 5:13PM
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