It's all about the presentation. When you're trying to sell your home during these pandemic days, it's even MORE about the presentation, since most potential buyers may never even enter it, relying instead on how it looks in videos and photographs.
If you can't have a professional stager come into your home and mess with all your furniture and accessories, there are things you can do to stage it yourself—more than you know. You have to pretty much leave your ego and nostalgia at the door and think about what buyers might want to see in every photo. Staging is a staple in the real estate industry now and has been for a few decades. Its purpose is to showcase your home's best assets, impress buyers, and sell it quickly for the highest possible price. Even if you are in a lower price range, you'll give yourself an advantage if you take the time to stage.
According to Investopedia's Amy Fontinelle, "Relative to the amount of time and money involved, staging may be one of the most lucrative projects you ever undertake." She goes on to say that potential buyers aren't just looking for a place to live. They're also looking for a way to fulfill their dreams and improve their lifestyles. Staging can create a more emotional purchase for the buyer, which ultimately can generate more money for you.
So here's the deal. If you are going to attempt to stage your own home, you have to think of it not as decorating, but as merchandising. Paying careful attention to staging can also take potential buyers' minds off any work that needs to be done. Anything that requires time or money, to them, is a turn off. "For every problem they see, they'll deduct its cost from their offer. If they see too many problems, they may pass on buying the home completely," she says.
Here are some very basic staging tips:
1) Focus on big-picture improvements and on the areas that will make the biggest difference in your home's selling price, such as the exterior, the entryway, showcasing the size of rooms that offer generous square footage. Details happen in places like the kitchen and bathrooms, which can be easily updated with new fixtures, a new shower door, or some new countertops.
2) The first order of the day is cleanliness. Don't think that just because people are looking at whole-room pictures of your kitchen that they can't zoom in. "If you can't purchase new appliances, make sure the ones you have are spotless," says Fontinelle. "No one wants to see splattered spaghetti sauce, films of grease, or piles of crumbs in their potential new home." She includes bathrooms in her suggestion for cleanliness — everything from tub corners to the sink drain to that spot behind the toilet you don't think anyone can see. And take down that old shower curtain. The goal is to make everything look new.
3) Along with cleanliness comes the removal of all odors. You may not even know you have them until you leave your house for a while and then re-enter it or ask a neighbor to do so. "Inexpensive tricks for ridding a home of odors and giving it an inviting aroma include baking cinnamon-coated apples or slice-and-bake cookies in the oven – or burning vanilla-scented candles," says Fontinelle.
4) Clutter is often in the eye of the beholder, but make no mistake about it. It gets noticed. Clutter not only distracts buyers from your home's features; it also makes it appear to be lacking storage space. Put away all knickknacks, religious symbols, stacks of magazines, sports collections, etc., and pre-pack them for your move. Your buyers will not miss them because they will never have seen them. Use your garage or a storage unit, however. Don't rob your closets of visual space by throwing it all in there.
5) All those family photos lining the "gallery wall" of your home? Take them down. "Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove all the family photos, items with family members' names on them, and refrigerator art," says Fontinelle. "In addition, put away all the toys and anything else that is highly personal or evocative of the home's current inhabitants." Remember, it's like merchandising a store, where people will see all the possibilities of their lives before purchasing anything.
6) An important trick to learn is making each room look as if it has a single purpose. A bedroom is not a home gym. A family room is not a kids' playroom. A dining room table should not double as office space. Fontinelle adds that this will help buyers see how to maximize the home's square footage. "If you have a finished attic, make it into an office. A finished basement can become an entertainment room, and a junk room can be transformed into a guest bedroom. Even if the buyer doesn't want to use the room for the same purpose, the important thing is for them to see that every inch of the home is usable space. This includes alcoves, window seats, corners, breakfast nooks, etc."
If you are uncertain about what to do to ready your home for photographs, videos, or potential walk-throughs, ask your Realtor to be brutally honest. He or she will notice things like repairs that need to be done on the inside and outside of your home as well as the presentation of it — things like your wallpaper, your paint colors, and your furniture placement. It's their job to know whether a house looks marketable. They'll chime in on the amount of lighting, whether existing furniture should all remain in each room, and what repairs to make. If these are observations not in his or her purview and if it's not, they no doubt have a staging friend with which to consult. If you'd rather not have people in your home to make these assessments, go crazy with your smartphone and take pictures of every room in your home and send them along for your Realtor's suggestions. No one knows your house as you do, and in the long run, all this extra effort will be worth it.