Friday, September 4, 2009

My Tips for Home Staging

There are lots of websites, blogs and everything in between that give tips on how to stage your home for a sale. Since hubs and I are doing that right now, I thought I'd make my very own list from experience in selling and looking to purchase. I've tried to include images to show what I mean. For most-a yay and a nay in regards to the topic.

  1. Cleaning: This one I hope goes without saying. Clean the crap out of your house (not literally, I hope). Clean like you would if your whole family, including aunt Margaret who "secretly" swipes her finger over windowsills, and who "innocently" looks in your fridge to see if there's some juice (but really is looking to see how clean & stocked it is).

    Those wall vents-vacuum 'em. Those baseboards-wipe 'em. Behind the toilet-clean it. Stair rails-wipe those too. Window ledges-clean them all. Appliances-clean them inside and out. No, at an open house or private viewing, people probably won't check all those things, but in case they do check, you want it to give the impression that the house is very well maintained, and nothing is forgotten. Yes-it's more work, but not all that much if you think about it. And it may sell your house.

  2. Tchochtkes: Put them away. Despite being hard to spell, they're not that hard to box up. This one's mostly based on purchasing experience since I'm not a knick-knack person. I don't care about your collection of antique dolls, teapots, figuringes or anything else. Pack them up and put some neutral decor in the display case if you need to. Baskets, candles, etc, but keep it un-cluttered. Keep counters cleared, shelves bordering on sparse and tables/surfaces with the absolute minimum. I want to imagine myself there-not your stuff and your memories.

    Oh-and for heaven's sakes. Take your magnets, reminders and children's art off of the fridge.
  3. Photographs: Same idea as knick knacks. You can have a couple photos out to warm the house up slightly, but generic-ish ones and in not-so-prominent places. Display areas should be clear and nightstands, etc shouldn't have any. Again, I want to imagine myself there, not you and your dog/mother/children. Speaking of which, I've heard it mentioned (probably on Opes) that any photographs of children should especially be put away in case someone viewing your home is less than trustworthy or potentially pervy. Awful to think about, but you never know.

    Think about it: If you visit a home builder's model homes, there are almost never photographs in the home.

  4. Curb appeal: Do not forget the outside! I know hubs and I have participated in the creepy slow drive-by when we see a home we're interested in. And first impressions say a lot. You can crop/angle images for MLS in a very positive way, but driving by and seeing it in person can make or break it. Hose down all porches, railings, etc. Wipe your mailbox, banisters, tables, etc. Put out a nice potted plant and make sure there aren't any dead plants around.

    And don't forget to get your car(s) out of the driveway. Park it a few houses down so there's room for potential buyers to park and feel comfortable.
  5. Bathrooms: Clean them, clear them and empty the trash. I don't want to inherit a gross bathroom, I don't want any indication of how's it's currently used, and I certainly don't want to see your bathroom garbage.

  6. Clutter: Has been mentioned several times, but bears repeating. Keep clutter OUT of your house if you're trying to sell it. It may make it feel colder to you, but hopefully it won't be yours for long, and sorry, but no one else really cares if your favourite memories are on display in their potential new home. Just look at it this way: You're getting a head start on packing!
  7. Furniture arrangement: Any unnecessary furniture you can stash or store somewhere else-do it. You want the home as functional and "blank-slate"-y as possible. If there are any obvious traffic-stopping pieces of furniture (get an honest outside opinion) move 'em or store 'em. Any very stylized furniture you may want to temporarily replace too. Slip covers can be wonderful things.

    Assume anyone coming to look through your home has never read Style at Home, Domino or watched HGTV. Sure, they appreciate a nice design and a beautiful home, but they don't understand that vintage art is all the rage, that your collection of ottomans are handmade in Nepal or that ikat is actually very trendy right now.

  8. Closets: Clean them, organize them, and get rid of anything you can. The idea is to make your home seem as spacious and functional as humanly possible. If you can store stuff so there's extra space in your closets, all the better. Try to make them seem like you couldn't possibly fill all the closets because they offer you so much storage. This is a great way to get yourself to purge,purge, purge too. Easier for packing later and for the move. See-it's not all for someone else's benefit.

  9. Windows: Open the blinds, close the windows. You want to let in as much natural light as possible, but keep the noise to a minimum. You never know when some loud, annoying motorcycle is going to drive by your open window.

  10. Lighting: Key. Perhaps this is spoken a bit too much as the wife of an electrician, but I think lighting can really make a space. You want to avoid any dark looking spaces whatsoever. I usually turn every single light on in the house for a showing/open house. Sorry planet (but they're energy efficient!). When someone's going through, I don't want them to have to fuss around with the switches to see a spare bedroom, etc. And we all know that generally the switches aren't exactly where you'd think they'd be, so help potential buyers avoid the frustration of this task and let them enjoy your home!
  11. Scent: Don't try too hard. And don't use a million plug-ins: it looks like you're hiding something. Have an outsider (that doesn't visit your house often) come by and let you know how it smells. We all know every home has a smell, and we all know some of them aren't that pleasant. Have someone tell you so you can take action if necessary.

    Baking cookies, bread and stuff---nice for a restaurant or grocery store, but frankly I think it's a little too gimmicky and obvious. I like to keep the windows open for as long as I can before a showing for some fresh air, and keep some nice reed diffusers wherever they can be. Think linen, spring, etc over cinnamon, vanilla, etc.

  12. Pets: This one hurts. If you've read my older posts, you know that we had some tough times when it came to our cats when we were selling our old house. It was a smaller home with no basement to stash their stuff, so we had to get them out of the house. I know my house is clean and I know my cats are clean. But no one else does, and even as an animal lover myself, I still hypocritically prefer a pet-free home. Or at least one that doesn't shout "Animals Live Here!!!"

    So, get rid of their gear. We are guilty of having a lot of cat beds, posts and toys throughout the home. Hey-they're our babies. But...when it comes time to sell, they get stored. Some come out again after photos & an open house, but not all. This time, since we have a little nook for it, we'll be keeping their litter box out. It's risky I know, and I may not be taking my own advice, however...we've since crafted a nice fabric door for it which really contains the smell and hides the visual. We'll also be keeping it IMPECCABLY clean. It will probably look like additional storage to the uninformed, but we have no intentions of misleading anyone. If they ask-we tell. Simple as that.

    A bonus for us-our cats are sissies. So as soon as they hear someone come in that's not us, they run and hide. If they determine it's someone else they know, they may venture to see them. If not, they generally remain hidden. If, however, your animals don't have this brand of social anxiety, I'd take them on a road trip. Especially if it's a big dog or something. I know it's hard on you and the animal, but sometimes it's for the best.

  13. Kids: I almost forgot about this one because we don't have to think of it quite yet. However, by a similar token as above, unnecessary baby & kid furniture, accessories, toys, etc should be stored out of view. Not everyone is familiar with or as welcoming about the immense amount of 'stuff' that comes with children, and certainly not everyone is a fan of kid-centric designs (especially in bedrooms). Hey-not everyone is even a fan of kids, period. But that doesn't mean you can't sell your house to them.

    Clear out the kid-clutter, paint their bedrooms beige if you need to (it's temporary and their imaginations can still function), put away their fingerpainting projects until your next home and get them out of the house for showings.

  14. Online Listing: Your listing will bring in your potential buyers. With a crap listing, you'll have a crap turnout.

    Take good pictures. Take a variety of pictures. Don't take 3 of your kitchen, no matter how awesome you think it is. There is a maximum number of pics allowed on a listing, and if they're all of your kitchen and backyard, it seems like the rest of the house is crap. Make sure the pictures are well-lit and clear. Download and play around with Picasa if you're able. It's a simple way to really improve your pictures. If you can't go that far, at least use the Edit Photos function in MS Picture Viewer.

    The blurb...KISS. Keep it simple, to the point yet informative. Don't use infinite superlatives saying how gorgeously beautiful your stunning home is. I won't read it, and I certainly won't believe it until I see it. Don't tell me it's a 'must-see': everyone says that. It's only a must see if I like it. Also, don't tell me it's the nicest home I'll find or the best on the block---that's an opinion. I'd like to make my own thanks. Include the square footage, a couple highlights and maybe a simpleton's statement on where it's located (Not everyone would know your specific neighbourhoods name, but they will know a mall, arena, etc)
  15. Price: It's all about the Benjamins. For you and for the buyer. You know how much you 'need' to get from the sale. If you're looking for a fairly quick and painless sale, look at the comparables in your area and don't get greedy. If you can sell the home for $250K and the homes in your area are listed at around $260K and have the same 'basics' as yours, don't list it at $275K because you like yours better and want more. Unless there are quantifiable upgrades on your home (hardwood floor, premium lot, etc), don't be stupid. List it along the lines of the other models, or even be really savvy and list it for a smidgeon less to pique interest. Also, don't say 'priced to sell' unless it really is.
If all else fails and you need a kick in the butt, head over to Lovely Listing (formerly It's Lovely I'll take it) and be reminded that the above isn't as obvious as one might think or hope. Also a few excellent reminders of what NOT to do.

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