Preparing Your Home for Sale

Staging Your Home

If you want to sell your home faster, staging a house may help. Staging a house gets your place showroom-ready and allows buyers to imagine themselves living there. Home buyers are used to seeing picture-perfect houses—in person, on home decorating shows, and in online listings, so learning how to stage a house can make a big difference when selling.

Understand Why You’re Staging Your Home

Staging a house is a strategic move for sellers. A 2017 National Association of Realtors (NAR) survey says 49% of buyers’ agents believe staging affects most buyers’ view of a home. And 77% of them say it’s easier for people to visualize a staged home as their own.

Staging can also increase the sales price. In that same NAR survey, 29% of sellers’ agents said the sales price for staged homes were between 1% and 5% higher than unstaged homes. Staged homes sell faster, too—39% of sellers’ agents reported that staging a home reduces days on the market. Understanding the benefits of staging a home can help you decide if it’s right for you, and how much to invest in doing it.

Get Rid of Clutter

The most essential task when staging a house involves purging and cleaning—a clean, empty-as-possible house looks bigger. Remove knick-knacks and personal items from all surfaces. Don’t just put them in closets; potential buyers usually look in those, and you want yours to appear roomy. Box up spare belongings and get them out of the house.

With the clutter gone, do a deep cleaning. Make your kitchen and bathroom sparkle, and be sure to close the toilet lid before any showings. Air out the entire house by opening the windows—air fresheners or scented candles can trigger allergies, and you don’t want prospective buyers feeling itchy. If you have pets, wash everything they touch—no one likes pet odor. Consider hiring a pro for the deep clean if you have room in your home-selling budget.

Aim For a Light and Bright Look

Buyers typically like to see bright rooms, so lighting is an essential part of staging a house. Open your blinds or pull your curtains back before a showing. Make sure your light fixtures look appealing. If your lampshades are dingy or your fixtures are dated, consider replacing them. Even dusting your bulbs and fixtures can help let more light through.

Play with different color temperatures of lighting as well—the whiter the light, the more it will look like daylight. You can check the Kelvin rating on light bulb boxes to help you choose the right one: soft white is typically 2700K-3000K, and daylight runs between 5000K–6500K.

Stage Important Rooms First

We’re about to get into the part of staging that can cost money—renting furniture, or removing some, which can require a storage unit. This can be a considerable cost of selling your house, so if you don’t have the time or money to stage your whole house, you can get the most bang for your buck by staging certain rooms. The NAR survey found the living room is the most crucial space to stage, with 55% of agents surveyed thinking it’s “very important” to stage it. Next comes the master bedroom, followed by the kitchen. Your last priority can be any extra bedrooms.

Remove and/or Rent Furniture

A good rule of thumb is to remove about half your furniture. This could be difficult since you may still need to live in the home. But your house will look bigger and more appealing to most buyers with less furniture in it.

If your furniture just doesn’t look showroom-ready (or if it’s already moved into your new home), you can rent nice, new pieces. Put your furniture in storage, or sell or donate it if you won’t be taking it with you. If you’ve already moved, another option is pop-up furniture, which is made of corrugated plastic or cardboard, but looks nice enough to give sellers the sense of place and potential they need.

Arrange Furniture

Once you’ve settled on the furniture that will occupy the staged home, position couches, chairs, and tables away from your walls. This is a design technique called “floating” the furniture. Anchor the space with an area rug, even if the room has wall-to-wall carpet. This creates a cozy, intimate space, ideal for chatting with friends and family.

Work on Your Home’s Curb Appeal

“Curb appeal” is a real estate term for how nice your home looks on the outside at first glance. It’s a big deal when staging a house because the exterior is the first thing potential buyers see. Get buyers in the door by doing the following:

  • Power-wash your house and walkways.
  • Clean your windows.
  • Make sure your house number is easy to read.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Trim overgrown greenery.
  • Plant flowers.
  • Put a welcome mat and potted plants on your front stoop.
  • If you have a porch, include outdoor furniture.

Add Little Extras

Once you’ve learned how to stage a house and yours looks perfect, add some finishing touches inside. People love to see fresh flowers in vases, a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter, and folded towels in the bathroom. If you’re living in your home while selling, you can keep your nice extras in a closet so they’re ready to go quickly when your real estate agent calls to say a buyer is on the way.

Prepping For A Home Inspection

Home inspections have a very important part in the home buying process. For buyers, the home inspection provides an assessment of the home conducted by a trained inspector. While not required for every home sale, most lenders and cash buyers will ask for a home inspection as a contingency in the sale contract.

For sellers, a ‘pre-inspection’ can reveal important details about a home’s systems and structure, allowing the seller to fix critical items ahead of time which might cause a buyer to walk away. If you’re a seller, here are the ways you can prepare your home for an inspection.

Clean and Make Room

When it comes time for the inspection, one of the first things you should do is clean the house. A clean home makes a good first impression, and it makes it easier for the inspector to do his/her job. If there are toys everywhere, or trip hazards, your home could potentially be an unsafe place to work. Make it hospitable.

Prepare to Be Gone

A home inspection is not quick. An inspector will look at the major systems in your home, such as electrical, HVAC, plumbing, roof, floors, attic or crawlspace, and the foundation and structural components. Be prepared for you and your family (and any non-contained pets) to be away from your home for two to four hours for thorough inspection. Note: If the seller ordered a ‘pre-inspection’, that seller will want to be present, so the inspector can debrief him/her.

Have the Utilities Connected

During an inspection a home’s systems are tested, including those that require electricity and water. If the property is vacant, you’ll need to make sure you get the utilities connected so the inspector can be thorough and not require a return trip. Also remember to light the pilot lights for any appliances within the home. Many inspectors won’t do this because of liability and insurance, so ensure these are lit so the inspector can do their job the first time.

Leave Keys and Documents

It’s easily forgotten, but an inspector will likely need access to any outside systems, buildings or garages for the property, so leave any keys, openers, or other tools easily accessible to the inspector. This also includes access to a sprinkler system or electrical box. You will also want to make sure you provide all invoices and documents for any remodeling or projects that have occurred. If you’ve put in a new water heater, new HVAC, or had some electrical work done, provide the documentation for the inspector to ensure that those items are inspected as well.

Provide Access

Since an inspector is going to look at all the major systems of your home, make sure there is easy access throughout the house, especially to a furnace, water heater, or any other appliance that the inspector will look at. Before the inspector arrives, make sure access is not hidden or thwarted by large items - for example, if your crawlspace is accessible through the closet of a bedroom, make sure there is nothing in the room or the closet that will prevent the inspector from getting to it. Also, provide details on where the inspector can find attic and crawlspace access, and ensure those access points are ready for the inspector. Sometimes if an inspector cannot get access to something, s/he will need to reschedule and there can be additional charges for having to return.

Many sellers fear the home inspection, but they shouldn’t. While it is used as a contingency for a buyer (which is why it gets a negative reputation), knowing how your home’s systems are doing is important, regardless of whether you’re leaving or not. The inspection can be a vital tool for a buyer or seller, and it can bring peace of mind for all parties involved. If you’re selling and looking to have an inspection, just view it as an important part of the entire process and approach it with an open mind.

Showing Preparation

Agents from many real estate companies will want to show your home. Please allow any agent who contacts you to show your home at a suggested time. If you are frequently unavailable, it is suggested that you allow a lockbox to be intstalled on your door. The easier your property is to show, the more success you will have in finding the right buyer. 

10 Steps of Preparation

  • During daylight hours, open all draperies and window shades. 
  • Open windows 30 minutes before showing to circulate fresh air (as weather permits).
  • To make the residence more inviting, open all the doors between rooms.
  • Place fresh flowers on kitchen table and/or in the living room.
  • If possible, bake cookies or bread in advance to add a tantalizing aroma. 
  • Replace items not included in the sale or tag them with "to be replaced with..." or "not included" signs.
  • All jewelry and small valuables should be stored in a safety deposit box or in a locked closet.
  • Pets should be confined or restricted from view. Also, be sure to eliminate pet odors. Some people may be allergic to them.
  • The kitchen and bathroom (towels folded and toilet lid down) should be spotless.
  • Bedrooms should also be tidy (beds should be made and clothes picked up).

Before you leave the house, please treat it as if you know it is going to be shown. You never know when the right buyer will be touring your home.