Thursday, April 12, 2012


My job as an interior designer has a lot of crossover with the real-estate world and over the years I have also seen some really scary situations.  I mean really scary!  
My parents are builders so I grew up always living in their ‘model home’ for the business.  We were constantly staging the house to show to potential customers and wherever we lived was always on the market.  I had to keep my bed made and was never allowed to put up my 'N SYNC posters.  I guess that was preparing me for constant moving as a military wife although, I now refuse to make the bed unless we have company coming over (it drives my husband crazy) and I recently grew out of my "N SYNC phase (well, almost).
  Whether you are military or not, chances are you will need or want to move at some point and hopefully following these tips will help ease the pain of the real-estate market. 

Step 1- CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN and CLEAN AGAIN!!  I know this seems obvious, but you would be amazed at the horror stories I have heard in the real-estate world.  I have toured a home with dirty underwear piled up on the bathroom floor and mold everywhere.  Nevertheless, picking up your dirty laundry is not enough.  Dust every nook and cranny, wipe down cabinet fronts and counter tops, sweep, vacuum, mop and do it all again.  I am not kidding.  People may live in complete filth themselves, but they will never get past the tiny dust bunny under your sofa and will see nothing but dingy if your home is not spic and span.  It is not as bad as it sounds, when you decide to start showing your house just do one really good cleaning (or hire someone if you can) and then keep up with it before each showing.

 Check out my post, 5 Forgotten Areas to Clean When You Move-In

Step 2- De-clutter.  You are probably thinking, isn’t that the same thing as cleaning? Kind of but this is more about hiding your junk than your dirt.   Start with the obvious clutter, magazines piled on the coffee table, mail scattered on the desk and any other odds and ends that are not decorative need to be tossed or put away.  Be careful with just stuffing things in a drawer or closet too because people are nosey and they will open up everything.  I suggest investing in some baskets so the pile of junk is at least neatly confined. 
The Nest Effect has some really great organizing and de-cluttering tips.

Step 3- Really De-clutter.  Once all the junk mail is stashed move on to the less obvious clutter.  I mean less obvious to you, it will be very obvious to potential buyers.  I am not a believer in hiding every personal photograph and making the home look as if it has never been lived in.  Not only is that not realistic, but I think having a homey feel can actually help in the selling process.  But, keep the personal items limited.  Cut the 20 family photos on your console table down to 3 and your doll, comic book or cat figurine collections need to be packed up.  They may be your pride and joy but trust me; buyers do not want to see them and will not be able to imagine their own things in their place. 

Crazy Doll Collection image from Getty Images
If you need some help getting started on your decorating check out the Easy Peasy Chic blog for some great decorating tips.

Step 4- Take care of repairs.  Major things like a new roof or air conditioning may be more than you want to tackle but you can and should take care of the simple DIY projects before the first showing.  Do some touch up painting, fix your leaky faucet, replace burnt out bulbs, etc.etc.  Any little issue that you can fix will be one less thing for buyers to be hung up on and will get you one-step closer to a sale.
Apartment Therapy has links to all kinds of household repair how to videos.
Step 5-Tone it down
This is not photo-shopped, this color was really on the walls in a house my sister toured.  She actually ended up buying this house but she is the rare exception that could see the potential. She turned that into this.

You may absolutely love the lime green walls in your living room but unless you got the color from the latest Pottery Barn magazine, you are going to be hard-pressed to find a buyer that loves that color too.  I hate plain white and beige in every room and I know that paint is the easiest thing to change, but watch a couple of episodes of House Hunters and you will quickly learn that people are too lazy to repaint that one wall and will not be able to get past your tie dyed window treatments that don’t even come with the house.  Pick a few neutral colors and paint every room, I honestly suggest using a color from the Pottery Barn catalog, they have done their research and know what is popular right now.  Pick one room to make a statement, not a lime green statement but a deeper neutral or a subtle pop of color.  It should be the room that you think is the best in the house; the beautiful entry, elegant dining room, or serene master bedroom.  The buyers will love the room just as much as you if done right.  Here are a few color suggestions that I know work well in multiple spaces
I found these great neutrals here on The Good ieLife blog.     
Step 6- Fluff.  Make sure to appeal to at least 4 senses when your house is on the market (sometimes 5).  The most obvious is the look. Take notes from your favorite magazines and blogs and put your decorating skills to good use.   Literally, fluff pillows, make beds, neatly fold and hang clothes in closets.  Put out your nice hand towels in the bathrooms and hide the dingy ones.  When in doubt about your accessorizing, decorate in 3’s.  It’s an old cheesy decorating tip but it really does work.  Accessories tend to look better when grouped in odd numbers at varying heights.  For instance place a medium size picture frame and a small trinket next to your tall table lamp and you will have an instant eye catching arrangement.  ( more on that in a future post). 
The feel of the space is also a biggie, for one make sure visitors won’t be touching anything grimy or greasy but also give them a positive emotional feeling.  Bring some life to your space with a few flower arrangements or houseplants (few, do not make your house into a jungle).  A fresh spring bouquet on the kitchen counter and an orchid in the master bath can really brighten up the space and add to the overall clean feel. 
Smell is the first sense that is affected when a buyer enters your home and it can make or break the experience.  You want to have a pleasant smell without overpowering them with potpourri and freshly sprayed Febreeze.  I suggest spritsing the house with an odor reducer about an hour before a showing and maybe leave one candle or plug in per floor lit to keep the smell pleasant.  Check out these fun plug in candle warmers a friend just told me worked great in her house for showings. 
Sound can also be a great way to give a positive feel to the space.  First, make sure there aren’t any annoying noises like a yappy dog or running washer and dryer.  But you can also enhance the space with sound.  Highlight your surround sound or speaker system by playing classical or movie theme music at a low level. 
Finally, taste is not a necessary sense to play off in every showing but if you are hosting an open house you or your realtor should provide some light refreshments.  Keep it simple and do not set out anything that will go bad if left out for too long (the last thing you want is angry buyers with food poisoning) or that you cannot give away or use later if there is a poor showing.  I suggest things like cookies, fruit and veggie plates and maybe small bottles of water or even wine if it is an open house event.     
Imperfect Home Making offers ideas on how to fluff for showings.
Step 7- Marketing. Staging is not just for showings.  You have to get people to come to your house in the first place. 
a. Pictures.  A picture is worth a thousand words, more like thousands of dollars when it comes to selling your home.  Whether you are using the top broker in the area or selling your home on your own, marketing can make or break your chances at a great sale.  Scan through some real-estate websites and pay attention to what grabs you about different listings.  Chances are, the first thing that you notice is a great picture, and then you may check the location and amenities.  If you are not a great photographer then ask a friend or even hire someone to snap some AMAZING photos of your house.  Get the important shots: the exterior, back yard, kitchen, master bedroom, great fireplace, etc (most brokers will do this for you).  But, keep in mind that pictures can also hurt you.  Make sure the room looks absolutely perfect, just like getting your house ready for a showing it needs to be spic and span and de-cluttered.  When you set up that camera angle take a few practice shots and rearrange accessories and even furniture to give the room a better look.  When you look through other sellers’ listings, pay attention to the ones that you think look awful and make sure you aren’t doing the same thing. 

This is how NOT to show your home!
b.- Get the word out.  You won’t be able to sell your home if no one knows that it is for sale.  So spread the word! List all the important details ( I stress the word important, not every detail is essential) Think about what is important to you when you are searching for a home?  Schools in the area?  Local shopping?  Major job opportunities?  If it is important to you, then it is important to others too so make sure to include those features in your description.   Also, pay attention to the places you are looking for listings and make sure you post yours on those same websites.  There are tons out there, many will automatically list you if you have an MLS  Listing but you can add yourself to sites like Craigslist, Sargeslist, Facebook and even military housing sites like  Ask you friends too, in just the past week I have heard of at least 2 new sites from friends that are in the house hunt process themselves.  Don’t forget good old fashioned word of mouth too.  You never know who has a friend who has a cousin looking for a house in your neighborhood.  

For personalized help visit my design website:
My home staging package can help you get your home ready for showings and ready to sell!
Post a Comment