In an ever-changing real estate market, a seller needs to seize every available advantage.  Experienced brokers are adept at advising clients how to prepare their properties for showing, and we have been providing this service free to our sellers for years.  We are grateful to the professional stager to whom we can turn to as a third party for objective guidance.  Much like a stylist, the stager is a design professional who is hired for a fee to present a property for maximum visual and emotional appeal. 


Staging as a recognized trade is relatively new.  According to the website for the International Association for Home Staging Professionals, an organization established in the mid 1970’s by Barb Swartz in Washington State, the New York City chapter was formed in November 2004.  The business is definitely growing.  Professional stagers can be consulted on an hourly basis to provide a staging checklist or for a flat fee to oversee a full scale project.  The latter might include painting, refinishing floors, replacing countertops, improving lighting, regrouting tiles, cleaning carpets, replacing worn furniture with rented pieces, and adding accessories.  The cost, of course, varies with the scope of the job and the duration of any furniture rental period. 


First impressions are critical to a sale, and there are no second chances for sellers.  Happy properties—ones that are clean and “show well”—make buyers feel good and bring in the most dollars.  With a little polish, a lot of common sense, and the aid of your broker and/or professional stager, you can arrange a welcoming property that will encourage buyers to imagine themselves in your space.  Following are my insider’s tips on how to ready your apartment for sale. 


Polish, Props and Common Sense


Try to distance yourself to remain detached, so you can consider your residence as a commodity.  Put aside ego and emotion to identify flaws you may have grown accustomed to. 


There’s no need to redo a kitchen or a bathroom.  A face-lift is less important than a good scrubbing, since most buyers will renovate to suit themselves.  It’s best to start at your front door with pad and pen, and work your way room by room.  With each noted change, go back to your front door to reassess and continue.  Apply the suburban concept of “curb appeal” to every inch of every room.  Look with the eyes and senses of a prospective buyer.   


1.  Clean and dust thoroughly everywhere.  Don’t overlook unappealing grime on appliances and their cords, or fingerprints on telephones and switch plates.  Get rid of bathroom mildew.  Windows should be crystal clear to let in all natural light.


2.  Remove clutter from rooms, closets and surfaces including tables, countertops and bookshelves.  Rearrange not only the furniture to its best advantage but also shelves.  Neat closets look larger, and space sells.  Hang a couple of empty wooden hangers in your front hall wardrobe.  Make sure to discard your collection of wire hangers and shopping bags. 


3.  Organize cabinets, and clean all visible interior shelves of any dirt that may have accumulated.  Expect buyers to open all doors and drawers, so check that they move and close easily, and that nothing gets stuck or tumbles out.  Test doors to see that they don’t bump against what may be hidden behind. 


4.  Repair whatever is broken.  A buyer will “kick the tires,” so fix the loose doorknob and leaky faucet.  Pay attention to imperfections you’ve long ignored.


5.  Illuminate your home.  Take down heavy draperies and open the blinds.  Clean glass fixtures so they shine, and replace broken ones.  Turn on all lights when showing your property.


6.  Reduce odors from cooking, pets or cigarette smoke, but don’t use room deodorizers.  Instead, before appointments, boil some cinnamon sticks, or bake some sliced up frozen cookie dough.  Clean the litter box daily, and replace the dog’s wee-wee pad promptly.  Put cedar chips in the coat closets. 


7.  Camouflage all that is less than perfect.  There’s great power in the smallest details.  Invest in new towels and fresh bedding—items you can take to your next home.  It’s not necessary to set the dining table with your best china and silver, but do set out a bowl of oranges or lemons in the kitchen and a vase of pretty flowers on the front entry console.  Liven a drab corner with a showy green plant, but keep up with appearances, and trim away any yellowing leaves or leggy stems.  Throw away any ailing houseplants.  Buy a simple shower curtain to soften the impact of poorly grouted bathroom tile.  Dress up a worn sofa with a decorative shawl or throw pillows.  Accessorize wisely but minimally.  Add a mirror to enlarge a small space or to take advantage of an oblique view.  Buy attractive storage boxes to bring order to children’s toys.  


There are clear advantages to staging your home.  Happy apartments have happy endings.  They sell faster and for more money than unstaged ones.  More importantly, they show buyers that your home is worth every dollar you’re asking.