Monday, January 16, 2012

Home staging tips

We recently (as in, oh, four days ago) sold our house.  It was posted on the MLS (multiple listing service) Thursday morning and we had an offer by Thursday afternoon (yes, the same day!).  That's almost unheard of in today's market!  While I'm sure there was a fair amount of luck involved in this, there were also some well thought out moves on our part that definitely helped the house sell quickly.

Home Staging

I really do believe that the way I staged our home contributed to the quick sale. Home staging involves moving furniture and decorations to best highlight the positive features of your house. 

1.  Declutter, declutter, declutter!

This is one of the most important things you can do when getting your house ready to sell.  Pack away personal items such as family photos or anything that you're not using at the moment, like those 5lb weights I bought and have barely used.  You want people to view themselves living in your house - so anything that is specific to you should be removed.  As a bonus, it gives you a head-start on your packing!  

This is one of our guest bedrooms that also acts as a storage space for items that don't have a home anywhere else in our house (suitcases when not in use, exercise gadgets, extra blankets, etc.) 

I neatly stacked away anything that was taking up floor space in the bedroom closet. The futon was covered in a clean sheet to brighten it up (the mattress is black and super difficult to keep clean).  The objective here is to make the room look as large as possible by removing all distracting clutter. 

2.  Let there be light! 

When taking photos to put online and before anyone ever came to view the house, I walked through the house and turned on every lamp and light in the house.  Despite having large windows that let in plenty of light, turning on all the lights adds a brightness and cheeriness to your house.  Think about it - no one wants to buy a dark, gloomy house!  

Our master bedroom isn't huge, but with the blinds of both windows open, both bedside lamps on, two lamps on the dresser on the right turned on, and the ceiling fan light above the bed on, the room looks bright and spacious.  

It may seem like overkill at first, especially since most of us don't turn on every single light in the house when we're chilling at home.  But people will be busy looking at different features of your house and will most likely not think "why are all the lights on?".  Instead, they'll remember how bright and cheery your house is.  

3. Clean like you have never cleaned before

In addition to decluttering, putting some old-fashioned elbow grease into your house can go a long way.  We had our carpets cleaned and then I did a quick maintenance vacuum right before anyone came to view the house.  

I scrubbed and polished our kitchen, bathrooms, windows, floors, door knobs, switch plates, etc. Basically anything I thought someone might look at.  If you have a messy or slightly dirty house, a buyer may think you have not kept up with the maintenance on the house.  Whether that's true or not, you don't want to turn off potential buyers because you have a dust bunny living in the powder room you never use.  

Make appliances shine, clean the floors, wash the windows, wipe down furniture and dust lights.  Once you have done a major cleaning, upkeep is a breeze.  

4.  Take photos and lots of them

Taking photos will allow you to see how people will see your home when it is posted online.  It will also allow you to see things that your eyes may have skipped over while you were staging.  There are things we may forget about after living with them every day.  

All my photos were taken with a simple point and shoot camera.  Make sure the you take photos during the daytime and try to time it so it's bright in the room, but so that sunlight isn't streaming in the window and washing out the room.  Experiment with photos from all angles.  Stand on a chair, kneel down, stand in every corner, take a photo from the next room, etc.  As a non-professional photographer, I don't know what photo is going to look best until I try five, or ten, or fifteen different shots.   

Living room photo from the stairs.  Not the best photo, but it does show the open feel of the room. 

The same living room from the corner behind the over-stuffed chair.  I had to crawl over the chair into the corner to get this shot, but this way you see the open entry, staircase, and fireplace all in one shot. 

While most real estate agents will take photos for you, not all of them are skilled photographers.  It's a good idea to spend a little time taking multiple photos of your house and then offer to email them to the real estate agent as an option in addition to any they may take.  They may use some or all or none of them, but at least the option is there.  It's not likely that they will spend a great deal of time taking photos and they may appreciate the help.

5.  Odors

Before putting our house up for sale, I asked a girlfriend that had recently purchased a condo what she noticed when first when walking into someone's home. Odor came up at the top of that list and for good reason.  

Have you ever walked into someone's home and immediately known that a cat resided there without ever seeing a cat?  What about the garlic and onions that were sauteed for dinner that are still lingering?  I love garlic and eat it on a regular basis, but I did not roast, saute, or cook garlic or any other pungent smelling foods the days people came to view the house.  

Yes, our house did sell in one day, but the realtor came the day before and we also had people come to see the house even with a contract pending - just in case.  After we signed the paperwork, I roasted garlic and potatoes for dinner.  Yum-o!  

I cleaned or purchased new, inexpensive blankets for our dogs to sleep on. I had the carpets cleaned. I briefly opened the windows to allow fresh air to enter the house. I took out the trash more often and I put anything that had potential to smell before the next trash day into a plastic bag in the freezer.  I'm not a fan of scented sprays so I tried to keep everything clean and fresh so I didn't need them.  

See this zebra print towel in our master bathroom?  I've never used it. I took the towels we do use and threw them in the dryer every morning or night (depending on when we showered) so there were no damp towels in the bathroom.  

6. Pets

I'm a pet lover, for sure.  I have two little furry babies of my own.  They are my children.  However, not everyone feels the same way about pets as I do.  If you can, get them out of the house when people are walking through. Go for a walk, a drive, to a neighbor or family member's house, or crate them if there is no other option.  

Even with the dogs out of the house, I realized my dog's existing beds were getting a little, well, doggy-smelling.  So I bought smaller (slimmer) new beds for $12.99 each at a drug store.  They're slim enough to quickly and easily slide under our bed right before people come over.  

Food and water dishes were quickly stashed into an empty lower cabinet in the kitchen and toys were put away in my nightstand drawer.  

Roman likes to be surrounded by toys

Make sure pet cages are clean and don't smell;  the same with litter boxes and beds.  

7.  Have a routine

This is one of the most important things I created in terms of stress-reduction and efficiency. In my head (but you could make a list on paper) I knew everything that needed to be done should someone call to come view the house on short notice.  One list was things to do in the morning before leaving for work and the other was a list of things to do right before people came.

Morning list:
  • Make the bed. 
  • If showering in the morning, put towels in dryer when done
  • Wipe down bathroom sink when done
  • Wipe bathroom floor after brushing hair (am I going bald???)
  • Put any water glasses from the night before in the fridge or dishwasher
  • Open blinds

Twenty-minute's notice list:
  • Stuff the dog beds under our bed 
  • Put the dog dishes/bowls in an empty bottom kitchen cabinet
  • Vacuum the main living areas if there is time
  • Turn on all the lights
  • Smooth the couch cushions and pillows
  • Get the dogs out of the house 

I'll admit it... I don't perform well under pressure. Having a set list of things to do helped keep me focused and I never once forgot to do anything 

Oh no, did I leave a damp towel draped over the sink?  Nope!  

I can't guarantee you'll get an offer the same day you put your house on the market, but I hope these tips will impress prospective buyers and get your house sold!  


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