Stage Your Home Like an Expert

in House

No matter what is happening to the real estate market when you want to sell your home, there are two simple rules to follow to assure a quick sale: price it well, and make it look amazing. And in all fairness, no matter what your asking price is, its appearance still needs to be flawless.

One of the costliest mistakes made by home sellers, and even inexperienced real estate agents, is to ignore the visual psychology involved in gaining a potential buyer's immediate attention. There is more involved than throwing down some grass seed and slapping on a coat of pain in the living room before the For Sale sign gets planted out front!

A potential buyer becomes interested in a property when he can see himself actually living in that home. As a buyer walks around, inspects, looks, touches and feels, he is also envisioning what it would be like to eat dinner in the dining room, play with the kids in the backyard, or even how to organize tools in the garage.

You need to master the psychology of making every potential buyer feel like the owner, not a guest.

In order to do this effectively, a seller needs to make his house as impersonal and attractive as possible to impress the buyer's visual acuity. This may sound mutually exclusive, but in reality these must two go hand in hand in order to reach the goal of getting a viable offer in the shortest period of time.

If you, the seller, insists on having family photos hung all over, little Jimmy's handiwork proudly displayed on the fridge, bathroom counters crammed with makeup and perfume bottles - don't expect much success early on. After all, how can a buyer envision himself as a possible owner when your home screams of you and your family all over every square inch?

Have no fear! Follow these simple steps and you'll be getting offers at your first open house!

• Make a realistic assessment of the condition of your property. We all get so used to having some minor flaws in our environment that we actually believe they don't exist. The leaky kitchen faucet, the patches of dead grass out back, the bathroom counter that has needed new grout for the past two years, and the baseboard in the hallway that your dog turned into lunch all those years ago - fix them now! You may be used to living like that, but these issues won't impress anyone coming to see your home.

• If your house has any rooms that might be considered a bit too unique for most people's tastes, turn them into neutral landscapes before trying to sell. Your daughter's hot pink walls and carpeting won't be much of a thrill to a new family who only has three sons.

• Wash your windows! It's amazing how many home owners spend literally thousands of dollars redoing and redecorating, yet their windows have years of accumulated grime inside and out.

• Clean out the junk. Remember - people want to think of your house as their house as they walk through and inspect. A serious buyer will be opening drawers, looking into closets, checking cabinets, and examining the fridge. Don't make the mistake of throwing things into a closet or under the bed or into the garage thinking they will be hidden from view.

• Remove personal family photos. You may be proud of the weddings and award shows, but no one else really cares.

• Any artwork or paintings or wall hangings should be limited to "bland". Pretend you are decorating a hotel room.

• Open up as much space as possible. Kitchen counters are notorious for becoming junk collectors. Get rid of nik naks that have no purpose other than looking cute. If you have something that can go into a drawer, put it there. If you have a counter top dish drainer, put it away each time you show the house. Ideally, the only items you should keep on a counter would be a toaster oven, a microwave, a coffee pot, and perhaps one very well crafted and relevant decoration. (EG, if your kitchen is done in a rooster theme, having a nice rooster sculpture that adds to the ambience and décor is fine.)

• If your kitchen trash can is out in the open, make sure it has a lid or cover on it. Buy one if you need to.

• Empty trash in every room - bathrooms, laundry room, etc.

• Remove table cloths - they look cumbersome.

• Remove religious artifacts. Crosses, statues, prayer books, bibles...put them away.

• If your furniture is dated or in poor condition, consider putting it into storage and renting a few pieces. Ugly, old, dirty furniture is never going to help you sell a house. The investment in renting will be well worth it.

• If your home is small, seriously consider getting rid of some of the unnecessary furniture and "things" that clog up floor space. You need to create open areas to avoid giving buyers the appearance of being too cramped. Foot stools, little tables that really do nothing but take up room, magazine racks, and large floor plants are all unnecessary when it comes to showing a home.

• How does your house smell? By now you're used to it, so ask a trusted friend or neighbor what his impression might be. Is it musty? Does it always smell like last night's dinner? Or even worse, does it smell like a zoo? Twenty minutes before each showing, light some scented candles. The light they give off not only makes a home very "homey" and inviting, they help kill or mask odors.

• If you have room sized rugs that have seen better days, replace them. You can buy outrageously cheap room size rugs at any local discount store and they look gorgeous! If taking up the rugs and exposing the flooring underneath will not add value to the overall look, then replacing rugs is a necessity.

• What sells a house? Kitchens and bathrooms. Even though bedrooms and dining rooms still need to be appropriately cleaned, organized and uncluttered, kitchens and bathrooms need that extra attention to detail. Make sure they shine, smell wonderful, and bask in a beautiful glow of pale light. Keep lights dim - not to hide imperfections, but to add ambience.

• Make certain your bathrooms are spotless! Clean grout and tile is a must. If you can't do this yourself, get a professional company in with the right chemicals to kill mold and resurface tile. A dingy, moldy bathroom will kill a deal faster than an aggressive sales price!

• Scents! Buy flower scented candles and air fresheners for bathrooms and even bedrooms, but get a "cookie" or "pie" scented candle for the kitchen.

• Fresh flowers in the entry way and in the kitchen are a nice touch.

After everything has been cleaned, sorted, organized, fixed, replaced or thrown out - stand back and make one final assessment. Always put yourself in the buyer's shoes. If you were looking at your house for the first time, would you want to buy it?

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Marie Duffoo has 1 articles online

Marie Duffoo is past owner/broker of Tangier Properties, a residential and commercial real estate development company specializing in distressed properties.

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This article was published on 2010/04/04