Making a Good First Impression, or ‘Staging’ Your Home
Over the years, we’ve seen sellers make some big mistakes in preparing — or not preparing — their home for sale. A mistake we see sellers make often is failing to do the simple things that cost almost no money, yet always make homes sell for thousands of dollars more. If your home is logically a good value, but buyers don’t feel warm and emotionally attracted to the home, you will receive lower offers. That’s because buying a home is an emotional decision on the part of the buyer. Often the buyer doesn’t even consciously know why they like one home more than another… they just do. Decisions are made on a deep subconscious level tied into what makes them feel comfortable, safe and secure. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your home looks, feels and smells its best. Remember that you’re competing with dozens of other resale homes For Sale in your price range, as well as new construction homes. Since buyers buy on emotion… let’s look at how your home can be the cleanest, freshest and cheeriest. This will lead you to a much faster sale… at a higher price.
Here are the most powerful ‘staging’ factors to help ensure that buyers experience a good feeling when they see your home:
Make a Great First Impression
It is estimated that more than half of all homes are sold before the buyers even get out of their cars. A visually pleasing and well-cared-for exterior invites inspection of the interior, since your care of your front yard reflects the inside condition of your house. This may be as easy as making certain that trees are trimmed away from the roof and the grass is mowed and edged. Rake leaves. Plant flowers. Blow walkways. Clean away debris. Wash windows. Pressure washing can do wonders for brightening up the appearance of your home, walkways, and driveway. Remove parked cars. This all adds to curb appeal. If a buyer doesn’t get a warm, welcoming feeling at first glance, they will be less likely to view the inside in a positive light.
Get it Sparkling Clean
This may sound obvious, but it’s an easy fix that can be overlooked. Sellers lose thousands of dollars because they do not adequately clean. If your house is squeaky clean, you will be able to sell your home faster and net hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more because most people are turned off by even the smallest amount of uncleanliness or odor when buying a home. Scrub stains out of the carpet, vacuum behind couches and under the bed, wash windows inside and out. Dust ceiling fans and baseboards, and polish metal surfaces. Have a friend come over and perform a white glove — and sniff — test. You may be so used to your cat’s litter box, the diaper pail, or cigarette smoke in your upholstery that you don’t even notice the smell, but a buyer will.
Conquer the Clutter
The less stuff that you have, the more roomy the home will seem, so go room by room and purge. Take all but the most essential items from counter tops and shelves to help them appear more spacious. Remove personal items such as family photos, collections, college banners, kids’ trophies. “You want people to feel like they’re walking into a house that could be theirs” explains Tanya Memme, host of Sell this House on A&E.
While now is the perfect time to toss out the ‘junk’ you are already planning to get rid of before you move, for the collectibles and other items you truly can’t part with, rent a storage space and visit your Precious Moments collection there. Don’t fill up your closets with boxes — buyers will open overstuffed closets and quickly get the impression that the home doesn’t have enough storage space. Reserve drawers and cabinets for items you use every day like toothbrushes, cookware and cleaning supplies.
Lots of furnishings can make a room look much smaller than it actually is. See if you can pare down to half the furniture in each room. Think about the visual weight of furniture as well. Big furnishings can make a room look smaller too; a solid wood table seems larger than a glass-top table.
Pay Attention to the Details
Replace burned out light bulbs, patch holes in the walls, and fix leaky faucets. Put out fresh new towels and empty the wastebaskets. Organize your kitchen cabinets, and line up the clothes and shoes in your closet. Play up the zones in your garage; designate one area for sporting goods, another for lawn care, and one for seasonal decorations, etc. “Organization helps sell a home,” says Lisa LaPorta, the designer on HGTV’s Designed to Sell.
Cover Up with Paint
Tasteful and up-to-date decor is your best investment for getting a greater return on your money. Paint makes the whole house smell clean and neat, and can help with odors. Faded walls and worn woodwork detract from your home’s appeal. Choose neutral colors like warm tans, honeys, taupes and sage. Remember, right now you want your home’s decor to promote its sale, not to show off your favorite colors. You may love your bright purple walls, but a potential buyer might remember your house as ‘the one with the awful purple family room’.
Don’t tell a buyer how your home can be made to look, show them by making it look great. A quicker sale at a higher price will result. Generally, you can expect to receive three to five dollars back for every dollar you invest in tasteful décor.
Keep it Light and Bright
For maximum visual effect while your home is being shown, turn every light on, even on a sunny day. Light creates a warm, safe feeling. Open all blinds and curtains, and make sure your windows are spotless. Let the sun in and keep those lights on. Leaving all your lights on for two hours costs only about 23 cents, and makes your home look larger and more spacious.
For even more advice on staging your home to sell for the highest price, please view the online videos on our Home Staging Tips page.
Maximize Accessibility and Minimize Distractions
Buyers and Realtors are busy. They’re looking not only at your home, but fitting your home into a schedule that allows them to look at other properties as well. The more flexible you are with your showing schedule, the more buyers will look at your home.
Do everything you can to minimize distractions for the buyer while they are viewing your home. Turn the TV and the loud music off. Leave soft music playing. If at all possible, make arrangements for the whole family (including children and pets) to be out of the house during showings. Consider taking a walk around the block with kids and pets while the prospective buyer views your property, or simply take them outside
For more tips on presenting your home For Sale in its best light, check out the online videos on our And finally, remember that once you put a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of your house, you also need to emotionally detach from your house. “It’s not about how you live or what your taste is,’ says Lisa LaPorta, the designer on HGTV’s Designed to Sell. “It’s about appealing to a wide range of tastes.”
Updates and Repairs
In addition to ‘staging’ your home to give the best impression possible, there are some updates and repairs that can help you pocket more money from the sale of your home. Every home is unique, and what appeals to buyers in each area of the country can be different. However, there are a few overarching principles to keep in mind in regard to updates and repairs can give you the best ‘bang for your buck’
Fix Everything that is broken (or as much as possible)!
While it may be tempting to sell your home in ‘As-Is’ condition because you don’t want to have to go through the effort of making repairs, fixing even minor items can help increase your sale price by more money than you paid for the repair. Fix squeaky doors, sticky drawers, the light switch that doesn’t work, and the tiny crack in the bathroom mirror because these can be deal-killers and you’ll never know what turns buyers off.
Remember, you’re not just competing with other resale homes, but brand-new ones as well. People are willing to pay a higher price for a home that is in ‘move-in’ condition. If you still feel that selling your home in ‘As-Is’ condition may be the best for your situation, discuss this with your Realtor to get guidance on how to do this most effectively
Update to the Level of the Neighborhood
If you live in an older home, you may have appliances, countertops, carpeting, or décor that was top-of-the line at the time it was new, but is now behind the times. Even if these items are still in working order, replacing them with something up-to-date can work wonders for buyers’ impressions of your home and therefore their willingness to pay more for it.
Do you need to get the best of the best to make your home appealing to buyers? When deciding on what to update and how nice the replacement item should be, try to keep your updates near the same level as what other homes in the neighborhood have. This way potential buyers don’t have any reason to view your house negatively if it has lower quality or older features, and you don’t overspend or over improve.
For example, if your neighbors’ homes have mid-range appliances, formica countertops and newer carpeting, there is no reason for you to buy all stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and the highest grade of carpet you can find. It’s safe to go just a little nicer than the norm just to give your home that little edge in the eyes of prospective buyers.
Dollar for dollar, a fresh coat of paint gives one of the highest returns on investment of any improvement you can make on your home. Your home’s curb appeal can be greatly enhanced by covering up faded or outdated colors with a new paint job. Similarly, new interior paint will quickly give rooms a fresh feel.
Make sure that the paint job is done well, or your efforts may be for naught. If you don’t feel that you can do a professional looking job yourself, hire a good painter. Ask your Realtor, painter, or specialist at the paint store for suggestions on color. Remember, you are painting your home to appeal to prospective buyers, not to try out all those unique ideas that you’ve always wanted to do. You can save those ideas for your next house where you can enjoy them for a long time!
Take an honest look at your home’s landscaping, especially your front yard. How does it compare to the rest of the neighborhood? If it isn’t as nice as the other homes around you, this is another area where the money you spend on improving it goes a long way in terms of return on your investment. This can be as simple as trimming trees and bushes and filling in the bare spots in your lawn.
Ask your Realtor for specific landscaping advice on your particular home and neighborhood. Even if your yard is among the nicer ones on the block, adding a well-placed splash of color with a potted flowering plant can make your home look even more welcoming.
Every home and neighborhood is different. A good Realtor will come to your home and have a personalized consultation with you to discuss the details how of these ‘bang for the buck’ updates, repairs, and ‘staging’ factors can be best utilized for your home. He can address specific questions about your home’s condition, and suggest any additional items you may want to consider to best prepare your home to sell at the highest price.
Setting Your Home’s Sale Price
When you set your price, you make buyers aware of the suggested maximum price they have to pay for your home. As a seller, you will want to get a selling price as close to the list price as possible, or even above. If you start out by pricing too high you run the risk of not being taken seriously by buyers and their agents and pricing too low can result in selling for much less than you were hoping for.
Having Thorough and Accurate Data on Which to Base Your Price
Talking with Neighbors and doing some research on your own can give you a general idea of what homes are selling for in your neighborhood. Also a trip to City Hall can provide you with home sale information in its public records, for most communities. A better way would be to access your city or county government’s site on the internet and look up the past sales in your area through the county tax office. However, this will not give you the most recent sales since there is usually a time delay in how quickly sales information gets into the public records.
The most thorough way to get a clear picture of your home’s value is through having a Realtor come take a look at your home’s features, condition, and location and put together a CMA (Current Market Analysis) on your home. Realtors have access to a more extensive database of home sales through the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) that include up-to-date information on homes that are currently on the market, those that are ‘sale pending’, and homes that have already sold. He/she will put this information in an easily readable format to give you an accurate snapshot of your home’s value.
Benefits of Proper Pricing
When your home sells faster, you save carrying costs, mortgage payments and other ownership costs. A quicker sale creates less inconvenience for you. If you’ve moved before, you know the energy it takes to prepare for showings: keeping the home clean, making childcare arrangements, and altering your lifestyle. Proper pricing reduces these demands on you by helping your home sell faster. At market value your home will gain exposure to more prospects that can afford the price.
Sellers who list at a high price are looking for that one buyer who will pay it, often not realizing that they have discouraged many potential buyers who could have afforded the home. The final sales price is probably one that will be affordable by more purchasers. This is because sellers many times accept a much lower price at a much later date since that one buyer willing to pay the higher price never comes.
When salespeople are excited about a home and its price, they make special efforts to contact all of their potential buyers. Knowing that it is priced properly for its market, they expect it to sell soon and encourage their prospects to act quickly. Their excitement is contagious!
Ad calls and sign calls to REALTORS turn into showings when price is not a deterrent. Most serious prospects are well educated about asking prices in the areas they are seeking. They will not waste their time on a home they consider overpriced.
Buyers fear they might lose out on a good home when it is priced right. They are less likely to make “low ball offers.” Better pricing attracts multiple offers!
Even in a market where homes sell very quickly due to high demand, proper pricing is important. Pricing your home too high will still drive off some prospective buyers who may have otherwise been interested in your home. Even if your home goes under contract for a ‘too high’ price, if the home does not appraise for the sales price, it is highly likely that you will need to drop the sales price down so that the buyer’s mortgage will go through, or your sale will fall through.
Bottom line, if a home is priced right, the excitement of the market produces higher sale prices. You will net more both in terms of actual sale price and in less carrying costs.
If you would like a free market analysis on your home and feedback on how to choose the list price, please let us know, we would be happy to assist you.
It’s Better With More Prospects
However, there is one, final, most important factor to consider… and that is your competition. People don’t look at just one house and then buy. They look at 15, 25 or 50 homes before making their decision. How does your home stack up against the competition?
When you maximize your home’s marketability, you will most likely attract more prospective buyers. It is much better to have several buyers because they will compete with each other; a single buyer will end up competing with you.
Don’t Reveal the Reasons You are Selling to Potential Buyers
The reason(s) you are selling your home could affect the way the sale is negotiated. By not talking about your reasons for selling with prospective buyers, you don’t provide ammunition for their reasoning to pay less for your home. For example, should they learn that you must move quickly, you could be placed at a disadvantage in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed.
Have a Professional to Guide You Through the Sales Process
An experienced Realtor has been through the home selling process hundreds of times. He will have much more to bring to the table to save you time and money than just knowing how to most optimally price your home and negotiate on your behalf. A Realtor knows what to expect, is familiar with the potential problems, hang-ups, and pitfalls of the process, so is therefore more able to ‘think ahead of the game’ to get you through the ‘turbulence’ of the transaction much more smoothly, easily, and cheaply.
He will also be familiar with the normal pricing structures for title charges and other fees for selling a home, and can prevent you from being unknowingly overcharged. A good Realtor will have a list of qualified professionals such as handymen, roofers, painters, and other vendors whom he or his clients have used successfully in the past. This will save you time, energy, and money finding assistance in making quality, cost effective upgrades and repairs to prepare your home for sale.
Communicating Your Goals and Desires Clearly with Your Realtor
Letting your Realtor know your reasons for selling will help him understand your situation and goals, and will enable him to help you more effectively. Your Realtor is required to keep your reasons for selling in confidence unless you tell him otherwise, and to negotiate in your best interest to get you the best possible price and terms for your home sale.
If you have any questions about this article, or would like to set up a time to speak with David Gallup, please email me or call our office at 800.458.6863 x 353. We’d be glad to help you.