6 Cheap Ways to Stage Your Home in a Buyer's Market

by Chris Birk on 27 September 2011 6 comments

When it comes to real estate, appearance matters. Especially in a buyer's market.

Prospective home buyers hold most of the cards in today’s real estate climate. That means sellers need to adjust expectations and prepare for the long haul. One of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your odds is to ensure your home looks the part.

A disheveled, unkempt yard or messy interior turns off open house visitors. The key is to enhance the aesthetics without eating through your savings. Remember how the house sparkled when you fell in love with it? Make it sparkle again without overspending by checking out these tips below. (See also: How to Sell Your Home When Your Neighbors Are Too)

1. Tackle What Buyers See First — the Outside

Get rid of any pet excrement, as well as weeds, fallen branches, limbs, and bushes that cover nice parts of the house. Keep the lawn cut short. Trees and bushes near the house should not be more than two feet taller than the roof line. If you’re willing to spend a few bucks, buy mulch to pour around trees and shrubs. Clean the siding, bricks, gutters, doorways, decks, and sidewalks by renting or borrowing a neighbor’s power washer. Being thorough might take a day, but it’s far less expensive to rent the machine than to hire somebody.

2. Clean Like You Never Have Before

Prospective buyers do not want to see clutter. Kids' toys, tools, dirty dishes, stacks of old magazines, and all other unsightly objects need to be packed away. The house must look tidy, which will in turn make it look spacious and comfortable. Cupboards, cabinets, and closets should be organized and decluttered. With things out of the way, scrub every inch of the house. Dust baseboards, lamps, fans, and shelves. Clean all the mirrors, windows, bathrooms, floors, stairs, and parts of the kitchen. Pretend you’re having houseguests for a weekend or a very critical in-law for dinner. That should be enough to make you use a little extra elbow grease.

3. Be a Handyperson

Leaky faucets, jammed drawers, and broken light switches are just a few of the several repairs you can make. Unless you know for certain that your attempt will exacerbate the problem, there’s no need to hire a professional. Having a well-maintained home supports your asking price, too. Fresh paint is a must. Generally, real estate agents suggest neutral-colored walls.

4. Experiment With New Layouts

Move furniture, lamps, throw rugs, and whatever else to see which rooms look spacious and inviting. Just because you’ve had a room set up the same way for years does not mean it will look welcoming to potential buyers.

5. Add Some Visual Flair

Greenery adds a nice element to the interior but shouldn’t cost much. Search your yard for colorful flowers worthy of a vase. Group small plants together on coffee or dinner tables to give the room a visual center. To ensure everything in the room can be seen, let the natural light in. Again, windows and sunlight make a room feel spacious.

6. Appeal to the Other Senses

The prospective homeowners are looking at your home, but they have four other senses. Turn on some easy listening and keep the house smelling fresh. Surely, they won’t want to move into a sterile, quiet home. Not only should it look, sound, and smell like home, but it should feel like it, too.

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GuestSylvia

5. That would be FLAIR, a talent for style, rather than flare, as in bell-bottom pants.

Meg Favreau's picture

Thanks, Sylvia. It's been fixed!

Guest's picture

I never realized how true this was until we bought a townhouse for our daughter. The minute we walked into the townhouse, soft music was playing and it smelled as if the cleaning lady had just walked out. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to live there myself. Everytime we went back into the house music was playing and it made you feel as if you were already home. It made such a difference, we went in at asking price.

Guest's picture
Nancy

Remember lighting, too. Change your CFLs back to clear incandescent bulbs while your house is on the market, bring in additional lamps, open all draperies and raise all blinds, and turn on all the lights in the place when prospective buyers are coming. A professional stager gave me this advice.

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Jennifer Boyce

As a Accredited Staging Professional (ASP) Realtor with Long & Foster, Real Estate, this article is speaking volumes of truth! I have buyers say to me "we can look beyond clutter"... but it's really rare to actually have buyers that are willing to put their money on a cluttered, unkept, dimly lit, weed-strewn yard, everything-is-kinda-broken house.

The point of selling your home is to MOVE. Not to showcase your belongings or to highlight your 3 couches, 2 filled china hutches and basement FILLED with plastic kiddie toys. Not that the next buyer won't live like that - but they won't willingly hand over full price.

If you are serious about selling your home I have 1 big word for you P.A.C.K. Pack it all up. Leave just the beautiful bare minimum. Don't say "I've been so busy with the kids and with work and with xyz...". If those things are taking priority, then they are costing you big dollars with your home sale. There is no 2 ways about it.

Also, if you're thinking about selling in Northern Virginia and need a trained eye to help you maximize your home price - look me up. I'd be honored to help you.

Guest's picture

Dont forget about pets , put them away , clean up after them and remove signs of dog hair and smells. Your big dog maybe friendly but it could be the one thing that puts off a potential buyer. The cat litter tray may have been part of your life for years and you may be immune to the smell remove it!