Even when it's a seller's market, home staging should be an integral part of the overall strategy for selling a home and setting it apart from the competition to achieve top dollar. When the market is soft, home staging can make the difference between a quick sale or a listing that lingers on the market for months.
While you may want to enlist the assistance of a professional decorator if your budget allows, it doesn't take a degree in interior design or a thick wallet to follow these 10 home staging tips that will have your property looking its best:
1. Start by de-cluttering. Stacks of mail, dirty dishes, laundry and other household items strewn about your home need to be put away. But you also need to address the less obvious clutter, like family photos, knick-knacks and certain existing home decor. Now is the time to carefully pack away that collection of baseball memorabilia and those cherished family photos. You'll have less packing to do once the moving date approaches and prospective buyers will more easily notice your house rather than your possessions.
2. Begin staging with a clean slate. No matter how much time you put into actual staging of your home, your efforts are not likely to pay off if buyers see a neglected, dirty home. Have carpets professionally cleaned, bring wood floors back to their former glory and replace tired-looking rugs. Check ceiling corners for cobwebs and give your entire home a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning. Glowing floors, gleaming windows and scrubbed tile grout will give your home a well-cared-for look.
3. Settle on a neutral style. Your current home decor may have an amazing vintage, shabby-chic look or perhaps you have taken a coastal theme to the extreme. Whatever your personal taste, now is the time to rein it in and opt for a neutral and crowd-pleasing decor. While you may enjoy letting your rural roots shine through with country-themed furnishings, your prospective buyer may prefer a more urban vibe and be totally turned off from making an offer.
4. Open those closet doors. If you think your home's closets are the perfect hiding space for all the clutter and personal belongings you've removed from your home's decor, think again. Like it or not, buyers are going to look inside your closets. Don't let them see clutter and clothing from floor to ceiling. Invest in some temporary off-site storage if necessary. Now is the perfect time for going through clothing and donating or selling items you have not recently worn. Be sure the clothing and other items that remain are stowed away in an organized, appealing manner.
5. Look at your bathrooms through a visitor's eyes. While it is often the last place you think about when planning home staging, your home's bathrooms have a lot of impact. In addition to a thorough cleaning, make sure wastebaskets are empty. Keep a fresh bar of soap on hand to switch out in the soap dish and be sure hand towels are clean, unworn and matching. Vanity tops should be otherwise free of cosmetics, combs and other items. Replace dingy or mildewy shower curtains, and clean shower doors, tub and tile. Be sure to put all commode lids in the closed position.
6. Complement your floor plan. That extra easy chair wedged into the corner of your living room may be great for family movie night, but may make your living room look smaller than it really is. Take a hard look at your furniture and put worn, unmatched and extra pieces away in storage. If that sofa in your home office is in better shape, switch it out. Rather than making a television the focal point, group furniture pieces and lamps in pairs, to invite a feeling of cozy conversation. Bring furniture away from the walls to further promote a welcoming environment.
7. Stage an inviting table. It should go without saying that your table should look like it is made for dining and not a homework center. While it isn't necessary to set your dining table with place settings--which may look too staged--it is still important to add some interest to an otherwise expanse of bare tabletop. A fresh floral centerpiece can be the perfect touch for a traditional round table, while longer tables may do better with multiple smaller arrangements. Be sure seat chair cushions are clean and the tabletop is free of scratches, dust and debris.
8. Turn your master into a gender-neutral retreat. Frilly, feminine linens or bold bachelor decor can be a turn off, so opt for a neutral, relaxing environment that works for either man or woman. If space allows, create a reading nook with a chair and ottoman. While prospective buyers may be more forgiving about secondary bedrooms, bright pink or dark blue walls may make it difficult for buyers to envision living in your home.
9. Give outdated areas a fresh look. Nothing can turn off prospective buyers faster than worn or outdated cabinetry. Rather than an expensive kitchen remodel, give your cabinets new life with fresh stain and new hardware. Does a massive orange brick fireplace scream '70s in your family room? Paint can be an inexpensive fix. Either completely paint the brick a more neutral tone or use a rag to brush paint onto each brick face for a more natural, updated look.
10. Don't forget the curb appeal. Staging your home doesn't end at the threshold. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint or stain. Remove overgrown landscape and replace with fresh, easy-care plantings. Be sure the lawn is healthy and mowed, paying close attention to trim. If your home has a porch, add a planter or outdoor furniture for an inviting entry and ensure steps are free of clutter and dirt.
Preparing a house for sale can seem overwhelming. The idea of staging a home may sound expensive, but can be done on even the smallest of budgets. Following the steps above will help to set the stage for a quick, top-dollar sale.
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