Why stage a house? “Buyers can only imagine what they see, not what it’s going to be,” says Barb Schwarz, a broker who now focuses entirely on staging homes with her International Association of Home Staging Professionals. “If you don’t clean the carpet or don’t take down the flocked wallpaper or the teenager’s walls are painted bright purple, the buyer can’t envision it any other way.”
If done well, staging makes a remarkable difference. “We took over a house that was on the market for six months, didn’t change the price, staged it, and it sold in 18 days,” says Realtor® Paul Conti, who with his wife Ginger stages and sells houses with Re/Max Valley Properties in San Jose, California.
Schwarz, who says she invented the concept and term of home staging, claims that 95 percent of homes staged by her accredited students sell in an average of 11 days, versus an unstaged home’s 90 days, and with an average increase in sales price of 17 percent. The National Association of Realtors® has also touted the benefits of staging.
Follow these 11 tips from professional stagers to give your house an amazing new look:
Start at the Street
Curb appeal isn’t just a catchy phrase created to boost landscapers’ income. It’s a crucial first impression that can make buyers either wary of stopping to look or else eager to step inside. Make sure that your lawn and garden look great, trash cans and bikes are put away, house numbers are attractive and easy to see, the front door is spectacular (because you’ve replaced or painted it and perhaps updated the hardware), and you have attractive potted plants by the door.
Freshen the Foyer
The second impression comes the minute a potential buyer steps inside your home. Coats on a rack, shoes underneath and keys and other doodads in a dish on a console table may show that you’re a fabulous organizer, but this look is not the way to sell a home. Put the coats and shoes in a closet, the keys in your purse and a vase of flowers on the table.
Enforce the One-Quarter to One-Half Rule
Most homes have way too much furniture and accessories. Don’t just straighten up your clutter, remove it. Consider putting at least a quarter of your furniture in storage, a third of your books in boxes and at least half of your knickknacks away. Use the same rule with cabinets, closets and counters. If they’re stuffed full, buyers will think they’re too small. Keep them tidy and one-third to one-half empty (place just a few things on each shelf). Don’t forget to pare down your outside furnishings and accessories, too.
Clean ‘Til You Drop
Or hire a cleaning crew to come regularly while your home is on the market, or at least for a one-time super-cleaning. Don’t skip windows (inside and out), behind the toilet, bathroom grout, under sinks. Actually move your furniture to vacuum behind and under it.
Highlight the Architecture
Arrange your furnishings to frame — not obscure — views, fireplaces and other architectural details. Put tall objects (furniture, vases, paintings or plants) against tall walls. Highlight, don’t block, the traffic flow. Grab a couple of sturdy friends and play with different ways to arrange your furniture. Pay attention to your friends’ opinions.
Use Rooms for Their Intended Purpose
Take the exercise equipment out of the guest room and put a bed back in. Put a table and chairs in an eat-in kitchen. Get the home office equipment and filing cabinets out of your little-used dining room and set the table for company (or just put a nice vase of flowers on top).
Fix What’s Broken
Buyers look for flaws to negotiate a lower sale price. That wobbly stair rail may still support you, and the crack in the ceiling plaster may not be structural, but it’ll leave buyers wondering what else is not quite right. No matter how minor the problem, take your toolbox around and start fixing.
Update What You Can
A home often looks tired because of faded paint or old furnishings. A new coat of neutral-toned paint is a buyer-pleasing backdrop. Remove outdated furniture: Buy new furniture, trade pieces with a friend or relative while your house is on the market, or store your furniture and rent a more contemporary style. Worn area rugs (or too many of them) detract from nice wood floors. Shag or other old-fashioned carpeting turns off buyers — replace it if you can; clean it if you can’t. Update a tired kitchen with an inexpensive new countertop, new cabinet doors, or even just new cabinet hardware.
Erase Your Personality
Love Hummels? Bummer. Collect fishing lures? Too bad. Think that colorful painting is quirky and fun? At least half the people who see it won’t. Box up your collections, your personal photos, and anything you wouldn’t expect to see on the floor of a furniture showroom. (Nondescript art is fine; art with attitude is not.) And put away blow dryers, makeup and toothbrushes. Buyers need to imagine themselves in your home, not wonder what its current inhabitants are like.
Invite Honest Friends Over for an Evaluation
Ask two or three of your most forthright friends to look through your house with the eye of a home buyer. What needs changing? The smell of pets? A cracked window? Not-so-clean appliances? What’s acceptable for daily living isn’t likely to impress a buyer.
Find Storage Away From Your House
It’s tempting to shove all the boxes of extras into the basement or garage, but buyers will look there and judge how big they are. Make them as empty as possible by renting a storage space or borrowing a neighbor’s or relative’s garage for a while. (For last-minute things — a stack of papers, a handful of dirty clothes — that you need to put away before a showing, stash them in the washer or dryer or under beds; most buyers never look there.)
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