Ready, Set, List - Our 5 Step Guide to Listing Your Home

 Last year, we listed our home in South Tacoma, and we were definitely a work in progress. We loved that house and had already worked on it a lot. We'd settled in, gotten homey, and when it came time to move, there was still a lot to do! We knew these necessary repairs and finishing touches would honor and enhance the work we'd already done. This entire guide is based both on Michael's experience as a realtor, and our shared experience getting our own home ready for its new family.

Last year, we listed our home in South Tacoma, and we were definitely a work in progress. We loved that house and had already worked on it a lot. We'd settled in, gotten homey, and when it came time to move, there was still a lot to do! We knew these necessary repairs and finishing touches would honor and enhance the work we'd already done. This entire guide is based both on Michael's experience as a realtor, and our shared experience getting our own home ready for its new family.

Houses are imperfect works in progress, kind of like people! The people who choose to live in a house should love it for what and who it truly is, so getting your house ready to sell is kind of like preparing it to get married. Sometimes its the oddities that draw us in, catch our eye, grab our hearts, but you want to bring out the best your home has to offer, and you want to do that with integrity. The idea definitely isn’t to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes (that never goes well!). Rather, you want to treat your home, and its potential new family, with dignity and respect.

If you're thinking of selling your home this year, it's time to begin the 5 steps below. Trust me, we learned so much from listing our own home last year, and I'm a realtor here in Tacoma, so I see the professional side of this over and over! All that work, a lot of love, and a happy ending inspired us to create this listing guide for others embarking on the journey. This tried and true process will help you present a house another family would love to call home. That's the whole idea, right?

 Loads to Tacoma's  Habitat for Humanity Store ,  Second Use , Goodwill,  Earthwise Tacoma , and the Val Vill now will save you time later. (Remember, everything has to go in a box and into a moving van. Stay strong.)  

Loads to Tacoma's Habitat for Humanity Store, Second Use, Goodwill, Earthwise Tacoma, and the Val Vill now will save you time later. (Remember, everything has to go in a box and into a moving van. Stay strong.)  

Step One: Inventory - Take a Tour and Take Notes

Start with a room by room tour of your house. If you have more than one floor, start at the top. Otherwise, pick a room at one end and make sure you don't miss any. Take notes in each room. What, like class?! Just do it. Example: Master bedroom: paint needs touch-ups. 

After you've gone through every room, take a break. You're going to need it. Your break could include coffee (or something stronger). 

Next (and this could be a day or 2 later, but don't wait too long), go outside and do the same thing. Walk all around the exterior of your house and also visit your front and back yard, as well as any outbuildings or garages (if yours is attached, maybe you already did this; look at you go!).   

 Our own inventory tour resulted in a long list! Put a kitchen ceiling back in, paint the garage and shed, touch-up paint in almost every room, paint the porch, finally paint the pink kitchen cabinets white, build a new fence, the list goes on.

Our own inventory tour resulted in a long list! Put a kitchen ceiling back in, paint the garage and shed, touch-up paint in almost every room, paint the porch, finally paint the pink kitchen cabinets white, build a new fence, the list goes on.

 Do call Aaron/your most helpful buddy, sister, dad, uncle, bff to help you install a new ceiling if you tore yours out 2 years ago to work on plumbing and lighting. 

Do call Aaron/your most helpful buddy, sister, dad, uncle, bff to help you install a new ceiling if you tore yours out 2 years ago to work on plumbing and lighting. 

Step Two: Organize and Prioritize

Do I sound bossy with these "ize" words. Well, I sympathize. (See what I did there?)

Prioritize: Consider the visual and practical impact your repair or improvement could make and weigh that against the cost and time it would require. You've always dreamed of adding a sunroom? Now is not the time. However, if the faucet is loose, or you have a hole in a wall, get those on the A List. 

  • A List Projects: No discussion, these are happening.
  • B List Projects: We'll try hard to get to these.
  • C List Projects: I'm doing this if I end up with a miraculous extra 2 days.

A realtor can visit your home and give you advice about which projects to tackle. We're in and out of listings on a daily basis and we see first-hand how clients tend to react. Still, this is your choice and also depends on your timeline and budget. 

Organize: Who is going to do the work and how much will it cost? 

  • Using your notes create of list materials you'll need and their cost (if you're short on tools check out the Tacoma Tool Library before spending lots on buying your own!). Start with your A List Projects. Even a partial list will save you some trips to Home Depot/Lowes/McClendons/Ace Hardware/Lincoln Hardware.
  • Which jobs can you do yourself? Be realistic and begin to block out time for this on your calendar. 
  • Which projects require a contractor, professional, or just help from friends? You'll want to start getting bids. Good agents have a list of trusted contractors and can help get you in touch.
  • Set your budget. Now you know more about the cost of your projects. It's possible your A, B, and C list projects might shift around a bit. 
 If you're listing outside the South Sound or moving away, I can help by interviewing agents in that area to ensure you find a good match. Realtors know the best realtors! Some of my best, most successful client relationships have come from direct referrals from other agents; thanks guys!

If you're listing outside the South Sound or moving away, I can help by interviewing agents in that area to ensure you find a good match. Realtors know the best realtors! Some of my best, most successful client relationships have come from direct referrals from other agents; thanks guys!

Step Three: Choose a Realtor

We're saying choose a realtor now, but it's great if you have one already, and you can really call me back at Step One. By now, it's definitely time to have someone in your corner. 

Know. Like. Trust. These are key when choosing a realtor.

  • By now you're getting to know me
  • There's no question that you like me (okay, maybe that's too much). 
  • And trust me, you can trust me.

Local is key. I'm licensed all over Washington State, but I wouldn't try to sell a home in Washougal or Everett, because where I'm an expert is here in the greater Tacoma area, and what you need is an expert. What I can do is help you find the expert (I happen to know a great guy in Everett!). 

 The timing of our own listing was influenced by Michael's work as a realtor. We wanted to list our home before his busy season so he'd be more available to his clients when the market heated up. We listed in the springtime when fewer houses were listed, so while fewer people may have been searching and ready to move, we still stood out. Also, we owned two houses at the time, so we could move right back into our old place on Tacoma's west side as our friends/tenants moved out. (They bought their own home with Michael as their agent, so all of us were pretty happy!) While it was difficult to say goodbye to the home we'd been painting and sanding and trimming and renovating for the past few years, we were grateful to have a smooth transition back to our first home as a married couple. The photo above is of us the day we moved out of that first home, and now we're happily resettled here, and you guessed it, painting, trimming, updating the kitchen, and all that good stuff. 

The timing of our own listing was influenced by Michael's work as a realtor. We wanted to list our home before his busy season so he'd be more available to his clients when the market heated up. We listed in the springtime when fewer houses were listed, so while fewer people may have been searching and ready to move, we still stood out. Also, we owned two houses at the time, so we could move right back into our old place on Tacoma's west side as our friends/tenants moved out. (They bought their own home with Michael as their agent, so all of us were pretty happy!) While it was difficult to say goodbye to the home we'd been painting and sanding and trimming and renovating for the past few years, we were grateful to have a smooth transition back to our first home as a married couple. The photo above is of us the day we moved out of that first home, and now we're happily resettled here, and you guessed it, painting, trimming, updating the kitchen, and all that good stuff. 

Step Four: Make a Timeline

Your timeline might be determined by a hard and fast move-out date. But often there's some flexibility here. If you have some choice in this, think about when you'd ideally like to be resettled and work back from there. You might consider when your home looks its best and aim for that time of year. But you could also think about listing before the height of the season when your home might stand out more. There's not one right answer.

Really, the optimal time for listing your home is determined by your needs, and of course we can also take the practical considerations of the market into account (like when most people are searching). This is where a realtor can be helpful for you again. We'll list whenever you need to, this is your home, your life, your decision, but we're happy to help advise on timing.

Recap - Here's where we stand:

  1. You've made an inventory of your projects and repairs.
  2. You've prioritized and organized your projects.
  3. You've found the best realtor for you and your home.
  4. You and your realtor have set a timeline for listing and this timeline includes space for you to pack-up and stage your home. That's right. Stage it. 
 If your garden isn't blooming yet, or it's a bit past its prime, put a little effort and some resources into color-spots for your flower beds, or even pots for the porch; it doesn't take much to make a big impact here. Even if you don't plant anything new, weeding, trimming, and some fresh ground cover go a long way toward making your home welcoming. 

If your garden isn't blooming yet, or it's a bit past its prime, put a little effort and some resources into color-spots for your flower beds, or even pots for the porch; it doesn't take much to make a big impact here. Even if you don't plant anything new, weeding, trimming, and some fresh ground cover go a long way toward making your home welcoming. 

Step Five: Staging

To prepare for staging, pack up! Less is more, both practically and visually. Now comes the fun part when you're ready to get your house married. It's like the time when you get to choose your colors, flowers, invitation style, etc.

Seriously, a home full of everything you ever loved or collected or that just landed there is not the best way to draw people in. Conversely, an empty home doesn't exactly say "welcome" either. Get your house dressed for the wedding, but don't coat it in so many heavy layers of make-up that you can't see its skin! 

Staging is a profession and your agent can recommend someone for you. Even if staging is done with some of your own furniture and belongings (emphasis on some!), it's always a good idea to consult a professional with an eye for design. We all know and love someone who thinks their style is awesome, but it doesn't really have a broad appeal. More power to you, but it may not help sell your home. Don't be that guy! A well staged home offers suggestions for use of space and lifestyle while leaving plenty of room for imagination. 

Once your house is dressed and ready, marketing and bringing in the suitors is your realtor's job. I'm an agent at Windermere Abode in Tacoma's Old Town, a boutique brokerage brimming with marketing expertise. You'll want to ask your realtor how they're planning to market your home. A carefully and professionally presented home is worth its weight in gold. 

See for yourself! Below you'll find images of our South Tacoma home ready for listing followed by images of 2 other beautifully staged Tacoma homes I represented last year. 

 We planted flowering dogwood in the parking strip when we moved in. Seeing them blooming as we carried our final belongings from the home was wonderful and hurt a bit too.

We planted flowering dogwood in the parking strip when we moved in. Seeing them blooming as we carried our final belongings from the home was wonderful and hurt a bit too.

Final Thoughts

The more complete and lovely your home is when you list it, the more difficult it can be to say goodbye and close the door. But there's also a feeling of deep satisfaction. So far, in my experience, it is also followed by significant reward in a practical sense as well. We think very fondly of our old home, and we're happy knowing how enthusiastic the next family felt about it. We left with a sense of accomplishment, bittersweet, but strong. If you listed your home with me, I'd do my best to make sure you felt that way too. 

If you have questions for us, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I'd be honored to help!

 The ending of our listing story is a good one. Another family chose our home. We hope they felt welcome on their first day, and we hope they're still happy there. You can do this! And if you need help,  let me know . 

The ending of our listing story is a good one. Another family chose our home. We hope they felt welcome on their first day, and we hope they're still happy there. You can do this! And if you need help, let me know