Whether you’re thinking of selling your home now, or in several month’s time, it’s important to think about how your home will appear to potential buyers. Most of us tend to think that our space is the best space; the couch we’ve chosen is unmatched, that kitchen cart is a savior, the duvet cover in the master bedroom is comfortable and stylish…the list goes on. Often, though, we forget that while our tastes are great for us – they may not be the taste of the person we’re hoping will pull the trigger and buy what we’re selling. So how do we go about transforming our space, that we still have to functionally live in while waiting to sell, into a space that anyone could see themselves living in? The short answer is: staging. The long answer is really a combination of several questions: what paint color should I choose, is that couch neutral enough, how do I stage on a budget, and trends are ever changing, how do I keep my space looking timeless?
If you Google “Staging” you’ll get pages and pages of links taking you to every home site on the web. You could spend hours agonizing over the litany of tricks/tips you can glean online and in magazines. To make things easier, I’ve compiled my short list of must-do’s, should-do’s, and if-you-can-do’s. When in doubt, and if you have zero inclination to do any of these, follow the cardinal rule of presentation, ABC: Always Be Clean. Many people can look over clutter & bad furniture choices, but almost no one can look past dirt & messes.
Must-Do’s are the tasks that if you do nothing else, do these! Ideally, you’ll get the chance to do all of them, but if you can’t, just focus on the first 2:
- Clean: I’m not just talking vacuuming and mopping, though those are key, I’m talking clean those baseboards. Scrub that grout. Scour that stove. Wipe down those fan blades. Buy NEW lightswitch plates (those get so gross, trust me). Dust inside of lamps. Make your home sparkle like it’s in a Mr. Clean commercial!
- Declutter: I’m sure I sound like a broken record here, but it can be overstated how important decluttering is. No one needs to see that you haven’t opened your mail in five days. Those photos from your Bali vacation are so cute, but do you want strangers staring at the smiling faces of your kids? Easy access to your jewelry and medications is great…for you, but not for buyers. Books are wonderful and add a homey feel to your property, but keep the shelves tidy and not overflowing. If you’ve run out of space in your kitchen for kitchen items, DO NOT store them elsewhere – it suggests to the buyers that you don’t have enough storage in the kitchen.
- Wash your windows: much like eyes are the windows to your soul, windows are literally the windows to your home. Seeing as natural light is one of the highest things on buyer’s lists, it makes perfect sense that cleaning the biggest light supply into your home is important. Cleaning the windows outside and inside makes a huge impact to buyers as they’re walking through. PLUS it’s a nice selling point that that bi-yearly task has already been completed for them.
- Focus on the Front: your front yard, walkway, porch and entryway are the very first things buyers see when they approach and enter your home. Nothing says, “I take great care of my home,” more than a well cared for entrance. Cut the grass, sweep the walk, add some potted or hanging plants to the porch, and keep the entryway fresh and clean.
- Animal smells: if you’re a pet owner like myself, make sure no one can tell until they see the actual pet. Your home shouldn’t smell like pets or look like pets live there. If you have chewed furniture, cover it somehow or throw it out. If you have litter boxes, scoop fresh before every tour of your home. If you have pups, don’t forget to clean up the yard. Nothing is going to turn off buyers more than stepping in a pile of you-know-what as they end their tour.
Should-do’s are the tasks that are going to really give your home the extra oompf it may need!
- Rearrange your furniture: a lot of times, we live in convenient ways that are great to LIVE in, but not always the best way to SHOW your space. I always recommend opening up spaces by rearranging, sometimes even removing a few pieces of furniture. If you have larger rooms, think about pulling your furniture off your walls, creating a spacious airy feeling. There’s a theory that energy needs to be able to move throughout your space, so making sure furniture doesn’t touch each other and leaving wider walkways. Add lamps, light is super important to buyers.
- Paint: unless you painted in the last two years, your paint is probably looking tired and sun damaged. My advice is to always hire a professional, diy-ing paint is doable for sure, but time over money with this one. Plus, it’ll look exponentially better if a professional does it. Pick neutral colors, greys are popular but on their way out. Beiges, creams and tans are back in!
- Create gender neutral master suites: if you’re too masculine or too feminine, it might make buyers feel like the room is only big enough for one person’s items. Keep in mind that we want all our rooms to be neutral, homey and inviting. I’ve shown properties before who had huge closets, but only the wife’s clothes were there because she had so many that the husband had to put his in the next bedroom. Even though the closet was oversized by normal standards, it appeared small to my buyers because they couldn’t visualize both sets of their clothing being in that one closet.
- Fix anything that’s broken: I’d normally put this in the must-do category, but sometimes we just don’t have time or funds to get this stuff done. If you have loose hinges, squeaky doors, hard to open windows etc get to fixing those before you show your home. Having minor things be broken or not working, leaves buyers wondering what else (what bigger items) you haven’t taken care of.
Last but not least, the if-you-can-do’s! I don’t want to say these are optional, because it makes them seem less important. It’s more that these are great items that can add wow factors to your home, so if you have the time and the budget, you should look into getting them done!
- Add some mirrors: mirrors are a great way to add some style & homeyness into your space. They reflect light, open up rooms and are easy to place in any room.
- Buy new, white towels: clean towels is a sign of a household well run. White towels brighten up bathrooms (especially windowless ones) and add a crispness to your cleanliness.
- Upgrade/Add rugs: rugs add warmth, style and flavor to any room. They can get pricey, so I like to look at WayFair for inspiration and good deals!
- Plants: flowers and potted plants are a great for several reasons. They make it feel like home, they add pops of color, they symbolize light & life, and they’re just pretty.
- Be personable, without personalizing too much: we don’t want to create a sterilized environment that’s beautiful but doesn’t inspire that homey feeling. So, adding some personality to the space is key. The trick is doing that without being so personal that the average person thinks: the space is great, but not for someone with my tastes obviously. You can do this through fun throw pillows, keep them simple but use them to add color & character. Put some interesting coffee table books out, add some wall art, and keep those kids toys out just keep them organized!
Prepping your home to be show ready is going to be work, I won’t deny that. When I sold my home for the first time, I couldn’t believe how much work I had to do to get it ready – and I’m a Realtor so I thought I would know better! BUT, it shouldn’t be all consuming, you have a life to lead after all. I hope I’ve broken it down for you in easy, concise, and doable tasks. When in doubt, ABC and think about what you’re looking for in your next purchase – chances are it’s going to be the same feeling that you want buyers to have about your place.