If you are like most people, once you put your property up for sale, you want it sold quickly and for top dollar. Unfortunately, the real estate market fluctuates quite a bit and it will not always be in your favor. Sometimes it seems like you’ve tried all the home staging advice in the book, and it’s still not going anywhere. But don’t give up yet – take a look at these five unique home staging tips. They might just surprise you!
1. Inject a Little Less Personality
You’ve spent years cultivating a unique personality in your home, from those lime green living room walls to all the colorful African knickknacks decorating the shelves in your office to the deer heads proudly mounted in your dining room. While you want your home to feel “lived in” so that potential buyers can more easily envision themselves living there themselves, you never know when a buyer will have an extreme distaste for lime green, or worse, be allergic to deer.
Everyone knows a room can always be painted. However, that doesn’t mean the wrong wall color won’t turn off a buyer. Many people go into home buying looking for a perfect, move-in ready, dream home. If you have a bright orange wall in your home, odds are good you just ruined every potential buyer’s dream.
Put a neutral coat of paint on any extreme walls to help buyer’s envision themselves in your home. Even if buyers don’t love the color you put on the wall, they will accept having to throw one coat of paint over a light wall much easier than the idea of two or three coats of primer and paint to cover a dark red wall. A fresh coat of paint will also give your house a newer, cleaner feel.
Besides paint colors, take down anything that might be offensive (sorry, the hunting trophies will just have to go) and pack away any very personal decorations. While your little girl may be the apple of your eye, prospective buyers don’t care about her dance recital last year or her softball trophy from the year before. The more evidence there is of your family in the house, the less likely buyers will see it as their future home because it is still clearly your home. De-clutter the walls by taking down family portraits or removing your child’s artwork from the fridge. Let the buyer see your property as a house on the market, not as your current home.
Also, be sure nothing on display is irreplaceable or fragile. Not everyone who comes through an open house is trustworthy, and accidents do happen. You don’t want to turn off a buyer because they feel guilty for breaking your favorite vase.
But don’t inject fake personality, either.
So you pulled down your oddball décor and put photographs of your family into storage. While it can be a good idea to bring some new decorations into the home to make it seem more livable (especially if you have an eclectic or nonexistent sense of style when it comes to your home), resist the temptation to go totally phony.
In one case, real estate author and blogger Ilona Bray came across an ornate frame in the bedroom of a luxury condo. In the frame was a photograph of a cute young boy of an undeterminable ethnicity, smiling adorably in a white suit and patterned tie. The child did not belong to the condo’s owner (it was new and had never been lived in). A fellow visitor assumed that the stager had neglected to take the sample photo out of the frame, but Ilona had a sneaking suspicion it was more than that. She explains that she believed it to be a trick by the stager: “I guess we’re supposed to imagine not only living in this glorious new luxury condo, but doing so with this handsome, polite, universally lovable child.” Tricky tricky!
While some visitors may not notice or be phased by a decision like this, you may alienate others who feel they are being intentionally manipulated. The moral of the story? Don’t be fake.
2. Don’t Forget the Outside of the Home
Home staging can be time-consuming and downright exhausting. Don’t worry; you’ll get there! However, don’t make the mistake of getting so wrapped up in perfecting the inside of your home that you let the outside look like a dump!
Maintaining the outside of your property is just as important as keeping the inside clean. Wash your windows inside and out, which will let more light into your home, making the interior look even better. Mowing the lawn and pruning the bushes will make your house seem warm, inviting, and cared for. It might not hurt to rent a street sweeper for the day either, and scrub the street in front of your home as well as your driveway. Your curb is the first impression buyers get of your house (that’s where the term “curb appeal” comes from!), so do everything you can to make it great.
3. Destroy Your Closet Clutter
You may think that you can hide all of your mess inside cabinets, drawers, and closets. Wrong! Potential buyers will want to see every inch of the home they may soon be moving into, so trust that they will investigate cabinets and peer into closets. Instead of shamefully hiding your stuff, start early and go through it with bins to trash, donate, and keep items. You never realize how much stuff you own until you have to stage a home, believe me.
Once all your junk is out of the way, time to go the extra mile and really impress your visitors. You should swap out old, chipped, or tarnished hardware with shiny new handles and pulls. You can go for the cheap stuff at Target, or you can go all out and replace your hardware in style. Then, make sure closet doors slide properly on their tracks, and your hinges are all up to par.
Finally, arrange whatever is left in the closet thoughtfully, showing off the different ways you can make your space work for you. Jackie of Elegantly Grounded has some great advice for neatening up your closets, pantry, and cabinets, but here’s the gist: if your storage spaces are overflowing, it indicates to a potential buyer that your home doesn’t have enough storage space, and they are less likely to buy. Instead, show off how much storage you have by presenting it well. Line up essentials thoughtfully along shelves and take advantage of baskets and decorative bins for holding smaller items.
4. Don’t Let Your Furniture Spoil the Show
Chances are, you’ve got one of these: a squishy old armchair that is just so comfortable you can’t part with it, or a dining table that you love but that your cat destroyed by using it as a scratching post. While these pieces are still totally functional, they’re only detracting from the gorgeous scene you’re trying to create. If it looks bad, it’s gotta go.
But what do you do if you need another piece of furniture to properly show off the room? You can’t have a bedroom with no bed, or a dining room without a table! Professional stagers have a few tricks up their sleeves for these situations.
No bed? No problem. Prop an air mattress up on some milk crates or cardboard boxes. Cover it with some cheap but relaxing bedding and move on. (Be sure to warn visitors not to sit on the fake bed.)
If you need pieces for a short amount of time, borrow them from friends and family, or even take a look on the Craigslist free section. Scratched up tables can be covered with tablecloths, and old chairs can be dressed up with slipcloths. Be creative!
5. Bake Some Cookies, Play Some Music
When getting your home ready for an open house, it is important to engage all the senses of a buyer. If you have time, bake a fresh batch of cookies and leave them out on the counter for everyone viewing your house. The smell of the cookies will most likely bring back good memories the buyers will connect to your house, making it feel more like a home. Also, if any of the potential buyers are hungry or have kids with them, the cookies will help keep them content enough to really look around your house instead of thinking about how soon they need to leave and go grab a bite of food somewhere else.
Sometimes silence is awkward. This can be the case for potential buyers when they’re viewing a house. To keep the atmosphere light and comfortable instead of musty and oppressive, have some classical and calming music playing softly in the background. Like with the smell of the cookies, it will make buyers feel more at home instead of like visitors at a museum.
Finally, always be sure to let as much light into the house as possible, and provide alternate light sources in the form of floor and table lamps. The more light you have in your home, the more inviting it will seem.
There aren’t any secret tricks to selling your house. There will always be people out there looking for a new home. However, by following the above tips, you may increase your chances of selling for more. While there are always buyers out there, there are always other houses on the market as well. Do everything you can to make yours seem like the best option.
Photos by Justin Leibow, Alejandro Escamilla, Rodrigo Melo, Alexander Shustov, and Alicia Rosello Gene.