The real estate game can be a tricky one for the home seller. Trying to guess what every prospective buyer wants to see when they walk through the door can be tough. A realtor can coach the seller through the process of listing a home, but the way a home presents itself is completely up to the homeowner. The real estate market is hot for buyers right now which means if you want your home to sell for top dollar it must shine inside and out. Luckily, this can be achieved through the principles of staging using little or no money at all. Studies show that home staging can increase the selling price of a home by 6-10% so investing a little money in simple improvements can really pay off.
The first step to successful staging is to declutter each room. Categorize everything into 4 groups: keep, toss/recycle, sell, or donate. You will have to do this when you move anyway so getting the job done now will not only make the house look better, but moving will be a snap. Start in the kitchen and work your way around the house, one room at a time. The kitchen will make or break the sale of a home, so it is important for it to look clean and functional. Remove the pictures, notes, lists and calendars from the front of the fridge. Clear the countertops leaving only the essentials and remove any items from the cupboards you don't use often and store them. As you move on to other rooms, make the most of every closet, cabinet, and drawer by organizing what you keep in bins, baskets, and containers. Buyers love storage and they will open doors and drawers to see what's inside!
After the clutter is clear, it is time to tackle minor repairs. You may need to patch holes in the wall, fix a leaking faucet, get a stain out of a rug, re-caulk the tub, or finish any trim work. If these simple tasks are not complete, buyers will see them and assume that if small fixes aren't done the rest of the home is probably in disrepair, too. Have a friend or family member tour the home and point out things you may have missed or gotten used to looking at over the years.
The next step is to restyle the home. Since everyone has different taste in home decor, it is key to make your home appeal to as many of these tastes as possible. Light neutral colors, basic furnishings, and updated rooms will allow buyers to focus on the positive aspects of the home. Consider repainting rooms warm colors that match with anyone's decor such as beige or grey. The key is to depersonalize the home so it is no longer styled just for you, but for the masses. This means remove wallpaper and paint over murals or stripes. Pack away collections such as dolls and sports memorabilia as well as small knicknacks. Take out family photos and replace with a painting or mirror. Edit down furniture by removing at least one piece from each room to make it easy for buyers to walk through and visualize their own belongings in the space. When the time comes for an open house or a showing you can go the extra mile and put out place settings, a bowl of fruit, or a fresh flower arrangement. Light a candle, play some jazz, and make an environment that buyers feel comfortable in. You want them to make that emotional connection and mentally move in to your home. Remember that a buyer will know if they are interested within the first 1-2 minutes of entering a home so making a great first impression is a must.
The final and most important step is to clean the home from top to bottom. Consider spending $200 on a professional deep cleaning. Dirt, mildew and grime can really disgust potential buyers so why chance it? You may also want to consider having your windows and screens professionally washed which really serves to lighten and brighten rooms. You have worked so hard on getting your home market ready, why not treat yourself and let a cleaning service do the rest.
If you are not sure how to restyle your home or you don't have a lot of time, ask your realtor to suggest a stager in your area. Most stagers do a free or low cost consultation in your home to give you an idea of what needs to be done and what their fees are. Hiring a professional to do the job will cost you more than if you do it yourself, but either way the investment will likely be recouped with a higher offer or a quicker sale.