Home Staging Rules to Appeal to Today’s Buyers

Are you selling your home? Congratulations! This is an exciting time for your family. If you want to sell your house a little faster, staging it can help. Surely you’ve heard some tips from your agents – make sure everything is clean, the home looks well kept and tidy, and that everything is generally picture-perfect… But what else can you do to properly stage your home?

It’s important to make sure your home is properly staged because it prompts potential buyers who are touring your available house to imagine themselves living there. Think about it – which house is easier to imagine yourself in: one that is white, clean, and minimalistic, or one that is colorful, crowded with another family’s furniture and décor, and perhaps a little messy? You must arrange your furnishings and décor to make your home look it’s best, as well as thoroughly clean (and probably repaint) your home, too. This may involve a few trips to Goodwill as you pare down your belongings, or even moving everything you own out of the home so the potential buyers can tour the home while it is empty.

Why else might you want to stage a house? Well, it’s simply strategic. In 2017, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) took a survey that showed almost half of all buyer’s agents believe that staging affects most potential buyer’s view of a home. Almost 80% of the buyer’s agents said it was easier for people to visualize a staged home as your own. It can also increase the sales price. The same survey by the National Association of Realtors proved that the sales price for staged homes was one to five percent higher than the sales price of unstaged homes. They sell faster, too – 39% of seller’s agents reported that staging a home reduces days on the market.

Understanding the benefits of home staging is one thing, but how can you pull it off properly and easily? You are already stressed enough while preparing to sell your home, buy a new one, and relocate your family – there is a way to do this that is stress free and enjoyable!  Here are our best tips for staging your home.

Get Rid of Clutter

It’s hard for a potential buyer to see themselves living in your home if they can’t see around YOU living in your home. This is possibly the most essential task when staging – purging. It is a simple fact that a clean, empty as possible house looks bigger and tidier. You can integrate this process into your packing system. Remove knick-knacks and personal items first when you begin packing, and get those boxes out of the house as soon as you can. Don’t put them in closets – the potential buyers will be looking in those too! If it’s not an essential, pack it up.

Clean, Clean, Clean!

Now that the clutter is gone (and some of your packing is done – hooray!), get to work cleaning. It may be in your seller’s agreement that you must have the home clean to some degree the day you surrender the keys. Now is the time to get on top of all of the “little” things, like the baseboards, the windows, a good carpet shampoo, and under the kitchen sink. Make your kitchens and bathrooms sparkle. Open the windows to air your family’s natural scent out of the home instead of using candles or air fresheners. You never know when a potential buyer may be sensitive to artificial smells and scents. If you have pets, scrub everything they regularly interact with. No one wants to buy a home that smells like a litter box or wet puppy. If it is within your means and you don’t have the time to do this yourself, consider hiring a professional cleaning service to get the worst of the scrubbing done for you.

Your Ultimate Goal? Light and Bright.

Buyers tend to respond most positively to bright rooms with lots of natural light. Don’t have enough windows around the house to give that great naturally lit look? That’s okay. What you can do is replace your lightbulbs to those with a bright output. The whiter the light, the more it looks like daylight. The yellower the light, the darker it will seem. If you do have a lot of windows, great! Open your blinds and pull back the curtains. Want to make things even brighter? Paint your walls white. Yep – white. Remove any funky wallpaper that potential buyers may disagree with, paint over your kid’s red and blue racecar themed walls, and cover up all of your dents and dings in the drywall with some good old white paint. Your buyers can add an accent wall if they wish to, once they’re moved in.

Stage Big Rooms First

What rooms do you look at first when you are intending to buy a house? Bedrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen. The living room and extra rooms (dining room, family room, kids rooms) become less important compared to the rooms you and your loved ones will spend the most time in. That is exactly why you want to make sure you make those rooms the most beautiful, the quickest! You can also save money by doing this. Removing furniture and boxes from your home will likely require a storage unit, unless you already have the keys to your new home. This can be a big cost when you’re selling, so shorten the time you have to rent a unit by staging the best rooms in the house first – then the house will sell faster.

Rent Furniture If Needed

Don’t feel comfortable with your furniture being looked over by strangers? Is your old house empty because you’ve already moved to your new place? You can rent furniture for staging if you want to and can afford it. An option here is pop-up furniture, which is typically made from plastic or cardboard, but doesn’t look like it is. It looks nice but minimalist enough to give sellers the ability to visualize their family in the home. If you plan to leave your own furniture in the home for staging, the best rule of thumb is to leave about half of what you own in the home. This can be tricky if you are still living in the home while showings are being scheduled, but it will look bigger and tidier to potential buyers with less in it. If anything else, it might help you decide what you can live without and donate or sell.

Arrange Your Furniture – Owned or Rented

Whether you own or rented your furniture, it must be arranged in a certain way. Position couches and chairs a few feet away from the walls if you can. This is called furniture floating, and it makes the room look bigger. Set up the sitting area so that all those who were seated could easily see the tv and each other. Set the table so that your potential buyers could imagine their family having dinner in the dining room. Put away all of your gym equipment and children’s toys – this can seem like clutter if the potential buyer is not a gym-goer or a parent.

Don’t Forget Curb Appeal

You want to start your home off on the right foot with the people that are touring it. Make sure the outside is neat and tidy, too – it’s the first thing your potential buyers will see. Power wash your driveway and siding,  clean the windows, tidy the landscaping, mow the lawn, hide the dumpsters, and make sure your house number is easy to read from the street. Remove all personal belongings from the yard – garden statues, flags that are not of your country, bird feeders and fountains, or porch furniture. Most important, make sure that any damages to the outside of the home are remedied – you don’t want your potential buyers to see hanging shingles, broken siding slats, shattered windows, or creaky doors.

Don’t Forget the Extras…

Finishing touches can mean the world when you’re staging a house. Put some fresh flowers out on the kitchen counter, as well as a bowl of fresh fruit. Plant new flowers in the yard. If the holidays are near, keep your Christmas tree up and decorated. Run the vacuum right before every scheduled touring. Make sure the towels in the bathroom are folded and clean, and hide your dirty laundry hampers. Keep dishes out of the sink, and be sure to stay on top of picking up after your pets and kids. This can be stressful if you are still living in the home, but it will pay off tremendously.

When your home is properly staged, it will sell in no time. It can seem like another huge to-do on your list of selling and moving tasks, but it can be one of the most important. Homes that are properly staged sell faster and for more money than homes that are not staged properly, so make sure you stay on top of this if your house is on the market!

Mistakes that Home Sellers Can Make

You want the home selling process to be as smooth and painless as possible. Thinking about all the things that can go wrong might be overwhelming, but remember that knowledge is power. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when selling your home.

  1. Underestimating the cost of selling. Wait, aren’t you supposed to make money if you’re the seller? Well, yes, but the total cost to sell a home can amount to much more than the 5-6% in agent commissions most people are expecting to pay. As a seller, you must also account for closing costs, repairs, and other concessions to the buyer. The true cost of selling can often be closer to 10% of the sale price of the home.
  2. Setting an unrealistic price can be a huge mistake. What you want from your home can be very different than what the market will pay. Sure, you don’t want to price your home too low and leave money on the table for the sake of a quick sale, but you also don’t want your over-priced house to be listed on the market for months – or worse, years.
  3. You must provide the buyer with legally required disclosures. You, the seller, are legally required to disclose to the potential buyer anything that may affect the value of the property. For example if your home is sitting on a sinkhole, you must disclose this to the buyer. It is considered illegal in most places to deliberately conceal major property defects, so you must put your real estate disclosures in writing.
  4. After you deliver your written real estate disclosures, you must make sure that you receive from them acknowledgement of receipt of these disclosures, also in writing. What good is it that you delivered your disclosures to the buyer if you can’t prove it later? Your agent should handle this for you, but it doesn’t hurt to double check and make sure it’s been done.
  5. Do not accept the buyer with the highest offer without regarding the other contractual terms. Sure, the potential buyer you have your eye on is offering ten thousand dollars more than his counterpart, potential buyer number two, but they also require that you cover all closing costs. That can eat up that ten thousand dollars extra, and fast!
  6. Ignoring necessary major repairs in favor of costly cosmetic renovations is going to be a big mistake. A long list of maintenance issues can mean trouble for you as a seller, and it means nothing that you have a lovely new staircase if no one will buy your home because the wiring in the walls is not up to code. Assert your priorities!
  7. Not preparing your home for sale is another common mistake made by sellers. Potential buyers are almost certainly going to want to tour your home, and generally speaking, the cleaner and less cluttered your home is, the more appeal it will have. Clutter can make your home feel smaller, and the less staged your house is, the harder it is for potential buyers to see themselves living there. Make sure you don’t forget about curb appeal, either!
  8. Choosing the wrong agent can spell disaster for you as the seller! Make sure you select an agent who has good reviews and is properly licensed to do their job. You can interview multiple agents at once to check their credentials and customer satisfaction history, and when you do so, make sure that they have experience buying and selling homes in your neighborhood and at your price point.
  9. Choosing an agent you don’t get along well with is less of a disaster than choosing one who is unlicensed, but it can also be much more stressful for you! Make sure that you talk to your agent about your expectations. Discuss their marketing plan for your home, their negotiation style, how often they plan to communicate with you and how they plan to do it, if they have any current listings that might compete with yours, and whether or not they will require you to sign a contract with them.
  10. Showing your home to potential buyers can feel invasive and troublesome, but limiting these showings can make sure your house never gets off the market. The goal is to accommodate as many buyers as possible, even if their timing is inconvenient. This means you may have to vacate on short notice or during a time that is usually scheduled to be spent in your home.
  11. Do not fail to consider your broader financial situation. Many sellers don’t have a clear idea of their financial health before they decide to sell their home. This can mean some painful surprises! Before you make the decision to sell, assess your income and debts, as well as any upcoming expenses during your move. You can contact your bank or mortgage advisor to find out how much you owe on your current home.
  12. You must get everything in writing from everyone, from your agent to the buyer of your home. No negotiations about the purchase of your house should happen verbally. Anyone who is serious about buying your house will have no problem putting an offer in writing and sending it to you. You should also consult with your agent to make sure that all offers and counter offers you receive are legally binding documents.
  13. Do not agree to a reduced earnest money deposit. There is a lot of uncertainty about what the right amount of earnest money is, and many consider it 3-5%. No matter what you ask for, you want to make sure it is fair for all parties. Of course you want to please your potential buyer, but you should not short-change yourself, either.
  14. Make sure your sales agreement is complete. Use the complete legal description of your home in any sales paperwork. A real estate attorney can assist you with this. It is this description, not your home address, that is recognized by the government and by lenders, so make sure that all of your sales paperwork reflects the exact verbiage of the description of your home as stated on your property taxes.
  15. Not asking for help can cost you tens of thousands of dollars when selling your house. You must have help from a real estate agent and attorney. A real estate attorney can help you ensure that your entire sales transaction, from start to finish, is legally enforceable and is as efficient as possible.
  16. Do not use a template contract that was purchased online for any part of the home selling process. Not all template contracts reflect the laws in your area, and do not have the required provisions or addenda. The failure to include these provisions or addenda can make your contract voidable at the buyer’s option.
  17. You must screen your potential buyer before signing a contract with them. If a buyer has a 30 day finance period and then a 45 day home inspection contingency and then 60 days to close, and they are not qualified from the beginning to purchase your home, they have just wasted four months of your time. You should always require a pre-qualification letter from anyone who is even remotely interested in buying your home from you!
  18. Do you have a contingency plan if you aren’t able to find a new home? You should. As a seller, what are your plans with regard to finding your new home? Do you need to include a provision in the contracts allowing you to remain in your house after the sale for a certain period of time? Do you need a contingency providing that the contract to sell your current house is not valid until you find a new house? Make sure you consider all of this when selling!
  19. Don’t set an unrealistic timeline. You will not have cash in hand for your home in two days. Unless you live in a zip code with highly desirable real estate, it is almost impossible to say how fast the house will sell, so don’t rely on it selling quickly. You should prepare financially for both situations – that your home sells quickly, and that it does not. Budget for both a few more months in your old home as well as being ready to move into your new home immediately and quickly.
  20. Make sure you know the real value of your home. Use recent sales in your area as comparisons, consider a second or third option from other agents, and consider how much you have invested into renovations and maintenance over the years – you may know your home’s value better than a professional realtor thanks to your firsthand experience living there.

Now that you’re aware of some common mistakes to avoid when selling your home, you can be more confident when something doesn’t go as planned.