Saturday, March 18, 2017

Staging to Sell

About a year ago, we started seriously getting our house ready to sell. We had finished the basement reno and with that added square footage, we wanted to take advantage of the spring housing market. We had one more project to tackle, the kitchen, but today we're talking about staging your house to sell.

Knowing we were going to have a very young baby while the house was on the market, I wanted to be as prepared as possible. The housing market was hot so I knew our professional photos had to be perfect. Most home buyers these days are shopping online and we wanted as many showings as possible.

So while I was still on maternity leave, I got the house as picture perfect as we could. We were on a fast timeline so our professional photos were taken on Tuesday and the listing went live on Thursday. We had 14 showings that weekend and by Sunday, we had 4 offers. It seemed quick and a complete whirlwind, but it was our prep work that paid off.

If you are thinking about putting your house on the market this spring, here are my tips for staging to sell!

This is the toughest step and it takes the longest, so it's crucial you do this first. Go through your stuff and donate/toss anything and everything you do not want to move. Even if you think maybe my future house will have a need for this, stop right there. If you are not completely in love with it, it goes. If you will be heartbroken without it, keep it.

There is nothing as eye-opening as packing up all your stuff to move. The sheer amount of things we accumulate is crazy. And for me, it is something I have to work really hard on. I married a minimalist. I'm a keeper. During this time, I did a lot of letting go. The usuals: clothes, paper piles, books, CDs, DVDs, etc. But I also had to let go of kitchen items we never used, craft projects I hadn't gotten around to yet, keepsakes that held sentimental value for me but wouldn't be part of my future, and photos that should have been tossed years before (thank you double prints from the film years!). Those ones took some time to say goodbye to. Because I'm weird.

But, I don't miss any of it. Honestly. Instead, I've focused on designing our new house into a home that fits our life now. Not eventually. But it meets us where we are right now. Maybe that minimalist attitude is rubbing off on me!

Analyze your decor. You need to use a really critical eye and think like a potential buyer. When possible, try to err on the side of classic, rather than trendy. But classic with a modern twist, not too dated. Easy, right?

When in doubt, do a little pinterest-surfing to see what's in right now. We knew light and bright, with lots of gray and white would feel fresh yet classic in our old house. And it did.

The trick is to simplify. Too many knick-knacks or ugly artwork will distract a buyer from seeing the bones of your house. Same with a paint color that takes some loving. How many times have you watched a show on HGTV where the buyers focus on the wallpaper, paint color, or something incredibly easy to fix? It happens all the time. Take away the distractions and undecorate if you need.

But leave your house feeling like a home. Too empty and it will feel cold. So strive to find a balance in your decor. Bring a friend in for a second pair of eyes. Your realtor should be able to point out a few things that might need switching around too.

Experts say you need to depersonalize your house to let your buyers imagine themselves there, living in your home. We didn't depersonalize as much as we could have, but our house isn't covered in photos of our family. Instead, we purposely left a wedding photo and another photo of the two of us out in the main room.

I was fairly confident that our potential buyers would be looking at our home as a starter home, probably not have kids, and on the younger side. I wanted to leave photos out that would inspire a couple to see themselves in their first home. And it worked! Our buyers were an engaged couple who met in grad school, getting married this summer. Just like K and I were, many moons ago.

If you've decluttered, you are off to a great start. When staging your house, I recommend cleaning out your closets so they are only half full. You must emphasize storage. I cannot say that enough! Even the smallest closet can look bigger when it's only half full.

We added shelves in our garage earlier in the year and used them to store a bunch of things from the inside closets during our showings. We also filled our suitcases - no use wasting all that space!

While emphasizing your storage areas might be trickier for you to do, it really makes a difference in staging. When we were house hunting, I opened every single closet in the houses we toured. And the ones that were overflowing were really tough to see past the clutter to the potential. It was doable but much harder.

While we were looking at houses, we did so many drive bys before even considering scheduling a showing. Most the times we were trying to get a feel for the neighborhood and whether the yard and street were even something we'd consider. Believe me, there is so much that you don't see online! But the houses that attracted us had curb appeal.

If you are actively trying to attract buyers to your house, you have to pay attention to curb appeal! Weed your landscaping, mow the yard, add some flowers in a fun color (we chose purple to honor Prince!), and clean those windows.

Oh, and don't forget to open your blinds or curtains! A house feels much more open and welcoming from the outside when it's not shut off because of window treatments.

Everything you've ever thought about cleaning and never really get around to each week (i.e. baseboards, fridge, window sills, light fixtures, windows), you need to clean. Now is the time to have a spotless house.

If you have your house on the market for a while, I know this is the toughest part. Always being ready to go in case a showing get scheduled. But doing a deep clean before your photos are taken, and before you go on the market will make the upkeep that much easier. Strangers are weird and they notice everything. Things that have faded from your mind in day to day living will suddenly be in the spotlight. You don't want cobwebs and dust bunnies getting in the way of selling your house!

Once you do all these things, you are ready for your professional photos to be taken and ready for showings and/or an open house! You may not want to move since your house looks so damn good, but remember, you aren't staging your house to stay. You are staging your house to sell.

What staging tips worked for you?


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