Getting ready to sell your house? Here are some staging tips and tricks to get your home prepared. Remember, your home is probably one of your biggest (if not the biggest) assets. You want to make sure it's presented in the best possible light to attract buyers and fetch top dollar. You wouldn't buy a car if it was chock full of someone else's personal belongings and trash. This is the mentality you need to take when assessing whether your home is ready to list.
Many people confuse the concept of staging with interior decorating. An interior designer works with you to create a setting that expresses your individual taste and style. A stager works with you to design a space that is pleasing to the masses and is easy for the buyers to imagine decorated in their own unique way.
1. Get rid of your junk! Sell it, donate it or trash it.
The best thing you can do to ready your home for sale is to get rid of all of your clutter! Don’t buy anything new unless you are ready to eliminate something else. Too much furniture can really make a home look cramped and cluttered. Most professional stagers remove about half of the furniture to make the house seem larger. Look around with a critical eye. See what you can eliminate by having a garage sale or donating to your favorite local charity.
Also try to start packing things away that you don’t use often. You’re going to have to do it when you move anyway; you might as well get a jump start on it. If you can afford it, it’s worth the investment to get a storage unit for a couple of months to store away items that you want to keep, but don’t need on hand. (And no, this does not mean parking a giant PODS in your driveway highlighting the fact that storage is a problem.) If not, pack them in sturdy boxes or storage bins and stack them in an organized fashion in the garage or shed.
2. Furniture Size & Placement
Yes, size does matter! You know that oversized recliner that becomes a home in and of itself on weekends? The country buffet that takes up half of your dining room? They are making your home look tiny and uncomfortable and the buyers just can’t wait to get out of there. Either replace these with more traditional-sized furniture or remove them entirely. On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of buying tiny furniture that looks like it belongs in a children’s playhouse. You’re not fooling anyone. Your best bet for older homes with smaller rooms is to go with sharp, clean lines and use the “less is more” philosophy.
Placement is also important. Don’t fall into the trap of pushing furniture up against walls in a misguided idea that it makes a room look bigger. This is a common misconception, but actually the opposite is true. It’s much better to create comfortable vignettes by positioning your sofas and chairs into conversational groupings. And for Pete’s sake, do not buy a small rug and gather all of the chairs around it. Buy a large enough rug to place the entire grouping on. Finally, be sure the furnishings are placed to make the traffic flow easily, especially if you have an open floor plan.
3. Give the rooms a purpose
If you have a room with a door that you always keep closed that has only served to collect boxes or other junk, transform the room into one with an obvious use. Once I hear my buyers say “What on earth would we use this room for?” I know I’m not going to be writing an offer on that particular home. Make it into an extra bedroom or an office. If you have a really small or oddly-shaped space, turn it into a cozy reading nook, a pet playroom, an indoor garden or a hobby space.
Lighting works wonders to make homes look bright and inviting. Most homes are improperly lit, making rooms appear dark and depressing. Invest in “Daylight” light bulbs instead of the traditional soft white. You’ll be amazed at the difference. Also, increase the wattage of the bulbs in your light fixtures and lamps. Make sure every room has at least one light source. Focus on ambient (general overhead) lighting first, task (under cabinets or over work areas) second and accent lighting (table and floor lamps or wall accents) where needed. Please, please, make sure that all of the bulbs in all of the light fixtures are working. This is one of my biggest pet peeves when showing homes.
And LEAVE YOUR BLINDS AND CURTAINS OPEN when there’s a scheduled showing. Maybe it’s just a Florida thing, but I show way too many homes where there are dark curtains completely covering windows with shut blinds. After coming in from a sunny day, I have to feel around for light switches so that I can see to start turning lights on and opening blinds and curtains. This is not the first impression that you want to be giving buyers. An initial welcoming feeling will more than pay for the extra few bucks that you have to send to the energy company that month.
5. Paint - Keep it neutral
A fresh coat of paint can give you the biggest bang for the buck when prepping your home for sale. Many people mistakenly think neutral means stark white (I call it “rental” white), but creams and beiges or light greys and blues are usually much better options. Choose a neutral color with an undertone that adds a little complexity and works for your space. Try to avoid bold colors, but if you have to be bold, use it on one accent wall and pick a variation of a prime color. Avoid vibrant colors like orange, purple or turquoise.
6. Maximize room sizes
In the Tampa Bay area, pricing is based on price per square foot. It is to your advantage to make your home feel as large as possible so that it will seem priced well when compared to competing homes. To make a room appear bigger than it is, paint the room the same color as an adjacent room and use lighter paint colors. For example, if you paint a small kitchen and dining room the same color, it can produce a seamless transition between the rooms, with the semblance of a more open, larger space. Paint your walls, trim, and detailing in different shades of one color. Monochromatic schemes give the illusion of larger spaces.
Matching curtains with wall colors can also enhance the size of a room. Or, better yet, skip the blinds and curtains entirely and leave your windows uncovered. This will trick buyers’ eyes into thinking that your home has depth. This is even better if you have a beautiful view from that window and works particularly well in Florida, since so many of us are drawn to outdoor living spaces. If you need a little privacy, try gauzy sheer white drapes for an airy feel that will keep Peeping Toms at bay.
Mirrors can also help with making rooms appear larger, but you have to be careful. Use them judiciously or you’ll look like the set of an ‘80’s TV show.
7. Use your garden
Model homes place fresh flowers and pricey floral arrangements throughout. They do this because it helps sell homes. Take a tip from them, and if you don't have the money to go all out on florals, you can fashion this same effect by utilizing your garden space. Go foraging and you can design beautiful bouquets with palm fronds, magnolia clippings, birds of paradise and more. It’s Florida, so there’s always something in bloom. Take advantage.
8. Get a facelift
Do your cabinets look old and dated? Strip them, paint them and just replace the hardware. This can go a long way in transforming a kitchen or bathroom. If they are in really bad shape, see if you can get by with just replacing the doors and drawer fronts.
If your dishwasher still works well, you may be able to just replace the front panel. Matching appliances are always best, so stick with the same color if possible. If not, go for stainless steel. Check with the manufacturer to see if replacements are available for your model.
9. Make necessary repairs
Take care of anything that isn’t working properly now. Fix that microwave or get rid of it. From the garbage disposal to the air conditioning system, things that aren’t working properly will come up in a buyer’s home inspection, so address them up front. Don’t give buyers an excuse to back out later.
Missing or damaged floorboards are unsightly and make a buyer worry about what else is wrong with the house. Large cracks in the sidewalk or driveway on the way to your door can also be a red flag. Holes in doors or walls and scratched up door frames are not only unattractive, but they make the buyer wonder what type of bad juju the house is holding. Hire a local handyman and get them fixed. These repairs cost you less to fix than buyers might deduct from their offer price.
Similarly, unfinished home projects can scare off potential home buyers. All the flooring you bought to put throughout the home and you gave up after you finished the common areas, while the rest lingers in boxes in the garage? Either finish the project or be prepared for the buyer to deduct the cost of finishing it from their offer.
10. Clean your home
Really? This just should go without saying, but alas, I’ve seen many a filthy house when showing properties. Aside from de-cluttering, the most important step to staging your home is to clean it. A dirty house is a quick turn-off for potential buyers and you’re never going to get an offer if the buyers turn around at the front door. Many homes have a smell that is undetected by home owners, but noticed immediately by buyers. If you have pets or are a smoker, this is definitely you. Hire a professional cleaner that specializes in deep cleaning. If you are a smoker or pet owner, most of these companies have ozone equipment to eliminate or remediate those smells.
And one last tip… Replace your air filter. If a home shows any indication that it hasn’t been maintained well, that’s the first thing I check. If the air filter looks like it hasn’t been replaced in months or years, I question the care that has been taken throughout the home. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
And, if you have any more questions about selling your home, please feel free to call me on my cell phone at (727) 244-3845.