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Old 01-25-2011, 04:50 PM
5,773 posts, read 9,961,581 times
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60 year old 3BR 1BA house, fresh paint inside, new wall-wall carpets, approx. $300K price range, no mortgage

I've been preparing to sell for quite some time, getting rid of some junky furniture, throwing stuff out, packing non-essentials. Ended up with two completely empty bedrooms, now both partially filled with neatly stacked boxes. Bedroom furniture is average plain furniture (throwing away bed when I move, keeping the oak dresser and end stands). Living room upholstered couch and chair aren't good enough to let my dog barf on, but I let him anyway. At bare minimum I'll either have to get slip covers or maybe buy something cheap on Craig's list, or rent couch/chair. Dining room oak table and chairs are nice. I don't want to buy new couch/chair because I'm going on the road for several months, storing my stuff, and anyway I don't know what would look nice in my next house.

Here's the question: I almost wish I could just throw away bed, couch and chair, put the rest of my stuff in storage, and end up with a completely empty but nicely painted and newly carpeted house. Or I can do something about the couch & chair and live here while the house is being shown.

One broker told me it was no problem if I wanted to store my stuff, leave the house empty and get out of town, that it wouldn't affect the time necessary to sell it or the price I ultimately get. Yet I've always heard that prospective buyers like to see what a house looks like with furniture rather than totally empty, thus the furnished new model homes.

Staging in a big way isn't really an option because it would cost too much to fill this house with nice rental furniture. Either way I'm already going to have two empty bedrooms (or partly filled with boxes). And also, I have conflicting advice from my prospective agents: one says please move the packed boxes to a rental storage unit, the other says it's no problem at the level it's at now (neatly stacked and organized, room at least half empty).

It would be so painless showing the house if I could leave it empty and take off camping. Both brokers say selling and closing is no problem at all via phone/fax. The neighborhood is nice enough that I don't have any serious worry about leaving it vacant and unattended. All the houses around me are occupied and it's a nice family neighborhood.

Advice? Okay to show the house empty or should I stay here and wait for the sale? Should I completely empty those unused two bedrooms or are some boxes okay?
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:09 PM
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Default In my experience ...

Empty houses sell for less money and take longer to find a buyer than a nicely staged house. You do not have to go "all out" to make it look attractive. A decent bedroom set, a nice dining room set and maybe a clean attractive chair and couch with slipcovers ought to be fine.

The boxes are not going to win anyone over and if they are only thing in any otherwise empty house it sends a vey unwelcoming message to prospective buyers -- along the lines "somebody needed to get out of town in such a rush that they forget something or it was too gross to bother...".

I think the advice from the folks how said it was OK to leave it there is completely wrong -- that would be first thing I would get rid of!

I know there are posters on this forum who say stuff like "when I see an empty house I don't get distracted and I can concentrate on how my stuff will fit" but in all my many years I have had FAR MORE potential buyers think any house is going to have bedrooms too small for the size bed they want, to cramped to allow the size table they have, too crowded to allow for the size TV they want and generally is a pain...

If you do decide to empty it put be sure to empty EVERYTHING and do an extra good job making it super clean. The last thing you want is some half hearted effort making it look like the place is distress and you will take any low ball offer that comes along.

Ideally I would like to see some effort to make it look a bit lived in -- a tidy toothbrush and nice towels in the bath, some long lived dressings and spreads in the fridge. A coouple of bucks worth of frozen veggies in the freezer will prevent nosey folks from saying "looks like they moved out of town, how desperate do you think they are?"...
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:11 PM
Location: Louisville KY Metro area
4,817 posts, read 11,099,894 times
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A well staged home is always best. A poorly-staged home is far worse than an empty house. Attic furnishings, even beautiful antiques can be devestating to a home's saleability. I often recommend that a home be stripped. I mean, get'r clean, clean, clean. Often I will tell a seller to even get damaged dingy carpet out of the house and leave only the sub-floor and the nailing strips. Not ideal, but better than cheap carpet in an expensive house.

Based on what you have shared, move on in my opinion. If necessary, have a professional stager provide you with furniture and furnishings that will make buyers think, "oh, our chair would look great there, or our couch would look so grand."

Good luck!
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:25 PM
Location: Marion, IN
8,192 posts, read 24,780,314 times
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As a buyer I much prefer houses that are empty.
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:25 PM
5,773 posts, read 9,961,581 times
Reputation: 3049
Thanks both!

Chet, it seems you're telling me to get those two bedrooms empty, do something about the house, and just hold tight and keep living here. I'm kind of feeling like those two bedrooms would look better totally empty than with boxes stacked. Guess I'll invest in a rental storage and move as much stuff there as possible, anything that doesn't contribute to a positive image.

Tom, sure a well staged home would be best, but I doubt I can afford that. I'm looking at perhaps $90 a month for just a nice couch and chair. I don't think I can afford the whole professional staging treatment. Do you have any ideas what that would cost for a 3BR 1200-1300 sqft house?

Please keep the replies coming! All advice is appreciated.

ETA: By the way, the reason I described the house in detail is to get an answer appropriate for my house. For example, if somebody was selling a $1M house and didn't have it appropriate furnished, I think it would be totally crazy to not hire a professional stager. But my $300K is in a whole different millieu.
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:38 PM
Location: Lakewood Ranch, FL
4,549 posts, read 5,954,754 times
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If most of the homes on the market are currently empty it probably won't seem strange to your buyers to see yours empty, too. It is very common around here. It does reveal all the "warts" though. You can use an inflatable bed placed on boxes with those sheets that go to the floor (sorry but linens are not my thing) and it will look like a real queen bed with a comforter and pillows, some chairs, a table, etc., to give the spacial definition that furniture can provide but you don't have to do alot more than that. Just a little helps.
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:59 PM
Location: Space Coast
263 posts, read 645,953 times
Reputation: 222
Default ^^^

The "Sell This House" school of staging (blow up mattress, etc). It always looks ok on the show. Maybe you could catch a few episodes of the show or check around online to get gist of it. They never spend a lot of money doing it.
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Old 01-25-2011, 06:08 PM
Location: Lakewood Ranch, FL
4,549 posts, read 5,954,754 times
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See...ya learn something new here all the time. I saw this done once in a house I was showing and was impressed with the idea. Had no idea it was part of a "school of staging" :-) I'll have to watch it myself!
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Old 01-25-2011, 07:18 PM
Location: NJ
17,579 posts, read 32,344,111 times
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An empty house always made me think desperate sellers and maybe a lower offer.
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Old 01-25-2011, 07:25 PM
5,773 posts, read 9,961,581 times
Reputation: 3049
Originally Posted by manderly6 View Post
An empty house always made me think desperate sellers and maybe a lower offer.
That's my concern too. I am in no way desperate except that I want to move on to the rest of my life. I'm retired. I could live here for the rest of my life if I want, no mortgage to worry about, Proposition 13 in place protecting my property taxes. The only problem, ugh!, I'd have to live here in L.A. for the rest of my life. I want to move on! I'll sell as soon as I have a fair deal, fair to the buyer and fair to me. That's all I ask.
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