Putting your home on the market can be a stressful experience. Your weekends are full getting ready for open houses, your schedule is packed with appointments with potential buyers (which require you to get out of the house), and yet you’re received no offers on your great place. You can’t help but wonder, “When is this house going to sell?” If you’ve asked this question, it may be time to consider staging your home.
“The reason you want to stage your house is that people don’t have any imagination, whatsoever,” says April Straus, Principal Broker at Bobby + April, a concierge real estate company that focuses on buying, selling and renovating historic homes in Richmond. “They never picture how they live in a space and unstaged, a house looks much smaller than it actually is, so they can’t picture how any furniture they own can fit in that space.”
Home staging is creating vignettes so home buyers aren’t walking into a space they can’t relate to.
Although there’s no such thing as a typical buyer, you do need to wonder what type of person is trying to buy your home and what their needs may be. Do they need space for their kids to play? Is there a separate room for a home office? Where will they entertain friends and family? What about storage?
First impressions are everything
You have one shot to make a good first impression on a potential homebuyer, and these days it starts online. In Richmond, 82 percent of homebuyers look at properties listed online before they decide to make a visit a home. “If your realtor shows up (to take photos of your home) with their iPhone, you’ve got some problems,” laughs Straus. “Look at a realtor’s listings online to see the photos they are choosing to represent their properties. If you aren’t comfortable with how those photos look, then you might want to use that as a way to exclude or include realtors in your search for the right person.”
It’s important for your realtor to know how to take professional photos or to work with a photographer who can optimize the appeal of your home. These online photos are the first step to get a home buyer through your front door.
Manage your curb appeal
Before you start working on the inside of your home, it’s important to work on the outside first. “The curb appeal of your house is what’s going to bring people in,” says Straus. There are the obvious steps -- trim overgrown bushes, clean up cobwebs lurking on your porch, replace rotting wood around your gutters and remove peeling paint on your front door. And with spring finally here, spruce up the outside of your home with a hanging flower basket or adding mulch around trees and bushes.
Consider power washing your siding, deck, sidewalk or driveway for a simple and affordable fix to instantly give your home a well-cared for and polished look. If you don’t own a power washer, many local home improvement stores allow you to rent one for a minimal cost.
Homeowners should also consider ways to make their home pop out in front of the others listed for sale. “Your front door says so much about your house,” says Michael Maddix, a professional home stager in the Richmond area. “Your front door is like a guy wearing a tie -- you can have a splash of color without it being something negative.” Straus suggests painting your front door a bright color like a funky chartreuse, luxurious deep purple or cheery Tiffany blue to help set your house apart from your neighbors. If you are wondering the best option for you, be sure to take our online quiz to help you find the perfect shade. Just remember, don’t overdo it by painting it the same color as your trim or shutters.
Light it up
Most homebuyers drive around after work to look at home, meaning it’s going to be evening when they see your house from the street. So it’s time to amp up your lighting. Be sure to open shutters and curtains in the front of your home and keep interior lights on so homebuyers can easily see into your foyer, living or dining rooms while they are driving down the street.“You want your house to be visible, lit, warm and inviting,” says Maddix.
To save some money on lighting he suggests shopping for deals on trendy fixtures at local hardware stores and online retailers. Homeowners can find good lighting at a fraction of the cost when compared to places like Restoration Hardware and Rejuvenation. If you really want to boost your home’s dramatic flair, you can hire a professional to install outdoor lighting that highlights landscaping and architecture features, but for many sellers this may not make financial sense. “We have recommended it to two clients the whole time we have done this and it has made a difference, but for most houses the cost of doing that isn’t worth the trade off,” explains Straus, who has advised homebuyers in hundreds of successful transactions.
Fake a Kitchen Renovation
Some may say a messy kitchen is a sign of a good cook, but unfortunately when it comes to selling a home, that’s just one motto that won’t work. Your kitchen is integral to your household, so it’s no surprise that it can get messy quicker than any other room in your home. “To me, it’s all about taking things away,” says Maddix.
First things first, give your kitchen a deep clean; it’s the cheapest and easiest ways to really show off your space. That means wiping down your stainless steel appliances so no fingerprints are showing, steaming-clean floors, investing in a quality grout cleaner for tile and polishing your countertops until they shine.
If new kitchen cabinets just aren’t in the budget, you can consider re-facing your current ones and completing the look with new stainless steel hardware knobs. If you decide to paint the cabinets - which can be a great update - be sure to hire a professional if you are at all concerned about your ability to get the job done right. It can be more expensive than you think, typically about half to three-quarters of what it costs to put up new cabinets. But Straus warns that if you damage your cabinets, they are almost impossible to fix.
"Painting cabinets is a more in-depth job than most homeowners realize," Straus warns. You have to take the cabinets down, and then remove the trim and hardware – and getting them back up correctly is very challenging. “Then you’ll have to completely sand them to remove dirt, varnish and finish off every crease and most doors aren’t flat. You have to use oil paint -- if you use latex paint, the first time you go to scrub them it starts to bubble and peel off in big sheets.”
If your kitchen is plagued by white or black appliances, but you can’t justify buying a new refrigerator or dishwasher based on cosmetics, consider purchasing a faux peel and stick stainless steel film that can be applied directly to the surface of your appliance for an instant update without the price tag. They come in all different sizes and often cost less than $100. But be careful, warns Straus. “Once you start trying to hide things from people, it makes buyers worry about what else you’ve peeled and stuck on,” she says. "Instead of trying to hide it, try embracing a retro kitchen," suggests Maddix. "Right now that 50s-60s-70s look is coming back in a big way," he says.
Don’t forget what’s behind closed doors
Ample storage is on every homebuyer’s must-have list, and that’s often a rare commodity in older homes. You should expect homebuyers to open up your closets doors, refrigerator, microwave and attic space. Your home needs to give the illusion that you have more than enough storage space. “Selling your house isn’t like having a party, you can’t hide everything in the basement or the closets,” chuckles Maddix. “Everyone wants to see all the space.”
This can sometimes be difficult if you have pets or children, so try minimizing the strain placed on your family by limiting toys to the playroom or bedroom. If you have dogs, leave them in a space that can easily be mopped to clean up hair. He also recommends sellers get an early start packing up their home and, if possible, bring any non-essential items to an offsite storage facility.