With the housing market on the upswing, we finally decided that it was time to sell our home and move into a bigger place. I had been looking for a new home long enough to know that "staging" a home for sale is critical. With so many people shopping online for homes, it's important that the photos you give your real estate agent to post are borderline professional, like something out of a magazine. And when people walk through your home, you want to make sure the design and ambiance are highlighting the home's positive features, downplaying the things that might be less than perfect, and that the home appeals to the broadest swath of prospective buyers. In short, it needs to look like a show home – because it is.
I knew the basics but I did some quick online research on HGTV.com (15 Secrets to Selling Your Home
) and StagingDiva.com (Free Home Staging Tips
) to get some advice from the pros. And it really supported what I had seen in my house-hunting.
- Simplify. Get rid of as much clutter as you can, and that means everything! Decorations, pictures, cans and boxes in the pantry, towels and appliances in the closets, even the amount of clothes and shoes you have in your closets. When you think you've cleared a lot, go back and take away a few more things. Think of it as an opportunity to do some pre-packing.
- Clean, Clean, Clean. We made a point to go through the house every morning before we left to make sure the house looked as close to our "ideal" pictures as possible. Even though we'd do a thorough pick-up every night before going to bed, the chaos of getting two kids and two adults off to school and work left a litter of dishes, clothes, toys and mail that needed to be cleared before a bunch of strangers wandered through our home. I was always surprised when we would walk into a home that we were looking at to find dirty dishes in the sink or rooms with unmade beds.
- Tone Down. I have some pretty funky artwork, which I love. But that doesn't mean that most people walking through our home will love it. We stripped down the really out-there stuff so people wouldn't write our home off because they didn’t care for our taste in decor. We also painted some of our more vibrant walls a neutral beige before we put the house on the market.
- Fixer Uppers. We had our real estate agent and a couple of friends walk through the house and point out things they noticed that would raise a red flag as a potential buyer. We ended up painting a back door that the dog had scratched, replacing some old faucets with inexpensive but more modern designs, and filling in a couple of nail holes from all the pictures we had stripped down. It was interesting to note that things we had thought would be big issues never came up while a number of things we had grown oblivious to made a big difference to fresh eyes.
- A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: Once your home is "staged," take lots of pictures of each and every room in its pristine perfection. Look at the photos with a critical eye to make sure the rooms seem large and bright, that the decorations or pictures on the wall are showing well. It was snowing the day we put our home on the market so we made sure to include some photos of the front and back yards from the summer so people could see all the lovely landscaping and the views.
So now we were ready to show our home. Again, there are some little tips and tricks you can use to create a welcoming experience for potential buyers. Some small details can create a lot of appeal.
- Fresh flowers. Silly, right? I thought so too but someone made the point that any nice hotel or model home always, always has fresh flowers. Why? Because they feel luxurious, fresh, and welcoming.
- A Nose for Details. I was amazed as we were looking for homes at how much smell influenced my gut reaction to a given home. One smelled like an old folks home, one like a Vietnamese restaurant, one reeked of cigarettes, another of pets. The one I fell in love with smelled like springtime, thanks to some strategically hidden air fresheners.
- Lights, music…action! The one thing I hadn't considered was the impact of lighting and music. Our agent and the staging experts agree that your home should be lit up for every showing – even in the daytime. Some quiet, tasteful music, they suggest, is not only inviting for guests, but it can also mask any noise from neighbors or nearby traffic areas. Great idea, but the thought of leaving my lights and sound system on all day was painful.
Luckily, I realized that with Control4 it would be easy to turn the lights and music on and off from the office, the coffee shop, the gym, pretty much anywhere. Our real estate agent would call anytime there was a showing scheduled. About 20 minutes before the showing, I would use my iPhone to turn on all the lights – and just for good measure I would turn on some background music at a very low volume. I get notifications on my phone when my front and back doors are opened during the daytime, so I could tell when the prospective buyers had left and immediately shut the lights off. It was pretty slick.
So, was it all worth it? The packing, cleaning, the flowers, the lights? Absolutely. Our house sold in less than 48 hours which was great for us but didn't really give us nearly enough time to show off our Control4 automated home tour.