Timing is everything, and seldom is timing more crucial than during the delicate dance of selling one home and buying another. In a perfect world, all sales and purchases would align perfectly, with a buyer lined up and ready to move into your old home in just in time for you to move into a new property.
Unfortunately, the stars don’t always align to make things happen so smoothly. For any number of reasons – your job, an irresistible opportunity, or unforeseen circumstances – you might find yourself in the position of moving into a new home before your current home is sold.
And where does this situation leave you? With an empty home to sell.
While conventional wisdom would suggest that it can be difficult to sell a house without furnishings, there are plenty of benefits to selling an empty house. After all, an empty house is a blank canvas open to a buyer’s imagination.
How do you make your empty house seem like a “home” to prospective buyers? First, don’t despair. Many an empty home has found a buyer. Here are a few tips that can help you make an empty house appealing:
- Landscaping. Keep the outside neat and tidy. Cut the grass and trim hedges in the summer, rake up fallen leaves during the fall, and keep on top of snow removal in the winter. If you have moved out of the area, enlist a service to maintain the yard.
- Outdoor maintenance. If your house is empty for a long time, make sure to keep the gutters cleaned out regularly and maintain a good paint job. Winter can be hard on a house; if your home is empty during harsh weather, check to make sure your siding and paint are still in good shape when spring rolls around. If not, spruce them up.
- Furniture. Less is more when selling a house, so you’re in better shape selling a home with sparse furnishings than trying to convince a prospective buyer to look past years of accumulated belongings. You may not be living in your old house, but can you spare a few pieces of furniture for key rooms? Just a piece or two in each room can help a potential buyer imagine his own furniture in the space. If you must move all of your belongings out, consider borrowing or renting a few items for the short term. A table with nice place settings and four chairs can be enough to “fill” a dining room, while a bedroom might only need a bed and a chest of drawers.
- Play up your assets. Some features of your home may actually stand out and really show their true potential when there is nothing to hide them. Take hardwood floors, for example. This is the time to let them shine. Of course, if they’ve taken a beating, now would be a good time to refinish them. Make sure they are polished and gleaming.
- Choose your paint colors wisely. As with any home up for sale, it isn’t a bad idea to spruce up the paint. It’s a time-honored “cheap fix” for dingy walls, and a chance to make your home seem more neutral. Out with any bright or glaring colors and in with soft, warm tones like beiges, off-whites, and grays. And don’t stop at the walls. Consider painting any woodwork, trim, or cabinets that are in need of a makeover. As a bonus, fresh paint will give the house that “new home” smell.
- Update fixtures. Replace any broken or dated fixtures such as switch plates, doorknobs, drawer pulls, lights, and faucets. Brand-new fixtures will go a long way to making the entire place look like new.
- Clean, clean, clean. If your home is empty or near-empty, it must be sparkling clean. Fortunately, if you don’t have to contend to cleaning up after kids or pets on a daily basis, this shouldn’t be too hard. Clean the windows inside and out and make sure that kitchens and bathrooms sparkle.
- The little things. Small touches can make a home look lived in even though there is little left in the way of furniture or belongings. Low-maintenance houseplants on countertops, a dish of pretty soaps and nice hand towels in the bathrooms, and a few cheery area rugs or wall hangings can go a long way toward inviting a potential buyer to envision his own possessions in your space. If you can spare a bedside or end table, leave out a lamp, book, or attractive candle to make the place look a little more “homey.”
- Air it out. Homes that aren’t lived in can acquire a mustiness that you’ll want to periodically eliminate. Open windows every few days. If you aren’t around to do it yourself, talk with your real estate agent about helping you out.
While selling an empty home might not seem ideal, itdoes have its benefits and there are solutions out there for making a house with little in it seem like a true home. And with a little patience and a little ingenuity, you’re sure to find a buyer.