How to Sell a House Full of Stuff (Whether It’s Inherited or Your Own)
Planning how to sell a house full of stuff, whether it’s inherited or your own, is a tough task often complicated by emotions. With the death of a loved one, making funeral arrangements, dealing with grief, and managing an estate are hard enough and harder still when you have to sell a house filled with memories and belongings.
If the home is yours, and you’ve decided to downsize to a smaller house, letting go of personal items you’ve collected through the years — and grown attached to but will no longer have room for — can feel overwhelming.
Still, decluttering is an important step in impressing buyers and even adding value to your home sale, say top real estate agents surveyed by HomeLight. According to our research, decluttering can add around $2,500 to your home sale. And unless the market it hot, agents advise not skipping this and other tried-and-true steps to get your home ready for the market.
Whether you need to sort through belongings and retain documents, store and sell items, or market your home for a higher profit, we’ve rounded up 8 expert tips explaining how to sell a house full of stuff.
1. If it’s an inherited house, take the time you need to grieve
While some families are ready to deal with an estate in a few days, others need a few weeks or even months. And both are fine! Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself to get the job done and allow yourself time to grieve and approach the estate when you’re ready. Emotions are a natural part of the grieving process when losing a loved one, so it’s important to make critical decisions when you’re in a good state of mind.
Remember, you’re not alone. Close friends and family members can be extremely supportive during a time of loss or an overwhelming move, especially when they’ve gone through a similar experience. They can help you decide which items to keep, store, and which to sell (and maybe offer to take a few off your hands). Never feel embarrassed to reach out for help.
2. Gather important documents
You’ll need to collect important documents related to the home. Consider organizing them in labeled folders for easy access.
Mortgage documents: If you or your relative took out a primary mortgage, a second mortgage, or home equity line of credit out on the home, you’ll need that paperwork. After inheriting a home, contact the mortgage company and any creditors as soon as you can provide evidence that you are in charge of the estate. Any liens on the property will need to be cleared before you can sell.
Property taxes and HOA dues: You’ll also need to continue paying property taxes and HOA dues on the home until the deed is transferred to the new owner. Contact your municipal tax office and homeowner’s association to ensure taxes and dues are in good standing. If you or your relative owes back taxes and HOA dues, it can delay the sale. Fortunately, these can usually be paid with the home sale proceeds.
3. Discard unwanted items
Monica Friel, organizing expert at Chaos to Order in Chicago recommends sorting through and discarding unwanted items prior to putting them in storage.
Rent a dumpster for trash or certain unwanted bulk items
You can rent a dumpster for $300 to $400 a week which includes delivery and removal. Dumpster sizes range from 10 to 40 cubic yards. The size you’ll need depends on the weight and type of refuse for disposal. The dumpster rental company can tell you what size you need. To find a local dumpster company, simply type “dumpster rental near me” into Google to find a list of options.
If this task feels like too big a mountain to climb, there are always professional services available for home cleaning no matter the level of clutter that has accumulated.
Recycle electronics and hazardous waste properly to protect the environment
Some items such as electronics, batteries, chemicals, and hazardous waste need to be recycled. But you can’t dump all items into a landfill because some can pollute the soil and water. Check with your local recycling and Hazardous Household Waste facilities to learn where to dispose of items.
4. Rent a storage unit to work at your own pace
Renting storage space allows you to sort through your house full of stuff according to your schedule. You have the option between portable storage on your property, full-service storage, and self-storage.
Portable storage units
Renting a POD can be a good option if you have room for the unit on your property. Consider loading larger items like furniture into the unit to make more room in the house to sort through items. Portable storage units come in the following sizes:
- 7-foot unit: studios between 400-600 square feet
- 12-foot unit: 1-2 bedroom homes between 600 to 1,200 sq. ft.
- 16-foot unit: 2-3 bedroom homes between 1,200 to 1600 sq. ft.
- 27-foot trailers are available for four-bedroom homes larger than 1,600 sq. ft.
When renting storage space at a facility, you have the choice between full-service storage and self-storage. Full-service storage companies such as Clutter Moving and Storage can pack, pick up, haul, and store your items in their warehouse. Check local listings for full-service storage options.
You can find self-storage units available month to month starting at around $70 a month.
Check to see if the company charges a square foot minimum. If your homeowner’s insurance covers off-site insurance, you can save money by opting out of insurance.
Whether you opt for full-service or self-storage, make sure to take a look at the facility and ask about the following amenities:
- Security: video surveillance or security guard or locking systems
- Hours of access: Access to your items around the clock or during specific hours
- Climate-controlled units: for items affected by temperature like technology. When using both climate-controlled units and non-climate controlled, separate your items to save time.
- Drive-up access or elevator access: Can you drive up to the unit or need to load and haul your items on an elevator?
Make sure to read the contract carefully before you sign. You don’t want your stuff sold at an auction if you’re late with a payment due to unforeseen circumstances.
A lot of estate sale and auction companies have specialists on staff to take jewelry to or recommendations for collections.
5. Donate or sell the items from your house full of stuff
If you have the time or interest, you can sell your items at a yard sale, put a curb alert on
Craigslist, or list your stuff online on Poshmark, or LetGo. But with everything on your plate, you may opt to hire a company to do the work for you.
Kim Pratt, a top-selling real estate agent who works with over 67% more single-family homes than the average agent in Arlington, Texas says she’s had several clients who were executors of states that ended up with a home completely packed with contents that needed help.
“We have a preferred list of companies that will come in and do auctions, estate sales or Facebook Marketplace for them.”
If you’d like to donate items, you can find other charities online that need donations.
Get an appraisal for jewelry, antiques, and collectibles
Before you decide where to sell your items, you need to know their value. If your stuff includes high-end jewelry, collectibles, or antiques, consider calling in an appraiser to see what the items are worth. Know that the value might have gone up or down since you or your loved one made the purchase. You can find jewelry appraisers and antique dealers locally and online. Another option is to have an estate sale or auction company appraise your items.
“A lot of estate sale and auction companies have specialists on staff to take jewelry to or recommendations for collections,” Pratt explains.
Hire an estate sale company to liquidate your items
You can hire an estate sale company to sell your stuff all at once. Estate sale companies will send someone out to review the contents and let you know if it makes sense and is worth hosting a sale. If you want to move forward, the company may hold the sale at your house or at their location. High-ticket items are typically sold at auction houses the company owns or uses.
Estate sales vs. online auctions
Pratt says estate sales seem to do better than some of the online auctions, which she also uses depending on the preference of the executor. “I’ve seen some of the online auctions that people have selected sell the items for minimal [pricing].”
However, whether you sell your stuff at an estate sale or through an online auction, know that some companies take as high as 30% to 50% of the proceeds,” Pratt explains.
Other clients opt to hire a company to come in and do Facebook Marketplace for them. “It all depends on what the executor decides to do,” she says.
6. Deep clean and complete needed repairs
Deep clean and declutter
Cleaning and decluttering your home can increase its value by 3%-5%. Pratt tells sellers if they make this house look super clean, including the window sills and the blinds, people see a clean house and overlook other things.
“They may not care that you have old wallpaper or a pink tub; sometimes they’ll overlook that you don’t have a fireplace when they want a fireplace.” Pratt recommends hiring a professional to clean the house and the carpets so everything looks fresh. If you’re out of state, your real estate agent can recommend professional services for deep cleaning and decluttering.
Seek out a professional organizer to help deal with extreme clutter
Has the contents in the home you’re selling gotten way out of hand? If you’re tripping over items because there’s no pathway from the entrance to the back door, consider obtaining the services of a professional organizer to help you sort things out.
Professional organizers help clients deal with the emotional side of parting with stuff as well as the physical task of clearing out extreme clutter. They provide customers with decision-making strategies, organizing tools, and systems to make the process easier. Some professional organizers work with licensed therapists who treat people suffering from psychological and hoarding disorders.
Take care of needed repairs
If clutter has been obscuring problems in the house, now is the time to determine what they are and identify what needs fixing. A pre-listing inspection is a great option to uncover needed repairs, and tackling these upgrades will help get your home ready for when you meet with an agent.
7. Partner with a top agent to handle the details
Working with a top agent in your community to sell a home can be especially beneficial during an emotional time, especially when you don’t live in the area and are dealing with how to sell a house full of stuff. Aside from handling real estate negotiations and transactions, agents also act as project managers. They work with sellers by hiring the right professionals to market homes for the best price. The following professionals are just a handful of experts agents can recruit to make your home look more attractive online and at open houses.
Photographers and videographers
Real estate photographers and videographers possess lighting and photo composition skills to show homes in their best light. Every agent worth their salt will have a few talented photographers in their address book for this purpose. Realtors know that quality photos and virtual tours are the first step to enticing online buyers to book a showing with their realtors.
People get their first look at homes on the internet, says Jeff Galindo, a top-selling real estate agent in Las Vegas. “They scroll through and say, ‘I like that one, I don’t like that one; that initial rejection is what we try to avoid by properly [showcasing] a home.”
If a professional photographer isn’t in the budget, your agent might have picked up a few photography techniques of their own to make your home more appealing to buyers.
To draw in more online viewers, consider virtual staging. Pratt works with a company that offers virtual staging for a mere $35. “They’ll take a picture of rooms and add furniture; here’s the room and here’s what the room can look like in person.”
For open houses and in-person showings, agents can call in a professional home stager to tailor the house to attract your ideal buyer (or do the staging themselves with the secret’s they’ve learned).
Pratt focuses on removing personal touches. “It’s important to present the home with minimal furniture, nothing on the countertops, no rugs on the floors. “The home should look as inviting as possible,” Pratt explains. “It should look like buyers can put their furniture in and make it personal to themselves.”
Home improvement contractors
Agents can arrange for contractors to come in for quick upgrades and refreshes that can help the house sell more quickly. This is highly recommended if an older person has not updated the house in a while.
For example, agents can call electricians, plumbers or handypersons to install updated hardware and fixtures to reflect popular area trends such as matte black finishes, or call in power washing and landscaping companies to improve curb appeal with a few minor but essential touches.
8. Skip the cleaning, staging, and repairs with a cash offer
After you’ve collected the important items from the house, consider selling the home “as is” to a cash buyer if you’re looking to offload the house and simply move on. HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform offers sellers an easier option if you wish to sell your home fast. By answering a few simple questions, you’ll receive a competitive cash offer from HomeLight’s network of pre-approved cash buyers in as little as 48 hours. Some sellers have closed on their house in as few as 10 days.
How to sell a house full of stuff isn’t always easy and if the house is inherited, can be emotionally fraught. Remember, however daunting it may seem, experts are available to help, whether with cleaning, selling accumulated items, or with the home sale itself.
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