Real Talk: Three lessons I learned from selling my home

Real Talk: Three lessons I learned from selling my home
Staging helps buyers envision a space for themselves. (Photo Credit: HomeVisit)

By Nancy Perkins

After 19 years in our home, my family decided this past winter it was time to move. Our family had grown, and we needed more space. After researching market trends, closely examining the forecasted inventory, assessing demand, studying interest rates and evaluating economic development in the region, we decided to sell in the spring.

As an experienced realtor, I had sold many homes. I knew selling our home would be a lot of work. I knew we had to prep the house for sale. I knew we had to price it correctly and market it extensively. The process wasn’t as easy as it sounds, and we learned a few things along the way.

Be smart with your renovations

Renovate strategically and focus on your return on investment. (Photo Credit: HomeVisit)

Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses.

Our kitchen was vintage 1990s with dated appliances, Formica countertops and tiny custom cabinets. Though I often counsel seller clients to simply update their kitchens with new countertops, paint and hardware, it was clear our 30-year old kitchen needed more.

As we consulted with designers and contractors, we began designing our dream kitchen. After 19 years, we had a well-honed vision of our kitchen with a big island, wet bar and partial basement dig out.

Then, reality hit. Our dream kitchen was twice as expensive as we had budgeted. Would we be able to make that money back in the home sale? I crunched the numbers, and the answer was clearly “no.” We went back to the drawing board and re-designed the kitchen for half the cost.

We abandoned plans to move the appliances and build an island and focused on the current layout with all new luxury finishes, including quartz countertops and a Wolf range. The result was gorgeous.

The lesson: Don’t waste time and money designing your dream. Instead, plan your renovations to appeal to a wide range of buyers with finishes appropriate to the price point of your home. Save your dreams for your family.

Consider staging if your furniture looks outdated or worn

When I told family and friends we would be moving out to stage and sell our home, they thought I was crazy. Our home was lovely, but it was filled with antique family pieces and comfortable, well-loved furniture. Experience told me that in our case, our home would not sell for the highest price in the shortest time with our furnishings.

Most likely, our buyers would be empty nesters moving out of the suburbs and into the city or a young couple buying their first home. In either case, these buyers are not looking for the Perkins family house. They want to buy a carefree lifestyle, with light, modern furniture and no signs of wear. This vision could only be accomplished by removing the weight of our furnishings and investing in good staging.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 83 percent of buyer’s agents said that staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. The success of the transformation in our home was evidenced in the multiple offers we received within hours of listing.

The lesson: Staging works. If your furnishings look dated or worn, consider moving out and staging.

Things can get personal

Perhaps the most surprising thing about selling our home was how emotional we felt during the process.

The last Perkins family photo on the steps of their old home. (Courtesy Photo)

This was the home we moved into when we were married, the only home our first puppy ever knew and the home where our daughter was born. In this house, we hosted Christmas parties, baby showers, birthday parties and even a petting zoo. This was a special place.

We started to doubt ourselves. Were we making changes that would improve the house? Why did we need to make any changes when this house worked well for us? While we were ready for a new house, we were attached to our home, to our garden and to our neighbors. What if we never found neighbors as good as these? Once we listed our home, a new fear appeared: Would people like our home? Would they feel this was a beautiful, happy place?

Like many of my clients, these thoughts kept me up at night. My fears were alleviated, however, with multiple offers, happy buyers and a quick sale, thanks to smart renovations, good staging and fair pricing.

The lesson: Change is hard. Focus on your future plans and turn the process over to an experienced realtor who will hold your hand and guide you through the process.

On the night before closing, my husband, daughter, puppy and I came back for one final farewell. We ate pizza on the kitchen floor, hung out in the garden and took one last photo on the front steps of our home. What’s next? Finding the Old Town home of our dreams.

Nancy Perkins is an award-winning realtor, recognized by Washingtonian Magazine and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. She is a lifelong Alexandrian and is proud to work and raise her family in the town where she grew up. To learn more, visit