Home Staging
Preparing For Home Viewing

Home staging and properly preparing for home viewing is an extremely important step in the sale process. As a matter of fact, it can make the difference in not only the ultimate sale price of your home, but whether or not it even attracts a buyer. It's absolutely critical to start right, to put your best foot forward, so to speak.

Before Leaving for Work in the Morning

To assist your agent (or yourself, if going the private route), who you should consider your marketing partner, be prepared to invest some serious time and effort. Before trying to sell your car, you'd wash, wax and vacuum it. Right? So, why should your house be any different?

Don't leave in the morning without at least loading the dishwasher with any soiled dishes that may be scattered around the house, making the beds, cleaning the bathtub and shower, polishing the sinks and faucets, clearing and organizing the kitchen counter-top, vacuuming the carpets, closing closet doors and toilet seats and dumping any dirty laundry into the hamper. And change your bedding regularly.

There's a lot more to do for house staging, but not at the last minute. Properly staging a house takes thoughtful planning and thorough methodical implementation.

Hire a Home Staging Professional

If you or your agent lack the skill for effective home staging, you could hire a professional stager. Depending on what's necessary to effectively prepare your property for home viewing, their fee will vary accordingly. To de-personalize and de-clutter, a serious purging of junk and years of accumulated paraphernalia may be necessary. On the other hand, you may need to add a few pieces of furniture and/or decor items - or remove some - to beautify your home. A professional stager will probably have a contact from whom they can rent any needed pieces to set the stage.

When preparing your house for marketing, it's important to understand that this is no longer your home; it's an investment. You must move from subjective to objective mode. You want it to stand out from the competition and appeal to a broad spectrum of buyer prospects. By faithfully following the 10 tips below, you'll vastly improve the odds in your favour.

I've thoroughly covered the topic of home staging here and how to effectively prepare a home for viewing and potentially increase its market value. But for your convenience, I've duplicated some of the basics below. So, I invite you to read on.

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Top Ten Tips for Home Staging

1. Curb Appeal – When home staging, the outside is just as important as the inside. What was it about the front exterior that attracted you to buy your house? Does it look more attractive now? Or less? Stand back and look at your house as if you're seeing it for the first time. Does it need sprucing up? Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And don't forget the backyard too.

2. Declutter – Before listing your house, arguably the most important thing to do when home staging is to clear the house of personal clutter and memorabilia. Give it away, throw it out or move the stuff to a storage locker.

3. Clean:  One would think this is common sense, but sadly, common sense is not very common. Buyers, in their clear, cold objectivity, interpret a clean home as one that must have been really cared for. In particular, the kitchen and bathrooms must sparkle.

4. Depersonalize:  Family photos and personal treasures should be stowed away. To buyers, they're simply distractions. You want buyer prospects to be able to envision themselves living in your house, and personal stuff will only make that more challenging for them.

5. Neutral Colours:  If your walls are painted in vibrant colours, particularly if they clash from room to room, it's time to re-paint them. Choose soft, neutral tones that flow easily together throughout the house. Have a theme in mind. Wallpaper? Too personal. Strip and paint.

6. Highlight Design Features:  If a room, such as a living or family-room, has a special feature, such as a fireplace or bay window, place your furniture to emphasize that feature.

7. Original Room Function:  Each room should be furnished and decorated according to its original design function. For example, if you were using a bedroom as an office or TV room, convert it back into a bedroom with appropriate furniture. If you don't have any, borrow or rent some.

8. Lighting:  Replace old, outdated light fixtures with trendy new designs. And ensure the maximum permitted bulb wattage to maximize room lighting.

9. Window Treatments:  If your draperies or blinds are not in keeping with today's style, consider replacing them with a neutral-coloured alternative.

10. Flooring:  Are your carpets and floor tiles worn out? Consider a good quality laminate or hardwood for your living-room or family rooms. Bedrooms could be given a fresh look with a neutral carpet and quality under-pad.

As I said earlier, for more details on home staging and preparing your property for market, visit this page on enhancing home market value.

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Before They Arrive

If you plan to be present during the home viewing, or to greet the buyer agent and their client at the door and then make your exit,  turn on all lights - everywhere - prior to their arrival. Not only does bright make your home more welcoming, it also eliminates the necessity for the agent to search in the dark for light switches, particularly in a darkened basement. Instead, they can concentrate on their client and address any questions or concerns that arise during the home viewing and not, where it's more difficult, in the car on the return trip to their office.

Avoid cooking foods, such as fish, liver and onions or spicy dishes, on the day of the showing because they'll likely leave an after-odour. The smell permeating the house may be tantalizing to you, but could compel a buyer prospect to head for the door in disgust. Also, food odours permeating the house can contribute to personalizing it, which is exactly what you want to avoid. And spray or automatic so-called air-fresheners are definitely not a good idea either. Many people have chemical or perfume sensitivities and cannot tolerate such chemicals.

Having said this, here's an exception; I've never met anyone who didn't love the wonderfully tantalizing aroma of baked bread or desserts. Cinnamon rolls are a great idea. You might even leave them fresh and warm on a plate for your guests (or your own agent) during the home showing. Nice touch!

During a cold winter, before leaving the house, make sure your furnace is not programmed to drop to a lower temperature. And if its gas, turn on the fireplace, or start a fire in the fireplace, provided of course, it's equipped for safe fires. Summer heat and humidity? Activate the air conditioning, but not to such a low temperature that resident penguins would rejoice.

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Vacate the House

To provide the buyers and their agent with some privacy, it's best if you can leave the house  during the showing. (Obviously, you'll not have this luxury if you're selling privately.) If you're home, they may be uncomfortable with expressing their feelings about your home until after they've left. This eliminates any possibility of the agent addressing any possible issues while actually in the house where they might more effectively resolve them.

You want them to feel right at home and not feel like they're invading your privacy. The more comfortable they are, the higher the perceived market value may be. However, if you plan to be home, a critical part of effective home staging is for all occupants to stay out of the way. Be invisible. And most importantly ...

Don't follow them around!

It's a common mistake that usually makes everyone uncomfortable, including the agent. Plus it will make you look anxious; not exactly a good bargaining position for you.

Turn off all entertainment systems, make all the beds, wake everybody up, wash and stow away all the dishes and clean, flush and close the lids on all toilets. Snow country? Shovel and salt your walkway and porch. Night time? As a welcome gesture, turn on all exterior lights. It's really annoying for an agent to arrive at a front door in the dark and have to open a lock-box to find the key, locate the key hole and then stumble into a strange darkened foyer.

Model Home

For effective home staging, do your best to make your place resembles a model home, at least as closely as you can make it. Trust me - extra effort toward home staging will pay off. The buyers will appreciate the pride of ownership, and your property may achieve a higher sale price.

For more information on selling a home and how an agent can help with home staging and obtain a higher sale price, visit CREA.

If you're considering selling your home, with or without an agent, check out my book The Happy Agent. It contains the sum total of the real estate knowledge, philosophies and techniques that I've accumulated, practiced and polished during a highly successful 42-year realty career.

Learn how to effectively evaluate your home and prepare it for market, including effective basic home staging, to maximize the ultimate sale price, how to market and advertise effectively, how to handle showings and open houses like a pro, how to successfully negotiate an offer and more. If you're trying to sell privately, you'll learn how to recognize the signs of when it's time to throw in the towel and hire a professional, and what to expect from them.

When you consider the huge savings in real estate commission with a private sale attempt and the fact that you're dealing with your largest single financial asset, a small investment of your time and a pittance of your money could save you thousands of dollars and a ton of heartache. At the very least, you'll be encouraged to try it alone, at least for awhile. Remember - knowledge is power.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.

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