First Impressions Matter

How to Stage Your Home

How to Stage a Home for Sale

Properly staging a home for sale gives you a distinct competitive advantage.  Studies have shown that well staged homes sell faster (around 30%) and at higher prices (from 3% to 10%) than similar non-staged homes.  Most experienced Realtors will assist clients in staging their homes which allows the home to be marketed at a higher price.

Staging is not the same as home preparation or repair.  The latter means fixing things that are broken.   Anything that’s broken will need to be fixed prior to closing or the purchase price will likely be reduced by a corresponding amount.  Items needing repair will surface when buyers have the home inspected by a professional after the contract is signed.

Staging a home normally involves steps of an aesthetic nature such as design, organization and overall appearance.  Your goal is to help prospective buyers envision themselves happily living in your home.  This results in the property selling faster and at the highest possible price.  Although home staging requires planning and execution, most home sellers find it a worthwhile endeavor.

Here are 20 ideas – all proven winners – to get your home in peak condition:

Grab them from the curb.  You’ve seen them.  Buyers hunkered low in their cars in front of your house, doing drive-bys before deciding whether to request a showing or attend an open house.  Make these potential buyers fall in love with your home from the street by adding potted plants and flowers, power-washing patios and walkways, weeding the garden and mowing the lawn.  It’s your first chance to make a good impression, so you’ve got to make it count.

Less is more.  Clear out as much furniture as you can.  Put it in storage, give it to Goodwill Industries or have a garage sale.  You want the room to look spacious and uncluttered.  Almost every home shows better with less furniture.  Help people envision their own furniture in the room.  Hallways and doorways, in particular, need to be clear and open.

If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now.  If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down.  If a buyer never sees it, she won’t want it.  Once you tell a buyer she can’t have an item, she will think it’s more important than it really is.  Just pack those items and replace them if necessary.

De-clutter.  Go through the house and clear off all the horizontal surfaces like kitchen and bathroom countertops.  Few things deter buyers more than a cluttered home.  They need to see your home, not your stuff.  Excessive personal items like photos, collections, personal awards, electronics and collectibles will make it difficult for buyers to see past your personal style and may deter a sale.  Taking yourself out of the picture makes it easier for buyers to imagine themselves, and their stuff, in your space.

Follow your nose.  A home should smell good.  That means no noticeable odor – no pet scent, no stale cooking smells and no cigarette smoke.  Existing odors prevent buyers from seeing the home as being theirs one day.  Sometimes people become so accustomed to the smells of their home that they don’t notice them anymore.  Have a friend whose judgment (and nose) you trust give your home the real sniff test.

If you just go through your house with Lysol before a showing, that won’t be sufficient.  Instead, eliminate scent problems at the source – scrub the house, have the air vents cleaned, replace old, smelly carpeting and smoke outside.  Remember the myth about the smell of baking bread or steaming cinnamon potpourri?  That won’t work either and buyers easily see through it.  Same with scented candles and air freshener.

Deep-six the cigarettes.  This is a corollary to the above point, but it’s so important that it needs to be emphasized.  Buyers are much more sensitive to cigarette smells than are homeowners who smoke.  If your home smells like cigarette smoke, you will immediately eliminate a substantial portion of the universe of potential buyers.  That’s reality.

Buyers are lazy.  If the property needs work  (dated wallpaper, worn carpet, scuffed paint) have it replaced now so that your buyers can get excited about moving day.  Coordinating renovations along with moving is more than a lot of buyers are prepared to undertake.  The more changes buyers calculate they’ll have to make in the home, the more concerned they get.  Fresh paint is the best bang for your buck to quickly refresh a dull, dated room.  Get rid of worn carpets and consider refinishing shabby hardwood floors.  An inexpensive new area rug is a quick fix and can disguise the look of old floors.

Learn to love white walls.  When it comes to walls, color is popular.  The problem is that the next buyer might not like the same colors.  Paint is a relatively inexpensive way to make a house look clean and fresh.  And if you’re going to repaint prior to selling, stick with popular neutral colors.  Despite the fact that it’s more boring to live in, it still appeals to a far broader audience.  Additionally, neutral colors reflects light best and makes rooms look larger.

Replace deteriorating wallpaper.  If wallpaper is peeling, especially in bathrooms, remove it and consider replacing it with a coat of paint.  Go with a neutral or match the tile.  Don’t forget the kids’ rooms if they need a fresh look.  If you don’t eliminate the old wallpaper, people will be thinking about your decorating skills from the 1980’s rather than how great their furniture will look in the house.  It’s a distraction.

Take a close look at the carpet.  Get the carpet shampooed to remove any stains or smells.  If that doesn’t work, replace it.  People do not like to buy other people’s problems, so get rid of carpet that looks dirty, soiled, or stained.  If you’re in a positon to do so, consider using wood or laminates as an alternative.  It makes the house look bigger, it’s easier to clean, and people love wood floors.

Make your home ageless.  There’s a difference between an old house and a classic home.  If the house looks 40 years old with 40-year-old paint, 40-year-old appliances and 40-year-old carpet, you have an old house and not a classic home.  By keeping everything fresh, up-to-date and well-maintained, you’ll have a solid home in an established neighborhood.  That’s attractive to buyers.

Do the baby test.  Does your potential market include families with young kids?  If so, ask yourself, “Would I put my child down on this floor to crawl around the room?”  If not, you know what you have to fix.  Similarly, if your walls sport grimy smudges or handprints, it might be worthwhile to paint.

Make it sparkle.  Think hotel clean.  Pretend that your mother or mother-in-law is coming for a visit.  Mop, dust, vacuum, wash windows (inside and out).  Remember that people will look in your cupboards, under your sinks and in your closets.  No dust, cobwebs or trash.  People looking to buy a home are extremely observant and meticulous.  They use cleanliness as an indicator of how well the home is maintained overall.

Clean your closets.  This is an often overlooked but very important consideration.  Sellers should try to empty their closets of half the things they have in them.  Partially empty closets look roomy and space sells.  Do the same thing with kitchen cabinets.  Donate your extra clothes and surplus food to a shelter or food bank.  You won’t have to worry about moving it to your next home.

Bring in maximum light.  In general, people buy space and light.  One dark room can be interesting, but if the whole house is dark, that’s a problem.  So open the blinds, turn on all the lights, and add lighting to rooms that are dark.  You want space that is crisp and vibrant.  Here’s a diabolically clever example:  One seller who really understood staging was showing her home during a particularly dreary day.  Before the showing, she threw a couple of beach towels over the rail of her deck, put up the sun umbrella and set out a pitcher of lemonade and some glasses.

Flowers improve everything.  Don’t overdo it, but fresh flowers suggest space and sunlight.  They don’t have to be expensive.  Even wildflowers picked from a field will work.  They give a home a friendly, softer feel.

Open the windows.  If it’s a nice day during spring, summer or fall, have some of the windows open.

Avoid controversy.  For example, if you have a deer head on the wall (even a really, really nice one), you might want to take it down.  You know how people are these days.  It’s also a good idea to play it safe with books and magazines on display in the house.  Anything provocative could upset certain buyers.  Be careful not to unwittingly create negative emotions.

Take advice with a grain of salt.  Don’t take the “neutral” theme too far.  People will put colors and tastes aside – to an extent – if the house is well-maintained and looks great.  Neutral is good, but condition and maintenace are equally important.

Tastefully set your house apart.  There have been real estate studies in which potential buyers were shown several different houses in similar neighborhoods, all with similar features and amenities.  The home that stood out?  The one that had yellow roses on the dining room table.  People not only remembered that detail, but they rated the entire home higher as a result.

Keep it real.  This tip requires common sense.  Don’t go overboard or you’ll look desperate.  You don’t have to go to the extreme of one seller who, before a showing, set up the bedroom to look like the hotel maid had just been there and pulled down the comforter, fluffed the pillow and placed a book open on the bed.

Bonus tip:  Get a home inspection.  Almost all buyers will have one done anyways, so get a home inspection and make any needed repairs before you put the home on the market.  Depending on where you live, the home inspection will probably run about $200 to $400 your Realtor will be able to recommend several good inspectors.

Have you ever looked at a model home or even a model apartment?  Remember how you tried to imagine what it would be like to live there?  If you liked the model, remember how you tried to imagine the enjoyment you might have there?  That feeling is exactly what you’re trying to accomplish when we talk about staging your home.  If you’ve forgotten that feeling, you might want to go out and visit a few model homes.  If you’re observant, you’ll probably pick up a few additional tricks.  To the extent you help potential buyers envision how their lives will improve if they buy your home, the faster your home will sell and the better its price will be.