The things that made your home feel homey to you won’t necessarily resonate with a buyer. When a buyer walks into your home, they need to be able to envision the habitation as a blank slate, a place where they can make themselves at home. While you might think that purple looks great on the wall and your collection of Precious Moments figurines is the best that life has to offer – there is a significant chance that your tastes are, well, yours.
Buyers may be turned off by a house packed with too much stuff, but a completely empty space can also seem uninviting. If you’re wondering whether you should stage a house to sell or leave it plain, remember that staging is about striking a balance between clearing out the house and helping potential buyers feel “at home.”
Here are five affordable things you can do to improve the appearance of your home for sale.
1. Clear the clutter. Put your things into boxes – and if you can, put them into a storage unit or move them before you put your house on the market. Personal items, piles of papers and other personal objects such as photos and framed diplomas have got to go. The things you love the most? Take those too. The floral sheets? Buh-bye. The fabulous fuchsia mid-century modern Verner Panton chair? It’s got to go. Buyers, humans that they are, tend to fixate on flavor rather than context. Your personal objects will distract them from the house and they’ll walk away with a creepy insight into your personal tastes. The objective is to take as much of yourself out of the house as possible in order to make room for the buyer’s imagination.
2. Give it some serious elbow grease. Get your carpets professionally cleaned if you can. If it’s not in the budget, rent a carpet cleaner from Home Depot or a local grocery store. Clean the house head to toe – and go deep. And I mean deep. Pour bleach on your grout, and go at it with a toothbrush. Sweep up every crumb, hair and dust bunny. Dust the blinds, get the windows cleaned inside and out. You get the point. The objective is to make the place feel fresh, clean and ready for a new owner to make it his or her own. If you can afford it, hire someone to do the cleaning. If not, get some rubber gloves and get to work.
3. Lighten up. First, make sure that all of the lights in the house are working. Replace light bulbs that might be on their last legs and clean the bugs out of your light covers. There is nothing worse for a buyer than walking into a room, flipping a light and hearing the fizzle and pop of a dead bulb. As an eco-friendly touch, consider using compact fluorescent bulbs. They tend to cast a softer, more gradual light and are an easy way that homes can save energy – and cut costs - during the sales period. Open your blinds, take advantage of your squeaky clean windows, and if that’s not enough, consider adding additional lights in rooms that remain dim.
4. Paint the walls and baseboards. No matter how many Magic Erasers you destroy, your walls more than likely need a new coat of paint to bring out the best assets of the property. Painting a room typically costs under $100 and can make a world of difference between a fail and a sale. New paint has a similar effect to spraying new car smell in an old car. All of a sudden, the house feels new, untainted and fresh. Don’t fret over paint colors too much, but remember that the best colors to paint a home to sell are opaque and neutral. Avoid the brightest white and avoid bold colors. This is not the time for bold. As for baseboards, stick to a classic off-white. You may want to pass your color and finish choices by an interior designer or real estate agent before you start painting. They can offer great insight into how to generate appeal given the characteristics of your home in a specific market.
5. Put plants and accents to work. Plants can be used to create a focal point in a room, to make it feel fresh and to tie a color palette together. There is just something cleansing and refreshing about plants – even if they’re fake. Instead of using your personal accents on counters or tables, find things that are disconnected from your personal style at Goodwill or other second-hand shops. You can often get really nice things (including silk plants, ceramic bowls, dishes and hand towels) for very cheap prices. Be careful when you’re shopping, though. You don’t want to replace your personal homey style with a junkyard of cheap.
Staging can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Since so many homes are underwater these days, it’s become harder for sellers to invest in things that increase the appeal of a property and make it more attractive to buyers. If you simply de-clutter your house, make it sparkle and shine, give attention to the lighting, paint your walls and lightly decorate the space with plants and accents – you’ll be on your way to a sale.
One more thing, before you invest in paint or plants, talk to a real estate agent. A real estate agent can provide you with market-specific guidance on how to best show off the assets of your home. If you do the work yourself, be sure to get a thumbs-up from your agent. Do not be offended or take it personally if they ask you to remove or change things. If you really want to sell your house, be appreciative of their expertise and heed their guidance.