What is staging and why is it necessary? Fact is, we design our homes to live in, not to present them for sale. Staging is simply putting the best look on your house with the goal of helping the home sell in a shorter amount of time for the best possible price. Staging ones home for sale is another facet in the marketing process. The below recommendations will help you prepare your house to sell. Keep in mind that first impressions count: many times, a potential buyer will decide in the first few seconds of seeing your house whether they have any interest in making an offer to purchase your home or not.
How strongly do we believe staging ones home for sale is crucial to obtaining the maximum price possible? We believe in it so strongly that we personally pay for the initial consultation and a written professional, accredited home staging experts' analysis and recommendations. Additionally, after the home has been staged, we pay for a professional photographer to take high-quality pictures that will be used on all professionally-designed marketing material, plus your home will be featured in a 360° virtual tour. This is, after all, the most valuable asset you have: why trust it to someone who isn't as serious as you about the sale of your home as you are?
Try looking at your house "through the buyers' eyes" - as though you’ve never seen it or been there before. Review the inside of the house room by room, and also review the outside of the house, making notes based on the recommendations below. Keep in mind that any time or money invested on the following should result in a faster sale at a higher price.
(For my complete Home Staging Package, click here to schedule your free sellers consultation with Bruce Clark.)
- Clutter Control: You've heard this a thousand times, but de-cluttering and organizing a home is very important - and not just to make the place look neat. A cluttered home looks smaller and less airy. All the pictures, knick-knacks, even an exquisite art collection, are distracting to many buyers. The agent is trying to point out the gas log in the fireplace and the customer is studying your collection of old ink wells on the far wall. Also, you want to make room for the buyers' own things. If the living room is jammed with furniture, the buyer might not be able to figure out where their own stuff will go. Some people just can't visualize: it does no good to explain that your stuff won't be there when they move in. The rule of thumb: count every item in each room - furniture, books, vases, old birthday cards propped up on the shelf - and pack up or eliminate 50% of them. Then, if there is time and energy, get rid of 50% of the remainder. Good rule of thumb: keep decorative objects on furniture restricted to groups of 1, 3, or 5 items.
- Pets: not everyone loves animals, plus they are a major source of lawsuits. If possible, keep the pet(s) outside in the back yard, or locked up in the garage, during the day, open houses and any visits by a potential buyer.
- House plants: if you have too many house plants, the potential buyer can't see the virtual tree for the forest. If possible, round them up and make a couple smallish displays.
- Clean carpets or drapes that need it. Buyers hate looking at, or smelling, dirty carpets.
- Clean the kitchen: the kitchen may be old but it can still sparkle. Clean the stove top with a good degreaser and all countertops with whatever it takes to remove stains and discoloration. Wash the front of all cupboards and appliances and keep the floor swept and scrubbed for the life of the listing. De-clutter here too, especially the refrigerator door (death by a thousand knives for the inventor of the refrigerator magnet!).
- Clear all unnecessary objects from the kitchen countertops, including appliances canisters, etc. If it hasn’t been used for three months, put it away! Clear refrigerator fronts of messages, pictures, etc. (A sparse kitchen helps the buyer mentally move their own things into your kitchen.) Keep cupboard doors and drawers closed: if your hand is not actually in them, close them.
- Clean the bathroom(s) It is critical that the bathrooms sparkle. Old bathrooms can be charming and a new shower curtain, fresh flowers on the counter, or a continuous air freshener may be all you need. Put out your best towels and, if you have young children, please enforce the flush rule. Clean bathrooms are a must.
- In the bathroom, remove any unnecessary items from countertops, tubs, shower stalls and commode tops. Keep only your most-needed cosmetics, brushes, perfumes etc., in one small group on the counter. Coordinate towels to one or two colors only.
- Wash the windows, both inside and outside. For the same reasons as above, no other small improvement will give you more bang than this.
- Clean up the yard. You've heard of curb appeal? How about unseen from the curb? Cut back overgrown shrubs, particularly those that obscure windows or make it difficult to get to the front door. Mow the grass. Rake or pick up downed leaves and branches. Put away lawn tools, kids' toys and discard or store any outdoor furniture that is rusty or ragged. If season and funds permit, put down some colorful annuals or put a few nicely planted containers on or near the front porch.
- Paint / Repaint Your Home. If your taste in decorating is a bit, shall we say strong, it may pay you to hire a professional to tone down some of the more dramatic color rooms. Many people love dark red dining rooms, but none of them may be looking at your house. Neutral colors are best for marketing your Orange County home for sale. There was a house, a very expensive house, in a "bubbly" local suburb that was on the market for a year and with a total of four agents. The house was in a wonderful neighborhood, had a traditional floor plan and a beautiful yard, but every room and every ceiling was papered in a different black and white pattern. Moving from one room to the next induced vertigo. Agent after agent tried to convince the seller to invest four or five thousand dollars in a professional redo (two of them got fired for suggesting it) but the owner would not budge. A sharp-eyed investor finally picked it up well below its original listing price, did the remodel and sold it three months later for a substantial profit.
- Be sure that the doorbell works. We're always surprised by how infrequently a doorbell doesn't work!
- Organize closets: if you're not going to wear it, store it away. The less the better.
- Rearrange or remove some of the furniture if necessary. As owners, many times we have too much furniture in a room. This is wonderful for our own personal enjoyment, but when it comes to selling we need to thin out as much as possible to make rooms appear larger.
- Take down or rearrange most pictures or wall objects. Patch and paint if necessary.
- Store extra possessions: if you need room to store, rent a storage unit or, if necessary, use the garage.
- Leave on certain lights during the day. During "showings," turn on all lights and lamps.
- Have music on during the day for all viewings. (Classical FM music is highly recommended.)
- Open the drapes and blinds. Sunshine is the world's best decorator and nothing is more depressing than walking into a home where shades, curtains and drapes are closed. The buyer is likely not a character out of "Gone With The Wind" and will leave with the impression of a dark and claustrophobic property.
- Buy, borrow or rent what you need. If your furniture shows the effect of raising five kids or if pets have ruined the rugs and upholstery think about storing or getting rid of your existing furniture and finding just enough more attractive stuff to get by. If your nest is empty and the kids' rooms are beaten up, throw out the furniture, give the walls a quick wash coat of paint and put one or two small flea market pieces - a hobby horse, a bean-bag chair, the old bassinet from the attic - in the room to merely "suggest" its use. A rocker, table lamp and a pile or books in an otherwise bare room gives it the feel of a cozy study and so forth. If you want to go all out there are dozens of companies, some of them national, that will rent a roomful or a houseful of furniture on short-term contracts. Not cheap, but maybe worth looking into.
- Refinish hardwood floors. Floors are a major selling point, and sometimes a home's most compelling feature. Often they don't need complete refinishing, just to be roughed up and polyurethaned to obtain that killer shine. If yours are looking a bit old, give a couple of pros a call and check out the price. In some markets several rooms can be extensively refinished for less than $1,000.00. Don't know any floor refinishers? Call us at 949-285-1207 and we will be glad to refer you to a local professional.
- Check paint condition of the house — especially the front door and trim. "CURB APPEAL REALLY WORKS!" (If you live in a condo or townhouse, check with your Homeowners Association about touching up paint on your unit(s).)
- Clean all windows; let in as much sunshine as possible.
- Move all garbage cans into the garage. Walk around the perimeter of the house and discard wood scraps, extra building materials, etc., if necessary.
- Check gutters for roof moss and dry rot. Make sure they are swept and cleaned.
- Look at all plants; prune bushes and trees if necessary. Keep plants from blocking windows. "YOU CAN’T SELL A HOUSE IF BUYERS CAN’T SEE IT." Plants are like children — they grow so fast!
- Weed and then mulch all planting areas. Keep lawn freshly cut and fertilized. Remove and dead plants or shrubs.
- Clear patios or decks of all small items. such as small planters, flower pots, charcoal, barbecues, toys. etc. (Put them in the garage or a storage unit.)
What else is there left to do? For some homes, plenty! But now we are getting into more expensive staging suggestions, which require a professional stager. Call us at 949-285-1207 and we will provide you with names and numbers of professional stagers. Better yet, if you are not working with a Realtor, request a FREE Sellers Pre-Marketing Strategy Consultation and find out how we can sell your house more quickly and at the best possible price.