How To Prepare Your Home For Sale: A Guide to Staging
The Advantages of Home Staging
Preparing your home for sale can be a daunting task, but proper preparation will make a difference in how long your house sits on the market and your final sale price. If hiring a professional home stager is not in your budget, it is worth the time and effort to do it yourself.
Statistics show that staged homes sell faster and at a higher price: 17% higher than a non-staged house according to reports by the US Housing and Urban Development. So, with a little bit of effort and perhaps a small financial investment you can give yourself an edge in the market.
Most buyers want a squeaky clean home full of sunshine, that is move in ready. Only a small percentage of buyers (10%) have the ability to visualize the potential of a home. It is your job to show off the best qualities of your property, while toning down any flaws.
The goals of home-staging:
- Show off the homes greatest assets while minimizing anything undesirable to buyers
- Abolish clutter throughout the home
- Neutralize the color palette throughout the home
These goals are met by extensive cleaning and decluttering, painting and rearranging furniture and accessories to improve the flow and compliment the layout and design of the home.
In a strong market, staging your home helps it stand out from the others and sell fast. In a slow market your home needs to really shine for every potential buyer that walks through the door.
Resources to Help You Prepare
- Home Staging Resource
Tips for sellers and real estate agents. Professional stagers directory and training.
- Home Buying
Staging a House: the Art of Home Staging
- Home Stager :: International Association of Home Staging Professionals
International Association of Home Staging Professionals
Make a Home Staging Plan
This is the first step a professional home stager would complete upon touring your home. Write out your plan and your goals for each room in the house. This will help you track your progress, set a schedule that you can work with and reach your goal for each room.
First, grab a pen and paper and take a walk through your home room by room. Imagine you are seeing it for the first time. What do you notice first? Clutter in a corner? A paint color that is not generally appealing? It is really important for you to separate yourself from the house at this point. You now need to view your home as a product.
Make a to do list for each room. Evaluate the following:
- What is not working in the space? What doesn't look right?
- What is the focal point of the room and is it being emphasized or hidden?
- What is the purpose of the room? Is it easily defined or is it a catch all room like office / gym / guest room? It is best to show the room with only one function.
- Clutter: Are all flat surfaces covered with stuff? Do you have room to move around the furniture without bumping in to anything? Does the room feel crowded or airy?
- Crowded closets: What is the condition of your closets? Are they disorganized? Overcrowded? Do they need to be put on your to do list? Closets look best half full, not bursting!
- Is there ample lighting in the room? Natural light? Throw open the curtains and let the light in. See how it changes the feel of the room.
- Take note of the conditions of the walls. Do they need paint or repair? Is the color outdated, bright or in any way overwhelming?
- Is the flooring in need of repair, replacing or deep cleaning?
The Garage and Basement
A clean usable garage and a clear basement, whether finished or unfinished is a bonus for buyers. It gives them more possibilities when considering the functionality of your home, for them.
If you have concrete floors in the basement, an affordable way to give them a lift is painting.
Now that you have taken an objective look at your home, lay out your plan task by task in a way that you will find easy to follow. The following phases outlines sensible order for projects.
If you are short on time, and the open house is right around the corner, focus on the basics of decluttering and cleaning, make sure each room is well lit, and follow some of the tips for furniture placement included below.
Find Service Providers
Phase 1: Declutter, Neutralize, Pre-Pack
This is a time consuming, but essential part of the staging process, especially if you have lived in the home for many years or have a large accumulation of "stuff."If you do not adequately clear the clutter, you will be able to finish staging with ease.
- Packing materials such as cardboard boxes, wardrobe boxes, plastic bins
- Garbage bags and additional large bags or boxes to put items that will be donated to charity.
- Tape, markers / label-maker to seal and mark all boxes for moving.
Removing clutter requires more than just clearing surfaces of excess nick-knacks, books and papers. Clutter is anything that contributes to a chaotic, busy feeling in a room, and that can include excess furniture, wall art, area rugs, kitchen gadgets and paper work.
In All Rooms:
Now is the time to take your favorite collections and pack them up, along with all of your personal photographs (yes, all of them). Remove all hobby related clutter. Why? When a buyer walks into your home, you want them to see themselves there - not you and your family. You don't want the possible buyer to wonder about the people who live in the house. You want them to picture themselves in the space.
In the kitchen:
Clear all counter tops of gadgets, cookbooks and appliances that aren't used daily. It is acceptable to leave out your coffee maker and toaster, but store the food processor, mixer, blender, cooking tools and books somewhere out of sight. It is best to pack as much as you can at this point. It will save you time later.
Summary of personal items to pack: personal photos, albums, jewelry, toiletries (the bare essentials can be stowed under the sink -but not out in the open for all to see), hobby related items, and anything that could be offensive to the buyer. Anything that tells too much about you! Musical instruments (unless there is an extra room dedicated to music, but few buyers will be interested in having their own music room). Do not leave out expensive collectibles to try to impress buyers.
Where to store things:
It is ideal to store things off site, at a family members home, or at a self storage facility. (See links to the right)
If that is not possible due to budget constraints, the attic is preferable to the basement. If you do choose to use the basement for storage, do so as neatly and compactly as possible. You want to leave as much open space in your home as possible.
If you need additional help with this phase, consider hiring a professional organizer to help. They are trained to know what to do with everything, and provide an objective eye towards the clutter in your home.
A Child's Room
If you have children, then you know that keeping their rooms organized can be a full time job. Have them help. Pack up as many toys as they can do with out. Assure them that they will have them all again soon in their new home.
Organize the space. Utilize the space under the bed for storage of remaining toys. Sort through clothing and store or give away any items that are no longer needed.
Find Service Providers
- Service Magic
Resource for all types of home improvement contractors, handy men, landscapers, maid services, organizers,painters and plumbers They are prescreened and rated by their customers. Submit a service request on line and a contractor will call you.
- Maid Service, House Cleaning Services, Merry Maids
House cleaning services by Merry Maids provides maid service that is thorough, dependable and worry-free. Get the details of customized home cleaning services and find a Merry Maids franchise near you.
Phase 2: Cleaning and Repairs
All of the clutter is cleared out and some of the extra furniture has been removed. Now you may notice that some walls could use fresh paint and the floors may need repairs. Now is the time to do it.
There as some small improvement that you can do at this point that will yield large returns, according to a 2003 HomeGain Survey.
- Painting: average return: 34% (average spent $2,000)
- Floor repair: average return: 50% (average spent $1,500)
- Replace Carpeting: average return 34% (average spent $2,600)
- Lighten and Brighten: average return 769% (average spent $90)
- Cleaning and De-Clutter: average return 594% (average spent $310)
Clean every inch of your home meticulously, or pay someone to do it for you. A home that is sparkling clean gives the impression of a well cared for home all around. If your home is less than immaculate, it could give the impression that you let things go and that could include home repair and maintenance. It may make a buyer suspicious of the property.
Pay extra attention to the kitchen. Clean and organize cabinets.
Clean all windows inside and out, to allow sunlight to flow through the house. Consider having the exterior power washed if necessary.
Repairing minor problems can make a big difference in the sale price of your home, as can small improvements. Be sure to repair any cracks in walls, scratches in the floors or hire a handyman to take care of these repairs.
Phase 3: Paint
It is your choice whether or not to paint, and you may be thinking why spend the money on a place that I am leaving? Studies show that painting your home (making it move in ready) increases the sales price and may expedite the sale.
Choosing paint colors is an immensely important task when you are preparing your home to sell. Take into account your target audience and go from there. Consider the function of each room. Children's rooms can still have color, but subtle versions (white with a hint of color) like pink, blue or yellow are best.
Neutrals are the rule when home staging, but that doesn't mean white in every room.
Think about the following when choosing colors:
- How will the lighting work with this color?
- Will this color look right with the existing window treatments?
- Are trying to warm up or cool down the room?
- Are you trying to make it look light and airy or warm and cozy?
Choosing the same color for several rooms will save you time and money. there will be less excess, and the painter (even if it is you) will not have to stop to clean brushes and rollers as often. Depending on lighting , the same color may look different from room to room. This will also take the guesswork away from figuring out if these colors work together and give the home a unified look.
When choosing colors for the basement, and even the garage, you want to consider warming up these otherwise cold spaces. Warmer neutral colors work well. You can also paint unfinished concrete floors for cleaner look.
Phase 4: Arranging Furniture and Lighting
This step is key, and for many people the most difficult. If you don't have an eye for what really works in a room, by all means, call in a professional.
In the picture to the right we have an illustration of a conversation area with a clear , uncluttered space and a defined focal point. Bring your furniture close enough together to create a comfortable conversation area, giving everyone access to the table. This gives a feeling of warmth.
- Hang pictures / art work at eye level. If you are using it as the focal point in the room, be sure it is the appropriate size for the space.
- In the bedrooms, the bed /headboard often works as the focal point. Place the bed in the room leaving space to walk around three sides.
- Accessorize in groups of three. This is an appealing way to display accessories on a table or dresser.
- Keep all areas well lit. Add lamps if necessary.
- Open window treatments allowing an abundance of natural light in the home.
- Help buyers feel welcome by creating an easy flow from room to room.
- Place the largest piece of furniture first, and work around that piece.
- Balance furniture in the room. For example, a sofa can be balanced by an armchair on either side.
- Don't be afraid to float the furniture away from walls. If you have the space to do it, it will accentuate the available square footage.
- Keep bookshelves well organized. Organize the books by size. Remove any excess. Keep 1/4 of shelves clear to avoid a cluttered look.
Phase 5: The Exterior
Go outside and take a look around using that critical eye you developed in the beginning of your home staging process. How well kept is your yard? Is there shrubbery blocking the windows? Are all walkways clean and tidy? Is the driveway clean? Are there toys strewn around the yard?
- Remove any outdoor clutter including empty flower pots, gardening tools, toys and bikes.
- Keep all shrubbery and lawns neat and trimmed.
- Remember to remove any extra vehicles form your driveway on open house day!
- Consider painting the front door and trim on the house for a quick and inexpensive update.
- Make any necessary repairs to the driveway and walkways.
Staging a Vacant Property
Selling a vacant property can be difficult. Only 10% of buyers have the ability to visualize the potential of a home. Staging a vacant property the same way a builder stages a model home is essential, especially if you need to sell quickly. If you are working with a tight budget you could focus on staging the three most important rooms: living room, master bedroom and dining area or eat in kitchen.
Steps for Staging a Vacant Home:
- Lighten and brighten: Make sure the home is well lit and the window treatment are open when buyers are viewing the home.
- Paint and repair flooring: This step cannot be missed! if any rooms are left vacant, the walls and floors are all the potential buyer will see. Be sure they are perfect.
- Rental Furniture: Rent furniture and accessories from a rental company. Look for a company that provides a short term contract.
Stage One Step at a Time
It may seem like the to do list here is overwhelming. Take it one step at a time. If you don't get it all done at once, if everything isn't absolutely perfect, that's okay. Any effort you make to present your home in a more appealing way will make an impression on buyers. Keep working on it, even if your home is already on the market. All research shows that staged homes sell more quickly an often closer to the original asking price. It will be well worth your time to make these changes!