The Home Selling (and Buying) Checklist


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Category: Buying & Selling a Home

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My husband and I currently own a condo in Chicago and we’re looking to buy a fixer upper in our same area. I have big dreams to transform a property that needs lots of TLC into a space that is perfect for our family.

The problem? The market is pretty slow right now. We’ve had a horribly cold winter and my realtor thinks a lot of people are waiting until the weather warms up to list their homes (fingers crossed!). Makes sense to me. I certainly don’t want to galavant around the city going to open houses when it’s five degrees outside!

But the thing is … I’m a huge planner. I hate sitting idle waiting for things to happen. So while my dream home might not be available just yet, here are the tasks I’m getting done now, so when that perfect home does come on the market we are ready to pounce on it!

Prepping Our Home to Sell

The biggest item on my to-do list is preparing our condo to sell. It’s in amazing shape (if I do say so myself!), but there are still a few things that need some sprucing up before we allow tons of strangers to come critique it from top to bottom.

Use This House Work List to Start Cleaning What Matters

Being cooped up inside all winter has given me ample opportunity to show my home some love and attention. Here are a few things I’ve done around our condo over the past few months.

  • Deep cleaned every nook and cranny (this list is a great reminder for some of those hidden spots you may forget!)
  • Touched-up paint on the walls, baseboards, and trim
  • Took care of a few nagging chores (like fixing a leaky faucet and tightening door knobs).

If you’re in the same boat as I am, I suggest taking a walk around your home with a paper and pen in hand. Jot down areas that need some TLC and then make a plan of attack to get them done while you have the free time.

Purge and Declutter Like Marie Kondo

The Marie Kondo craze is happening at the perfect time for me, as we recently did a major purge of our entire house. I shared my experience with her methods here, but long story short … our home is feeling a lot lighter now!

This is key when it comes to showings because I’m fully expecting people to be peeking in our cabinets and closets. Afterall, the goal is to make your house appear like it’s where they will live, not me!

I’ve also removed some personal items, cleared countertops, and pared down our home decor (my biggest vice!). I also read this post with even more tips to get my home prepped for the spotlight. Even though we’re not having showings just yet, I’ll be ready when the time comes.

Get Your Real Estate Photos Early

This task was one I didn’t think of all by myself. My friend recently sold her home really quickly right after finding her dream place. I asked how she got her listing ready so fast and she mentioned that she actually had photos taken of her place months ago!

Why so early? She wanted to get photos of her exterior when there wasn’t snow on the ground, so she ended up hiring a professional photographer last fall to document her entire home. Genius!

I immediately made plans to get photos of our home completed. That way, we would have that monumental task done when we were ready to list our place. If you’re doing real estate photos yourself, this post is filled with lots of great tips!

Prepare Your Listing (With an Agent)

Because we’re new to buying and selling at the same time, we’re using a real estate agent for the process. During this down time, we’ve chatted with her a number of times to get the selling portion of the process figured out and ready to go.

What did our agent actually do? She helped:

  • Finalize our listing price
  • Gather comps for similar properties in our neighborhood
  • Document all the most important information for the listing itself

We also provided her with a list of all of the upgrades we’ve made to our place, so she could take that into account when pricing and doing the write-up about our home.

All of this was a process and it required several weeks of back and forth communication. Getting it done ahead of time is such a weight off of our shoulders! Now we can focus our attention on searching for our new place, and when it happens we’ll be confident that we can list our current home immediately!

Prepping to Buy a New Home

Photo of a House

Even though we’ve focused on the selling portion of this process, I haven’t let buying fall to the wayside. Here are a few things my husband and I have been doing as we prepare to buy in our area.

Update (and Get) Your Mortgage Broker

It has been four years since we last purchased a home. A lot has changed in our lives, including our finances and jobs. We figured a 15 minute call with our lender was worth the time upfront. We had her review where things are at right now so we could make a solid gameplan for our new home budget.

If you’re in the same position of recent changes, this is a worthwhile task to complete before you are knee deep in open houses and have to frantically get pre-approved for a loan.

Explore Other Neighborhoods

Chicago is filled with tons of amazing neighborhoods and we’ve grown to love the area where we currently reside. However, for our new place, we’re very open to moving to another area. While there aren’t a ton of open houses to peruse just yet, we have spent a few weekends exploring other neighborhoods outside of our own. These adventures have opened our eyes and have expanded our search for our new home sweet home.

Take advantage of this time and leisurely browse outside of your target area. Be curious! That way, you can be 100% sure you’re in love with your potential buying area.

Browse Online Like Crazy!

For the past two months, I’ve checked websites like Redfin, Zillow, and MLS I love when a new home pops up on the market and I can see if it fits our requirements! Even though it’s been slow moving, keeping tabs on what’s available and the price points is invaluable research for me.

Because of this, I have a much better idea of what I want, not to mention what’s a good deal for when the right property pops up. So even if you’re not seeing anything you love right now, don’t stop browsing! You never know when your next home will appear in your inbox!

I’m excited to see what the spring market has in store for me and the Chicagoland area. If you too are in this season of waiting, I hope you make the most of your time and check some of these tasks off of your to-do list.

Good luck to all of us as we search for our dream homes!

The Unexpected Perks of Local Moves


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Category: Local Moving

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Often when people move, it’s across the country or at least across the state. But for my recent move, it was just about seven blocks away! Yes, I just completed a local move. And I’m a little surprised about all the unexpected perks.

Here’s the story: My husband and I are expecting our first child and have had our eyes peeled in our “dream neighborhood” for over a year. This neighborhood came with a much better school district, a house big enough to accommodate our growing family, and a close-knit community that we were eager to join.

So although it seems silly to think we put in so much effort for a move just seven blocks away, we think it was well worth the investment and are so happy with the decision.

What We Learned

We didn’t have to be as organized.

A lot of my friends have moved across the country and in doing so, have had to really focus on their moving gameplan because it came with some serious logistics. How many days and miles do you need the moving truck for? Who will drive the moving truck and who will drive the family’s cars? What do you gotta bring on the moving truck to survive the few days en route?

Figuring out this information wasn’t exactly impossible for them, but I found out (the easy way) that common logistic problems definitely didn’t sneak up on me because our move was local.

Scheduling and driving a rental truck was easy-peasy.

To save money, I opted for a Hybrid Move. Translation: I hired Helpers for the heavy lifting, but rented and drove the moving truck myself. Because my move was local, when I was choosing the truck I needed, my priorities were strictly around the size. Nothing else.

Here’s another thing: Often times during long-distance moves, new homeowners need to research a truck that has extra seating, valuable leg room, USB or GPS capabilities, etc. Guess what? That extra information didn’t matter so much to me as I was zipping back and forth. Plus, the rental process was a breeze because there were so many trucks available in our area that fit our minimal requirements.

4 Cases Where You Really Should Move to Save Money

If you like to burn money, don’t read this post.

Even details like where or when I needed to drop the truck off were far less complicated because I was going to pick-up and drop-off at the same location, which meant I was dealing with one salesperson the entire day. And yes, he quickly got to know me when I picked it up and was very flexible on when I brought it back. Repition is nice.

Plus, I’m not necessarily “used to” driving a 15-foot moving truck, but I can do anything for 7 blocks, right?! I would have been a bit more hesitant to drive a solo mission across the country, but zipping around a neighborhood I was already familiar with was definitely a perk that came along with this local move.

My neighbors were a huge resource.

When we moved into our new house, we needed an extension ladder to get up on the roof right away. The homeowner before us left several decorative ornamental pieces on the siding around our home and I couldn’t stand to look at these eyesores another day! You’re probably laughing at me, but seriously, a missing extension ladder was the only thing holding me back.

Google Map image of my new home.


Sure, we could have purchased one, but they’re expensive (like almost $200!) and it would’ve taken up quite a bit of non-existent room in our limited garage space.

But – yet again – because we still lived so close to our old house, we were able to borrow the ladder from our old neighbor! We drove it the seven blocks to our new house, used it, did a happy dance on our lawn once the job was done, then drove it right back to our old digs. I had no idea that the network we made in our old neighborhood would pay off so quickly, but staying local does have its perks … especially when you find yourself in a bind!

Potential financial overlaps pay off … big time!

Paying two mortgages at the same time is not fun, but ironically for the few days that we had possession of both our old house and the new house was pretty amazing in terms of moving perks. If you’re moving locally and have the chance to close on your new house just a few days before the old ones, do it! I can’t begin to tell you all of the hidden perks that came along with this situation.
For one, we were able to accomplish a lot of our DIY projects in the new house without having to live through the mess. We demoed the trim, added new trim, painted the walls, and had the floors re-finished all before we had to move into our new place. This was an epic success because we were not only able to dodge the mess and dust, but these jobs were so much easier (and quicker) to accomplish without the nuisance of all of our delicate, new furniture.

And speaking of all my “stuff”, after the DIY dust settled, we started bringing over the light-weight boxes to our new home. Anytime we would drive to the new house, we would fill up our cars with a few boxes and before we knew it, a lot of our stuff was already there and it wasn’t even moving day yet!

I can’t stress enough how much time, money and stress we were able to save thanks to this overlapping, local ownership.

We leisurely unpacked our wardrobes, bathroom essentials, and entire kitchen before moving day. When moving day finally arrived, we needed to hire the minimal amount of Helpers, then, the entire job was done in two hours! Plus, the unpacking process was a lot less stressful because nothing needed to be unpacked immediately since the closets, bathrooms and kitchens were already done.

With the help of the movers, moving day turned out to be relaxing (yes, that’s a thing!) … a welcome perk I definitely didn’t see coming.

The transition of utilities was seamless.

When we called about canceling some of our monthly utilities, some of the companies quoted us a cancellation fee because we would be ending our contract. But much to our surprise, a lot of these cancellation fees were waived if we had these services transferred over to our new house instead. We obviously opted for that option, which made the transition pretty seamless and much more affordable.

It also made paying our bills a whole heck of lot less time-consuming because we didn’t have to set up new automatic pay accounts through our bank for all of these new utility companies. So we could continue making payments and the utilities continued just like usual. It was definitely a win-win!

All our food stayed fresh.
How to Pack Up a Kitchen - Fridge, Pantry, and Freezer

Another unexpected perk was not as significant as the previous ones, but one I still appreciated!

In a long distance move, transferring your frozen or refrigerated food is another task that needs some pre-planning and an exact game plan. Groceries are far too expensive to let them go to waste because of poor planning. But in my local move, none of this pre-planning was necessary. No cooler (or planning) necessary! I don’t know about you guys, but I could get used to this trend of not having to pre-plan during a move!

Long story short, my seven block move came with some pretty unexpected perks that ending up saving me time, money and stress. Some of our family and friends rolled their eyes at us when we announced that we were hopping just one neighborhood over, but I’m happy to report it wasn’t that big of a deal to do, and the perks for us were huge; Even if it’s just seven blocks away from our old one!

The DIY Playbook are Bridget and Casey, two crafty bloggers writing out of Chicago about cool DIY projects, lifehacks and money saving techniques. After 15 years of blogging, they believe that if they can figure out how to DIY it, you can definitely do it too.

Showing Your Home? These Are the First Impressions That Matter


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To us, staging your home to sell is similar to going on a first date.

You set up this date in hopes to meet your future spouse. You don’t know if that’ll be the case but there’s always the hope, right? If you’re hoping to land “the one”, chances are you’re going to put some effort into prepping for this first date. We feel the same is true when it comes to staging your home to sell.



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