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Should You Move Out or Vacate Before You Sell?A decade ago, it was the norm for Silicon Valley homeowners to occupy the home they were selling – today a majority of homes are being sold unoccupied or vacant. Why is that? And should you move out before you sell?

A few years ago, around the mid- to late-2010s, we began to see an increasing number of vacant and professionally staged properties for sale. Last year, most sellers simply felt safer moving out before selling due to the pandemic. Today that continues to be the case.

Over time, the reasons for homeowners to move out before marketing a primary residence have increased. While sellers can certainly still occupy a home on the market and sell it successfully, it’s not our recommendation for most people and here’s why.

Seller Stress

First things first, if you are able to move out before you sell it can reduce a lot of stress. And this has almost always been the case.

Selling a home is stressful!A home for sale should be showing-ready at the drop of a hat: beds made, clean rooms, no cooking smells, and no clutter! Are your ready for people touring your home to come into contact with your personal property, open cabinets and doors, or walk on your antique rug? Even after an offer is accepted and showings are over, the buyer usually retains the right to visit the property and have it inspected. And once you’re in escrow your big move is on a strict deadline!

De-personalizing a home gives buyers a blank slate to imagine how they would live in the space. It can also be one of the most difficult part of the process for resident sellers to live with. Strip away all the things that make a house your home, and it often doesn’t feel like home any more.

If you can, save yourself from the added stress of living in a home for show!

Dawn-to-Dusk Showings

If you’ve been keeping up with the Silicon Valley real estate market, you’ll know that it’s a fierce seller’s market with extreme activity. Demand and inventory are way off balance with a surplus of buyers and almost no availability (as of today, there are only about 420 houses for sale in Santa Clara County – less than half of last year, and the lowest number of any month since January 2004). For sellers hoping to get the best price and terms on their property, that’s great news! For owner-occupied homes, that means dealing with a constant cycle of buyers and agents at your front door!

Making your home easily accessible to potential buyers is key to getting the best price. If buyers can’t see a home, they won’t bid on it.  Meanwhile a “hot home” will sometimes have back-to-back tours and viewings for days.

Our recent Los Gatos listing was like that – the first days after it hit the market, every showing appointment was completely booked from dawn-to-dusk. That kind of foot traffic helped our client get plenty of competing offers from confident buyers.

In a calmer market with less activity a seller would be able to manage living in the property more easily. They might have time to tidy up in the morning and only go out for a few hours during tours scheduled in advanced. But not today. An owner-occupant in this market will have to sacrifice either the availability of their home to show to potential buyers, or be prepared to keep out of the house between 8am – 8pm for up to a week.

In addition, the extreme seller’s market is making it difficult for buyers with contingencies to succeed. If you need to sell your current home to finance the next one, you’ll stand a better chance if the offer does not hinge on another sale.

Updates are Trending!

Market Edge UpdatesAs far back as I can remember, Realtors have recommended to paint before you sell, tidy up the yard, and give everything a good cleaning. A little polish can go a long way in making a home look inviting to buyers. While a clean, freshly painted home still presents well, recently updated and upgraded homes have been seeing a stronger market edge over homes with a more dated finish.

And I mean recent upgrades – by 2017 I had buyers who thought a 2010 kitchen was too outdated. Today’s buyers are strongly favoring homes with all the latest: new floors, new bathrooms, new cabinet doors and countertops, and more! These can be major projects, and many homeowners choose to move out and upgrade the interiors to give their home the market edge.

Even if you don’t plan on remodeling before you sell, moving out and hiring a professional stager can improve the modern appeal. Most homeowners don’t update their furniture with the latest trends, but stagers do and they can help present your home to current tastes.

Health and Safety Concerns

While the pandemic and restrictions have eased off from what it was a year ago, it’s still very much a part of the market. Mask regulations are in place, listings have hand sanitizer by the door as often as shoe covers, and many buyers are avoiding crowded open houses. Sellers who occupy a listings often request added precautions, asking buyers and agents to avoid touching doors and sanitize or wipe down surfaces before leaving. Although these are understandable requests, they are an added burden to buyers and agents which can be a turn-off and will often be ignored.

A vacant home can make both buyers and sellers feel more comfortable during the pandemic.

Sellers Net More with Staged Homes

Finally, if you move out, spruce up, and professionally stage, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of your netting significantly more. This is true despite the cost of paying the holding costs for the house you’re selling while paying to live somewhere else.

Should You Vacate?

So, if you’re hoping to put your residence on the market soon should you move out? In the end it’s a personal decision. If you have the ability, financially and otherwise, to move out and stage your home to sell it can increase marketability and reduce your stress. A de-personalized and staged home is difficult to live in, but easy to sell.

Moving out first and staging your home can be an investment, but the payout of having more offers from confident buyers is usually worth it in this market.

If you are thinking of selling your Silicon Valley home, please reach out! We always love to hear from our readers, and we’re happy to set up a no-pressure chat to see if it’s a good fit.

Looking for more seller tips? Check out some of our past articles:

Sell Your Home in 2021

Lighten up your dark home and sell for more!

Authors

  • Realtor, GREEN | DRE 02153633 | Christie's International Real Estate - Sereno

  • Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.