If you’re like me, you love looking through house listings.
All those pictures of perfectly appointed, sparking clean houses – it’s inspiring and fills me with ideas. But it’s also completely intimidating.
How come my house never looks like this?
It’s not just that these houses are decluttered. The furniture is perfect. There are no stains on the carpet and no piles of multi-colored plastic toys that your kids have thrown in the corner. Whose house looks like this in real life?
The fact is, looking at listings is a lot like watching HGTV. It’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s “house porn.”
When I first thought about downsizing, the beauty of these homes made me rather anxious. And I do this for a living!
But what I knew that many others don’t realize is that all of these homes had been staged. Professionally staged? Maybe not. But many real estate agents have become proficient at the art of home design. They even have storage units filled with furniture they’ve picked up at yard sales and all the knick-knacks needed to make a home look like it just came out of a West Elm catalogue.
In my experience, a beautifully staged home sells quicker and for a higher price than others. Similar houses on the same block can experience two different outcomes. I’ve seen homes sit because they don’t look fresh and clean and empty. You’ll always get back more than you put in.
What these real estate agents are doing isn’t rocket science and it’s something every home seller should know about.
Here are six of their best staging secrets.
What To Do to Get Your Home Ready
1. DECLUTTER. That’s always the first step. Take a good hard look at all your rooms and finally notice that stack of magazines that have been sitting on your coffee table for the last six months. Take your time because it’s a daunting task. Do it room by room. Remember that less is more and put even more of your stuff into your well-marked boxes than you think at first.
2. HIRE THE RIGHT AGENT. Interview potential agents and ask to see before-and after pictures of the homes they’ve listed. Ask them how they’d stage your home and how much furniture they have at hand. Some agents include this for free as part of their deal with you. Others charge on top of the license fee. Make sure you know up front how much will this cost and how much you will be required to purchase yourself.
3. DON’T GET OFFENDED. Once your home goes on the market, it’s no longer your house. Not really. Don’t be upset if your agent tells you she’s removing all of your living room furniture along with your Grandma’s hand crocheted throws. No one is saying you have bad taste. It’s simply a means of marketing to a buyer and convincing them that purchasing top dollar for your property will allow them to live inside Pottery Barn.
4. IT’S ALL ABOUT PSYCHOLOGY. Understand that while no one actually does live inside Pottery Barn, the purpose of the staging is to allow the buyer to live a personal fantasy. The staging will tell your buyers that there’s plenty of room in closets, plenty of empty space to fill up with their own stuff. Most of all, it reinforces the concept that they can live inside this fantasy if they just fork up the right amount of cash! Do anything you can to help potential buyers imagine how wonderful it would be to live there. Set out some wine glasses. Put out fresh flowers. Your agent should know all these tricks.
5. KEEP IT CLEAN. It’s not that difficult to stage and set the stage. It’s much harder to keep it all in pristine condition during the showings, inspection, and appraisal. You have to keep up appearances during every possible visit from your buyers. Set rules for the kids and do a sweep every morning before you leave the house. With luck this phase won’t last long.
6. HIRE A GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER. It’s worth the additional cost. An average set of photos will make your home look just that — average. Don’t blow your rooms out with wide angle lenses. Most buyers are savvy enough to know when the camera is exaggerating. The most important element is good lighting and great framing. A great picture can make your home inviting and tell the story of what it would be like to live there.
Remember — you’re setting an imaginary stage as if you’re actually on one of those home improvement television programs. You’re making sure that your home looks as good as it possibly can. Rely on an expert. Take your emotions out of it. Be ruthless when you organize and declutter.
If you follow these recommendations you’ll have your house sold quickly. You’ll also have cleaned out and be prepared for your next move. And you can sleep well at night knowing you’ve done a great job selling your home.