Selling? Tips in Reality Staging from A Seasoned Agent

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Consultants Realty 2003013006

One of the very first steps that I take as an agent is touring my clients home and making suggestions for better salability.

Over the years, I have toured many homes with home buyers. Not just my listings, but every brokerage's listings. Buying a home is a huge decision and finding the right one for a buyer client is a big part of an agents job.

Anyone can call themself a "stager". When I use the term, my mind does not go to rented furniture and designer magazines. Some people have an eye for interior decorating, and that's great!  Although they can make for pretty Internet Pinterest photos, generally this is not what comes to my mind in terms of staging. It is not a real world example in my market. Most owners selling their home do not have thousands of dollars to make changes in a market where the average price is $165K. In fact, many are fortunate to have equity in the home they are selling.

First and foremost, everyday clutter has to go and the home needs to look and smell clean. Flair can be added after the basics are complete. Organize the mail, kitchen, bathrooms, linen closets, cabinets and laundry room. Even storage areas should look clean and neat. If treasures need to be packed away and trash needs to go to the curb, make time before listing the home to do this. Many home buyers do not "look through" the clutter to imagine their own belongings in a home. Plastic bins are great for storing treasures and look neat and clean. With furniture, less is more. Minimalize  your furniture. Pay attention to garages and basements as well as far as clean is concerned. Change your mindset from the place you live to making a first impression on a stranger.

You have 7 seconds to make a first impression. Yes, that first seven seconds is what will make or break you sometimes. Step outside your front door & look around. How does your front door and the trim look, your porch, landscaping and your exterior lighting? When you enter your home, what is the first thing you see and smell? Make sure the front lock works easily and do all you can to welcome your guests. Sweep off the sidewalk and porch and be sure any spider or cobwebs are gone. It's true in most cases locally that most home owners enter and exit from their garage. It may have been years since you used your front door.

Smells are important. Closets that are packed with clothing or coats sometimes have a "people" smell. Carpets can get this and also trap pet, smoke and dust smells as well. Have them professionally cleaned or replace carpets that are too far gone. Clean out and minimalize closet storage. Think of how it feels when you walk into a new home or a high end department store. No, you don't want perfumed "cover up", but you do not want odors that are distracting. If you are living in your home and have a great kitchen, sometimes leaving out cookies or treats is a great way to impress your buyer. A small plug in air freshener with a clean, subtle smell can be used. If you leave appliances, your fridge, stove, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal and even the washer and dryer can hold odor and "signs of life". Look at and smell all of those things carefully.

I am asked a lot about personal photos. My rule of thumb is that if they are tastefully framed and arranged, not dusty and do not resemble a shrine, you are fine to keep them up. Walls, especially in hallways that are lined or covered should be cleared. 5-6 arranged is plenty. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your family, school, lifestyle or hobbies. Many times tastefully displayed photos indicate an owner has been happy in the home. We do want to say to potential buyers "live here and be happy". Empty walls do not say this. Modern wall hangings can help when "swag" is added with some finishing touches.

Colors. Colored carpet is out. Neutral beiges and grays seem to sell best. Shiny vinyl floors are out. Matte finish vinyl, ceramic tile and woods are in. Brass or gold lighting and fixtures are out. Brushed nickel, chrome, oiled bronze and black are in. If your cabinets never had hardware, add it. If lighting is dated, change it. Back splashes, granite or corian like counters are in. Colored counters like green, blue, red or pink are out. Black and stainless appliances are in. White is ok, but any other colors be gone!

Don't forget walls and ceilings. The smallest settlement crack can bring questions. An easy fix with a little dry wall mud and wet sanding sponge.  Bright white ceilings and super clean and well kept trim and doors sell well. Clean baseboards, air vents and light switch covers. Walls sell best with neutral tones. With white woodwork, subtle colors work well. But avoid pinks, purples, blues and dark shiny colors. To add "pop" consider painting one or two walls in a room with color. Beiges, grays and in some cases subtle muted greens or peach colors work well. Natural colors seem to show cleaner and best.

Wide slatted blinds or modern panels with grommets work well to show windows. Lace, flowers & heavy pleated draperies should be taken down. Modern colored drapes and modern rods can be used to add some color later. Plastic slatted blinds, if new, may be ok but a plain clean window may show better. Dust and clean all ceiling fans as well.

If you have a basement, it should show super clean. Paint stairs and floor shiny gray. Seal the walls with clean, white sealer. Be sure windows are sparking, and dust the vent pipes, rafters, furnace and hot water tank. Replace any visqueen plastic sheeting in crawl spaces and replace or remove old wall insulation. Your basement (especially when unfinished) should show like a brand new home. Put a drop or two of bleach or pine sol in your sump pit and pour a bucket or two of warm water to freshen the water there. Even though you may have spent very little time in your basement while living in your home, it tells a lot to your buyer about how the home was cared for.

How else can you help sell your home? Make a list of the things you love about your home. Write a letter to leave out for the new buyers that talks about your good memories here or what you think are the best things about your home. Is it your neighbors? Schools? View? Holidays here? You can even leave nots around the house as an example "we remodeled this master bath in 2010 and it is one of my favorite rooms in the house!" Or "our appliances were all replaced just last year" or "we love this extra storage space!" The key is to connect with your buyers. Sometimes a seller that appears friend, happy and motivated will impress a buyer to offer.

There are many things that we live with everyday that may be and work just fine for us. Most people are very busy and don't maintain their homes as closely as they would like. But when it is time to sell, it is time to shine. Many of the things suggested here do not cost a fortune to update or take a lot of time to do. You have made a commitment to meet your goals and your positive participation can get noticed by the next owner of your home. If you want to stand out from your competition and get the top dollar in your area, go the extra mile to make your house a welcoming showplace. This extra time up front could have you moving on and meeting your moving goals faster than you think!

Vicki Workman, ABR, CRS, E-Pro, GRI with Keller Williams Consultants Realty has been servicing the Central Ohio area since 2003.  Receipient of the Presidents Sales Club 25 Million Award in 2013, she has assisted hundreds of sellers and buyers with their real estate goals.  Visit for more information about the services that she offers.  Feel free to call or text anytime to 614-440-5174 with your real estate questions.


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