The goal of preparing, or "staging" your home for market, is to help it sell more quickly in a slow market or at a higher price in a boom market. As cold and impersonal as it may seem, it is important that you no longer view your home as a place of memories, but rather as a product, that is for sale. You want to stage your home so that it has personality but isn't personal. Focus your attention on what we call the 4 C's; clean, clutter, color and company. Everything should look and smell clean. Remove all clutter and personal items. Keep colors fresh and neutral. Don't prepare for company, prepare to sell. The buyer came to see the house, show case that, and not your personal belongings. Remember the saying "I can't see the forest, for the trees", and approach your staging with that in mind.
First impressions count. When an agent and their buyer arrive at your home, they will make a quick visual assessment of the outside of your home. This "first impression" can effect their perception of the inside of your home, and ultimately their decision on whether to continue with the showing. If the color or condition of the outside of your home turns them off, they may simply move on to their next appointment.
1. Depending on your situation and the time of year, consider making some or all of the following improvements to your homes exterior
There isn't much you can do about the other homes in your neighborhood. However, if an adjoining neighbor's yard is untidy tell your neighbor that you're trying to sell your home and ask your neighbor (or even volunteer your services) to try to keep it as nice as possible.
- Clean up the yard - Pick up litter and remove any yard toys your children can live without while your home is on the market.
- Mow and trim the lawn - Do this once a week while your home is on the market. Hire someone if you cannot do this on a regular basis.
- Apply lawn fertilizer and weed control.
- Remove any dead limbs from trees.
- Prune the shrubs and remove any dead or dying landscaping.
- Edge flowerbeds, remove any weeds, and add a thin layer of fresh mulch.
- If needed mend or paint any fences or other outside structures.
- NEVER store trash cans on the side or front of your home.
2. When approaching your front entrance, they will notice the up-close appearance of the exterior and front entryway. During the time it takes the realtor to get the door open, the buyer is scrutinizing every aspect of the exterior of your home.
- Paint the exterior woodwork if needed. Your home should be a neutral color.
- Clean the gutters, replacing any loose or missing gutters, or down spouts.
- Polish the exterior lighting - replace them if they're in bad shape.
- Wash down the siding if necessary - Pay a professional or rent a Power Washer from a home improvement or rental center.
- Sweep & hose down the porch, stairs & stoop, in the winter make sure to always shovel the driveway and have a clear path to the door.
- Paint the front door and polish any brass hardware.
- Clean the storm door or replace it if it's not in top notch condition.
- Place a potted plant or tasteful seasonal décor at the entry.
- Wash the windows, exterior sills, and replace or secure any loose/missing screens.
3. After entering the home, the agent and buyer may stand in the foyer for a few minutes as they discuss the specifics of your home.
To make the best impression:
4. Once past the entryway the kitchen will be the most important room that the buyer looks at on the main living areas. It is important that your kitchen look and smell as clean as possible.
- Open up the entry by removing clutter such as shoes, brief cases, backpacks or packages.
- Place an attractive, clean rug at the entryway and make sure that it is slip-proof.
- Place a potted plant by the entry way or flowers on a table by the door.
- Make sure the hall closet doors are in working order and remove everything from the closet except for 4-5 garments.
- Clean any windows on or surrounding the front door.
5. Basement, garage & laundry room
- Remove & store everything from the counter tops except one or two items.
- Straighten the cupboards and pantry; leave extra room in each cabinet.
- Clean the inside and top of the stove and the inside & outside of the refrigerator, paying particular attention to edges and crannies.
- Wash down and polish the fronts of all appliances.
- Clean the counters and sinks, removing all stains and polishing all fixtures.
- Scrub the floor and make sure the baseboards are clean and dusted.
- Make sure all appliances are in working order - call a repairperson if necessary.
- Use a furniture oil to clean and brighten cabinet fronts especially around the handles. Polish the handles and tighten any loose cabinets or handles.
- Wash walls, especially around the stove and eating area.
- Sanitize the garbage disposal to remove offensive odors.
- Empty the trash and wash the inside and outside of the can. Empty your trash on a regular basis.
6. The bedrooms and baths are other key selling points. Because these rooms are very personal spaces, it is important that the buyer be able to "mentally move in" to these rooms. Make these rooms as neutral and inviting as possible.
- Remove any clutter from these areas and keep them neat and orderly.
- Straighten and organize shelving, gardening tools or work shop areas.
- Sweep and wash the floors.
- If the basement or crawl space has a damp, musty smell get a moisture remover and freshener from a home improvement center.
- Make sure that potential buyers have easy access to the hot water heater, furnace, air conditioning unit and any other mechanicals.
- Clean the outside of the washer and dryer. Keep dirty laundry out of sight and do laundry frequently while your home is on the market.
- NEVER store trash cans on the side or front of your home.
This is an excellent time to sort out and discard all of the items you've been meaning to get rid of for years. There's no time like the present. Think of it this way; you will have less to pack when you leave, and less to unpack when you arrive!
Bathrooms should be squeaky clean and free of odors
- Clean out everything from under the bed.
- Vacuum the baseboards, closets and draperies, as well as under and behind the bed.
- Remove clutter, all personal items and pictures from bedroom dressers and nightstands.
- Make sure all dresser drawers are closed and keep dirty laundry picked up and out of sight at all times.
- Clean the bedspread and any decorative pillows.
- Remove personal items or decorations that could distract buyers from seeing the home.
- Most buyers will want to see the inside of your bedroom closets. They're not being nosey; they're just trying to envision the available space, should they choose to purchase your home. Remove any items of a personal nature. The door(s) should open properly. Make a special effort to straighten out the closets and remove everything from the floor. Create the illusion of space by leaving some empty space on the shelves and between garments.
7. General preparation advice
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect the tubs, shower stalls, sinks, and toilets.
- If you have glass shower doors make sure you've removed any hard water stains and use a glass polish to renew their shine.
- Remove any apparent stains, especially mold and mildew from tile grout and drains.
- Clean the mirror, scrub the floor, hang fresh towels.
- Clear the counter top of personal items and make sure cabinet fronts are clean.
- Buyers will want to open and look at the inside of the bathroom linen closets, cabinets and drawers. They're not being nosey; they're just trying to envision the available space, should they choose to purchase your home. Remove any items of a personal nature. Straighten and clean out drawers, cabinets and linen closets. Again, make sure these areas neat and not over flowing. Use attractive storage baskets to corral items.
Give your home a critical "once over". Keep an objective eye out for things you may have just "learned to live with". Potential buyers will notice these lapses.
If you're unable or unqualified to tackle repairs or maintenance yourself, we suggest that you consider hiring a professional. Our office would be happy to provide a list of trusted tradesmen and service personnel. In any event, always check references, and with the Better Business Bureau of Chicago & Northern Illinois (Phone: 312/832.0500 or www.Chicago.BBB.org) before hiring a contractor. If you need any additional advice regarding preparations, please do call our office at anytime.
- A fresh coat of paint in a neutral color can do wonders for the appearance of any home.
- Repaint or remove any paint/wallpaper that is dinged, dark, damaged or out of date.
- Check all interior and exterior plumbing connections for signs of leakage.
- Vacuum upholstered furniture. Slip cover worn furniture.
- Have carpets professionally steam cleaned.
- Wash all walls, especially going up the stairs, corners, and around light switches.
- Make repairs to any damaged drywall, molding or doors.
- Check all ceilings, light fixtures, and corners for cobwebs.
- Thoroughly wash and vacuum all hard floors and baseboards.
- Make sure all windows and doors are clean and open and shut properly.
- Make sure all windowsills, ceiling fans and window coverings are clean and dusted.
- Clean fireplace and hearth.
- Dust all light fixtures and replace burned out bulbs.
- Locate operating manuals and warranty information for major appliances.
- If you've been experiencing difficulties with ants or other pests call an exterminator.
- Begin sorting through possessions. Pre-pack as much as possible and consider moving these items and any excess furniture to an off site storage unit. If a storage unit isn't possible, neatly stack these items on 1 side of the basement or garage.
- Make or finish any repairs/projects that have been on your "To do" list. If left unfinished they will often be noted on the inspection report, and you'll be asked to complete them or give the buyer a credit, so it's best to complete them now.
- If things are outdated, you can mask these lapses with proper staging. Make inexpensive investments such as a shiny new facet to give new life to a worn sink, or a beautiful new throw rug can distract buyers from worn tile.