Staging Your Home for Sale
Though home sales in the Lehigh Valley aren’t anywhere near the volume of the “boom” days, they are on the rise. According to lehighvalleyrealestateblog.com, the number of homes for sale increased 3.5% from April 2011 to April 2012. Even more encouraging to sellers is the year-to-year jump in homes under agreement of 42.4% in the same period.
So if you’re thinking of putting your home up for sale, now’s a good time to make sure it stands out among an increasing number of offerings. “There is so much competition that it’s more important than ever to have your home staged,” says Faith Brenneisen, an agent with Keller Williams Real Estate. Brad Patt, senior vice president with Patt, White Real Estate agrees. Staging is like detailing a car…making sure every aspect of the home is shown to its highest advantage.
Both agents say that one of the most important parts of selling a home is to make it attractive from the street. If the first impression (whether online or drive-by) is poor, chances are the prospective buyer won’t bother to ask to see the inside. Here’s where good maintenance comes into play.
“Pretend you’re a buyer looking for a home,” Brenneisen says. If there are low-hanging trees and big bushes, trim them back so you can see the house. Make sure there is nice paint on the door and that shutters are either replaced or freshly painted. Patt recommends that downspouts and gutters be cleaned, and that grass is regularly mowed and trimmed. And, of course, keep trash cans, bikes, kids’ toys and other items out of sight. Brenneisen says if the driveway looks gray and dingy, have it top-coated, which signals the home is well maintained.
Next, walk up to your door and look at the doorknob and door knocker. If they look old and grungy, it’s an easy swap to put in new ones, which gives the impression of value.
When a buyer walks through the door, your home should be bright and warm inside. Have the shades and curtains open and the lights on throughout. “Light makes people feel good,” Brenneisen says. If you have heavy drapes on your windows, take them down and replace them with sheers.
Patt says the home should be sparkling clean and well organized, with no clutter. “Clean out disorganized closets and storage areas,” he recommends. Now is the time to discard unused items. If you have things you want to keep, box everything up and move it off the property, perhaps into a storage unit. That way, the home looks like there’s plenty of storage space. Stow personal items away as well. “Buyers don’t want to see a bay window lined with photos of your life. They need a blank canvas to envision themselves living there,” he says.
Any deferred maintenance also needs to be done before the home goes on the market. Patt sometimes recommends a pre-listing home inspection to find and fix any flaws. “This leaves a good impression that the home is up to spec and matches the buyers’ inspection…putting your property in a better light than competing properties,” he explains.
Brenneisen agrees that such small fixes as replacing damaged or stained hardwood floorboards, making sure windows stay open; doors close properly and don’t squeak show that you have taken care of the property. She gives homeowners a list of things that should be done to help the home show well. “You’ll make significantly more money by staging,” she tells clients, “up to twice as much in lower-cost homes.”
Patt adds that walls and carpeting need to be in good condition and in a neutral palette. “Paint over extravagant wall colors so buyers see a blank canvas, rather than something they’ll have to change right away,” he says. Brenneisen says painting walls and replacing old carpeting will cost $5,000 at most for the average home and result in a faster sale and a better price.
Moving to the kitchen, if the cabinets are in good shape but look worn, consider painting them white or another soft color. Changing out cabinet hardware is also an inexpensive way to give them an up-to-date look.
Patt says that every effort makes a difference, even down to the number of magazines on the coffee table. He recommends vacuuming before every showing and keeping the property in good shape up until settlement. Brenneisen places new, fluffy white towels and handmade soaps in the bathrooms and recommends the home owner close the windows and bake a batch of cookies for open houses. The scent says “home,” while the cookies are a nice offering for people coming through.
“The single family home is the industry standard,” Patt explains. But it needs to be priced correctly and shown at its best. That includes an empty property. In that case, it’s best to hire a professional stager and bring in rental furnishings. Again, you want to create an image of “home.” Buyers have a hard time envisioning themselves living there when they’re walking through empty rooms. They may also think the seller will take a low-ball offer because they’re desperate to sell.
If you’re serious about selling in this recovering market, making the extra effort to stage your home will pay off in the end.
Keller Williams Real Estate
40 S Cedar Crest Boulevard
Allentown, PA 18104
D. Brad Patt
Prudential Patt, White Real Estate
2 North Main Street
Coopersburg, PA 18036
610-282-4444 ext. 112