How exciting! You are planning a move! Whether this big event accompanies a new job, retirement, or moving up to a bigger house, there is much to do to prepare your current home for listing with a realtor and showings to prospective buyers. Often referred to as “staging” the house, preparation is crucial to attracting a buyer and being ready for a sure-fire sale.
It is true that “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” and that may be doubly so when trying to capture the interest of home buyers. Little things mean a lot, and don’t think for a minute that you can let something go, hoping that no one will notice. They will. And that first impression can make the difference between finding a ready and eager buyer for your home, or languishing on the market for days, weeks, and months.
Effective staging of your home includes five major phases:
Make a master plan
• Even before you contact your listing agent (or put the house up for sale by owner), be ready to tackle an ambitious “to do” list. Doing so will increase the value of your home, grab the attention of buyers and agents, and shorten your days on the market.
• Make a room-by-room inventory of all the projects necessary to get your house ready for a sure fire sale! Take a long, hard look. Make a list for each room and tape it to the door so that you don’t lose track of any necessary projects.
Staging for curb appeal
• Outdoors, it is time to clean up the gardens to maximize curb appeal. Cut back overgrown shrubs, place colorful planters on the porches, and keep the lawn mowed and trimmed to the nines! Stow trash cans out of sight, and remove any clutter from the yard.
• If the kids are grown and the old swing set is rusted, remove it. If the “vintage” above ground pool could use some work, consider whether it can be brought into excellent condition, or if it should be removed.
• Power wash the patio, deck, and entry sidewalk. While you’re at it, see if any of the siding could use a good washing.
• Windows should sparkle! Product such as Windex Outdoor makes quick work of window cleaning, leaving a streak free shine in minutes.
• If you have an asphalt driveway, spruce it up with a fresh resurfacing job.
• Your front entry should be spectacular! Sweep away dirt, dust off cobwebs from the porch, and clean the screen door. Is your doorbell working? If not, get a replacement. Adorn your porch with planters and maybe a rocking chair, inviting your buyers to envision themselves relaxing there on a spring evening.
• Similarly, the deck or patio should be staged to highlight the potential for enjoyable family gatherings and barbecues with friends. Position your picnic table carefully, and add a colorful umbrella. Stow away toys, garden hoses, and items that may crowd the space.
The “Honey. Do” List: Maintenance for Successful Staging
Indoors and out, its time to tackle those maintenance tasks you have been putting off.
• Touch up paint and repair any dings or dents in the drywall.
• Be sure that all light bulbs are working, inside and out.
• Check to see that no faucets are dripping.
• Are your appliances immaculately clean and in good working order?
• Replace or repair screens that may be ripped or have even small holes.
• While you are at it, gather the owner’s manuals for major appliances, and make note of the dates of any recent home repairs. Buyers appreciate knowing the details, such as “new roof in 2009” or “air conditioner serviced and checked annually by Bob’s Heating and. Cooling.”
• Be sure that each and every sink drains quickly – eliminate hair or grease clogs. Flush each toilet to be sure that water flow is efficient. Caulking showers and tubs gives a neat finish to the bathrooms.
• Dig in for some deep cleaning. Carpets and flooring, light fixtures, appliances, and walls should look like new. Scrub down tile and grout, tackling any discoloration or stains with bleach or mildew remover. Eliminate dust, cobwebs, and the dirt that inevitably accumulates along the baseboards.
• A quick coat of paint covers scuffs and cleans walls in high traffic areas. Neutral colors make rooms look larger. Even if you loved the maroon walls in the dining room, it is likely that buyers will say “Yes” more readily to something that is a light or neutral color. Don’t take it personally! The simple truth is that deep or bright paint colors and exotic decorating motifs have limited appeal. Make the changes necessary to bring offers to the table!
• If you have pets, take special care that all pet areas are spotlessly clean and odor free. Litter boxes and pet bedding should be cleaned daily, and be sure to vacuum frequently to pick up hair and dander.
Now for the moment you have been waiting for – the decluttering phase. Accept the challenge of making your home look like a model home! This is the time to consider donating unused items, or having a garage sale. Tackle these areas with a vengeance to get the best results:
• Closets. Now is your chance to purge the rarely used items from your closets. Box and store out of season clothing. Donate unused items to charity, or sell them at a consignment shop. Create the illusion of spacious closets and plenty of storage. Hang and stack remaining items neatly for a tidy appearance.
• Personal items and photos. Your prospective buyers need to visualize themselves living in your home. They are much more likely to do so if you have removed personal family photos, collections, and memorabilia from all rooms. Limit table decor in the main living areas to a lamp and one decorative item. Your wedding may have been lovely, and your children may be champions of the local “most beautiful baby” contest, but many top flight realtors recommend that you depersonalize your decor as part of staging the house. Tuck away those photos and your collection of spoons from all fifty states, at least until you settle into your new digs.
• The garage. Your garage should invite buyers to pull their car in and stay a while. Pack up seldom used tools, hardware, and sports equipment. Leave only one tidy rack or workbench to hold basic tools. Park the kids’ bikes carefully in one corner. Clean the floor and sweep away the cobwebs while you are at it. A quick coat of paint will impress buyers with a bright, clean garage space.
• The kitchen. Often considered the most important room in the house, the kitchen should be inviting, orderly, and functional. Purge unused items from the cabinets. This is the perfect opportunity to eliminate the mismatched silverware and duplicate utensils. Take a few minutes to wipe out the cabinets. Clean out that “junk drawer.” Take a look at your pantry shelves and sort out foods that have remained untouched for months. It’s time to discard these. Can some of your grocery stash be donated to a local food pantry to open up space and serve your community at the same time? What about cookbooks? Do they tumble out of a cabinet or clutter the countertop? Stow all but essential small appliances and other items that sit on the countertop to showcase available work space to its maximum advantage. Pack away your collection of refrigerator magnets for now. Clean tile, sink, and appliances till the shine, and don’t forget those little spaces behind the kitchen faucet! Wipe down cabinet doors with a product like the classic Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove cooking residue and fingerprints. Again, pre-pack items that you can do without until after the move.
• Bathrooms. Buyers will look for clean, updated bathrooms. You need not undertake a full remodeling project, but clear away clutter such as the seashell collection on the vanity. Be sure that rugs, shower doors or curtains, and all fixtures are spotless and function well.
• Basement, shed, and storage areas. Here again, neat and clean are the words to live by when staging your house for sale. What can go to a storage unit? What can be sold in a garage sale or on Craigslist? What can simply be tossed out on the next trash pickup day?
Storage and pre packing
• Many homeowners find that renting a storage unit helps in the staging process. Items that will not be needed until your move is complete can be boxed and removed as you stage each room.
• Seldom used items, such as holiday decorations and camping gear, can be stored, opening up space in your basement or closets.
• Prepack all but the essential items of clothing and linens.
• Photographs, collections, extra toys, and personal mementos can also be packed before your home is ready for showing.
• Remember that pre-packing simplifies the actual packing prior to the move.
Now you are ready to put finishing touches on your home as the final staging takes place, perhaps for an open house.
• Fresh flowers on a bathroom countertop bring a touch of elegance.
• Set the dining room table with your best china to help your prospective buyers imagine a special occasion meal with family and friends.
• Burn a lightly scented candle for fragrance that is not overpowering.
• During fall and winter months, turn on the gas logs in your fireplace for a cozy touch.
Staging a home requires planning and effort, but your preparation will pay off with a sure-fire sale!