You may be ready to sell your home, but is it in the kind of shape that will attract the best offers? Even if your home is gorgeous, spacious and in tip-top condition, failing to properly stage it can cost you dearly. While people often hire professionals to do the staging for them, it’s not always an option. It’s perfectly fine to take matters into your own hands, but you should study up first to ensure optimal results. Putting yourself in prospective buyers’ shoes isn’t enough. If you want your home to sell quickly and for a competitive price, you need to work like the pros.
If you think that staging a home simply means scrubbing it from top to bottom, think again. While it’s crucial to get your home as spic and span as possible, a lot more goes into making it appealing to the right kinds of buyers. The time, money and effort that you put into preparing your home for showings should pay off in spades. This work can mean the difference between watching your home languish on the market before finally attracting a mediocre offer and a huge bidding war that culminates in an offer that blows your mind.
Staging Tips for the Entire Home
There are specific tips and tricks for dealing with various parts of a home, but it’s generally best to begin with broad strokes. The first tip you should keep in mind is to start as early as you can and if it’s at all possible, you should give yourself a few months to begin the staging process. By the time you officially put it on the market, it will be ready for walk-throughs and open houses. That’s important because new listings tend to attract the most attention, so you’re going to want your place to look as appealing as possible right from the start.
A few tips to keep in mind while staging your home include:
- Paint Where Needed: Be really honest with yourself: How does the paint look around your home? Just because you’re planning to move soon doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t repaint rooms that really need it. In addition to faded, dirty-looking paint, be on the lookout for cracks, holes and other imperfections. Spackle is your friend, so when you’re ready to paint, make sure to use it liberally to whip the walls into excellent shape.
- Stick with Neutral Colors: When people think of neutral-colored paint, they usually envision off-whites, light tans and similar colors. In reality, neutral colors span a fairly eclectic palette. Soft blues and greens, for instance, work well in this regard. They also add a little life to a home without being too dramatic. You may not savor the idea of having to repaint so many parts of your home in the first place, but it’s worth it when you think about perks like better offers and a quicker sale.
- Invest in Excellent Lighting: If you’ve never really been too concerned about the lighting in your home, that needs to change quickly. Nothing can turn off prospective buyers quite like dank, dark, dingy corners. People want to walk through and be able to see all of a home’s nooks and crannies with ease. If they can’t, they are likely to assume that those corners harbor all kinds of unpleasant things. A good rule of thumb is to have about 100 watts of lighting for every 50 square feet. Keep in mind that there are three main types of lighting: ambient, which typically shines down from the ceiling; accent, which includes table lamps and wall lamps; and task, which includes things like under-cabinet lights and pendant lights.
- Store Furniture Elsewhere: Like most people, you probably have way more furniture than you need. It’s normal to want to have plenty of furniture, but it can be a liability when trying to sell a home. An excessive amount of furniture creates a cluttered look and can make a home seem a lot smaller. Go through each room and ask yourself what you can and cannot live without. Consider renting a storage unit for a few months in order to keep extra furniture out of sight and out of mind. Remember that this won’t be forever. It will just be until someone makes a great offer and you’re finally able to sell your home.
- Do Some Deep Cleaning: You may have already given the place a thorough cleaning, but did you do enough? It’s smart to make your home look, feel and smell as fresh and clean as can be. A great way to do that is by deep-cleaning the carpets, drapes and upholstery. You should also clean all the windows. If you’re unable to clean them well from the outside, hire someone to do it for you. It may seem extravagant, but it’s sure to make a very positive difference.
- Complete Unfinished Projects: When you redid the floors in the dining room, did you forget to ever put down trim? When you repainted the family room, did you completely overlook the fact that you never replaced the switch plates? These kinds of things can really detract from the appearance and appeal of a home, so walk through your place carefully and make note of such issues and prepare a plan to correct them.
- Repurpose a Cluttered Part of the Home: Many people have junk drawers, but some people have entire rooms or areas that are basically filled with random things. As long as it doesn’t bother you while you live there, it’s not a big deal. When people walk through your home, though, what are they going to think? Clear away the clutter and add a small chair, table or other piece of furniture to bring the room or area to life. Even if no one ever hangs out there, it will make the home seem more pleasant.
- Go Flower Crazy: Buying fresh flowers every day can add up to a significant expense, but it’s well worth it to splurge while trying to sell a home so get to know your local florist. If you agree to buy a decent amount of fresh flowers over a period of time, you may even get a discount. The kitchen table is an obvious place to put fresh flowers, but they are just as lovely in other parts of the home as well. From bathrooms to bedrooms, fresh flowers increase the visual appeal of any part of a home and can make it smell a lot nicer too.
- Remove Personal Belongings: Sure, you’ve lived in your home for many years, but you don’t want prospective buyers thinking about that. One of the biggest goals of any home staging project is making it easy for would-be buyers to imagine themselves living there. If photos of your family are hanging everywhere, that will be harder to accomplish. Similarly, you should pack away things like toys, DVDs and other items that clearly remind others that a different family lives there. People obviously know that the space is occupied, but you can keep their minds off of that by carefully removing personal items.
- Add Focal Points: As you walk through each room or area in your home, try to find items that can be used as focal points. A brightly colored end table, for instance, can work wonders. When there’s a focal point, the rest of a room will look a lot more appealing and cohesive.
- Play Music: A little music can go a really long way when staging a home. However, the important term here is “a little.” Choose easy listening music and keep the volume really low. No one should struggle to carry on conversations because of the music. This should have a calming effect on anyone who stops by to check out your home, and calm people are more likely to be impressed with what they see.
Staging Tips for Specific Rooms
After going through your entire home and putting the preceding tips to work, you’ll be ready to get down to some details. Think back to when you purchased your home. Didn’t you slowly and carefully examine every room? Having a great impression of a house as a whole isn’t enough. Prospective buyers need to be thrilled with each individual room as well.
A few tips for staging different areas of your home include:
- Kitchen: If one thing dominates the appearance of a kitchen, it’s the cabinets and drawers. You don’t have to completely replace old, worn-out looking pieces. An easier and more affordable solution is to replace drawer fronts and cabinet fronts instead. You can even buy unfinished pieces and paint them yourself to save money. Also, remove all but the most essential small appliances from the counters, even if you have plenty of space. The less cluttered the kitchen is, the roomier it will seem. It will also suggest that there’s more than enough storage, which is a huge plus.
- Bathroom: Lend your bathroom a luxurious feel by adding nice touches like candles and rolled-up towels. This will make people feel like they’ve stepped into a classy spa. If the tile has seen better days, you might consider having it professionally painted. Do not attempt to paint tile yourself. Unless you have special training, the results could be disappointing at best and disastrous at worst.
- Living Room: You may be tempted to move furniture against the walls to make a living room look larger. This strategy can actually backfire, though. A better way to go is to group furniture together to create intimate little nooks. You can even tie small groupings together with stylish rugs.
- Bedroom: You’re fairly likely to have personal touches like photos in your bedroom, so be sure to remove them right away. It is well worth it to invest in high-quality linens and bedding prior to showing your home. You’ll get to take them with you when you move too, so it’s not like it will be a waste of money.
Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid
Home staging doesn’t have to be complicated. You’re likelier to achieve excellent results when you’re familiar with the most common mistakes and pitfalls. A few examples of what to avoid include:
- Not Removing Pets: Sure, they’re your furry friends, but not everyone is fond of them. And you certainly don’t want to miss out on great offers due to their presence. Find someone to pet-sit for you until you’ve successfully sold your home.
- Neglecting Less Trafficked Parts of the Home: Just because they don’t hang out in the garage or basement too often doesn’t mean people aren’t concerned about how they look. Be sure to include such areas in the home staging process.
- Blocking Out Natural Light: Buying nice lights and keeping them all turned on during showings is smart. However, blocking out natural light isn’t. Resist the urge to pull shades and curtains closed when showing your home. Remember that natural light really opens up a home and makes it feel a lot roomier. Wherever possible, allow it to stream inside.
- Neglecting Plants: It’s nice to have plants in the home, and that includes fresh flowers. However, such efforts will be for naught if you fail to keep them in nice shape. Make a point of watering your plants regularly. If you notice that one or more of them is looking less than healthy, remove it. Dead or dying plants are a sure sign of someone who may not take very good care of his or her home, and that’s the last impression you want to give.
- Not Caring for the Outside: When you consider the fact that the outside of the home is the first thing that people see, it’s incredible to think that so many people completely neglect it during the home-staging process. There’s no telling how many people will turn right around without even stepping foot in your house if the front yard looks overgrown and unkempt. While you’re at it, of course, take care of the backyard and sides of the home as well. You don’t have to pay for new landscaping, but you should make sure the grass is mowed, the bushes are trimmed and weeds are pulled.
- Having a Shabby Mailbox: This may seem like a small, unimportant detail, but a shabby mailbox suggests that the inside of a home will be shabby too. This could also deter people from ever even looking at your home. It also detracts from your home’s overall appearance.
- Not Being Ready: You should generally know when your home will be showed to people. There should be some window of time that is planned in advance. Therefore, there’s no excuse for not being ready. You can take care of most of the home staging steps well before anyone does a single walk-through. However, you will also have to do a little tidying up immediately before a showing begins. Once you’ve done it a few times, it will be like second nature.
- Go Easy on the Accessories: In an effort to make your home look as appealing as possible, you may find yourself adding more vases, candles and other decorative pieces. A small amount of this is fine, but it’s easy to go overboard too. Remember as well that decorative pieces should be kept to groups of one, three or five. Furthermore, they should be of different sizes and shouldn’t be arranged in straight lines.
- Forgetting the Fridge and Pantry: Never assume that no one will bother looking in your fridge or pantry. Even if the fridge isn’t staying, people are going to look. The pantry is definitely staying, so it’s only natural that people will look inside it. Go through them both and clean them thoroughly while staging your home. For the time being, avoid keeping leftovers in the fridge.
As anxious as you surely are to sell your home quickly, it’s well worth it to devote time, energy and a little money to staging it properly. You’ll know you’ve done a great job when you walk through your home and are tickled by what you see. Before opening your home to potential buyers, have a friend or relative walk through with you. His or her reaction should be all the evidence you need to determine whether or not you’ve staged your home well enough.