Your day-to-day home life may not be magazine-worthy, but potential buyers don’t have to know that. When house shopping, buyers rely significantly on first impressions. As a seller, it’s up to you to highlight your home’s strengths and downplay its weaknesses to make their impression a good one. With a few changes and less than $500, here’s how to do it:
Make an Entrance
Like most first impressions, a welcoming entryway can make or break a buyer’s interest. It not only acts as a welcoming point for visitors, but creates an overall expectation for what’s inside. Go outside and look at your home with new eyes. What do you see? Does your house seem inviting, or is it cluttered or rundown? Look at the neighbors’ to compare. If you were new to the block, would you label it the shining star or the disheveled shack that could use some tender care?
If you chose the later, start by removing any clutter, including garden gnomes, holiday lights and landscape debris. Clean up the landing with a fresh coat of paint for the front door and an accent color for the trim. Give any existing hardware a good polish, or replace worn out items like knockers, mailboxes and house numbers. Arrange a trio of potted plants in the corner and finish with a brand-new welcome mat.
- Time: 3-5 hours
- Cost: $40-$120
Kill the Clutter
Buyers want to imagine this house as their future home; avoid reminding them that it is currently yours. Remove family photos, heirlooms, travel souvenirs and anything else that gives the home ownership. You’re planning on moving anyway, right? If you can go without it for a few months, box it up and put it in storage. Better yet, have a yard sale or donate to charity. Doing so will not only give you a head start on packing, but it’ll make it easier to take a Zen approach to filling your new home. Can’t live without your magazine collection or get your 7-year-old to part with some of his toys? Use plastic bins from retailers like IKEA
to store them in the closet or under the bed.
- Time: If it seems too overwhelming, take it room by room
- Cost: $30-$75
With only the bare essentials left, let yourself rediscover each room. Did bulky furniture used to crowd that cute corner nook or baskets of junk overwhelm the spare bedroom? Allow yourself to experiment with these new spaces. Pull furniture from the walls and arrange into more conversation-convenient groups in the living area. Doing so will make the room feel larger and more on purpose while naturally creating a traffic flow. Take an armchair from the main room and create a reading nook in the master bedroom. That underused office space? Transform it into a library or personal yoga studio. Not only will it give your home an instant refresher, but a less-is-more feel will give potential buyers an idea of how they can customize the space themselves.
- Time: Try something dramatic and give yourself a few days to get used to the new arrangements. If you still don’t like it, rearrange and try again.
- Cost: Free
Light the Way
What makes every warm and welcoming home you’ve ever visited feel that way? Our guess is great lighting design. More than just a lamp or two here or there, well-lit homes feature layered lighting throughout each room. Combined with natural sunlight, ambient, task and accent lighting illuminate and create interest—something buyers want to see.
To remedy bad lighting, strip windows of heavy drapes and replace instead with something airy and light, like gauzy curtains or custom blinds from The Shade Store
. Bring in statement floor and table lamps to create points of interest in an otherwise simple room. Swap out lower-wattage fixtures with 100-watt bulbs, and install dimmers to set the mood. Buyers want to see big, open spaces that feel light and spacious. For smaller rooms, use smartly placed mirrors and reflective accessories to create the illusion of more space.
- Time: 2-4 hours
- Cost: $125-$300
Before you show your home, make a few last-minute touches—like making sure your home smells good with a room deodorizer and putting a fresh bouquet of flowers on the dining room table. When you consider the relative small amount these improvements will cost against the big dividends they pay off, home staging emerges as one of the most lucrative tasks involved in the home-selling process.
Keri Lunt Stevens is the author of this guest blog.