Today it is widely known that a house that is professionally staged and properly prepared for sale will sell faster and will sell for more money. So the question is, how much staging should I do? Should I spend hundreds of dollars on a professional stager, possibly more? The answer to this question is, no. It is not necessary to hire a professional stager. Majority of preparing your home can be done by the homeowners themselves. Why do we stage a home? We stage and prepare our home for sale to make it more desirable to potential buyers. So that they will see the home for all it has to offer. To give it that feeling of being a home instead of just another house. To make it inviting, comfortable and pleasing. As well as to make it stand out among the crowd. Now, what is it that the homeowner can do to stage their own home without the high cost of a professional? There are actually many thing you can do to accomplish this. The biggest task you can do and get the most impact from is to remove all the clutter, organize and simplify your home. It doesn't have to be complicated or costly!
- Remove unwanted items - we really don't realize how much "stuff" we accumulate until we start preparing our homes and going through closets, shelves and rooms. If in doubt throw it out or at least put in storage! This can actually be very therapeutic. Here is a great article on just that. Tension Tamers. Clutter suggests that there is not enough available storage in the home and can deter a potential buyer.
- Recycle - recycling isn't just for paper or plastic. You can also recycle old sports equipment your kids have outgrown, clothing that no longer fit, house hold items you no longer use. You can donate these to charities or have a yard sale you could earn a little extra cash to help you with moving or buying that new piece of furniture you would like for your new home.
- Organize - everything should have a place. Storage bins, mesh bags, plastic bins and baskets all make good sense when you start organizing. These can keep unsightly clutter at bay.
- Depersonalize - your home is a very personal place and it represents you, your family and your life. You want for potential buyers to see themselves in their new home. So if you have tons of family photos from Aunt Lillie's 100th birthday party, store them away until you move. Remove nick knacks and collectibles.
Now that, that's done it's time to move on to even more homeowner staging. Lets address furniture. You knew we would get there. Now that you have all the clutter out of the way and have some space to work with it is time to move some furniture around. You want to create good flow in the rooms and have furniture strategically placed to allow for movement and vision.
Creating a focal point This is when you want to be very detail oriented. Creating a focal point can at the very least re-energize a room. Lets use the living room as an example. When you walk-in stop and take a moment to ponder where the focal point should be. Let your eyes move around and determine the most aesthetically pleasing area. Maybe you have a fireplace, or a beautiful view from a window or maybe it is where the fancy built-in entertainment center is located with that large flat screen T.V. Here is a great article on Defining and Creating Focal Points.
A fireplace makes for an already existing focal point as we tend to arrange furniture around it anyway. You want to create cozy areas for conversation. You don't necessarily need to place all the furniture up against the walls to create this space but, in turn you can "float" the furniture creating an intimate conversation area. This also allows you to create areas of walk space by using the backs of furniture. Make sure furniture is the right size for the room. Oversized furniture in a small room can make the room seem very crowded with little space to move about. With the new open concept floor plans that are used today this type of staging is done more often then not. Keep it simple. Make sure room(s) are well lit. Leaving window treatments open and lighting on when showings are scheduled.
Rooms As you go through your house make sure each room has a definable purpose. In other words, if you are using that formal dining room as an office/play room you may want to set it up as a formal dining room again or if you are using that spare bedroom as a gathering room for odds and ends, you may want to rent a storage unit and place those items there and re-define that particular room as a bedroom. Show what the room was meant for. For those people who are visual it is hard to see past someone else's purposing or decorating ideas.
If a fresh coat of paint will lighten and brighten things up then you should consider doing it. Neutral colors will open the space up and dark colors swallow it up. So if you have some dark colors on the walls it is a good idea to lighten them up a bit. Wallpaper is a personal preference and not widely liked by all. Personally, I have a strong dislike to wallpaper and it would be alright with me if I never seen another piece on a wall again. Depending on how old it is it could be very easy to remove. Some of the older stuff is stuck on with glue and removal is very time consuming. But, the newer stuff just pulls off the walls so long as it was laid correctly to begin with.
Remove odors Each house has a unique set smell to it. We often are unable to smell it ourselves as we have become immune to it over time. Get a friend or neighbor to come over and help you with this one.
Be sure to clean and remove items that can hold onto odors. Inside garbage can, garbage disposal and refrigerator should all be attended to.
If you have cats get a fresh cat box and clean it each day as not to let odors build up in it. If you are an indoor smoker limit your smoking to outside the house. You may want to throw some fresh paint on the walls and have carpets cleaned if you've been smoking in the house for a while. Odors such as cigarette smoke is a big deterrent for some people. I have had a few clients not even get past the front door due to cigarette smoke.
Different people have different opinions regarding deodorizers, candles and warmers. Mine is this, if it is clean and fresh there is no need for them. If you must use one make sure it a light scent and not over powering when you walk through the door. My first thought when walking in and smelling something strong, like the strong scent of gardenias, is that there is an odor they're trying to cover up? These only mask odors and, don't get rid of them. Sometimes can make other odors worse.
Once you have finished with inside the house don't forget about that curb appeal on the outside. They have to like what they see on the outside to get them to walk in the front door. Often times the condition of the yard will reflect the conditions inside. An untidy yard can mean the same for the interior of the home. Make sure the yard looks inviting from the moment they pull into the driveway. Cut, weed and edge lawn. Clean out flower beds of debris and weeds, trim back shrubbery. If you have trees hang over the roof these need to be cut back. Regardless of whether you were selling your home you would want to do this. I can cause moisture to build up causing decay on your shingles in turn causing a leaky roof.
Pressure wash the drive, sidewalk and house to make it sparkle. Show that the home has been maintained and loved not just lived in. Take pride in what you're about to sell to someone else.
In closing Once you have your home in order as outlined here it is ready to put on the market. It will still take some upkeep during the marketing process right up until closing. It's a good idea to keep things tidy so each time a showing is scheduled you're not worrying about rushing back to your home from work to pick up clothes kids left lying around or making beds and doing last nights dishes. Ideally, if you maintain throughout the day you won't have to worry about appearances when buyers come calling.
If your Realtor has scheduled an open house or brokers caravan it is a good idea to freshens things up a little by opening some windows and letting some fresh air in for a few minutes before hand. Placing fresh flowers out, hang clean towels in the bathrooms, or a nice bowl of lemons and limes on the kitchen counter to add a splash of color can catch the eye. I actually have towels in my home I only get out when company comes for a stay so they are fresh, bright and clean. That way I am assured the children will not get something on them that stains. I will add a small vase of fresh cut flowers to the bathroom or a small dish of brightly colored, light scented potpourri. Flowers always cheer a dull room up with out a doubt. They have always been one of my favorite personal touches to make house guests feel invited.
Open blinds and window treatments to let in as much light as possible. As mentioned before well lit rooms appear larger, more inviting and warm. You want to create that "awe" moment from the time they walk through the front door and feel as if they have come home.
Keeping some or all of these ideas in mind when preparing your home will make it more appealing to the potential home buyer. It will also set your home apart from the other homes which are not quite up to par.
Good luck to you!