It may seem counterintuitive to put decorator touches on a home you've decided to sell, but "staging" your home-fixing it up and decorating it so it will appeal to the broadest range of potential buyers-pays real dividends. According to the Concord, California-based International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), even in the 2007 market slowdown the average professionally staged home sold within 32 days, compared to 160 days for comparable non-staged homes. In fact, 93 percent sold within one month. And the best part? On average, they sold for an increase of 3 to 10 percent.
Hiring a professional stager can cost from a few hundred to thousands of dollars depending on the amount of work in question, but will save you a lot of legwork and elbow grease. You can find a stager by searching online (try the IAHSP website at iahsp.com) or by asking your real estate agent for a referral. Or do it yourself. Here are some top priority pre-sale home improvements.
Staging allows potential buyers to visualize their lifestyle within your home. Your goal is to showcase your home at its cleanest, roomiest and brightest-while avoiding adding too much of your own personality. Here are some proven winners:
Freshen walls by painting them in a neutral hue.
- Upgrade lighting
Replace out-of-date fixtures and use 100-watt bulbs to brighten the home for showings.
- Renovate the kitchen and/or baths
Replace stained countertops, old faucets, unfashionable lighting and damaged floors with neutral choices. Cabinetry in an outdated finish can be inexpensively re-faced. In the kitchen, even entry-level stainless-steel appliances will give your kitchen a high-end look.
- Cut clutter
Don't overstuff your rooms. Pack away your knickknacks and limit furniture to the basics, storing side tables, loveseats, small bookcases and oversized toys out of sight.
- Upgrade flooring
Use a steam cleaner on carpets, or, if you have hardwood underneath, consider ripping broadloom out altogether. Refinish hardwood if needed, as it's a strong selling point.
Knowing that many potential buyers do "drive-bys" before committing to an open house or showing, exterior staging should maximize your home's curb appeal and make visitors want to come inside.
If your porch, front door or siding needs painting, take care of it ASAP.
While it can be a big-ticket item, if you're due for re-roofing, it's better for you to have it done now than expect potential buyers to take on the hassle-many will simply pass on your house instead.
- Cut clutter
Get rid of any outdoor knickknacks like leftover holiday decorations, novelty yard ornaments or signs. The only outdoor accessory your front yard needs is tidy landscaping and landscape lighting.
- Clean the driveway and sidewalk
Use a pressure washer to clean your sidewalk and driveway.
- Freshen the porch
Replace an out-of-date mailbox, street number and porch light. Flank the front steps or front door with a pair of large urns with seasonal plants, for a pretty look.