Checklist for When It’s Time to Upgrade from Your Starter Home

Upgrade your starter home checklist

You’ve spent some great times in your starter home, but you’ve outgrown it. You still love the home, but your needs have changed; now the cozy home seems smaller as your family grows larger. Before too long, you’ll need more spacious surroundings, a larger back yard, and the best schools.

Yup. It’s time to move from your starter home to your second one.

We’ve put together a checklist to help keep you organized—and sane—as you begin house hunting.

1. But first, strategize

upgrade your starter home

Before you begin to sell off your hand-me-down family furniture and toss your favorite beanbag chair in anticipation of furnishing your new residence, spend time strategizing for a smooth transition. 

  • Formulate a budget: Take a realistic look at your finances. You’ve probably advanced in your career and earn more money now than you did when you purchased your first home. That, combined with your home equity and partner’s earnings, could mean a much larger new home. 
  • Plan for your current residence: Figure out if you plan to sell your starter home or keep it as a rental property. If you’re selling, do you want to take a leap of faith and purchase the new house while the current one is listed, or sell it then use that cash towards the purchase? 
  • Research the schools: Research the local schools. While housing in the best school district sells for higher prices, most families are willing to pay more for this. If you now realize you are in that school district, consider alternatives to a move—a nice, big addition, perhaps?
  • Pore over online listings: Before you list your home, use apps to search online to preview homes in your budget to get a feel for your local market.
  • Find a real estate agent: If you already have a trusted agent, great! If you don’t, ask friends or family who’ve recently bought or sold property for referrals to a reliable realtor. 

2. Stage your home

upgrade your home checklist

Before the first home shoppers tour your home, give it a thorough cleaning and de-cluttering to make it more appealing. Now…go ahead and trash that beanbag chair.

  • Rent a storage unit: Renting an off-property storage location is a must-do. No, your basement won’t suffice. 
  • Clean and organize the closets: Begin removing unused items from your bedroom closets, pantry, linen closets, attic, and even the kitchen cabinets. Pack them in boxes, label them, and store them. This approach makes your closets appear larger. Plus, you’ll have a great start on your packing. 
  • Spring cleaning: Regardless of the season, a spring cleaning is necessary. Buyers perceive your dust bunnies as overall neglect. Put your best foot forward with a tidy home!
  • Fresh paint: Have the kids covered the walls with crayon marks? A new coat of neutral paint will impress home buyers; they want to move into a fresh space.
  • Remove personal items: Do you love all things monogrammed? Unless you’re trying to limit buyers to people with the same initial as you, lose the monogrammed wreath on the front door. While you’re at it, pack up and store all the family photos. 

3. Begin the house hunt

upgrade your home checklist

As you embark on this house hunt, keep your eyes open for the amenities that meet your family’s needs. 

  • Make a wish list: Begin shopping for your home with two lists in mind. Start with your must-have list, such as school district, square footage, or an easy commute. Next, create a “wish list.” Include upgrades that would be fantastic to have but you can live without—a bonus room or a hot tub, for example. 
  • Be open-minded and mindful of the budget: Let your realtor guide you in the process. Be open-minded to suggestions. Remember that a home might not be optimal right now, but you can improve it later. So, don’t sweat it if a home in your price range doesn’t have granite countertops that you’d enjoy. You can upgrade later.

4. Enjoy the process

After you’ve completed this checklist, sit back and enjoy the process. A home purchase is a significant investment, but it’s also an exciting time. While there absolutely will be bumps along this path, at the end of the journey, you’ll establish a home base for your growing family.

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