It is no secret that home sellers can dramatically improve their chances of making a sale by devoting attention to an often-overlooked corner of real estate marketing: home staging. The goal of this marketing technique is to get the buyer to ―mentally move into the home. This technique is especially critical in a sluggish real estate market where sellers need every advantage to make their home more desirable to potential buyers.
On the other hand, it is easy to go overboard on the staging which can make a home look almost uncomfortable or a setting contrived. Home buyers don’t want to feel like they are getting the hard sell. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts of staging your home:
Get potential buyers inside. The first thing a prospective buyer notices about a home is the front yard. Cut the grass, trim the hedges, rake those leaves, sweep the sidewalks, and power-wash the driveway. Too many potted plants scattered around the property will make it look cluttered and messy. And get rid of any plants that are dead, or even look dead!
Pretend you’re camping – minimize and declutter! A cluttered room can appear too small to buyers. Go through each room and divide belongings into two piles: 1) keep and 2)give up. Items in the keep pile will be used to stage the room, while those in the give up pile should be stored elsewhere, or better yet given away. One home stager says “Pretend you are camping. When you go camping, you are not taking all those books, right?” A decluttered room might appear bare to the seller (who’s used to seeing more of their things there), but a buyer probably won’t think so. You are not selling your things or trying to impress anyone with them. You are selling your space and buyers can’t visualize themselves or their own things there when there is too much of your stuff in the room. Don’t forget about the outdoor spaces too – declutter potted plants, kids’ toys, gardening items, outdoor furniture and accessories, etc…as well.
Balance hard and soft surfaces. When staging a room, it’s essential to have a good balance of hard surfaces, such as a coffee-table top, and soft surfaces, like a carpet or pillows. For example, a room with a cushy, 7-foot-long sofa, a love seat, and four La-Z-Boy recliners has too many soft surfaces and not enough hard surfaces. Instead, consider getting rid of the La-Z-Boys and the love seat, replacing them with two wingback chairs and an accent table. If you have hardwood floors but no rugs add more softness by adding a coordinating area rug.
Your home is not an ark – arrange in ones or threes. Arrange items on top of hard surfaces in ones or threes. Odd number grouping is one of the most fail safe techniques to decorate an interior especially when arranging home accessories. It is even more than just a rule of thumb but a standard to follow. Place three items—say, a lamp, a plant,
and a book—on top of a larger hard surface, like an end table. Two items would appear too bare but 10 things on the table out be overdone. The three items should be closely grouped together in a triangle shape. For hard surfaces with less area, however, a single item will do.
Decide from the doorway. Would-be buyers will get their first impression of each room from the doorway, so homeowners should use that perspective to assess their staging work. Do some staging, go back to the doorway. Do some more, go back to the doorway. Have your real estate professional bring some of their associates through the house for a tour to make additional staging recommendations.
Make your place “Q-Tip clean.” A properly staged home should be immaculate, or “Q-Tip clean.” This could mean using Q-Tips to clean dead flies out of a windowsill or going around the bottom of the toilet on the floor. The purpose of an immaculate house is more than just making it presentable. If a home is messy or dirty, a buyer may wonder what else about this property hasn’t been cared for, like major and minor maintenance items.
Toasty and cozy, cool and breezy. In winter a warm home is always more inviting than one that has people reaching for their coats. On a hot summer day a cool home can be a welcome oasis to weary home buyers. Be sure to have the heat or air conditioning set at a comfortable temperature for the entire day; oftentimes homeowners pre-set their thermostats low in winter and high in summer during the day when no one is at home. This is fine if your house is not for sale, but if it is on the market an agent might want to show it to potential buyers on a moment’s notice. If possible, in winter turn the lights on and have fireplaces and candles lit to create a cozy environment, even during daylight hours, especially for open houses. In warmer weather have windows open for fresh air if it’s not hot outside.
“Fake” is OK, but it has its limits. Staging is, to an extent, the portrayal of an artificial existence — it probably doesn’t represent the way residents actually live in a home, but rather an idealization. Some staging gestures strain credibility, like leaving the reading glasses across the open book, champagne glasses next to the bed, lit candles next to the bathtub. That can be just as bad as fake fruit in the decorative bowl or fake bread in the basket. Any single thing that would attract a buyer’s curiosity is not good – you want them to look at your house, not the item. “When the stuff is the star of the house, it’s over-staged.”
Use restraint with the artificial plants. Fake plants can date themselves. Tulips in the spring and summer are fine as long as they are not from LAST spring and summer, and replace them with something more seasonally appropriate in fall and winter. You don’t want to give any indication that your home has been on the market for too long, even if it has.
Don’t blow your budget. A home seller who watches enough real estate programs on HGTV might start to wonder if any kitchen that doesn’t have stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops will ever sell. A major kitchen renovation is not mandatory. If your budget won’t cover at least new countertops, make sure the existing ones are as clean and uncluttered as possible, and approach the “updated look” via accessorizing and paint. If competition in your individual neighborhood market might dictate biting the bullet and doing that pricey renovation but you can’t afford it, then price your house accordingly or offer a buyer credit at closing for a portion of the cost of a new kitchen.
Go ahead, do Christmas. Some professional home stagers advise homeowners to banish all hints of the season for the fear of offending potential buyers. Feel free to decorate according to your heritage, however if it’s Christmas don’t do it like Santa Claus threw up in the place. A tree would be quite appropriate, or a centerpiece on a table –just a few things.
Exercise restraint with landscaping. Landscaping matters a lot, but when a house is for sale is not the time to go crazy with expensive trees and flowerbeds. A little can go a long way with landscaping. You don’t need to complete the dream or vision of the house — you only need to do enough to get it sold.
Don’t let it snow. We do have to endure seasons here in Colorado so you may have to deal with snow during showings. Snow can look beautiful on trees, but driveways and walkways should ALWAYS be cleared as soon as the fluffy stuff falls. Don’t forget your back patio or deck and walkways around the sides of the house. Buyers should be able to move freely to all parts of the property. Keep an eye out for icicles on the roof, as they can indicate that your home has inadequate
Home smelly home. What appeals to you and your family may leave an odor in your home that others may not appreciate. Some cultures regularly use specific spices in their cooking that can linger, and linger, and linger in carpeting, drapes and upholstery. Hold off on any extra fragrant cooking as much as possible, especially if you know that a showing or open house is scheduled. Give yourself permission to take some time off from cooking – treat yourself to meals out at a restaurant, grill outside, or dine with family and friends! If anyone in your family is a smoker and regularly smokes inside, be warned that this will be readily apparent to anyone who visits your home and will likely be a
major turn-off. Consider banning all smoking inside your home, and consult a professional cleaning company that specializes in removing these types of odors