Preparing and Staging your Home for Sale
In a “buyer’s market”, where there is a large supply of homes and limited amount of buyers, it is imperative that your home stands out amongst the competition. In Pine Mountain Lake subdivision alone, you may be competing with 100-150 other homes in a buyer’s market. You can dramatically improve your chances of making a sale by devoting attention to an often overlooked corner of real estate marketing: home staging.
I compare the preparation of your home for sale to how you would prepare a used car for sale. If you have done that before, you probably paid a professional detailer (or spent a lot of time yourself) to make sure that the car was in immaculate condition. The exterior was washed and waxed, the wheels were cleaned. The tires, seats, dash, and floor mats were treated with Armor-all. All of the chrome was polished, the windows were cleaned, and everything was dusted and/or vacuumed.
It is my belief that you should treat every square inch of your home with as much attention as you would a car that you are selling. After all, it is a much bigger investment and you have so much more to lose or gain with a home sale than you do with a car sale; right?
After living in your home and becoming used to its condition, it can be difficult to be objective about what is appropriate for selling the home; and there is an old saying in real estate that has a lot of merit: “How you live in your home is different from how you sell your home”. It is best that you have a “trained eye” with professional staging experience do a walkthrough and point out items that need attention, and that is where I come in. But if you want to get a head start, here are some things to consider when preparing your home for sale:
Make a Good First Impression
The first impression starts when the buyer walks up to the home; and some houses look so bad in front that the buyer never makes it to the front door. So, cut the grass, trim the hedges, rake those leaves, remove any dead plants, sweep the side walks, and power-wash the driveway and patios. Park your old car somewhere else. Power-wash the exterior of the home and if the paint is deteriorating, have it repainted. Make sure that your front door has a fresh coat of paint or stain; the front door appearance is very important. Get a new doormat and put some flowering plants at the doorstep. And make sure visitors can clearly read your house number.
In Pine Mountain Lake and Groveland area, most homes have decks, which can be a major expense to replace. Any signs of a deteriorating deck can scare away a buyer, so if it has not been sealed or painted lately, do it now.
De-Personalize Your Home
The goal of home staging is for the buyer to mentally move in. Buying a home is an emotional decision, and you want potential buyers to make an emotional connection with your home by being able to “see” themselves in it. So, pack up those personal photographs, trophies, religious and political items, and family heirlooms. Buyers can’t see past personal artifacts, and you don’t want them to be distracted. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can’t do that if yours are there! You don’t want to make any buyer ask, “I wonder what kind of people live in this home?” You want buyers to say, “I can see myself living here.”
We love our clutter; it reflects our memories, hobbies, and values. But it doesn’t sell homes! Clutter makes homes seem smaller and disorganized. Clutter eats equity! So pack up those knick-knacks. Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway. Anything on your kitchen and bathroom counters that is not used frequently should be packed away. Put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use. Anything displayed on your refrigerator should be removed.
Make Minor Repairs
Got a dripping faucet or a cracked tile? Issues like these will send the wrong message to potential buyers. Getting them fixed before you put your house on the market is a smart idea. Replace cracked floor or counter tiles. Patch holes in walls. Fix doors and closets that don’t close properly and kitchen drawers that jam. If your kitchen cabinets are faded, re-stain them with “Minwax”. Replace burned-out light bulbs, and repair any windows with cracks or condensation leaks. Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks. These type of issues may seem like no big deal to you as you have been living with them, but to a homebuyer, these small items bring up the concern that the home has not been properly maintained and that there may be other hidden issues. We don’t want one small maintenance issue to cause a potential buyer to look at the rest of your home with a skeptical eye.
Keep it Neutral
Neutral colors sell. It’s a fact. Potential buyers walking through your home want to imagine themselves as the owners. If you use styles or colors that they would never select, you’ve just turned them off. Staying high-quality, but neutral is safest, so if you have any rooms painted in green, yellow, purple, brown, etc; consider having them repainted. Don’t give buyers any reason to remember your home as “the house with the orange bathroom”.
Make the House Sparkle!
If a home is unkempt, a buyer will wonder what other, less visible problems may come with the property. It is crucial that your home is in immaculately clean condition. So, wash windows inside and out. Clean the windows sills and repaint/re-stain if necessary. Clean all light fixtures, light bulbs and electrical switch plates. Clean out all cobwebs. Polish chrome faucets and mirrors. Mop/wax floors and vacuum the carpeting. If the carpet is at all dirty, have it professionally cleaned, and if it is worn, consider replacement. Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures. Clean and air out any musty smelling areas; odors are a no-no.
Pay particular attention to the bathrooms and be sure to clean counters, mirrors, toilets, floors, tubs, showers, and shower doors. Hang up fresh towels (bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and/or bows). To achieve this level of cleanliness is often only feasible by hiring a cleaning crew. In fact, having a cleaning service return periodically while your house is for sale is probably a pretty good investment. I can recommend a great housecleaner if you don’t already have one.
Go outside and open your front door. Does the house welcome you? Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer. Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense, then go back to the doorway and re-evaluate. Remove any excess furniture to maximize the feeling of space in all of your rooms. In smaller bedrooms you might want to consider moving the bed against a wall to make the room appear larger. Area rugs should be removed as they break up the expanse of floor space, making rooms look smaller. Make sure window coverings hang level. Use plants and flowers to add some color and life to your rooms.
While your home is being shown
While showing your home, here are a few things to keep in mind and remember.
1) Turn on all of your lights and arrange or open your window shades so the maximum amount of light can get in. People don’t like dark homes and more light will make your home appear larger.
2) Keep all toilet seats down and empty all waste baskets. Put away any clutter or personal items that have accumulated since you staged the home. I know a home is staged well when a buyer asks “Is anyone living here?”
3) If possible, send your pets to stay with family or friends. As much as we love our pets, they can be a major negative distraction to potential buyers and may give them concerns about pet odors that will stay with the home. Seeing pet food bowls in the kitchen can be a put-off, especially to buyers who do not have their own pets, so keep them out of sight. Obviously, it may not be possible for someone else to baby-sit your pet. So, if you are around when the home is being shown, take the dog for a walk; it is better that you are not around while the buyer is looking anyways. If you won’t be home during the showing, put the dog outside if possible.
4) As mentioned previously, you want the buyers to be able to picture themselves living in the home. If you are trying to give them a tour of the house; that is not going to happen. So, let the realtor give the tour, and stay out of sight. If possible, leave the home before they arrive. If you are home when the realtor and buyers arrive, welcome them in the house and tell them that you are going for a walk, or at least stay outside of the home (show them how much you enjoy sitting on the deck).