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Ask McEnearney: It seems overwhelming to think about downsizing — any tips?

This week’s Q&A column is written by Peter Crouch of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Peter at 703-244-4024 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: It seems rather overwhelming to think about downsizing a long-time residence. Any tips?

Answer: It can be a bit daunting to make a move after many years in your home. Once you have made the decision, however, there is a sequence of events that definitely works best — and keeps you on track!

First, where are you going, and what is the floor plan? This will tell you what you should keep, and what will not be coming with you. If you are going to a condo, for example, or community serving older adults, they will have floor plans, and even suggestions on what furniture fits and what does not. There are also companies called “Move Managers” who will help in that process — and even completely set you up in the new location including unpacking and hanging pictures!

A word about what to keep and what not to keep. Many of us have collected a good bit of furniture and other “stuff” over the years. Most of us have even inherited possessions that were our parents’ or grandparents’.

Two truths: Our children likely do not want much of it, and it is NOT disloyal to get rid of our ancestors’ things. Keeping a few small, very personal items honors them just fine.

A good way to manage those two truths is to decide what fits in the new place, then make an inventory of what you do NOT plan to keep. Then send it to all the kids and grandkids, asking if there is anything important to them that they would like. (You can even make a photo inventory if you are so inclined.)

Do not be hurt if not much is taken — styles change, and large pieces are not likely to mesh with their household possessions.

Once you have decided what to keep and have gifted to those you care about, the hard part is over. This is when it is usually best to go ahead and move, if possible. Get settled in the new place, which takes the stress off the rest of the process. You can even go back and forth trying out pieces that might fit better in the new place. If you have to sell the house before the move, that is fine — just a slightly different process.

The next steps are usually as follows: Sell remaining possessions that might be of value. Either an estate sale, or consignment-type for certain higher-value pieces. Donate items that do not sell but have value to any one of the many charities we have locally. Discard the rest — there are certain good “cleaning” firms that will take the remaining contents and recycle if they can, discarding what they cannot.

Now for the house itself! Preparing a house for market does not mean you have to remodel, or have the latest-greatest features. You can easily sell a home that has not been upgraded — the price will be lower than one totally up-to-date, but big projects are certainly not necessary.

Why spend tens of thousands remodeling the kitchen to get some of that money back in a higher price? Let alone endure the stress of the project? It is one thing to have re-done the kitchen a few years ago and had the opportunity to enjoy it for a while; it is another thing to do it just for sale. Generally speaking, don’t!

There are certain tasks or replacements that will add value — but be fairly inexpensive. Recently, a client moved, and after the last contents were removed, we had the interior cleaned and painted, the floors sanded, and a little landscaping improved. We did not touch the decades-old kitchen or baths. That (and strategic staging) was all it took to get multiple offers within days of going to market. Good pricing and multiple offers are the best a market can give you as a seller.

Worried about the cost of some of these processes? Selling possessions generally makes you money, donations are usually free, and cleaning/discarding is relatively inexpensive. Work on the house will have cost — but generally you do not do it unless it can dramatically improve the sale price.

If there are not funds to spend on those things, some vendors will hold their bills until settlement; other vetted companies will advance you money — based on the equity in your home — to complete repairs or cost-effective improvements. So, there is a way to get things done to maximize your proceeds.

The key to the least stressful move is process. Lay out the process up front, and follow it as best you can. Bring in someone who has managed this process before — no need to do it alone or re-invent the wheel. Involve family if possible. Most of all, follow the steps — and you will move successfully.

Peter B. Crouch is a Specialist in Mature Moves. He holds the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation from the National Association of Realtors, and was just awarded their national Outstanding Service Award. He is Associate Broker and Mentor at McEnearney Associates, and has assisted in many moves by Empty Nesters and Beyond. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Peter today at 703-244-4024. Visit his website: and find him on Instagram: @CrouchRealtyGroup.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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