Should You Move Out Before You Sell?

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.

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Sellers should leave during showings

Sellers should leave during showings of their homes – that is the common wisdom in the real estate industry. Most Silicon Valley Realtors will advise their seller clients to go out for a walk, do errands, or otherwise be fully out of sight when buyers and their agents visit the home.  Home owners may object that “it is an inconvenience. And what if the buyers or their Realtors have questions? ”

Recently, some friends told me of an extreme situation in which the home owner was in the driveway, grilling prospective open house visitors to see if they were serious buyers or just having a fun look – and told them that unless they were willing to buy that day, they should turn around and leave. They did. (I felt sorry for both them and for their Realtor, who watched them leave and wondered what happened.)

Once, when my family and I were house-hunting, we had the home owner follow us all through the house, staying all of 3 feet away at any given time. When we walked into the back yard, he followed us, grabbed a lawn chair and sat in it – staring at us.

My children referred to that episode as the one with the creepy man who followed us. Needless to say, we did not buy that house with the overbearing seller and the creepy vibe.

Assuming that a home owner would not do anything so egregious, could they remain at home? We return to the topic to answer this question:

Why should sellers leave during buyer tours?

Sellers should leave during showingsThe main reason why sellers should leave during showings has to do with how the prospective home buyer feels about the place. For cautious home buyers especially, the seller’s presence is off-putting.

Home buyers are more comfortable when several conditions are met:

  • the property needs to be neither too hot nor too cold (or they will leave fast!)
  • it needs to be clean and welcoming and to not smell bad (that doesn’t mean using lots of air fresheners)
  • it should be uncluttered and depersonalized
  • home buyers need to have “space” to hang out and envision living there, and that requires time.

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