1. Consider the curb appeal.
Landscaping is nice, but not in everyone’s budget. At minimum, lawns should be freshly mowed, leaves raked, or snow shoveled. Consider a hanging or potted plant for the entrance. Sweep the porch, deck and all walkways, and ensure garbage and recycling are tucked neatly away from the front of the house. Scrub your front door, porch, outside railings and steps. Do you need a new welcome mat, mailbox, house numbers or porch light? All of these will go a long way to enhancing the impression visitors have when they arrive at your home for the first time. Once the outside entrance is clean, decide if the paint really needs a touch up.
2. Get rid of clutter!
Pick one closet or area at a time so the task isn’t as daunting. Look at every item with a very critical eye and ask yourself why you’re keeping it. You will likely have to “revisit” the same areas a number of times to really whittle them down to just the “essentials”. If rooms and closets still look cramped, rent a storage unit. Forget about hanging onto items for a garage sale. Pick your favorite charity and donate what you don’t love or what you no longer need/use.
3. Turn excess inventory into cash.
If you have a collection of items for projects you never got around to, return them. This also applies to the two-year supply of light bulbs, canned goods or paper products sitting in your basement, garage or spare room. Without a receipt you won’t get cash, but you will have a store credit that you can use once you move. Not to mention it is less stuff to pack, move and unpack again!
4. Watch where the eye goes.
There are speedy and low-cost solutions to many of the little problems that together make a home seem shabbier than it needs to. Walk down each hallway and into every room and check where your eye is drawn. Better yet, ask a critical friend or family member. If your eye is drawn to the chipped white paint on the door frame, take some “white out” and fill it in. If it’s those old nail holes in the wall, see if you can hang a picture to cover them. Glue any peeling wallpaper. If it’s really horrible and you can’t afford the time or money to fix it properly, hang pictures and strategically place baskets. You won’t cover the problem entirely (which would be wrong to do anyway), but you will draw your audience’s attention away from the problem and onto something more visually pleasing to focus on. Removing clutter is an important starting point. A home staging professional will also know how to draw attention to the room’s best features and create a focal point.
5. Find a fix-it person.
Ensure cupboards open and shut and that no faucets are dripping. Look in all rooms for things you never got around to fixing and decide which ones might be distracting to potential buyers. It is not OK for door handles to fall off, even if you have learned to ignore it! Potential buyers will fixate on these annoyances. A Stager identifies which problems should be fixed and can refer a trusted handyman for you.
6. Clean, clean and clean again.
Most mortals can’t live in a spotless environment all the time. This can be one of the more stressful aspects of having your home on the market— but it’s worth the effort to sell your home for top dollar, I promise! You can hire a professional service to come in and deep clean everything; then take just 30-45 minutes each day to maintain it. Don’t neglect hallways. They lead potential buyers through your home and should be bright and clutter free. Consider whether you can turn any of them into useable space too! Appliances should sparkle even if you’re not including them with the house. After all, you might throw them in later as a negotiating tool. Counter tops, taps, sinks and bathtubs should be shiny and free of water spots. If you have a pedestal sink, don’t forget the dust that collects on the plumbing where it attaches to the wall. If the whole sink is spotless and the taps aren’t dripping, it will look new! Dust shelves and vacuum or “Swiffer” the floors. All beds should be made neatly with bedding that covers both the mattress AND box spring. Clean windows let in more light and look newer. Hire a professional if needed – it’s worth the investment. If you choose not to do even just these simple steps, it will make potential buyers wonder what bigger things have been neglected. Does all this attention to detail seem over the top? A very clean home leaves the impression that the house is well cared for and maintained. This helps put buyers at ease— especially a first-time buyer who may be worried about the responsibilities of owning a house.
7. Let in some air.
Open some windows for at least 10 minutes, even in winter. There is nothing worse than walking into a stuffy house or one that smells of smoke and pet odors.
8. Let in some light.
It might be mood lighting to you, but if you’re trying to sell your home, keep it bright! Dimly lit rooms tend to look small and dingy— especially during the day. If you have a particularly dark room, consider investing in a floor lamp that will bounce light off the ceiling. Focus on low cost changes that have maximum impact. Lighter colored paint and new lighting could mean the difference in a buyer thinking the kitchen needs to be ripped out even when it’s still the same cabinetry, appliances, flooring and furniture!
9. Don’t forget fresh flowers.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to have fresh flowers throughout your home. Even a daisy in a bud vase brightens a bathroom counter. Use potted flowering plants that are in season for a low-cost solution that will last more than a week.
10. Carefully consider music.
Soft, background music can help create a soothing environment and camouflage neighbor and traffic noise. But make sure the volume is very low. And TVs are definitely a no-no. You don’t want a distraction from people viewing the home. You’d be surprised how many people leave them on for showings!
Does Your House Look Like a Show Home Yet?
There is one final thing left to do – set the stage! This is the most critical step that brings it all together, so your home is staged to sell. Step back and look at your home with the eye of a highly critical buyer. Make sure the placement of your furniture promotes the free flowing of space. It helps to take a bunch of photos from different angles, in each room. Look at the images critically, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Notice any distracting details you might have overlooked in the room as a whole? After sitting in one place for a long time, you no longer notice those things when you see them every day.