There are several steps you can do to your home to get it ready to sell. Most of these are fairly simple, but can have a big impact on both the sales price of your home, and how long it takes to sell. We sell hundreds of homes each year and we consistently see the positive reactions of buyers when they walk into a properly prepared home that is ready for sale.
Make an Entrance
You know the saying: You never have a second chance to make a first impression. The outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers see. And like it or not, the outside speaks volumes about what’s inside – and about its owner.
First thing to do is to brighten up the entryway with bold, cheerful colors. Clean and paint the porch light and mailbox. Polish or replace entryway hardware such as door knobs, knockers, house numbers, Potted plants at the entryway are inexpensive yet welcoming. This small investment can make a big impression on potential home buyers.
Most people have too much “stuff”. The most important thing you can do to improve the appeal of their home is to clear out, clean up, and get rid of clutter.
Be ruthless as you go about purging your belongings. If you haven’t used it in 3 months, box it up and store it away. If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. Make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. Any mixed feelings you have about tossing life’s accumulated belongings will quickly be replaced with a sense of relief and appreciation of your uncluttered surroundings.
Sound daunting? Take it one room at a time. If your bookshelves are bursting at the seems, clear them off and start over. It’s OK to have empty space around your books and knickknacks.
Less is More
A cluttered home can also be caused by too much furniture. People tend to line their walls with furniture — one piece after another. When professional stagers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half of the owner’s furnishings, and the house looks much bigger for it.
You don’t have to whittle that drastically, but take a hard look at what you have and ask yourself what you can live without. Another rule of thumb: If you don’t use it regularly, lose it. While you’re doing this sometimes-painful pruning, remind yourself that every square foot you free up is prime real estate.
If your couches are clinging to your walls, you’re not alone — it’s a typical decorating mistake, stagers say. There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed up against the walls, but it’s simply not true.
Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in the room is obvious. In most cases, this means keeping the perimeters clear. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, it will open up the room and make it seem larger.
Repurpose Unused Rooms
A big part of what stagers do is create fantasy spaces: an exercise room, a meditation space, an art studio, a family game room. They often take unused space such as an attic room or basement and turn it into something the homeowner always dreamed about.
If you have a room that currently serves only to gather junk, repurpose it into something that will add to the value — and enjoyment — of your home. Move boxes to a rented storage space (or better yet, have a yard sale or donate their contents to charity) and get to work creating the space you yearn for.
Suggestions: The simple addition of a comfortable armchair, a small table and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform it into a cozy reading spot. Or drape fabric on the walls of your basement, lay inexpensive rubber padding or a carpet remnant on the floor and toss in a few cushy pillows. Voila! Your new meditation room or yoga studio.
Let There be Light
Don’t forget to dress up windows for both form and function. Use minimal window treatments to replace old, heavy drapery. This ushers in natural light and makes a previously closed-in space seem larger. Use sheers and a tension rod to achieve this look on the cheap.
If privacy is paramount, top-down, bottom-up Roman shades will block the neighbors’ view of your bathtub but let you gaze at the sky while you soak. You can also use bamboo or parchment shades and simple curtain panels made from fine cotton twill or translucent linen. These materials let light stream in during the day, provide privacy at night and add touchable texture to a room. Or consider investing in sheer fabric shades with built-in blinds.
Other window treatment tips:
- If windows are narrow, extend curtain rods a foot or so on each side to suggest width.
- If your ceilings are low, hang rods right at the ceiling line and consider window treatments with vertical stripes to create the illusion of height.
Light it Up
One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. As it turns out, many of our own homes are improperly lit — either we have too few fixtures, or our lighting is too dim or too harsh (or all of the above).
To remedy the problem and make your home more inviting, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for every 50 square feet. Then install dimmers so you can vary light levels according to your mood and the time of day. This is a relatively simple project for a do-it-yourselfer, or you can hire an electrician for a couple of hours to do several at once. And while you’re at it, be sure to replace dingy, almond-colored light-switch covers with crisp white ones. New covers cost less than a buck apiece and are a quick, easy update.
Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. It’s just as important to layer lighting as it is to have sufficient wattage. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, undercabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall) lighting. This gives the room depth and texture and creates great ambiance.
Hide uplights behind potted plants. You can get these for as little as $5 and it creates increadible drama. Another hint: Place mirrors, silver or glass bowls or other reflective objects near lamps to bounce light around the room and make it glow even more.
Use Color Creatively
Painting is the cheapest, easiest way to give your home a new look. Even if you were weaned on off-white walls, take a chance and test out a quart of paint in a warm, neutral hue. You can always paint over it if you don’t like the effect. These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens.
Start with a pillow, textile or piece of art you love.”The background color is often great for walls, and you can pull out the other colors for accents around the room. You could also try painting an accent wall to draw attention to a dramatic fireplace or a lovely set of windows. Either paint the wall a contrasting — but still complementary — color or a more intense version of the paint used in the rest of the room. If you have built-in bookcases or niches, experiment with painting the insides a color that will make them pop — a soft sage green to set off the white pottery displayed within, perhaps.
If you’re too timid to whip out the paintbrushes, add punch with richly colored accessories, pillows and throws. When seasons change, or you’re ready for something new, these couldn’t be simpler to switch out.
Paint it Black
Using white-painted furniture is a tried-and-true tactic for freshening a room, but don’t forget its opposite: a coat of satiny black paint can revive tired furnishings and lend a chic, dramatic flair to just about any space. Painting an old piece black immediately updates it. Black furniture has a graphic quality, provides contrast and makes a real impact.
Not only does black work with every other hue, it makes the colors surrounding it pop, and melds with most any decor, from vintage to ethnic to modern. The key, as always, is moderation: Use black as an accent in picture frames, lampshades, accessories and small pieces of furniture.
Bring the Outdoors In
Staged homes are almost always graced with fresh flowers and pricey orchid arrangements, but you can get a similar effect simply by raiding your yard. Take clippings of branches or twigs and put them in a large vase in the corner of a room to add height. It’s a great structural piece that doesn’t cost anything.
It’s also an easy way to incorporate seasonal greenery. Budding magnolia clippings or unfurling fern fronds herald the arrival of spring; summer blooms add splashes of cheerful color; blazing fall foliage warms up your decor on chilly autumn days; holly branches heavy with berries look smashing in winter; and airy feather-grass plumes add elegance and texture any time of year.
Above all, get creative! Don’t be scared to try something different. Just about every professional stager has tales of home sellers who, upon seeing their once-tired abodes transformed, were so blown away by the results that they decided to stay put. Who knows? You, too, may find you love your “new” home so much that you’ll never want to give it up.
Staging your Home for Sale
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), properly “staged” homes sell 50% faster and sell for 6% to 10% more than non-staged homes. What is “staging? It is the preparation of a home for sale, normally by a professional who specializes in staging.
While preparing your home for sale does not require a professional staging company, the benefits often outweigh the cost. Typically if your home lists for over $500,000 you may want to look at a professional staging company. They are typically trained to look objectively at your home as a product, and “merchandise” it so that you receive maximum dollar for your home. Costs vary depending on the work needed, but typcially the return on investment from hiring a professional stager runs in the neighborhood of 400%!
Even if you don’t hire a professional staging company, here are some tips on how you can optimize your home for sale.
Below is a video of an interview I did with Kathy Swan, owner of Two Swans Staging.