You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Those are words that home sellers should take to the bank in this depressed housing environment. In the first five minutes potential buyers are in your home, they will come to a conclusion on whether a home is compatible with their lifestyle.
No pressure, right? You’re only trying to sell your most valuable asset.
Kathy Bailey knows a thing or two about the housing market. She was a real estate agent for 11 years and now focuses her energies on staging homes.
“When buyers walk into the one house that feels good, they just know it,” she says. “If it’s cluttered, you might not get that first reaction. It is about showing the space. The last couple of years you didn’t have to worry about that. You put the house on the market and it sold. Well, not today. Now you have very picky buyers, and sellers need to adjust to that.”
It is hard grappling with the idea that not everyone feels as passionately about your embroidered pillow collection or that shelving unit of snow globes gathered from far and wide.
Wendy Picking, a seller that Bailey helped stage her home, had to come to grips with that exact reality.
“We had to remove the grand piano, and this wall had my collection of plates that came down as well,” Picking says. “We don’t want to distract buyers with our belongings.”
Home staging is not a matter of having a decorator fill your space with high-end furnishings.
“A misconception is that someone is coming to decorate. That is not what staging is about,” Bailey says. “It is about minimizing, showing the architectural details and arranging things so the right items stick out. We really try to use the sellers stuff and make the home a showcase.”
Why use a home stager when you can just store your “superfluous” items in storage?
“This provides someone with experience that has seen what is out on the market,” Picking says. “Plus if you need a quick turnover like we do because we are moving to another town, using someone like Kathy is an expense I’m willing to make.”
Bailey claims that staged homes tend to sell faster and for a higher dollar amount, and in this market every little bit helps.
How precarious it must be to broach the subject of someone’s treasured alarm clock collection or the thousands of corks they’ve so lovingly uprooted from wine bottles only to glue them to the kitchen wall.
“It is difficult to not offend the homeowner,” Bailey says. “The goal is to have the homeowner feel good after I’ve left. But we live in such a way that many of us collect and collect. We have things on counter tops and walls. It’s a lot.”
Purging can be a cleansing experience for some, to come to grips with the idea that they just don’t need so many items hanging around. Picking came to that realization.
“We won’t have nearly the amount of stuff again,” Picking says. “Once you see your house without the clutter, it feels so good. I doubt we’ll ever go back to so many things.”
When we live in a space, we become accustomed to everything about it, even the smells.
“Oh yes,” Bailey says. “People live with smells they don’t notice — pet, smoke, molds, mildews and old items can all smell, but you don’t even realize it.”
Home staging is all about illusion. When you are done the space should appear brighter, bigger, cleaner, more inviting, have a better flow and with any luck that will convince home shoppers to buy.
Ready to sell
Kathy Bailey has these suggestions for staging a home for sale:
• Remove all collections.
• Use real plants.
• Bake some cookies or bread so the home smells inviting.
• Invest in fresh paint. Earth tones and neutrals are best.
• Wash all the windows.
• Place fresh flower bouquets in kitchen, bath and bedroom.
• Clear out spider webs, muddy tracks and any other debris.
• Make sure the entry is well lit.
• If weather permits, have a potted container of colorful annuals.
Living room/family room:
• Remove photographs that remind buyers they don’t live there.
• Remove wallpaper.
• Arrange sparse pieces of furniture in a conversational manner.
• Accentuate the architectural interests — fireplace, mantel, built-in bookshelves.
• Scour the kitchen. It should be spotless.
• Turn on the lights. You might update the lights and fixtures.
• De-clutter the counter tops, refrigerator door and shelves.
• Oil wood cabinets to give them luster.
• Set out a large bowl of fresh, polished fruit.
• Coordinate towels in the same color.
• Set out nice soaps & lotions.
• Keep your bath essentials in a basket to easily store when potential buyers visit.
• Fix all leaky toilets and baths.
• Apply fresh caulk.
• Scour glass doors, or purchase new shower curtains.
• Use lush fabrics and luxurious bedding.
• Remove as many clothes and stuff from the closets.
• Remove any extra furnishings.
• If your office is a bedroom, you might convert it back.
• Put away all private papers, mail, etc.
• Organize cords and wires.
• Clean up the outdoors — rake, mow, trim overgrown shrubs and trees.
• Store the trampoline, hammocks, grill and kids’ toys.
• Do treat the outside like another living area.
• Address simple repairs like broken gutters and windows.