Staging and Preparing Your Home to Sell for Top Dollar

Well presented - no clutter.
I'll venture to say that if you are going on a job interview, most likely you would not show up in the same clothes you wore to hang out with your friends the night before (or to the gym). That's assuming you wanted to actually be hired. Or maybe a better example is a first date. Most likely you would want to make a great impression. Same principles are in play for selling your house. You are asking a stranger to a) pay a lot of money, and b) fall in love. No, not with you, with your house.

So, even though we are (here it comes again) in a seller's market, you just can't put a yard sign out, have an open house and expect to get top dollar. You home may sell but I'm assuming that if you are taking the  time to read this you want to sell for the highest price possible. That may require a little bit of work and preparation but it is well worth it.

Hopefully you've read my other posts and finally get it about clutter. Here's the brief recap: take everything you think you don't need to get by on a daily basis and store it in the garage. Then go through the house and look for more clutter and bring it to the garage. This includes extra furniture that's making rooms look small, the computers that should be in a museum, the luggage from your last trip, the stack of books and magazines, extra shoes you never wear at the front door, etc. If your garage gets too full, rent a storage space. Don't worry about the garage being too cluttered, buyers looking in the neighborhood will see lots of garages filled to the brim.

Staged Living Room with colorful accents.
Here's why removing the clutter is so important. Buyers may be looking at a half a dozen other properties the same day as they see your home. Their minds are already full. If you have lots of stuff it will distract from them really "seeing" how great your place is. Make your listing "easy on their eyes."

Next up, and if you do this right it won't cost you any money, is freshening up some of the rooms with new lighting, rugs, pillows, throws, and accessories. And if you time it right, you may even be able to return some of these items once you are in escrow and the buyer has removed contingencies so the cost is zero or close to it.

I once had a client who had a rather large fish tank (with no fish in it) that you saw almost immediately upon entering. When I came back with my photographer, fish tank gone, small couch in its place. I've had clients buy all kinds of accessories to create a focal point for a room. One of my favorites was this clock (which was most likely returned after COE).

A few pieces of artwork, some nice throw pillows on your couch, a cool floor lamp go a long way towards making your home more attractive, bright or presentable. And that's what we are doing: presenting your home in the best possible light to its next owner.

Now we get into actually spending some money and I don't recommend spending too much in most cases.

Everything works great in this staged LR.
With a few exceptions, unless the colors really, really work, I'd avoid most dark wall color unless it is consistent with other homes in the neighborhood. (Right now I see some builders using lighter shades of yellows and green.) I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the color you chose, just that your buyer may have different taste. (Wood paneling or other dated or highly personalized coverings are an entirely separate topic.

One of my clients will be listing a house that has one room painted a deep hunter green. It's nice. My advice none the less was to lighten it up and make it a neutral taupe or off white. As silly as it is, just one less buyer objection "that downstairs green bedroom was so dark".

Floor covering are another topic entirely.

If you are fortunate enough to have wood floors, engineered or otherwise, that are in reasonably good shape and whatever color happens to be in style now (sort of a grayish, distressed, aged look - like teak left outside too long) you are in luck. If you have '80s orange shag that hasn't been steam cleaned in 15 years, not so much. Most likely your home is someplace in the middle. That's ok.

If you can freshen up carpets by a professional steam clean, by all means do so. If you replace carpet you most likely will recoup that investment but often the buyer really wants wood so there's a bit of risk and the decision will ultimately be based on where you are priced relative to the condition of recent sales. The same is true but even more so for installing wood to sell. My last few clients who did so definitely not only recouped their investment but sold for a higher price than we thought. But we did a lot of analysis and price shopping and made some great choices.

Great curb appeal.
A definite big payoff is removing any popcorn ceilings and where possible installing recessed lighting. This can be a $3000-$5000 (or more) very messy job but is well worth it. Don't do it yourself. For a lesser budget amount, definitely replace any kitchen drop ceilings. It is often less than $1000 to put in crown molding and recessed lighting where the florescent lights and plastic panels are. Big difference.

So while I could continue and go room by room, you'll have to call me for a free no obligation consultation to get that advice. Before I wrap this up though, let's go outside for a second.

Remember curb appeal? Go buy some bright flowers to plant out front, put some lawn decorations, paint the fence, maybe a flag. Make a great first impression when your buyer drives up. If you want them to fall in love with the house, bring flowers.