Thanks to the HGTV effect, selling your home is not as easy as it once was. You might be wondering if you need to hire a professional Home Stager to get your house ready for sale. If your house is in an upscale market and it’s sitting empty, it’s definitely worth considering. They will bring in a house full of coordinated furniture and accessories and it will look like a show home. Otherwise, there is a lot you can do yourself to get your home market ready. How do I know? Well, in addition to being a DIY TV show addict, I’ve organized three homes for sale by owner, and all three were sold for more than any real estate agent had estimated.
Where do you start? First of all, take several pictures of each room in your house. Now consider posting each of these pictures in Better Homes and Gardens. If you’re like me, the thought will make you laugh out loud. I generally don’t advocate for a home that looks like it belongs in the pages of a magazine (see Confessions of a Perfectionist Organizer) because I feel they’re too hard to maintain. But when you’re selling your home, that’s exactly what you want to aim for. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re up for the challenge, here’s what you need to know.
1. Clear the Clutter
Nothing screams “LACK OF STORAGE SPACE” like stacks of paper and magazines, cluttered counter tops and crammed closets. Besides the fact that no one wants to see your piles of laundry, even if it’s clean, it makes your home look smaller and uninviting. To give your home the spacious feeling that buyers are looking for, clear the clutter in all areas of your home, including the following:
- paperwork – anywhere and everywhere in the house
- flat surfaces such as counter tops, tables, and desks – clear off anything you don’t use on a daily basis
- bedroom closets
- pantries and kitchen cabinets
- linen and storage closets
- bookshelves and media storage
- rooms with over-sized or too much furniture
- bulletin boards – clear off outdated items and arrange neatly. NOTE: Your refrigerator is NOT a bulletin board. Clear everything off it.
- garage and shed – clear our debris and excess items. You should be able to park a car in the garage.
- outdoor spaces – clear out debris and worn out items
Toss the obvious garbage. Get rid of unwanted items via garage sales, consignment stores, donations, or local online swap/trade sites. Pack up the rest and stack neatly in a basement or storage closet. If you don’t have room for it, store it off site until your house is sold.
2. Neutralize the Space
Your unique personality and passions are wonderful, and it’s part of what your friends and family love you for. Unfortunately, if you’re putting your home on the market, it’s not your loved ones that will be buying it. Today’s home buyers want to picture themselves in the space, and that is difficult for many people to do when all they can see is your enormous Hummel collection, a room full of your partner’s Star Trek memorabilia, or your royal purple master bedroom. Sure, there may be people out there that love these things as much as you do, but are they looking to buy in your neighborhood, in your price range, right now? You could wait a long time for that person to walk through your door. Here’s a checklist of things you might want to pare down, tone down, or eliminate altogether to give your home a broader appeal:
- extreme paint colors and busy wall paper – aim for soft neutral colors that can easily be paired with furniture and accent pieces in any other color
- collections – pare down to no more than 5 items or eliminate them altogether
- personal photos – pare down to just a couple
- sex, politics, and religion – these topics are not safe for small talk or for selling your home. Get rid of the girly pictures, beefcake calendars, and the NDP lawn signs stowed in your garage. Now I’m not saying you should get rid of every religious artifact in your home, but pare down the visible icons to the bare minimum.
3. If it’s Broken, Fix It
You may be oblivious to your leaky kitchen sink, or your window shades that are hanging askew. But these things are glaringly obvious to potential home buyers. Take a detailed look around your home and take care of any obvious deficiencies, such as:
- burned out light bulbs
- leaky faucets
- doors nod cabinets that don’t open or close properly
- fixtures that don’t work
- holes in walls
- peeling paint or wallpaper
- cracked windows
- loose or broken stairs and railings
- damaged flooring
- damaged upholstery and window treatments
If you’re not the least bit handy, you can hire a local handy-man to do the work. Always check their references first.
If you have the means, you might consider getting a home inspection done. This will give you a heads up on any major deficiencies before a potential buyer uncovers them with their own inspection. You can then determine for yourself whether it’s worth your time, effort, and money to address the issue (save any your receipts as proof), or adjust your asking price to compensate for the deficiency. This can also help to speed up the sales process because your potential buyer may waive their option to do their own inspection.
4. Do a Deep Clean
Nothing turns off a potential buyer more quickly than a foul smell. You may be so used to the smells left by your beloved Fido or last night’s fish that you don’t even notice anymore. But smoking, pet, and food odours will turn people off before they’ve even taken off their shoes. If they don’t want to see your piles of laundry, I think it is suffice to say they also don’t want to see your dirty breakfast dishes, towels on the bathroom floor, or the mess your kids left in the family room while finger painting.
Make sure your home is clean and fresh smelling, including the following:
- dust everything – furniture, shelving, electronics, baseboards, light fixtures, fans, and vents
- floors – steam clean carpets, wash floors, and sweep the basement
- windows – wash them inside and out
- doors, walls, cabinets, and trim – wipe down and remove any marks
- appliances – wipe down and remove any marks if possible
- bathroom fixtures: tub, shower, toilet and sink – remove hard water stains, clean, and shine
- kitchen sink and counter – empty sink of dirty dishes and clean and shine both sink and counter tops
- garage, sheds, decks, and yard – rake leaves, mow the lawn, sweep the garage, shed, decks and walk-ways
5. Update Your Look
We’ve all heard that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. But before you spend a fortune on renovations, consider your neighborhood and whether or not you’ll be able to recoup the costs of the work you’re considering. If you’re in an upscale neighborhood, an update to granite counter tops may be a reasonable thing to do. If very few houses in your neighborhood have granite counter tops, you may have difficulty attracting a buyer that is willing to pay for that kind of upgrade in your neighborhood. There are some low cost and fairly easy updates that are a better bet for recouping your cash outlay:
- Paint – inside or out, it makes everything look fresh and new. If you only need to spruce up one wall in a room, you don’t have to match it exactly; a close match will do the trick.
- Light fixtures – there are lots of inexpensive fixtures available that look so much better than the old style bubble covers, or the really old square glass plates
- Minor bathroom updates – floor space is small, so if the flooring has seen better days or you have wall-to-wall carpet, replace it. Add a medicine cabinet or storage cabinet for a place to to tuck things away.
If you have dusty rose bedding with matching floral drapes or other decorating choices circa 1980’s, you might consider doing some re-decorating as well. This is where you will be able to go a little wilder with your colors and you’ll be able to take these items with you when you go. Again, you don’t have to spend a fortune. There are lots of great deals to be found at places like Winners and Home Sense. Or borrow from family and friends if you have to. Here are some things to consider:
- window coverings – Ikea has great pricing
- table clothes – they can hide a table that has seen better days
- pillows and throws – they can help hide minor flaws in sofas and chairs. Fabricland often has great price reductions on throws and pillow covers in their discount section.
- accessories – look for simple, classic pieces with clean lines. Remember, when it comes to accessories, less is more.
- mirrors – they are great for making a room look larger. Place opposite a window if possible.
As I said, organizing a home for sale is a lot of work. That’s why Home Staging can cost big bucks. However, with this list, you now have some alternatives. You can do it yourself, or you can cut expenses and only hire out the pieces you can’t or don’t want to do your self.
Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear your ideas or questions about getting your home ready to sell.