Leaving a note (or hidden message) for your home's next buyers

One common tradition for "topping out" a newly constructed building is to have those involved in its construction add their signature or a brief message to a final beam. Once the structure is completed, this beam will be hidden out of sight – and perhaps rediscovered during renovations sometime in the future.

Homeowners have sometimes taken the opportunity to work a hidden message into their property as well. Recently, a couple renovating a bathroom in their California home was delighted to find that the previous owners had left photos of themselves and their pet rabbit after remodeling the room in 1995. The photos were accompanied by the teasing question, "What's wrong with the way we did it?!?!?"

Hiding a message for a future homeowner can be a fun and simple way to surprise someone who will live in the property in the future. If you are selling your home, you can also leave a note that will be discovered more easily.

Extensive renovations in a home offer the unique opportunity to add a message which will only be discovered when further home improvements take place. Gwendolyn Purdom, writing for the real estate site Houzz, says these include joking notes or even illustrations of the family secreted on the subfloor or underneath a kitchen counter.

The space inside a wall can be a good place to hide a message or even a gift. Kathryn O'Shea-Evans, writing for This Old House, says homeowners have found plenty of interesting things in their walls, ranging from Civil War-era tintypes to old insurance policies. Putting together a small time capsule of your own can delight someone decades from now; just make sure the item won't interfere with any electrical wiring, pocket doors, or other features in the wall.

Of course, you can also leave a letter for the new owners in a more obvious location. Setting it out in a place such as the kitchen counter or newel post, or simply taping it to the front door, will ensure that it will be discovered.

A letter to the person who bought your home can be a heartfelt expression of what the residence meant for you. Katrina Anne Willis, an author who posted an open letter to the buyers of her home, recalled how her family played flashlight tag in the backyard, held neighborhood movie nights at the garage, and danced in the kitchen while making dinner. Rachel Minkowsky, writing for the parenting site Kveller, offered a similar open letter with some of the most prominent memories formed in the home, including where her daughter took her first steps.

Your letter doesn't have to be this personal, of course. It can simply serve as a friendly welcome. Allison Verdoorn, writing for the home design site Apartment Therapy, says it can take some time to get used to a home and its quirks. The letter might share some of what you've learned over the years on how to best take care of the property. Julie Blanner, a lifestyle blogger, says it's helpful to leave the instruction manuals and warranties for any appliances remaining in the home, as well as a list of paint colors to help eliminate the guesswork if any touchups are needed.

The letter can also let the new owners in on a few of your favorite neighborhood resources. These might include cleaning services, local parks, and restaurants.

Consider leaving a small gift as well. The real estate site Zillow says sellers have left parting gifts such as flowers, baked goods, or even some firewood. Many sellers also leave helpful supplies such as toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels.

A bottle of wine, six-pack of beer, or other libations are also common housewarming gifts. However, if you decide to leave this offering, check first with the buyer's agent to make sure the new owners do not eschew alcohol.


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