Home staging and preparing your house for sale

Home Staging
Home Staging

Home staging has been a popular buzz word in the industry for a couple of years now.  In the Cleveland market it’s still a relatively new marketing tool.  West coast towns like Seattle and San Francisco have been staging homes for decades.   In a nutshell, home staging is process of preparing a house for sale in order to make the home appealing to the highest number of potential buyers.  Common sense would tell you that if  your home appeals to the greatest number of buyers, you should sell the property more quickly and for more money. Staging techniques focus on improving a property’s appeal by transforming it into a welcoming, attractive product that anyone might want.

There are professional home stagers who would be happy to help you stage the house.  Most stagers have a decorating background as accreditation in the field is not always common or necessary.   A stagers consultation will usually run anywhere from $125-$250.  The stager will tour the house from room to room and give suggestions on what you can do to prepare for the sale.  They’ll either provide you with a report when they’re finished, or they may ask you to take notes as you along.  The suggestions could range from decluttering, to painting, to moving furniture around.  A good stagers suggestions should be inexpensive.

I’ve used stagers in the past with varying success.  After going through the process several times, I’m not convinced about how much value they really add.  Don’t get me wrong, preparing a home for sale is an ABSOLUTE necessity.  It needs to be 100% ready to go before it hits the market.  I think hiring a stager is a great marketing tool for agents to secure listings.  I think someone selling by owner would benefit from a consultation as well.  That being said, an experienced real estate agent can guide you through improvements that should be done to the home prior to listing.  I’m not a home stager or a decorator and I don’t claim to be.  I have seen hundreds and hundreds of homes through the years with the people who were actually looking to buy.  I’ve seen their reactions in person and I’ve heard their comments.  I may not be able to tell you what paint color will match your carpet, but I can surely give you guidance on what needs to be done.

To me home staging isn’t necessarily about hiring a professional decorator to prepare the house.  Instead it’s the process of getting the house in the best showing condition possible to appeal to the greatest number of buyers.  Here are some of my basic tips to prepare a home for sale:

  • DECLUTTER!  This is by far the most important thing you can do.  Get a storage unit if you need it.
  • If a room needs painted, then paint it.  And paint it something neutral.  If you have a family, kitchen, or master bedroom with a crazy bold color, tone it down a notch and paint that too.  You can get away with touch up paint if there are only a few spots in a room that needs attention.
  • On the subject of colors, you don’t need to be boring and paint the entire house beige.  Neutral is good, but too much can make a house feel blah.  I see this a lot in newer construction when the homeowner still has the “builder’s white” on the walls.  A little color will make the house pop.
  • Staying on the painting subject, touch up those baseboards.
  • Keep the grass cut, trimmed and edged.  This is a buyers first impression.  Throw down some fertilizer to green it up.
  • If you know of anything in the house that is broken, then fix it.  I would put this one right behind decluttering.  It may seem unimportant to you, but if a buyer notices something is disrepair, they’ll start to have doubts about the condition of the house overall.  Eliminate those doubts.
  • Get the carpets professionally cleaned.  This is especially important if you have pets.
  • Clean out the closets.  You need to give the impression that you have plenty of storage.  A closet 2/3 full is the general rule of thumb.  If your closets are packed full, you’re telling buyers that there’s not enough storage in the house.
  • Clear off the fridge as best you can.  Kids pictures and realtor magnets need to go.  It’ll look 100% better in pictures and won’t be a distraction to home buyers.
  • Some agents/stagers believe you should remove any family pictures from view.  Buyers get caught up on what your story is and lose focus on the house.  I’ve seen it happen, but I think having family photos around is fine.  It makes the house feel like a home.  You don’t want to get out of control with the pictures though.
  • Replace any burnt out light bulbs.  If a light fixture can handle a higher wattage bulb, put it in there.  It’ll make the house feel brighter and bigger.
  • Clear off the kitchen counters.  Put any small appliances that you don’t use everyday away.  Give the impression of a large kitchen and plenty of counter space.
  • If you have dated hardware on the kitchen cabinets, think about replacing the knobs.  It’s relatively inexpensive and can give the kitchen an updated feel.
  • Same thing with light fixtures and faucets.
  • Make sure the bathrooms are spotless.  Gross bathrooms are a huge turnoff.  Fresh caulk around the tub or shower is usually a good idea.

That’s a pretty good start.  Part of my job is to pick houses apart, so please don’t take offense!

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