How to Downsize Your Home Quickly: Ready, Set, Purge!

Plot twist! Your home sold way faster than you thought it would, and now the countdown to move-out day begins.

You’d hoped to sell off 5,000 pounds worth of furniture piece by piece for an easy transition to your one-bedroom by the beach. But this new deadline leaves you no wiggle room. You’ve got to figure out how to downsize your home quickly, at breakneck pace.

In a time when prospective downsizers exceed upsizers 3 to 1 in the senior population, more people will be looking to streamline the stressful but liberating process of paring down years of accumulated belongings—which gets even tricker if you’re on a time crunch!

So what’s the plan? Take a page from a real estate agent with 26 years of helping clients move house, and a retiree we spoke with who shedded 30 years worth of stuff in 24 hours.

A table for sale to help downsize a home quickly.
Source: (Kaboompics)

Offer up furnishings and other items to the buyers of your home

In hot seller’s markets, homes will sell in as few as 36 days on average. The truth is your house could get snatched up in a half hour if it’s in good condition and priced correctly.

So if you’re tackling a daunting move, the best course of action is to assume your house will sell fast and get proactive.

Top-selling Denver real estate agent Ali Van Westenberg suggests that before you list your home for sale, discreetly place a “For Sale” card on any pieces of furniture or personal items you know you don’t want to take with you. If anyone wants to make a purchase during open houses or showings, then you’ve just made progress.

Take it a step further: Call your open house a “moving sale” where people can come through for a house tour and also do a little shopping. This could kill two birds with one stone: generate offers on your house (maybe spark a bidding war) and get rid of a bunch of stuff at once.

Once you have buyers lined up (or in the event that you already do) ask if they’d want to purchase anything or offer to leave items for free.

Note that if you list pieces of furniture or any other items in the purchase contract for your home, there should be an addendum specifying that the items have no value.

That’s because a mortgage lender is financing the home itself, not its contents, explains Van Westenberg.

Woman using computer to outsource downsizing assistance to an estate sale firm.
Source: (Kaboompics)

Outsource the job to an estate sale firm

If your goal is to liquidate nearly everything in your home, one traditional way to downsize quickly is to hire an estate sale firm to come in and price the items on your behalf, then sell what they can for you.

An estate sale is only appropriate if you can expect to clear at least $3,000 and your stuff is in generally good condition, according to the National Estate Sales Association.

One issue you may face is that estate sale firms are traditionally booked weeks in advance; however, Van Westenberg says a seasoned real estate agent should be able to use their local connections to help you find a company that will accommodate your timeline.

Professional liquidators also typically require that you leave your home so they can do their work, so you’d have to stay at a hotel or with family or friends for a stint. The good news is, the entire process can wrap in about two weeks.

An online estate sale could be another option. Everything But The House, for example, determines whether your stuff is the right fit for them to sell after a consultant does an in-home visit, says Jacquie Denny, EBTH co-founder. Then your items go up for sale online for 7 days, with EBTH shipping off all sold items on a sliding scale commission. Then, the company donates or trashes rest on your behalf.

Adam Gordon, spokesman for another online estate sale firm, Maxsold, says:

“We accept every seller …  So long as the client is OK with one of our two service offerings (and the fees associated with it) we will sell anything that still has functional use.”

Expect to pay an estate sale firm anywhere from 30%-60% of your proceeds.

Coffee and book on coffee table for sale to help downsize quickly.
Source: (Free-Photos/ Pixabay)

Going to DIY? Follow these pro tips to sell what you can

The cyber-world is slowly making the old-standby garage sale obsolete, says Liana George, owner of By George Organizing Solutions. If you want to sell-off a bunch of stuff quickly on your own, start with the web.

Make sure that you…

  • Take good pictures of every item.
    Show the item from multiple angles and make sure the photos aren’t blurry.
  • Post your items in more than one place to increase your selling chances.
    Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, Letgo, and Varagesale are all easy to use. Unless you’re an old hand at eBay, don’t attempt to use it for the purposes of making quick sales, the experts concur.
  • Stay honest in your item descriptions.
    Describing a piece as in “good condition” when an item has battle scars—even if they don’t show in a photo—will end up wasting you and a buyer’s time. Also, make sure to include accurate measurement details for each item.
  • Use a strict “no-hold” policy on your items.
    Gilbert wanted to move everything out in one day, and specified that if the first buyer who texted, emailed, or phoned saying they’d stop by for an item didn’t show up within a certain time frame, they’d lose out to the second interested party.
  • Get aggressive with your pricing. 
    Talk to your partner[s] in the sale to decide what price would entice a buyer. If a $50 price on that sterling silver tea set would tempt you, but you’re ambivalent at $75, tag it at $50. As the day goes by, consider slashing the price you’ve posted for anything that doesn’t generate early interest.
  • Set clear expectations for pick-up or delivery.
    Specifying that the buyer must take away any large items is important. “However, if you have a truck and can offer to deliver it, you certainly can do that,” suggests Donna Smallin Kuper, author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness.

Get in the giving spirit with generous donations

If you’re setting out for downsizing blitz, Fritz Gilbert, founder of the TheRetirementManifesto.com, has been in your shoes.

In 2016 Gilbert and his wife sold their house quick and had a brief 30 days to purge enough stuff from their 5-bedroom house so they could move into a cabin without much storage.

“Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can sell everything you no longer want,” says Gilbert, who tells the story of a legendary single Saturday marathon clear-out on his website.

The priority wasn’t “making the most money,” adds Gilbert—it was to shed rooms full of stuff by moving day. Besides, donating stuff can be so rewarding, says Gilbert, recounting a family who was thrilled to have his old worn sofa.

Plus, you may decide it’s not worth the hassle of posting photos, and making an appointment with a buyer, just to collect a couple of dollars selling your 10-year-old cookie cutters or old picture frames.

Another idea? “Go to DonationTown.org to find a charity near you that will come and pick up your stuff for free,” advises Smallin Kuper.

Or take the simple route: donating can be as easy as walking to the curb and marking items, “Free.” Then, drum up interest among your neighbors by posting a callout on Nextdoor about your stuff that’s up for grabs.

Phew, you just pulled off a record-pace downsizing blitz!

Selling your home fast is a blessing (even though it might feel like a curse), so roll with the punches and thank your lucky stars that you’re not sitting on the market for months. And no matter how tired you are, don’t forget to take a minute and celebrate your downsizing victory.

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