Not too long ago, when you listed a house you could count on the rush of buyers and the competition that comes with them to start a potential bidding war. It was a classic case of supply and demand where the demand was high and the supply just could barely keep up.
Times have changed, in my area alone we are seeing that for every home sold, there are 4 others waiting to be sold. Buyers now seem to be in the supply and demand drivers seat. So when you do get a buyer to view a home for sale, you need to treat them like the audience at a broadway play. They need to walk out of that home dazzled and wanting more. After all, they are going to see 4 or 5 others homes that day because if there is one thing we have out there these days, it is homes for sale.
Preparing a home for sale like this is called "Staging". Most real estate agents provide staging consultation to one degree or another. For your home owners out there, this is the time for tough love. In order for this process to work, your agent is going to have to be honest with you. What they are going to suggest may feel like they are calling into doubt your decorating choices. The reality is that they are simply trying to draw your home towards a look that will attract the largest number of people. Even a beautifully decorated home is likely to need some staging in order to appeal to the widest audience of buyers. So don't take it personally!
In staging, we want to not only attract a buyer, but also allow them to visualize their things in the home. Sort of a blank canvas. Given that, you might think that a vacant home is the best bet. Sadly, this is not so. While a blank canvas is a good, it cannot be completely blank. We have to leave a template for the buyer to give a room context. A big empty room leaves the buyer wondering what to do with it. Many folks lack the vision to take that first step into seeing what a room can be.
So, we want to leave clues to the buyer to get over the first hump of what to do with a room and then let them imagine the things they use for that purpose in the room.
Given that, bedrooms shoud have beds. Living rooms should have living room furniture, etc.
Next is an issue of territory. We all make a space "ours" with family photos, memorabilia and nick nacks. But when we decide to sell a home, the message we want to send is not "This is my house", but rather "This is YOUR house".
In general, the less clutter there is, the better off we are. So people trying to sell their home should start the process by packing some boxes before the home is ever even listed. Back up all the nick nacks, photos and memorabilia. Your going to have to pack it up anyway, just think of it as getting an early start. Next, pack at least half of all your books. Even if this leaves empty book shelves, do it.
If there are any areas where you have to turn sideways to get by, get rid of what is forcing you to do that. This could mean too much furniture in a room, too many chairs or too many of something. You cant clear paths for folks to walk through the home.
Finally, consider painting and carpeting. Aside from the visual appeal of freshly painted walls and new carpeting, there is the psychological effect of the smell of new carpet and paint. It is like that new car smell, and believe it or not, it makes a difference. Also, painting and carpeting will usually pay for itself in terms of how much the home sells for or how much more quickly you sell the home as a result of doing the work.
Let me give you an example. I had a listing a few years back where the first words out of my mouth after getting the listing was that the sellers should paint and replace the carpet. I got bids on the work that totaled $5,500 for both. A very good price for the work getting done. The sellers refused. I got a free hand doing the rest of the staging, but they would not move on the carpeting and painting. The previous occupant was a smoker and had a huge dog. I guessed the carpets age at about 20 years.
People would literally walk two steps into the home and turn around and leave. I begged my sellers to do the work I asked.
I finally had to tell them after 3 months I would cancel the listing. I explained that if they had done what I asked, the home would be sold and the amount they would have saved in maintaining the home in that time would have more than paid for the work I wanted done. We talked and I made them a deal. I told them that they pay for the work to be done. If the home did not get in offer within 30 days, I would continue to list the home and pay for the carpet and paint myself.
They finally agreed and we did the work. Literally, the carpet installers were walking out of the property and a couple came in who made an offer on the house.
Now, how do I know the carpet made this sale? These folks were looking at the home for the second time. They had visited all the active properties in the area about a month before and had not found anything they liked. They were just looking at all the active listings again. When they walked in they asked, "I thought we had seen this place before. But this can't be the same place I remember, is it?" When they finally did recall their last visit, the wifes eyes went wide. She said, "Oh my god... I remember now! I got a few feet into the house and could not take the smell!"
Now, with the inside of the home all squared away, it's time to get the outside set to draw in the buyers right from the curb - like an irresistable force!
Exterior painting is as good an idea as interior painting. If your on a budget, just do the front of the house.
Get rid of all debris. Remove anything dead with something alive and colorful. If you have the means, a local landscaper can take care of all of this for as little $1500 and then can maintain it once every 2 weeks or so till the home sells. Consult with your real estate agent. I have a list of about 10 landscapers I use. I will call the 3 or 4 I like most at that time and have them come out to make bids. Whoever is best I go with. When they know they are bidding against other landscapers (and with me they do), they tend to give you their best price.
So, your all set. The outside of your home looks irresistable and the inside is inviting and clear of clutter. Your ready.
If you really want the bible of home staging, you can get your hands on "Dress Your House For Success" by Webb and Zackheim. It gives you a full rundown on staging perfection.