How to Prepare for A Move

Preparing for a move is no small task. If you’re tackling life changes like a growing family, a new job, or new schools while moving, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with your tasks and to-dos, especially if you haven’t done it before. 

With a change as big as planting or re-planting your roots, there’s no question too big or small. Whether you need advice on where to start, the logistics of selling your home (and buying a new one), home improvements that yield the highest ROI, or preparing for showings, we’re here to help.

Where do I start?

Buying and selling homes simultaneously can be a tricky process, one no one should navigate alone. First things first, it’s time to find a REALTOR®. Our real estate agents at Urban Acres have the experience to help you juggle your sale and purchase all while taking care of the pesky details that, frankly, you may not have time for. 

Remember, your REALTOR® should fit your needs, not the other way around. That’s why we like to make things easier for you. Whether you’re looking for someone who has a specialty in first-time homebuying, graduated from the University of Iowa, or shares your values of giving back to the community, that information is at your fingertips on our unique Find an Agent page. Here, we highlight both the professional and personal sides of all of our agents. On the professional side, you can easily find each agent’s specialties,  experience, titles, and certifications. On the personal side, you can find out more about their hometowns, passions, volunteer work, family, and more!

Do I buy and then sell? Or sell and then buy?

This one doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. Since every transaction and timeline is different, it can be difficult to decide on the order of buying and selling your home first or doing it simultaneously. 

Here are some important factors to consider:

  • The average time on the market for similar homes in your area
  • Any updates or remodeling plans necessary for selling your current home
  • Ability to afford two mortgages while waiting for your home to sell
  • Can you qualify for a second mortgage while the first is outstanding? Hint: Check with your lender on this one!

Overall, the order will largely depend on the state of the market in your area and your financial situation. Need someone who can educate you about the local market or want some advice on which route you should take? Reach out to us! The Urban Acres team is happy to help.

Do I need to be moved out of my home for showings?

Simply put, no! It’s up to you to decide what kind of access you’d like to offer potential buyers who tour your home. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the more limitations you put on this access, the more difficult it may be to sell. 

If you’re still living in the home, private showings and open houses are the best options. If you have already moved out of the home, then any option for showings will work well as prospective buyers will have more flexibility to see the home.

The most popular type of showings are private showings. This is when a buyer’s agent schedules an appointment within a specific time frame to tour your home with only their client. A major benefit to private showings for sellers is the guarantee that these potential buyers are qualified. You’ll be opening your home only to serious buyers whose finances are prepared to make an offer if they like what they see. If you’re still living in the home as a seller, another perk to a private showing is the ability to add scheduling limitations. For example, you can request at least 24 hours notice for a showing so you have time to tidy up and make plans to be out of the home at the time of the appointment.

Open houses are another option to show your home. Unlike private showings, anyone can enter your home at the time of an open house. So while you may be attracting a couple ready to make an offer on their first home, you may also be welcoming your home to nosey neighbors. On the upside, open houses are a great way to gauge interest in your home and incite some competitive nature to motivate potential buyers if the home draws a crowd.

How should I prepare my home for sale?

Renovations and Repairs

In a hot market, the demand will often outweigh the need for updates and renovations in a home. While Iowa City has seen average time on market lows of 30 days multiple times during 2022 and 2023, the market remains competitive. According to data from the Iowa City Area Association of REALTORS®, in February 2024 the median time on the market (when a home was listed on the MLS until when an offer has been accepted by the seller) was 32 days for single-family homes and 23 days for condos. While these stats are promising for sellers, it begs the question “What home updates are necessary for a successful sale?”

With quick sales on hot homes in previous years, sellers had the leverage and were able to sell their homes for top dollar with or without new fixtures and renovations. While low inventory still points to a seller’s market, it’s important to note that the longer homes continue to remain on the market, the more leverage buyers have as they negotiate the home sale. 

First, consider if your home needs any big-ticket repairs and renovations. These include HVAC replacements, roof or siding repair, foundational damage, hot water heaters, mold, and more. In the eyes of buyers, many of these repairs can be associated with a lack of routine maintenance to your home, so it’s important to discuss a plan to address these repairs with your REALTOR® before listing your home.

If your home doesn’t need repairs and you simply want it in pristine condition to boost your home’s value, focus on areas with the most wear and tear. If yielding a high ROI without a large investment is your goal, consider small renovation projects in high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms. In general, since these are two areas of the home that your family and guests will spend the most time in, these are frequently areas that are inspected the closest by sellers. Aside from new appliances and fixtures in these areas, consider repainting or refinishing cabinetry, adding fresh hardware, and refinishing flooring to make them pop.

Adding a fresh layer of paint throughout your home is a relatively quick way to give your home a polished, new look, as long as you don’t cut corners. For example, a DIY, streaky layer of paint may detract from the value of your home instead of add to it. If you know your limits with a brush or roller—it may be best to either leave it as is or hire a professional!

Want to learn more about smart investments you can make to sell your home? Find a list of home improvement projects worth the bang for your buck in our 7 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value Before Selling blog. Remember, depending on the market in your area, different projects can yield different ROIs. If you’re considering updates to your home before selling, consult with a REALTOR®! They’ll help you decide if the money is worth investing, and figure out how to prioritize such, or decide if it’s something to negotiate with the buyers—or if it’s something to negotiate with the buyers. 

Depersonalizing and Decluttering

It’s important that buyers are able to picture themselves and their future in the home you are selling, that’s why cleaning up personal items is crucial to a quick home sale. As you clean, collect, and store family photos, children’s art, religious symbols, items related to your hobby, certificates, and other items with significant ties to you or your family.

Similarly, it’s hard for buyers to picture the house as their own if your styling and belongings are strewn throughout. Tidying up and ridding your home of clutter will help your home feel more clean and spacious to buyers. Focus on rooms that are frequented the most, like the kitchen, living room, and bathrooms, first, before making your way through to other spaces in your home. 

As you tidy your home, this is also a great time to decide what you want to keep, donate, or sell ahead of your next move. If you’re looking to clean up for showings, try packing items that aren’t regularly used and placing them in a storage unit. That way, they’re all ready to go once it’s time to move! 


This previous listing of Whitney Russell featured open shelving, staged by Evolve Staging & Design.

On the flip side, empty homes can be equally as difficult to visualize as their new home and are easier to forget. That’s where staging comes in. 

While not every home needs staging, it’s an added benefit that can draw people in. By creating a striking memory of a home or space, staging can help keep your home at the forefront of buyers’ minds and give your home a competitive edge compared to others on the market in your area.

If the home you’re selling has unique features or extra spaces that could be used in creative ways, staging is a great way to showcase it. Whether it’s open concept cabinets in the kitchen (like this previous listing of Urban Acres REALTOR® Whitney Russell shown above), a spare room that could be used as a playroom or hobby room, or another unique space; staging helps create a vision by giving potential buyers suggestions on how to use unique features in a home.

If you opt to stage your home, know that you don’t have to stage every inch of the space. Focus on the main living areas like living rooms, the entryway, kitchen/dining room, and don’t forget about the primary bedroom and bathroom!

Want to know more about how to stage your home? Our REALTORS® can help, we even have a couple of certified stagers on our team, and check out our Everything You Need to Know About Staging blog.

Let’s Get Started!

Looking to connect with a REALTOR® about selling your home? Have more questions about the selling and buying process? Getting ready to list your home and prepare for a move? The Urban Acres team is here to support you and your real estate goals!

Meet the agents that will make your home selling process a breeze and let’s get to planning!

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