The number of teleworkers (who are not self-employed) has grown enormously over the past several years. And it’s no wonder: Technology has made it even easier to work from just about anywhere, anytime (even in your pajamas if you want to). One added perk? That smug feeling of satisfaction you have when other people complain about traffic in Los Angeles, CA, or their commute times on the beltway into Washington, DC.
But working from home comes with its own set of challenges, and potentially a more formidable experience when selling your home. Working from a for-sale house means constant interruptions from real estate agents, keeping everything clean at all times (yes, even your office), and the need to vacate at a moment’s notice. Here are some workarounds on how to work from home and sell your home-slash-office.
1. Set up specific open-house hours and showing times
Carve out a little sanity — and time for conference calls — by making sure you set a schedule that works for your work habits and your real estate agent. “Place restrictions for showing times,” says Michael Kelczewski, a Pennsylvania and Delaware agent. Kelczewski, who frequently works from home and is currently selling his residence, says limiting the times your agent can show your home eases stress.
But be warned: There is a risk that you’ll miss out on potential buyers by being too regimented. Kelczewski says to consider the “scarcity principle,” which could work in your favor. If you deny access on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings because those are your busiest times, for example, the scarcity principle says that because potential buyers can’t just pop in anytime, they will really make the effort to see your home when it finally becomes accessible. Nice, eh?
2. Keep your office tidy
Albert Einstein famously said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” While a messy desk might work for you, it won’t do you any good when trying to sell your home. The solution: “Have a clever way to conceal work clutter,” says Jamie Novak, professional organizer and author of Keep This Toss That. Novak often works from home and is currently selling her house. “I have a decorative basket where I can toss the stacks of paper,” she says. If that still looks messy, here’s another trick from Novak: “Cut the end off a box, wrap it in birthday gift wrap, and drop it over the stack of paperwork.”
3. Clear out to a coffee shop
There might be times when the best course of action is to show the house when a potential buyer wants to see it, even if it’s not the best time for you. Sure, you can stay holed up in your office and wave hello when your potential buyer comes through for a look, but that’s awkward. Plus, by staying, you might sabotage the showing. Remember the Boy Scout motto in this instance: Be prepared. Keep a briefcase nearby to sweep papers and your laptop into. “Have your charging cables ready to go,” says Novak. “If you need to dash out, you can continue to work from the local coffee shop.”
If working at a coffeehouse proves too distracting or noisy for you, or if there are no good local shops to dash to, you can work in your vehicle — if you have it set up right. “Set up a mini mobile office in your car,” says Novak. “Have paper, pens, important phone numbers, a flat surface for writing (like a clipboard), and anything else you commonly reach for while working … including a nonperishable snack.”
But before you head out the door, take a few minutes to run through Novak’s staging checklist.
- Stash personal toiletries out of sight.
- Turn on lights.
- Open the curtains or blinds to let in natural light.
- Empty the trash cans.
- Put down toilet seats.
- Make the beds.
- Make sure the house smells nice.
- Take a look outside and put away any trash cans, recycling bins, and newspapers.
- Shake off the front-door welcome mat.
And don’t forget to hide important papers. “Have a way to secure any client files or confidential items,” says Kellie Tinnin, a New Mexico agent. “Make a closet or storage space available in the home that can be secured.”
4. Learn to deal with your agent’s constant interruptions
Having your real estate agent blow up your phone is usually a welcome experience for home sellers. It means buyers are interested, right? But when you’re trying to meet a work deadline, your enthusiastic agent could be an annoyance. Speak with your agent about what you want to be contacted about immediately and what can wait until later. If a potential buyer wants to come over in two hours, your agent needs to let you know, even if it means interrupting your workday. But feedback from the showings can wait until after work.
You can also speak with your agent about prescreening potential buyers, which could cut down unnecessary showings considerably. “Request that only prospective buyers who are preapproved for a loan are permitted to view the home,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. “Then task your [agent] with ensuring that criteria is met.”
5. Invest in coworking space
A coworking space, in case you aren’t familiar, is a sort of commune for freelancers, small-business owners, and telecommuters. They give anyone who doesn’t go into a regular office the chance to work alongside other professionals. They’re typically set up as offices, with private conference rooms and desk space. Most coworking spaces offer low rent, especially if you need only a desk, and most let you rent on a short-term basis — perfect if you need this option only temporarily while selling your house. Bonus: You might meet some new friends to spend happy hour with.