Staged to sell
You're selling your home. You've fixed the leaky roof, replaced the cracked window and done some general sprucing up.
As the prime home-selling season approaches, you think you're ready for potential buyers.
Your home can make a better impression on visitors if you use some home-staging techniques. The result can be higher bids and quicker sales.
Mardi Bagley, a Duluth Realtor, suggests sellers walk through their house as if they're guests walking in for the first time.
"You see things you wouldn't before, such as the carpet needs cleaning or the wallpaper is out of date," said Bagley of the Edmunds Co. "Basically, spruce up, paint up and fix up anything broken. Do it before you put it on the market."
Getting the house ready involves more than making needed repairs, say real estate agents and professionals called home stagers, who work with sellers and real estate agents to prepare homes for showing to potential buyers. To draw attention to a home's best features, they suggest ways sellers can improve its appearance. Some advice is common sense, such as making sure the home is spotlessly clean. Other tips may come from training or experience, such as rearranging furniture or even removing some furniture to make rooms appear more spacious and inviting.
Think of the house not as your home but as a commodity for sale for the highest price possible, they say.
"When you live in your home, it's your home, you should be comfortable, but when you sell it, it's an asset," said Lil Stocke, a Realtor with Edina Realty in Duluth. "Look at what somebody else will be comfortable with. That's where staging comes in."
For example, if rooms sport loud or gaudy colors, a paint job may be in order to give the room the more neutral look that many buyers find appealing.
It all starts with curb appeal. How does the house look as you drive by? Potential buyers often drive by to decide if they want to see the interior. Is the paint peeling? Is the entry inviting? Would a new door help or an accent color in the entry?
In summer, keep the landscape tidy, the lawn mowed and the sidewalks and driveways clear. A pot of flowers on the front steps adds a welcoming touch. Consider removing large unsightly shrubs if they hide your house. Trim tree limbs touching the roof. Clean gutters so plants aren't sprouting from them, making buyers wonder what else hasn't been maintained.
CLEAN, GET RID OF CLUTTER
"If things are clean and neat and fresh, they're much more appealing to the buyer," Bagley said.
Eliminate clutter. Pack away most knickknacks, collections and personal items. Clear off tabletops and mantels. Reduce the number of items in cabinets, in bookcases and on walls. Put toys out of sight.
"You don't want too many things around that are personal," Bagley said. "You can have a small area of your favorite things on display, like in bookcases, but don't fill all surfaces. Pack the rest away and absolutely pack away any valuables."
Stocke recalls showing a senior citizen's home filled with family pictures. To potential buyers, the photos indelibly connected the house to that family; one visitor told Stocke it was very hard to picture herself living in that family's home.
In the kitchen, remove pictures and magnets on the refrigerator. Countertops should be cleared of small appliances and other items.
"It just looks more spacious, especially with a small kitchen," Stocke said of cleared countertops.
Bagley suggests having just a coffee pot and some cute little thing in the corner. "Something that will catch your eye, like bottles of olive oils," she suggested.
Closets should be clean and neat.
"Organize it, straighten it, put your shoes in order. How the closets are kept tells a lot about the person," Stocke said.
REMOVE, REARRANGE FURNITURE
"A lot of people have added grandmother's furniture to their own until there's no more wall space in the living room," said Bagley, who suggests renting a storage unit. "For selling, you need a spacious, open look."
Position furniture to show off the room's best feature, such as a great view or the fireplace. Create cozy conversation areas using furniture of similar scale.
Small inexpensive touches can give a room a fresh look: new throw pillows, a new shower curtain, a fresh bouquet or new plants, either real or silk.
If you've moved out of the house, consider leaving some furniture behind or borrowing some while the house is on the market.
Professional home stagers, a service popular on the West Coast and growing in the Twin Cities, recommend living spaces be furnished and other rooms be at least partially furnished because people have a hard time picturing those rooms furnished.
"A couple of empty rooms are OK, but vacant rooms look smaller than they are, especially when walls are painted white," said Lori Matzke, a professional home stager in Minneapolis. "If it's a main room, like the master bedroom, you should at least put a bed in it. You're doing it to give perspective to buyers on how their furniture will fit in."
Bagley said small bungalows can look fine empty as long as they're clean.