When selling your home, studies show that home staging will help bring in a higher dollar amount and a quicker sale, but how do you stage a home?
While you can hire a professional home stager, there are many things you can do yourself without needing someone to come in and do it for you. The things on this list take little to no cost, but do require you to spend a little time and effort to complete.
1 – Deep Clean
If you’ve read anything else I’ve put out about prepping your home to sell, a deep cleaning is on the list. Why? Because it’s probably the most important thing you can do.
No matter what your normal level of cleanliness is for your home, it’s likely that there are areas that don’t get cleaned as often as the rest. Think baseboards and closets, under the beds, and behind appliances. Now is the time to go through your home and truly clean every surface. Wipe down the walls and trim. Organize closets – you can start packing up the non-essentials, or use this time to get rid of items that you really don’t use. Clean under beds and dressers. Change your filters. Pull out appliances and clean behind and under them. Clean the tops of your cabinets, and any decorative shelves in your home.
Wash all windows and make sure you have bright, working, and matching light bulbs in all lamps and lighting fixtures. Clean any draperies or blinds so that you can let natural light in without highlighting the dust.
Think Spring cleaning on steroids.
2 – Declutter Your Home
This is different from cleaning. This is going through each room and really looking at what is in it. If there are items that don’t get used, consider donating or selling them. If there are things that are broken, repair or toss them. If there are seasonal items that you won’t need for a few months, pack them up in preparation for moving. Keep the essentials where they can be used, but if you won’t need it for the next 3-6 months, pack it up.
Realtors® and Home Stagers sit on both sides of the fence when it comes to personal photos. Many people will tell you to get rid of anything that very obviously makes the home look like yours – family photos, kids artwork, unique art or decor, etc, while others don’t mind if they remain. If you have children, I recommend removing personal items and photos for safety – especially if there is personally identifying information like their names, school, etc.
Another thing to consider removing is artwork that portrays nudity in any way, hunting trophies, political items, or items that can be considered controversial. While many people won’t be bothered by these items, there are some that will. We once toured a home that had artwork gathered from cultures around the world that featured nudity and most of those looking at the property couldn’t move beyond the art to actually look at the home. You want buyers to see the home, and to imagine themselves living there, not be distracted by your belongings.
3 – Do Any Needed Repairs
Maintenance and repairs need to be kept up to date prior to listing your home. If there are deferred maintenance items that need to be done, take care of them before listing. Buyers will look at needed maintenance and repairs (or dirt and clutter) and assume that the property has not been taken care of. Touch up painting, patching and holes in the walls, and making sure all appliances and mechanicals are functioning properly all help reassure potential buyers that the home has been taken care of, and any issues that do come up will be minor.
4 – Clean Up the Yard
Curbside appeal is HUGE. When a potential buyer drives past or pulls up for a showing, the exterior of your home is the first thing they see. I have had buyers who refused to even go inside a home because the yard was a mess! Make sure the landscaping is cleaned up – any weeds or dead plantings have been cleared out, clean up leaves and debris around the yard, and make sure all decks and patios are clean. Wash the front door and repaint if necessary. If you have cobwebs on the outside of your home, washing it off with a hose or sweeping the exterior walls will help.
Make sure all exterior lights are functioning and the bulbs are bright enough. Remove any trip hazards – broken steps, loose boards or railings, etc – and keep hoses and yard tools put away.
Adding a few potted plants around the front entrance will brighten your entry and make it feel more welcoming.
5 – Keep Pets Contained
When having photos done and during showing make sure your pets are either contained or take them for a walk. Pets that are loose in the house can frighten some buyers, and they could make a mess while you aren’t there to clean it up. If a pet is loose, they could get out when the buyers and their agent open the front or back doors.
Another issue with pets is the odor. Many sellers try to use heavily perfumed air fresheners to mask pet odors, but this raised other concerns with buyers. Some have sensitivities to perfumes, and there is a feeling that you are hiding things if the air is heavily perfumed.
Some sellers will have pets stay at a friend or family members home for the first week or two that the home is listed to make sure the smells can dissipate and there are no issues with pets. If this is possible, it is a great alternative! Open the windows to let your home air out and clean all fabric and carpeted surfaces well.
Here are some great ways to remove pet allergens and odors from a home.
6 – Don’t Smoke Inside the House or Garage
This is a big one. Again, I have had buyers refuse to set foot inside a home when we opened the front door & were hit with a wall of cigarette smoke. Many people are sensitive or allergic to cigarette smoke, and it is difficult to remove from a home. Again, overuse of perfumed air fresheners makes the problem worse, and it comes across as hiding an issue.
If your home has been smoked in, wash all walls and ceilings well, deep clean carpets and all draperies and upholstery. Have your air vents professionally cleaned, and wash the blades of all ceiling fans. An ionizing air cleaner can help, but may not be able to remove the smell from your home. Once you have gotten as much of the smell out as possible, refrain from smoking inside the house, garage, or outside any windows or doors, as the smoke can go back inside.
Be advised that a potential buyer may ask for a flooring and/or painting allowance to help get rid of the smell.
7 – Pare Down Furniture
If you have a lot of furniture in any rooms, take some time to look at the room and decide what can be packed away. Too much furniture in a room makes it feel smaller (so does too little), and you want to make your home feel as spacious as possible. If you have a couch or two and several armchairs, try to remove some, and create a flow through the room. Don’t overload couches or beds with too many pillows, and clear excess items off of tables, shelving, and flat surfaces.
8 – Stage Your Living Room
Most homes have the living area near the front door, making this the first room potential buyers will see. Make it a relaxing, clutter free space.
- Declutter. Remove excess pillows, magazines, piles of papers, toys, or blankets, etc. Yes, you want a few items out to decorate, but keep them simple and leave lots of open space around them.
- Use Lighting. Make use of tabletop and floor lamps. Make sure all lighting is clean and has bright bulbs – and make sure the color of the bulbs match! If you use warm white in your lamps, make sue the ceiling lights are also warm white.
- Add A Mirror. Mirrors are a great way to make a room feel larger and brighter. If you have space over a fireplace or side table, hang a mirror! They will also help reflect more light back into the room.
- Use A Rug. Rugs add texture and warmth to a room, and can tie furnishings together.
- Clear Your Coffee Table and End Tables. If you have a tv in the room, find a decorative box or tray to keep remotes in. Clear off the surfaces, and style them with an accessory tray. Remember the Rule of 3 – items arranged in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered groupings. I often use 3 or 5 similar items grouped together to create a vignette.
- Use Pillows and Blankets. Pillows can add a pop of color to a room, and blankets can create a sense of warmth and coziness. A few pillows on a couch or chair are great – just don’t put so many that there isn’t a place to sit, or that there is so much color that it feels cluttered or overwhelming. For blankets, fold longways and drape it over the arm of a couch or chair, or across an ottoman.
9 – Stage Your Kitchen
Kitchens are one of the most looked at and important areas of a home. During a showing, you want your counters clean, clear, and uncluttered. Put away (or pack away) any countertop appliances, excess water bottles and coffee cups, and wash the backsplash – especially over the range or cooktop. You don’t want grease splatters on the cooktop, counters or walls around it.
Organize your cabinets and pantry (if you have one) so that everything fits with space around it. Clean your refrigerator, microwave, and range (here is an easy way to steam clean your microwave in 10 minutes). Sweep and mop the floors and wipe down the outside of your cabinets.
A small vignette of wood cutting boards or a coffee prep station can look cute, but make sure it doesn’t make the counter feel cluttered or look messy. If you have a breakfast bar area, you can stage it with a place setting for each barstool, but again, make sure it doesn’t look cluttered. You want buyers to feel like there is space for everything and storage is not a problem.
10 – Stage Your Bathrooms
Bathrooms are easy to stage whether the home is vacant or you still live there. Start with a deep clean to get any grime, hard water stains, or lint cleaned out. Wipe down all countertops and clean the soap dispensers. Make sure the counters are clean, clear, and uncluttered. Put everything away in the drawers if possible, and make sure that the drawers and cabinets are organized.
Pick up some new, fluffy towels and only set them out for showings (don’t let anyone use them!) Make sure any shower curtains or glass surrounds are clean, and that your rugs and bath mats are in good shape (or invest in a new matching set). If you want, invest in some pretty decorative soaps to set out for showings – again, don’t use them, as you want them to stay nice.
I recommend using bright white or daylight bulbs in bathroom fixtures – this is one room you want to have nice and bright. Make sure all of the bulbs match in style and color.
If you want an inexpensive facelift, invest in some new drawer pulls.
11 – Stage Your Bedrooms
Clean your room. Make sure laundry has a designated place (preferably in the laundry room or clean and put away). Make the bed every morning, and add a decorative blanket across the bottom. Use matching or coordinating pillow cases and duvet covers to create a cohesive look. Make sure all light bulbs are working in the ceiling lights and lamps beside the beds. Clear out and organize the closets by packing away items that you won’t need for a few months, or use this time to go through clothes and shoes to get rid of items you no longer wear.
Clear out under the beds and vacuum if possible. Clean the windows and window coverings, and dust the tops of your bedroom furniture. Make sure dresser tops are uncluttered.
If you have expensive jewelry or other items, I recommend putting the away in a safe or otherwise locking them up so they cannot be taken. Sadly, there are people out there that look at house with the intent to steal items rather than buy a home, so locking up valuables is important.
For kids rooms, I recommend removing any personally identifying items – things with their names on them, photos, items with the school or activity names on them. Again, my goal is to protect your kids, and sadly, there are bad people out there. In listing photos I will often not include photos of kids rooms online, but will have photos available by request with your permission.
12 – Clean and Organize All Storage Closets
Buyers look at everything – especially storage. They will open cabinets and drawers. They will look at linen closets, bedroom closets, and pantries. They want to make sure that the home has ample storage – a place for everything and everything in it’s place. If your towels or linens are crammed into a closet, take some time to organize them. If possible, neatly fold and stack them so that there is open space around them. If you have bins, use them to sort like items so they are easy to get to but stay organized and uncluttered.
13 – Don’t Forget the Garage
As you have been packing things away in preparation for moving, make sure you don’t pile everything in the garage. Buyers will look at your garage, and a clean, organized, spacious garage will make a huge impression. If you have shelving that will be staying, use it! But make sure that it is organized instead of cramming everything on a shelf.
Buyers want to feel that there is ample room in the house for storage, and be reassured that there is space to park vehicles in the garage (even if they have more stuff than you). Clean the floor and walls well, make sure the lights are bright, and everything has a place.
If you can, I recommend renting a storage space rather than filling your garage with boxes and excess furniture.
14 – Alarm Systems & Video
If you have an alarm system, make sure your agent has instructions for turning it off. The last thing you want is the police arriving at a showing to arrest someone for breaking and entering (yes, this does happen!)
Another BIG item is video. If you have any kind of audio or video recording devices (ring doorbells, cameras, etc) it is vital that you A) let your agent know so they can pass it on – and it needs to be posted outside the front door (in Colorado, we have to make sure people are aware that the area has video or audio surveillance by law) and B) don’t look at the videos of potential buyers unless something has gone missing.
Fair Housing violations are a big deal, and if someone feels that you did not accept an offer because of something that could fall under a fair housing protected class, you could be subject to a potential lawsuit. Please do not watch the video and do not listen to the audio unless there was a health and safety issue or theft.
This article is designed to help you fully prepare to sell your home for the best price. Preparing and staging your home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but do be prepared to put in some time and elbow grease to help your home shine. The better prepared your home is before listing, the more potential buyers it will attract.
If you have questions about selling your Grand Junction home, give me a call!
If you know someone that could benefit from this article, please pass it along!