Stage for Optimum Value!

March 2, 2011

We are on the threshold of spring, that magical time when homeowners start thinking of gardening, lawn care, home improvements, painting, etc. If this is the year that you move on, up, or out, here are some suggestions for staging your home for the real estate market.

The first thing you need to do is look at your home with “buyer’s eyes,” for two important reasons: 1) What are the best features of your home, and 2) What are the worst features of your home?

There are several things that you can do to make your home appeal to a broad range of potential buyers, such as:

De-cluttering – Every home can use this when it’s time to market the property. Think about the 50% rule and remove approximately half of what you see in each room, on surfaces, in drawers, cabinets, and closets. It is best to take the items removed off-site from the home to avoid cluttering another room or the basement or garage, but if it all stays on-site, it is best to neatly organize the items somewhere and leave lots of space to walk. Don’t stack things against the basement walls as buyers generally like to see all of the walls in the basement.

Furniture placement – Consider the best features of your home and then make sure nothing blocks the buyer’s eye or path to these features. Let the fireplace draw them right in from across the room. When possible, remove screens from windows to show-case the yard or view, and make it easy for a group of 4-5 people to move about your home together. Simplify the interior to avoid distracting buyers from the positive features.

Paint – Color sets the mood and tone of the home, and can highlight your home’s assets or downplay less desireable features when used properly. Seek professional advice, if needed, to select a proper color palette.

Floors – Vacuum, clean, get in the corners and close to the baseboard, repair and eliminate tripping hazards. If you have tiled floors be sure that the grout is clean and in good condition. Don’t hide a beautiful hardwood floor with a barrage of area rugs.

Window treatments – Like color, custom window treatments may make a strong statement and may distract a buyer. With wood blinds, many windows may need only a sheer, a topper, or perhaps no extra window treatments at all. In a small room, large window treatments are overwhelming. Replace bent curtain rods. Dust/clean the blinds for a fresh look: Many buyers “try out” the blinds to be sure they work.

Style – If your home has a “casual” or “neutral” floor plan like a great room, use that style of furnishings to avoid distractions for a buyer; oftentimes after leaving a showing, a buyer will tell me, “There was something about that home that didn’t feel quite right…” and then they concentrate on finding something “wrong” with it. The more the style and décor of your furnishings matches the style and décor of the home, the easier it is for people to imagine living there. When in doubt, KISS: Keep it simple, Silly!

Bedrooms – Bedrooms are generally staged as a bedroom: You may need to use that 3rd bedroom as an office, but most of your buyers plan to use it as a bedroom. Keep furnishings in a bedroom — especially small ones — to a minimum. In general you should remove at least half of the clothes from the average closet: Buyers want to see to the back of the closet, and to the top and bottom of the closet, as well.

General cleaning – Cobwebs, spider webs, dusty light fixtures and ceiling fans, corners, baseboards, windows, mirrors and other reflective surfaces, doors, handles, door knobs, light switches, tubs, sinks, cabinets… EVERYTHING benefits from elbow grease and spit-and-polish! Buyers notice these details when they are looking at the expansive ceiling height, the light fixtures, etc. Don’t forget to replace burned-out lightbulbs.

Appliances – The exterior and interior surfaces should be clean and fresh, free of grease, mold or other spills. Clean burner pans on the stove, drawers in the refrigerator, and wipe the dust off of the furnace, water heater, etc. Yes, it’s the basement, but buyers are judging the home and the value with every scene they take in.

Curb appeal – Be sure that your front entry is clean, tidy & appealing. Paint, repair or replace signs of wear and weathering to avoid losing a buyer before they discover your beautiful home! Purchase a new “welcome” or door mat for the front door. Continue lawn/snow maintenance.

  • Odors – This is important: Buyers are sensitive to “new” odors. You have lived with your pet for some time, and you don’t notice the smells, but buyers do, and sometimes they are allergic. Did you ever open a refrigerator and notice a strong smell? Buyers register those experiences as negatives and it carries with them through the rest of the home, in most cases. Smoking, pets, food odors and scented candles and other air fresheners are sometimes too strong of odors for people to take in in the few minutes they have in your home.

Potential problems – Do you have a “fatal flaw,” or something about the home that is costly or time-consuming to replace or repair? Perhaps you have a non-traditional feature in your home such as a tub in the middle of the master bedroom. Contact a professional contractor or two to discuss estimates to supply to potential buyers regarding options for changing this feature.

Pre-sale inspection – Consider hiring a certified home inspector to do a home inspection and radon test prior to marketing the home. If you have a septic system and/or well, pool or other outbuildings or special features, have them inspected, too, including water tests. This gives you and the buyer a sense of confidence regarding the condition of the home. The inspector can give you a printed report on the home, as well as e-mail it to you for use in your marketing.

There are very few people who follow every bit of advice here, but the more attention you pay to detail, the more likely buyers will be to notice! Make your home stand out and be the one that other sellers have to measure up to!

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