HOW TO SELL YOUR HOME FOR MORE MONEY
Raymond Kerege, M.A., ePro, GRI, ABR, GREEN, Associate Broker
Table Of Contents
How Making Small Changes And Improvements Can Gain You Thousands 1
How Much More Can Staging Get You?
Using Curb Appeal To Sell Your Home For More 15
Neutralizing Your Home
Decluttering The Entire House
Staging Your Kitchen To Attract More Buyers 43
Staging Your Bathrooms For Show And Sell
Master Bedroom Staging
Main Living Room Staging
10. Main Dining Area Staging
11. Staging Furniture
12. Staging Solutions And Options
13. The Importance Of Good Pictures
14. Repairs Or Touchups To Improve Value
15. How To Deal With Children And Animals When Staging
Foreword When I first ventured into the real estate industry years ago, I did so with the hopes of helping sellers like you avoid the headaches often associated with the home-selling process. In my years of experience, not only have I helped alleviate the stress of selling for numerous clients, but I’ve also accumulated years of knowledge to help them get more money for their homes in the least amount of time. I decided to share all of my expertise in one place with potential clients. And that’s why you’re receiving this book. I want to help you have the best possible home-selling experience. And by that, I mean I want you to 1. Get the most money possible for your home, 2. Sell in the least amount of time, and 3. Avoid the headaches most commonly associated with the home-selling process. Think of this book as my gift to you. It contains insider advice on the home-selling process to help you achieve your ultimate real estate goals, including: • Secret strategies to sell your home for more money • Marketing techniques employed by top agents • Advice on how to appeal to today’s buyers • And much, much more If, after reading through it, you want to hire me to help you sell your home, I’d be more than happy to meet with you to discuss a specific plan to sell your home. Happy reading!
CHAPTER 1 How Making Small Changes and Improvements Can Gain You Thousands
Today’s housing market is more competitive price-wise than it has ever been. In this environment, it’s on the seller to go that extra mile to ensure their house stands out from the rest. The homes that stand out sell the fastest, for close to or even above listing price. But it doesn’t have to take forever or cost an arm and a leg. The good news is that dis-tinguishing your property can be done with some self-labor and little cost. In selling a home, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t bother to do these small things that can improve your sale price by probably thousands of dollars. This book is a look at the extra steps you can take to earn that extra money on your sale. These are proven methods to raise the sale price of your home. Home staging and these other strategies are backed up by statistics that prove the importance of these extra steps. Following these steps will not only improve your home, but will also make it much more welcoming to your audience during a drive-by or walkthrough. The improvements will affect its online presence a great deal, as well. Nowadays, there are so many media platforms where houses are advertised that it’s even harder to make your home stand out. That puts the importance of the home’s appearance even higher.
There are plenty of options on how to get this done. You can do it all yourself, or choose a professional stager or a full staging company, as many are available in most cities. Consider even a property stylist, since it will make your house stand out that much more.
WHAT IS “HOME STAGING?”
Home staging is preparing, dressing up, and presenting the for- sale house to appear especially attractive and extremely welcoming to any prospective buyer you might have. To avoid investing in new furniture (some do, or rent exquisite furniture) and avoid spending thousands of dollars (some do) on this project right off the bat, your or your professional home stager’s first step is to do as much as possible with everything you already have in your house. At base, home staging is about creating more space by clearing clutter, unnecessary objects, or furniture, giving the rooms a fresh, neutral color, and making any repairs you deem important. Replacing carpets and floors is another common occurrence. The priciest items will probably come with making updates and repairs inside and outside your house. The least costly bits are maximizing your space by moving objects around and cleaning/ clearing your house out. Rearranging existing furniture, cleaning the inside and outside of the house, as well as the rooftop, are some of the simple steps involved in this process. An important part of staging is choosing new accessories and furniture to dress up your newfound space, creating a welcoming and warm environment. Your worn-out couch and easy chair imprinted with your television viewing hours aren’t your best home-selling features.
Home staging makes prospective buyers see all the possibilities of purchasing the home and living in it. They need to be able to imagine their own lives taking place in each part of the home. Money spent on staging shouldn’t be considered as waste, but should as an investment or cost of doing business — and it will be recovered when the property is sold. It will pay off in the long run, when the home’s perceived value is boosted.
DOES HOME STAGING REALLY WORK?
According to the information from the Real Estate Staging Association, properties that are well-staged professionally and look more appealing spend about 75% less time on the market. They are most viewed by buyers as “well-maintained” and “must- see” houses, and are subsequently sold at a higher price. When it comes to acquiring real estate, most prospective buyers imagine or think they can overlook empty rooms or poor décor and see only potential, but they really can’t. This is the main reason that successful builders use model suites and model homes to sell their projects. The sole purpose of this is to make it easy for prospective buyers to envision how they’ll live in the house. It gives an example of the type of comfort and life that these prospective buyers can have in the house. WHY CHANGING THINGS AND MAKING SMALL IMPROVEMENTS CAN GAIN YOU THOUSANDS Experienced home sellers discover that the same principles from modeling a home are also useful in the resale market; therefore, they rely on professional home stagers to ensure they sell at a higher price and get off the market quickly.
When hunting for a house, home buyers start with a reasonable
list of prospective properties, but the house they buy is often chosen mainly for emotional reasons (except for investment properties, for which they have no plans of inhabiting). The goal of staging a project is to ensure prospective buyers see the great possibilities that owning the house will bring them. The prospective buyer can walk into the home and experience that “Finally, here’s my dream home!” feeling. If potential buyers are pleased with the house, then they’re willing to look beyond some of their predetermined “must-have features.” That’s why it’s so important to put minute details into consideration. Small things that you might overlook — such as personal memorabilia, overcrowded rooms, ugly doors, or dripping taps — can disengage the buyer emotionally from the home. They’ll begin to think of all the problems they’ll have to face later, and they immediately shift their attention to the next appointment while writing off your house as a realistic possibility. The greatest motivator for someone to make an offer on your property is a connection they make with it while imagining their life there. If this can be achieved, then you just might have put an end to the buyers’ search for their perfect choice. Your motive is to keep them a bit restless, with the feeling that if they decide too late, someone else will take away their dream house.
HOW YOUR LISTING SHOULD LOOK ONLINE
This might be the most important aspect in the Information Age. Most prospective buyers first look online for what they want, before ever employing the services of a real estate agent. From a survey carried out, 90% of home buyers in the U.S. first search for houses on the Internet. Therefore, when you’re listing a house, the photos need to be captivating to the buyers — so much so that they can’t wait to see the house in person!
It’s not necessarily required to buy new furniture during your home staging. You can make do with what you have available, but pieces need to be rearranged in ways that’ll look appealing to potential buyers. You should be careful while spending on a house that will be sold; work on the important items to make the house appear impeccable. If not, you may even end up spending money and still getting low offers, thus coming out upside down on the deal. If your spending is done appropriately by changing out some worn-out things and improving other facilities, you stand a better chance of selling your property quickly, and at a price that will earn you even more money than had you not made the expenditures in both time and funds.
SUMMARY: CHANGES AND IMPROVEMENTS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE SALE PRICE
There are many things you’ll need to do to get your property ready for the market to maximize your selling price. The top item is get rid of your clutter. A home that’s well lived in becomes cluttered with excess furniture, wall hangings, and personal items, not to mention items stored in basements, attics, and crawlspaces. This may keep you from realizing how cluttered it will appear to strangers. Culling this material might be difficult, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to decide on what to keep or what should be thrown out. My advice is to keep your emotional attachment to your things low. Looking at it from a theoretical perspective, staging looks simple and less expensive. However, many homeowners find it hard; it’s often difficult to see things objectively when you love them.
Here are some basic rules for proper home staging:
• Your house must be clean. “Sparkling” should be the right description for the condition of your house. It should never be 10 years since the outside of the second-floor windows were washed. Floors must look brand new. This is often achievable (and only feasible) by employing a cleaning crew’s services. It’s even considered a good investment to have your cleaning team in weekly to inspect and freshen while your home is for sale. Your windows, chimneys, shutters, and other places should be professionally cleaned outside and inside the home. • Fix or replace broken or worn-out items. Having a cracked tile or a dripping faucet will send a wrong impression to prospective buyers — that the home has been neglected. Replacing or getting these (small) items fixed before putting your house on the market is critical to your sale. • Get rid of clutter. Make use of the “50% Rule.” You get rid of clutter in your house by at least half. Since we all tend to love our stuff, this might be the most difficult rule of all. Our stuff reflects our hobbies, memories, and values. Unfortunately, clutter doesn’t sell a home; in fact, it hinders the sale. Clutter also makes a home seem disorganized and smaller. I opened the garage to a house we were considering making our own home to find a partially dismembered deer in process of the homeowner’s hunting and taxidermy hobby. We didn’t consider the home any further, although it was equal in most ways to others we liked. We just couldn’t get past that dead deer in “our” garage. • Using neutral colors. It’s well known that using neutral
colors sell. Conveying an image of neutrality and quality is important. Prospective buyers walk through your home, imagining themselves as the owners. While you might have enjoyed a unique paint scheme, buyers won’t be engaged enough to envision their own lifestyle in that hue. Painting your home with odd or loud colors can turn buyers off. They might not be able to imagine living in your home with those colors if they don’t suit their personal tastes and style. • Depersonalize. Get rid of objects that your prospective buyers could be personally offended by. For instance, religious and political items may turn off groups of potential buyers, especially if they have different religious and political backgrounds. As mentioned, the process of acquiring a home is quite emotional, and you want prospective buyers to attach emotion to your home by making it possible for them to see themselves as the owners. Staging a home should cover every area of the house; however, there are some specific places you need ensure are in their most excellent state — i.e., the entrance to your house, the kitchen, the bathroom (s), and all toilets. Most buyers put more emphasis on these areas. If you can make changes and small improvements in your home, no doubt you’ll be rewarded greatly for your efforts.
CHAPTER 2 How Much More Can Staging Get You?
Now you know what home staging means, and have an idea of what it looks like and its place in home-selling. However, you might be still skeptical about the worth of the time, effort, and money. After all, does “staging” a for-sale house really make a difference to buyers? Don’t they see past the toys on the living room floor and see their own children’s toys there? Do most people care that the house looks “lived in” at a showing? After all, they know it will be emptied before they move in, or at least understand that real people live there and that they’re not shopping for a museum. Won’t people see past a collection of butterfly magnets on the fridge and just see the fridge that comes with the house? For better or worse, the answer to these questions is a resounding “No!” Recent data on home staging shows that 9 out of 10 people can’t see past what’s in front of them to envision something different, whether it’s a collection of fishing trophies in the living room or a completely empty space. People have a hard time separating what’s there from what they’ll bring when they move in. Frankly, home shoppers likely don’t even want to see what it’ll look like with their furniture in it. What your potential buyers really want is to know that their new home can be made to look like the beautiful set pieces one can see on HGTV. Perhaps it’s not fair, but it’s the reality of the world we live in. 9
It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money to adequately stage a home for sale and will almost certainly result in getting your money back, plus some. Which raises the question, “How much money am I going to get out of this?” While it’s impossible to predict specifics, recent data from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) show that staging your home is likely to sell the property faster (and time is money) and will also bring you a higher price than if you don’t stage. Let’s look at some data. Anecdotal evidence and smaller surveys had been suggesting for years that staging was a surefire way to set your home apart from the pack. However, it wasn’t until January 2015 that NAR published a report, updated in 2017, that provided reliable facts on the growing trend and its effect on home sales. In that report, it was shown that 49% of agents witness their buyers being affected by staging in almost every instance, with 47% reporting that at least some buyers have been affected. This means that removing the clutter and putting on a fresh coat of paint before your agent even begins taking pictures for the listing will almost certainly result in more people being willing to stop looking at your house from Zillow and set up an appointment to view it in person. In fact, a large portion of agents reported in the study that their buyers were more likely to walk through a home if they first viewed it online — assuming, of course, that the photos represented a clean, modern, and overall appealing home. Another positive effect of staging is that buyers are more likely to overlook faults in the property. This was reported by 28% of
agents, meaning that a tastefully staged home can lead to a buyer overlooking things, like a smaller backyard, or the lack of the skylight they were hoping for. Even more important is the amount of time spent on the market. According to RESA, a home adequately staged prior to being listed will sell in an average of 42 days. A home listed without being staged can spend as much as six months on the market. For anyone who has ever tried to sell a home, any time that can be saved in this stressful process (some say it’s more stressful than divorce!) is precious time indeed. What about the money? How much more can going through the effort and expense of staging really gain a seller? The responses vary, but according to NAR, most Realtors® say that staging yields higher selling prices, ranging from 1% (29% of the time) of the value of the home, all the way up 20% (3% of the time). On average, for an investment of 1-3% of the home’s value, a seller can expect a Return on Investment (ROI) of 8-10%. Then, there is the faster sale. Time is money. As stated above, if you’re able to sell your home in a mere six weeks instead of a massive six months, that’s likely to be thousands of dollars in mortgage, utility, and insurance payment money that doesn’t have to be spent on a house you no longer think of as a home. Even if you happen to live in an area that’s currently enjoying a seller’s market, staging is still critical, ranging on imperative. Staging your house — making your home more appealing in the buyer’s eyes — is the factor that can positively affect the would- be buyers and possibly lead to a bidding war between them. That means a higher selling price for you; it also would make a quick sale even more likely.
The facts are clear: staging your home prior to listing is almost
guaranteed to bring you a higher price, and to get you out of your old house into a new dream home in as little time as possible, making staging a more than worthwhile investment.
WHERE TO SPEND?
By now, you might be convinced that staging your home is an important part of the home-sale process and worth doing. And while we’ve touched on it briefly, the nagging question remains: “How much does this all cost?” The answer, of course, will vary depending on your market and how much work your home may need. To get an idea of what sort of things you should focus on in your own market, work with your agent, and, if possible, a professional stager. Your own eye can tell you a great deal. Take a drive around your neighborhood. Take note of the homes for sale. You’ll see a wide difference in the outdoor maintenance and upkeep at homes with “for sale” signs. Siding will be new or freshened, walkways will be without cracks, and the landscaping will look professionally done. If house for sale looks dilatated or “lived in,” you can bet it will sit on the market longer and sell for a less-than-desirable price. While the expense of appropriately staging your home for sale is not a small sum, it’s one that many will be able to afford. However, where to focus and how much money to spend on a particular area are questions that should be answered.
Staging the inside of a home can be very expensive if you are going for that finished, model-home look and need to build it from scratch. However, it can be quite inexpensive if you can think creatively.
The key is to focus your time and energy on where it will be the most effective. The living room is one of the most effective areas to stage. It can cost as little as a $30 can of paint and a few fresh plants to give your room a whole new look. This is particularly important. How easily buyers can see themselves in the home’s main gathering space is sure to affect that ROI we discussed earlier. In addition, the fact that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes is a maxim that has been repeated, over and over. The NAR study shows that this cliché is actually true. Making these rooms more appealing need not be expensive. Nearly any surface can be painted, as long as you find the right kind of paint to stick to the surface that you’re trying to freshen up. Other improvements, like new towels and new hardware for the cabinets, are simple to do, and combined, shouldn’t cost more than $100. A simple thing you can do anywhere in the house is to improve the lighting throughout the home. There is no need to go for the expensive LED bulbs; just focus on ensuring the highlights of your home are sufficiently well-lit so that it will create a warm atmosphere — $20 of new incandescent bulbs will go a long way to giving your home an expensive — but effective — makeover.
Curb appeal represents the first impression your buyer will have as he or she comes up the driveway. You should plan on spending a little money here. Consider painting your doors and trimming your yard, getting some new plants, or even adding something extra like a decorative fountain.
Creating a positive first impression will have a big impact on how
your buyers will view the rest of your home and will affect the price in a positive way, as well.
NEUTRALIZATION AND DEPERSONALIZATION
This largely falls under the heading of internal staging; however, as the most important part of the staging process, it deserves a separate mention. You no doubt have heard of decluttering. That’s what this is, but focus on the items that are uniquely yours. As you can imagine, it doesn’t cost much. If you don’t have an “out-of-the-way” place in your home to store boxes, a storage unit will run $50-$100 a month. Keep in mind that if your home is staged properly, you needn’t worry about the expenditure for more than a month or two. The benefit is that decluttering preps the home in such a way that your mark is minimized as much as possible, allowing the buyers to visualize themselves in the home. In fact, 81% of agents report that staging accomplishes exactly that, and the more easily a buyer can see themselves in your home — the easier the home is to sell.
Furniture placement doesn’t cost much, especially if you’re able to move items around the house. However, you may need to replace or remove items that are damaged or worn. You could buy new, but a better solution might be to rent furniture for the time that your home is on the market. While it’s true that this can run in the hundreds of dollars, this step can more than pay for itself. Remember, an investment of 1-3% of home value leads to an 8-10% ROI.
CHAPTER 3 Using Curb Appeal to Sell Your Home for More
Curb appeal, the overall attractiveness of your home when standing on the street, is critical when selling your home. Your landscaping, the physical exterior, and the facade of your home are all important aspects that need to be assessed, considered, and improved. This is vital if you want to sell your home for more.
WHY CURB APPEAL GREATLY AFFECTS THE SALE
A potential buyer is looking for signs indicating how well the home has been kept over long periods of time, and might be influenced by signs that show the type of person currently living there. Beyond aesthetics, the buyer is looking for evidence of wear, tear, and neglect. Starting at the very curb, a well-manicured lawn and fresh appearance of the exterior demonstrates that the homeowner is up to an appealing standard, and shows that the current homeowner takes pride in the property’s aesthetics. Where buyers drive up to see your curb appeal as subpar, there’s a very good chance that they’ll take that sole impression and go elsewhere. Selling a home is similar to selling consumer good in that regard — packaging sells! Most buyers will look online first to see some general photos of the interior and the exterior. Having good curb appeal and attractive photos posted within your ad will help to interest 15
buyers right away, so that they’ll make an appointment with you or your real estate agent to come see your home. Keep in mind that even if the interior of your home is kept up-to- date, in good repair, with perfect plumbing and electrical work, and is decorated nicely for appeal, the exterior and curb appeal of your home will influence a buyer’s decision before they even enter the house.
HAVE A WELCOMING WALKWAY
The path to your front door serves as an “ambassador” for your home. It’s important that it be beautiful and pleasant to look at. Your walkway is the “red carpet” to your door. Ensuring it generates the right first impression for prospective buyers will surely gain you points in the real estate sales arena. The pathway, landing, and your front door should all blend together to provide an appealing journey from your street or driveway up to your house. If your home’s style is Georgian, Greek Revival, or Colonial, try a straight path that goes from the sidewalk straight to your door. With a straight path, you can avoid a mass of boring concrete by decorating the lane with soft landscaping, such as flower pots or beds. You have a better opportunity for charming buyers if you add curious boulders, interesting trees, plant groupings in vibrant colors, or even a fountain. If you’re looking for something that’s more unique, a wood walkway will do the trick. Cedar, redwood, cypress, and teak are all weather-resistant types of wood that are perfect for creating a beautiful walkway, and are easy to work with.
For a wooden walkway, you’ll also need pea gravel or stone as a base. Wooden walkways have minimal upkeep, as you only need to stain and seal once every year. Whatever you decide to do with your walkway, ensure there’s no overgrowth anywhere, especially around the concrete or wood itself. Note that incorporating too much in the way of lawn decoration will make your walkway look cluttered and disorganized. If you’re going to decorate your walkway, go easy on the decorations and lawn ornaments. Keep a decent balance, keep it elegant, and don’t go overboard. Though having some is a cute, fun idea that helps to make gardens and walkways pop, it’s a terrible idea to bring in an entire army of them. Keep to a limit of four or five, depending on how big your walkway is, and how full of flowers, rocks, trees, and other aesthetics it already is.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR FRONT DOOR
Painting your front door in a color that’s both eye-catching but neutral, as well as matches the overall style of the exterior, is a great way to add curb appeal to sell your home for more. Additionally, a contrast between the overall facade of your home and the front door will amp up your curb appeal. For example, if your house is white or gray and has black shutters, painting your front door red will create a more mysterious essence to it, and bring more beauty to your home — as will adding a wreath on your door, a potted plant by the entrance, or having boxed planters lined up on your porch near the front door. This creates a more positive, free-flowing atmosphere, therefore making your home look more appealing to buyers.
Ensure your front door has a fresh coat of paint, that the knob is polished, and that any pieces that need replacing are replaced before your home is put on the market. Your back door needs attention too. For example, if you have a sliding screen door for your backyard, check if it needs a new screen or if it needs to be repositioned on the tracks. There’s nothing worse than having something fall apart or not function properly when there’s a buyer in your home, especially when it comes to the doors, both front and back.
A WELL-MANICURED LAWN MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
If your lawn is withering, has dead grass, or is riddled with weeds, buyers aren’t going to be attracted to your home. Therefore, it’s extremely important to have a lawn that’s well-manicured and shows off just as much beauty as the rest of your home, and shows the buyer the home hasn’t been occupied by a negligent owner. However, a lawn that appears to be too high-maintenance can also be a turnoff. It’s best to go for a look that’s both neat and attractive. You don’t need to go overboard with the lawn care, but have the grass trimmed nicely and regularly check that it’s healthy. A simple garden somewhere around the perimeter of your home is also a great idea. You can plant flowers with bright colors to really lighten up and bring a joyous feeling to your lawn area. If you have a garden, or want to add a special touch to the landscape, throw down mulch in a darker color, such as a solid, dark brown. Mulch helps to neaten things up and gives the area a clean feeling; generally, mulch always looks good in any setting when set down the proper way. You can’t go wrong with
mulching, as it adds great curb appeal.
One thing to avoid when it comes to this area of curb appeal is having too many lawn ornaments. It’s appropriate and appealing to have one or two in your garden; however, if you have trinkets and other ornaments all over the place — especially garden gnomes — it’s going to look tacky, cluttered, and just, well, wrong. A field of lawn gnomes will limit your prospective market to lawn gnome aficionados only! Even though the buyer obviously knows that lawn ornaments don’t come with the house and the lawn, they could still hesitate and walk away, based on pure tackiness.
BACKYARD APPEAL IS AS IMPORTANT AS CURB APPEAL
By the time a buyer gets to the backyard, their decision already will be influenced, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the backyard appeal. Once a buyer reaches the backyard, they will try to envision themselves relaxing in the sun, having family and friends over, and playing with their children or their pets there. Making a good impression with your backyard is crucial to a great offer. To ensure your lawn looks more than acceptable, go over it with the lawnmower, add grass seed and fertilizer, then give it a good drink of water. If you have a pool or a hot tub, ensure the cover is off and the water is sparkling clean. It also doesn’t hurt to add a few last-minute flowers if you don’t have any. Don’t go overboard, and clutter the yard with them, as it will end up looking messy rather than pretty and elegant.
Patio furniture also helps to make your backyard feel more
welcoming and will help the buyer envision themselves sitting outside with friends or family on a hot day, having cold drinks, and enjoying a conversation. You’ll want your backyard appeal to give the buyer a vision that speaks positive volumes. You’ll want prospective buyers to see themselves in the backyard every summer enjoying the weather and all that life has to offer — so ensure your backyard — not just your curb — is in top condition.
YOUR DRIVE-BY APPEAL
Potential buyers will quickly drive by your home or park out front and see it for the first time. To ensure your home has a good drive-by appeal, keep your windows and front door in top condition. You’ll also need to touch up your garage. The home’s exterior will need to be neatened up, like painting the door. When taking a quick drive-by to check out a home, minor details of the house itself stick out a lot more than you’d think. If your home is currently on the market, ensure the exterior has fresh paint, the lawn is well manicured without looking too high maintenance, your windows are washed, and that you don’t have any dead flowers in your garden. This is also a good time to trim or prune your trees.
THE ROOF IS JUST AS IMPORTANT
When it comes to your roof, don’t get up on a ladder and inspect it yourself (unless you’re trained in this area), because you’re probably going to miss something. Bring in a professional who can tell you exactly what needs to be done on your roof, such as re-shingling.
Improvements should be made before the house is listed for sale.
In preparing to sell your home, be prepared for the repair funds, which you should be paying upfront. A savvy buyer will have the house inspected for any faults, so making all necessary repairs beforehand will ensure the process of selling goes smoother and faster. If your roof needs repair that you just can’t do prior to listing, get reputable quotes for the price of the work and deduct that cost from the sale price. This method is generally convenient for both the buyer and the seller, making the buyer at ease, knowing they can have items repaired and upgraded, should they wish to do so.
IMPORTANT AND INEXPENSIVE REPAIRS TO MAKE
When redoing your front door, it’s also important to improve all your hardware. Use metal polish on the fixtures of the doors, on the knob itself, and for all the metal components on it. Make the metal shine. Even though these may seem like little details, a big difference will definitely be made in how the buyer looks at your home. Even though this will also seem like a minor detail, get a welcome mat and a wreath that matches the overall interior style of the home. Obviously, the buyer might not stick with your style choice or theme — after all, every buyer is different — this will still help them to get a more home-like feel of the house and ensure they can properly envision themselves living here for decades to come. Replacing your light fixtures is also important when it comes time to sell your home. If you have outdated light fixtures, that’s exactly what the lights are going to be reflected as on the exterior
of your home — old and outdated. Buyers want to see that everything is fresh and up-to-date with the times, and not light fixtures that look like they have just come out of the 1980s. You don’t have to install the latest in light fixtures technology to make them look better. You can look for fixtures that match the current mounting system you have installed on your home’s exterior, so it will only be a replacement project, instead of a completely new installation that can get quite pricey. You can bring in more light if your home is still too dark. This helps make a beneficial impact when it comes to curb appeal, as well as to provide better security. Solar stake lights are inexpensive when bought from home improvement stores. No one is going to want to break into a home that has a well-lit exterior. Even though landscaping strictly pertains to the ground cover and plants around the outdoor area of your home, the exterior paint of your home plays a large role in the entire look of the property. Skimping on the paint on the exterior of your home is a great way to chase away the buyers. The best approach is getting a new paint job well before you plan on putting your home on the market. This way, the paint doesn’t look so fresh and new, but like you’ve been keeping up with it for years. The autumn season is the best time for repainting homes, as well as repairing siding and retouching chipped paint, because your landscape will have the best light to show in. Most homeowners selling their house assume that they should only have to pay attention to soft landscaping, being the lawn and the garden. That’s not true. Hardscaping is just as important, and refers to the driveway, rocks, sidewalks, and any paved areas around the home.
Power-wash your driveway throughout the fall and into the winter months to ensure it gets a good cleaning all year round. That way, you won’t have to bring in professionals. Don’t overlook pool maintenance, even if the pool isn’t in use. Even in the fall, if you’re selling your home, pool maintenance is important. No buyer wants to see a dirty pool full of leaves, twigs, and dead bugs. They won’t be able to envision themselves and their family and friends enjoying a hot summer day in the pool if it’s full of debris. Pools need to have a chemical level that’s fully balanced during the fall, with any debris cleaned out weekly. Don’t overlook raking leaves. In addition to the curb appeal issue, should the leaves get wet, a pedestrian could slip and injure themselves on your property. It could very well be a buyer. Therefore, rake up the leaves and avoid this catastrophe.
USING CURB APPEAL TO SELL YOUR HOME FOR MORE
When it comes time to sell your home, don’t skimp on the smaller details when you can use curb appeal to your advantage and get more out of the closing price. By having your home in its most pristine condition, inside and out, you’ll be closing the deal and raking in the cash in no time. Image is literally everything and the exterior of the home matters just as much as the interior. Curb appeal will do wonders for your selling price, and will ensure your home does not stay on the market for long.
CHAPTER 4 Neutralizing Your Home
In looking to sell a home quickly and as painlessly as possible, the home seller must go through a process of removing the owner’s (or tenants’) presence from the house. This process is known in the real estate industry as “neutralization.” A more appropriate moniker for neutralization is “depersonalizing.” Essentially, your goal is to remove the identity of the home so that potential home buyers can picture their future in the home without the “thumbprints” from previous occupants. How does one go about neutralizing the home? Easier said than done. There are even limits to neutralizing a home. If you go too far, your home may appear cold and foreign to potential home buyers and they may have difficulty envisioning just what each room’s purpose is (or could be). Let’s look at the topics and nuances that can influence buyers to say “yes” to your house and close as soon as possible.
Having decided to sell your home and uncluttered, you may use your empty (emptier) house to make renovations to make it more attractive to buyers. This is a sound strategy; however, make sure to make reasonable limits to the time and money you invest on new flooring, new carpets, and updating old appliances. The best time to make home improvements is when you can enjoy them, and not just to 25
sell a property.
One idea to keep in mind is that decorative improvements you may consider — say, new blue carpeting —might be immediately removed by the new homeowner or might even turn off potential buyers. On the flip side, if you don’t take steps to repair minor faults, you can also turn off buyers, who don’t see charm, but rather work they’ll have to do (or have done).
LOOK AT YOUR HOME WITH A BUYER'S MINDSET
Those nicks, dents, and scrapes on walls and flooring have become invisible to you because you’ve grown accustomed to them. However, to someone just stepping foot into your home, a loose doorknob, burned-out lightbulbs, or stains on the patio cause potential home buyers to assume that these are just the beginning of the problems that your home holds. A little bit of sanding and spackle can go a long way to getting your house up to snuff, and ultimately sold.
REMOVE PHOTOGRAPHS, AWARDS, AND CERTIFICATE
Although you may still reside in the home that you’re trying to sell, you must remove most of the traces that allude to the personality that you have “carved” into your home. This includes family photographs, awards, and certificates. Photographs and framed documents of marriages, children, and other friends and family tend to give the impression of a “claimed” territory. The buyer will see your life in the home, not theirs. It’s much harder for a person to picture themselves in a space having their own unique experiences for years to come when they are confronted with the same patio they envision you using with your family.
Nothing speaks more to personality (and eccentricity) than collections. They tend to overwhelm the senses and create a clutter, diminishing the size of the room — both of which you definitely don’t want to put on display. Your goal is to help depersonalize your home so that house hunters can psychologically move into it. Leave a few nonpersonal pictures on the wall so the space doesn’t look so empty, but even generic paintings and photographs can serve the same function as that family reunion picture in Cancun.
NEUTRALIZE YOUR BOOK COLLECTION
Books can be a way of subconsciously conveying to potential home buyers the specific type of person that would thrive in the home. However, when selling your home, you should choose these books carefully. The rule of thumb is to choose “coffee table books.” Books that are generic yet appeal to the masses come to mind — think architecture, travel, history, and cuisine. Do not have controversial or deeply personal (such as religious or ideological literature) on display. Some topics can be divisive. And related to the previous topic, keep your photo albums packed away.
TAKE DOWN ARTWORK AND COLLECTIONS
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. While you may have made it a focus of your home to showcase your personality through your possessions, including artwork and items you collect, your goal is to appeal to the widest array of people possible to purchase your home.
Just as you hide your books in case of offending a potential buyer, you should take down all artwork that could be considered remotely offensive. This includes artwork with political messages, nudity, sports teams, religious imagery, and so forth. Other accents, like family heirlooms, should be taken down, as well. While you might very well be proud of that mounted moose head from your grandfather, potential home buyers could be put off by hunting wild game.
GET RID OF RELIGIOUS ITEMS
While it’s certainly fine to be proud of your religious beliefs, affiliations, and convictions, not all home buyers will appreciate religious items on display. Some buyers might not be religious at all, while others may carry completely different convictions from yours, and might find such displays offensive. Buyers who see these types of displays may also make inferences about the types of neighbors you have.
GET RID OF ODORS
Our sense of smell can immediately conjure up both good and bad memories. While agents have used the lure of a freshly baked apple pie to entice home buyers’ olfactory recall, bad smells can have a similarly off-putting effect. What’s worse is that homeowners can become acclimated to the scent of a house, leaving them “nose blind” to potential smells. For instance, cigar and cigarette smokers typically view the smell of smoke in a home as familiar, whereas a nonsmoker might be put off by the same house. The same goes for mold smells, especially in basements, where it can seem like the house could be at risk for flooding from sewers
or catastrophes (hurricanes, in proximity to flood plains, etc.).
However, trying to mask these odors with a bottle of Febreze and air fresheners can work against you, as it seems to potential home buyers (rightfully so) that you’re only trying to cover up odors. Homeowners should actively work on eliminating the common sources of the smell, including pet odors (see below), mold, cooking odors, spilled chemicals, and so forth. Have an agent or someone unfamiliar to your home give you an honest analysis of where particular odors might be lingering. You might be immune to them. While it might be somewhat embarrassing to realize that your bathroom smells less than pleasant, it can be even worse to have your home unsold on the market because you didn’t want to replace the carpeting.
REMOVING YOR PET'S PRESENCE
Simply put, pets are messy and of no help at all in selling your home. Pets are near the top of all the elements in a home that can cause damages. While they might be adorable and lovely companions, they also don’t have qualms about relieving any of their bodily functions and hair around your house. If you’ve taken the necessary steps of cleaning and removing pet dander, you may also want to consider removing the pet entirely by leaving them with friends, relatives, or neighbors, or even boarding them during an open house. Animals can present liability risks while showing your home, not only for bites and personal harm, or allergies, but an unknowing home buyer might let your animal out, which can cause you to miss out on displaying what’s important: your house for sale.
Remove food and water bowls and pet toys and accessories from the home, as some home buyers may equate this with lower standards of cleanliness. Not everyone loves reptiles or spiders, so keep cold-blooded animals away during the open house. However, fish kept in clean fish tanks are acceptable (just be sure to get rid of any odors and to scoop out any dead fish ahead of time). Finally, some home buyers will preface their decision solely on their pet allergies. You should do your best to cater to them, but know that fully eradicating your home to a person with acute sensitivities might be beyond your reach.
KEEP IT CLEAN
While on the market, your house is a model home. It’s a challenge to keep your home clean while selling it if you still have to live in it. It’s important for best results in sale price to remove traces of your daily life. Little messes that are part of living (i.e. cooking, piles of mail, kids’ toys) can be distracting and leave an unkempt impression. It can be difficult to keep it in pristine condition each time a buyer wants to view it, so you may have to change your cleanliness habits until an offer is made. Don’t underestimate how a stack of laundry can negate all the effort you have put into presenting a neutralized home. For items of everyday use (toothbrushes, shampoo bottles, etc.), keep them to a minimum and keep boxes handy to store them, when needed. Clothing, especially out-of-season clothing, should be packed away, or at the very least, stored beneath beds.
Neutralizing your home is part of home staging. Part of staging is setting up your home to reflect each room’s purpose or potential. It might be obvious to you who has lived in the home for years, but a prospective buyer might not be able to envision the purpose of each room without some leading.
DON'T USE SHODDY FURNITURE
Just as you want to ensure your home is spotless and tidy, you want your furniture to reflect this mindset. Having worn furniture that’s torn-up by age, usage, or pets will reflect poorly on your home’s appeal, even though the furniture won’t be coming with the house. There are professional staging companies that can lend furniture for your open house, so ask your agent for references.
TOO MUCH FURNITURE
An abundance of furniture can make your room feel much smaller than it really is. Stage your house sparingly, using one- third of the furniture that you normally display. This helps accentuate your home’s native architecture and provides an illusion of spaciousness.
EMPTY ROOMS SHOULD BE STAGED
It’s in your best interest to stage rooms to give potential buyers an idea of the room’s main purpose. If you’ve completely cleared out a room that once was your study, leave a simple display of a desk, table, and a lamp. This will communicate the “feature” of the room. Bare rooms simply are not inviting, as they seem unfinished. Also, the natural feel of empty rooms can create an “echo
chamber” effect that might be unappealing to people, barring the musically oriented home buyer.
EMPHASIZE FOCAL POINTS AND MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
It’s not unusual for expertly staged homes to emphasize a home’s natural amenities. By staging a home with some of the activities that the home can feature, you can entice home buyers. For example, a nice view of the sunrise can have reclining patio chairs and a breakfast table. A nice fireplace should be completed with pokers and a footstool. On the other hand, avoid having distractions and clashes. A beach scene for the master bedroom, with sand and beach balls, for a home in Alaska, can be disconcerting; the same goes for a NYC sports team-themed den in a Chicago metropolitan condo.
Color plays a crucial role in the neutralization process. The point is that the colors you choose for the interior of your home should appeal to as many potential home buyers as possible. Here are a few points to consider when coloring your home for sale: • Remove wallpaper. It can be a rigorous process to remove wall coverings, and this could turn off home buyers if it’s not neutral. Further, wallpaper is often considered outdated. • Avoid bright colors. Brighter colors are “an acquired taste” and will remind home buyers of the work they might have to do to change the walls’ colors to match their preferences before finally settling into the home. • Avoid dark colors. Darker colors create an optical illusion 32
that makes a space appear smaller. Lighter, neutral colors for staging your home are best, as they make rooms appear larger. Adding accents of color, like photographs or paintings, against a neutral background can make a room seem modern and appealing (think art galleries). They also are easier to change in the future, a situation that home buyers will appreciate when it’s time to move in. • Use complementary colors with carpeting and accessories (e.g., blue and orange, purple and yellow, red and green), following the rule that 80% of the predominate color should be a neutral, with 20% as the appealing complementary color. • Avoid using too many colors when neutralizing the home. Instead, focus on three to five colors to avoid jarring color combinations or a feeling of “separateness.” Bear in mind that lighting changes the color you’ve selected. You can use the same hue for incandescent lights and natural lighting, only to get different results. This can help save money and emphasize your home’s lighting variations. Ensure your colors flow from one to another. Earth tones and neutrals work best, as we’re accustomed to these colors from nature. For example, having a hot pink go to a beige is off-putting.
There’s usually no one-way solution to properly stage a house. Those who prefer the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) method will usually have to do their research beforehand, especially for keeping the process of neutralization within budget. Here’s a few tips to keep it cheap:
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