I remember early in my career in the 80’s when I would call upon an interior decorator friend to help me rearrange the furniture in my exclusives. We would strip the residence of clutter, accessorize minimally and clear a path from the Living Room doorway, anticipating that a buyer would walk straight to the window. Staging has always been important in home sales, though it hasn’t always had the recognized trade prominence it’s gained in the last two decades. Today there’s every good reason to assess a property’s pluses and minuses to prepare a space to show to its best advantage.
First impressions are critical to a sale, and there are no second chances for sellers. When interiors are attractive, buyers are less distracted and better able to envision themselves in a space. Happy properties—ones that are clean and “show well”—sell faster and bring in more dollars than properties that have not been prepped. Investing dollars upfront is wise. Today’s homeowners benefit from an array of staging options ranging from the full blown transformations by a professional who will remove to storage a home’s entire outdated contents and replace it with more streamlined furnishings to present a more contemporary lifestyle (as they do routinely in California), to the DIY TO DO list provided by the staging consultant. Costs of course vary accordingly.
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. The suggestions below are based on experience and grounded in common sense. They serve as a basic primer for sellers and require that homeowners put aside ego and emotion to consider their homes as commodities, applying the suburban concept of “curb appeal” to every inch of every room.
Common Sense and Props
1. Deep clean everywhere. Remove grime buildup on appliances and their cords, fingerprints on light switches and stains on even the interior of cabinet shelves. Have the windows washed to let in every bit of natural light. Take down heavy draperies, and steam soiled carpets. Raise the shades; open the blinds.
2. Remove clutter from rooms, closets and all surfaces. Consider replacing worn furniture with rental pieces. Rearrange and edit not only furnishings but shelves to display books and knick-knacks artfully. Discard, donate or throw away dust collecting stuff you haven’t used in years. Clear closet floors of mountains of shoes, sneakers and book bags, and get rid of your collections of wire hangers, shopping bags and plastic containers. Expect buyers to open your cabinetry doors and drawers, so organize and streamline kitchen and medicine cabinet contents. Neat interiors look bigger, and space sells.
3. Consider removing outdated built-ins to maximize room proportions. Hire a contractor to paint, remove dated wallpaper, refinish wood floors, improve lighting, and regrout tiles.
4. Repair whatever is broken. A buyer will “kick the tires,” so fix the loose doorknob, cracked countertop or leaky faucet. Pay attention to imperfections to which you may have grown accustomed.
5. Minimize odors from cooking and pets, but stay away from deodorizing sprays. Clean the litter box daily, and replace the doggie pad promptly. Add some cedar chips to the front hall coat closet.
6. Camouflage all that is imperfect. There’s great power in small details. Invest in plush white towels, new bed linens and fresh shower curtains—items you can take to your next home. Enlarge a small space with a tall mirror, and bring order to children’s toys with decorative storage boxes. Set out a bowl of lemons in the kitchen and an orchid plant on the entry console. Trash any ailing houseplants. Accessorize wisely but minimally to lend heart for the all-important camera lens.
There are clear advantages to prepping a home for sale to maximize visual and emotional appeal. Your agent can provide recommendations to professionals who may be hired to assist. Staged properties have happy endings. They show buyers that your home is worth every dollar you are asking.