We all love our homes and more often than not we would not have them look any other way. But when it comes to selling the place, it may make sense to banish our antipathy to prepping our home for the real estate market. Potential buyers may not share our taste, and they certainly will not care for our beloved, teetering stacks of personal items that make the space feel so truly ours. So, what to do?
I recently had the opportunity to help a friend prepare her home for a sale. Of course, I was not the only one who helped her, but for what it’s worth I want to show you what advice I gave her. Below a selection of “before” pictures of her kitchen, annotated with my suggestions:
To illustrate my points further, I also sent her this quick drawing.
She seemed to like the ideas:
I like it! It’s interesting to see my kitchen from someone else’s perspective! It’s bright and clean and fresh like you said. Thank you!
After that I did not hear anything from her for quite a while, except for “that she was working on it.” I guess it takes some time to make up your mind, learn how to look at your own place with the eyes of a potential buyer, and then act on your conclusions. Stripping a place of its emotional draperies is not easy.
Meanwhile I had the chance to talk to a realtor friend of mine, who, over the course of her long years in the business, has witnessed countless similar cases. When I asked her to share with me some of her insights, she wrote up the following piece: Thank you, Lisa!!!
To stage, or not to stage. That is the question. As a realtor I am often faced with hinting to my seller that we might want to take the extra step to stage their home before listing it for sale. Many sellers understand the advantages, but others may be offended. They love their house and think everyone else will, too. Some think the added cost is unnecessary. The truth is, most people’s homes don’t look like a freshly made up hotel room or Pottery Barn showroom. Yet, buyers respond to homes where they can clearly see the use of each and every room, and in which they can picture themselves living. Staging can help.
Do it yourself… At a minimum, I encourage sellers to conduct a thorough cleaning, haul out clutter, make sure the home is well-lit and fix any major aesthetic issues. It may be as simple as a fresh coat of paint, re-planting the front flower beds or switching out an outdated light fixture to add some zing.
When the house is occupied during the selling period … Most professional stagers won’t stage the house with their items if the family lives there during the sale, but there are stagers who will use the seller’s own furnishings and accessories to create a whole new look. I can think of more than one situation where the dining room housed the Stairmaster, the guest room was used as a storage room or the cat’s play room, making it impossible to discern a clear function of the room. Stagers can diplomatically relegate the tired old sofa out to the garage or regroup grandma’s paintings into a thoughtful collection. They can create new functional areas in small spaces you never thought of, like a study area for your teen, or a work out area for that Stairmaster!
When the house is empty, tired, or less than impressive… I had an empty, white on white house with bathrooms, kitchen, lighting and flooring that was dated and non-descript. The house did have some large, un-covered windows with killer views of a pretty little lagoon. I asked the stager to help me appeal to a buyer who had always wanted to live on the water. She did a brilliant job of using the natural light, earthy textures and touches of shiny surfaces the make the whole place feel sun drenched, fresh and airy. She brought in the blues and greens from the outside landscape to create harmony between the indoor and outside spaces. If the house had stood empty, I think buyers would have focused on scuffed baseboards, the brass doorknobs and bathroom fixtures and the 80s era fireplace that we did not plan to change. In the end, buyers were fighting over this home. The house got 8 offers and closed well over asking price.
Even a few changes can make a big difference. Rely on your realtor to give you a short list of qualified stagers. There are stagers for every budget and every style. Ask the stager to visit the property and make a proposal. They should be willing to identify what they plan to do per room, including a list of furniture and accessories, provide examples of previous work, and a written quote.
I’m a firm believer, that when needed, professional staging can make a difference in how a buyer values the home and the price a seller might get for it.
So, what actually ended up happening to my friend’s house? A couple of weeks ago, I received the following pictures: She did not use a staging service, but rather opted for diy. And she did an awesome job! The carmine walls were all gone (yay!), and so was all the clutter that had been choking the room! I was positively surprised by the result …
The house sold incredibly fast and spent a mere 30 hours on the market … the effects of staging can be truly incredible! 🙂