My husband and I have gone house hunting several times, and it never ceases to amaze me how awful some houses look when they’re on the market. As I walk through the house, I’m thinking, “They expect someone to buy the place looking like this?!” I’ve wondered the same thing while looking at real estate listings online. As I scroll through the photos, I think, “Wow. They need to find a new realtor.” If you don’t believe me, just click here. There are entire websites dedicated to showing you how not to list a home.
If you are willing to put in a little time and effort, there are several inexpensive things you can do to make your home desirable to potential buyers. Remember, you and your realtor are advertising a product. Effective marketing is crucial. Think about the last car commercial you saw on TV. The ad probably didn’t emphasize how many cubic feet of leg room or what kind of tires the car has. Instead, it went something like this: a young, attractive couple gets into the car and drives through an exciting city, arriving at an expensive restaurant where they toss the keys to the valet and head inside for a romantic dinner. Am I right? The advertisers aren’t just selling a car – they’re selling a lifestyle. You are led to believe that you will have a better life if you buy that car. When staging a house, your job is to convince potential buyers that their lives will be better once they buy this home.
1. Curb Appeal
You can give your home’s curb appeal a boost by doing some landscaping. It doesn’t have to look like the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. A few pretty flowers and some fresh mulch go a long way! Also, check the yard and exterior of the home for anything that needs repair, maintenance, or cleaning, such as loose pavers, dirty siding, or clogged gutters. The house and yard should look well maintained. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, I would have a beautiful yard!”
2. First Impression
Make the main entrance look inviting. If you have a porch, style it so potential buyers can picture themselves sitting there, enjoying a good book and a glass of lemonade. The entrance should impress potential buyers so much they will envision themselves proudly answering the door when their friends come to visit. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, I would have friends over all the time!”
3. Clutter Buster
If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: clear the clutter from your house. If you have to rent a small storage unit while your house is on the market, do it. (Just don’t park a portable storage unit in your driveway while the house is for sale!) Potential buyers need to view the home’s interior, but they can’t see it if it’s buried under furniture, knick-knacks, papers, clothes, and toys. Eliminating clutter makes the house look bigger. Try to get everything off the floor except for rugs and essential furniture. In the kitchen, clear the counters and take everything off the refrigerator (magnets, notepads, pictures, etc.). Clear the counters in the bathrooms, too.
Some professional home stagers will tell you to remove all family photos from the home. I disagree. A few well-placed photos can show that your house is home to a happy family. Just make sure your walls (and bookshelves) aren’t cluttered with picture frames and other wall décor. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, my house would be clutter-free!”
4. Storage Space
Here’s the tricky part…when you clean up the clutter, you can’t hide it in the closets. Potential buyers will be looking inside all the closets and cabinets to see if there is enough storage space. If the closets are over-stuffed it sends a message that the house is lacking storage. Try to leave 20-30% of the space in your closets empty. Organize the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and any linen closets. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, I would be so organized!”
5. Clean, Clean, Clean
Clean the house, clean it again, then clean it some more. I can’t emphasize this enough! Clean everything from the ceiling fans to the baseboards. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, because potential buyers will scrutinize those rooms. A beautiful kitchen or master bath can sell the house for you. Confession: Derek and I bought our first house because of the master bathroom. We still talk about how much we loved that bathroom!
Also, do your best to make the house smell good. Derek and I once toured a house that smelled like a cat’s litter box from the moment we walked in the front door. We eventually found the offending box in an upstairs bathroom. It was a great house, but we had to pass because we didn’t think we could ever remedy the terrible smell.
Clean your house thoroughly so realtors can show it looking its absolute best. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, my house would be so clean!”
6. Let Your Light Shine
Make the home as light and bright as possible. If you have dark colors on the walls, consider painting them a light neutral color instead. I would also suggest replacing any heavy drapes with sheer curtains to allow more light into the home. Remember all the cleaning we just talked about? Don’t forget to wash the windows! Also, be sure to clean the light fixtures and replace any dead light bulbs. An abundance of light makes the house look cheerful. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, I would be so happy!”
7. Create an Oasis
Make an effort to create a master bedroom with a restful vibe. Paint the walls a light color and put some luxurious (looking) linens on the bed. Style the nightstands with items such as reading lamps, pretty books, and fresh cut flowers. Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, I would have a chance to relax!”
8. Define the Purpose
Give every room a clear purpose. For example, if your house has a formal living room that you don’t use, stage it as a home office. If you have several bedrooms, stage one as a guest bedroom or hobby room (assuming your hobby is not taxidermy). Potential buyers should think, “If I lived here, I would really enjoy this space!”
9. Outdoor Living
In addition to sprucing up the front yard, you can give the backyard a facelift with some landscaping and a designated place to lounge or eat. Structures like decks, fences, and garden sheds should be in good repair. Be sure to remove clutter in the yard, too. I’m looking at you, garden gnome! Toys, lawn & garden items, and decorations can be distracting. Create a space where potential buyers will want to play with their kids or pets. People tend to associate outdoor living with a healthy lifestyle. Potential clients should think, “If I lived here, I would spend more time outdoors!”
10. Professional Photos
I have a strong opinion on this. If your realtor doesn’t hire a professional photographer to photograph your home, you need a new realtor. Here’s why: potential buyers are busy. They don’t have time to walk through every house that might work for them. They will most likely look at listings online and narrow down their options based on the photographs. If your photos aren’t attractive, potential buyers may not even bother to visit your home in person.
Remember, you and your realtor are in the advertising business. Staging is essential to your marketing strategy. If you need help, I recommend hiring a professional stager. Many realtors will offer to hire a home stager as part of their services, so take advantage! A staged home is more likely to sell in a timely manner and at a higher price. Good luck and best wishes for a successful sale!