Archive for the 'Staging Your House' Category

Price matters — but so does everything else: When buyers come to see your home, they’re looking for reasons to reject it, not to buy it

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

Price matters — but so does everything else: When buyers come to see your home, they’re looking for reasons to reject it, not to buy it

If price matters more than anything else in the sale of a home, why bother to clean, repair, stage and market the property for sale?

In a buyer’s market, if a home is priced above its market value, it probably will not show. If it doesn’t show, it can’t sell, and this by itself is all the argument anyone should need to price a home to the current market.

The corollary proposition is that, if your home is properly priced, it should get frequent showings.

So the battle is won, right? All you had to do was price your home to the current market, and you attracted the attention of buyers. Victory is at hand.

Not quite.

Your home is showing, and that’s good. But if it is dirty, if there are obvious repair issues, if the space is cluttered and confusing, if no one has worked to point out why it’s such a good buy — other houses will sell and yours will languish on the market.

As long as you’re priced right — and price can be a moving target in this market — you’ll get showings. But if your home is not a better value than the other houses your buyers are seeing, they’ll buy those homes instead.

That’s exactly what you would do in their place, isn’t it? When you’re picking through the melons at the grocery, you aren’t looking for the ones that are bruised and shopped over, unsightly and unappetizing. Why would you expect buyers to buy a property that you would pass on in a heartbeat, if you were in their shoes?

When buyers come to see your home, they aren’t looking for reasons to buy it. They’re looking for reasons to reject it, so they can move on to the next home. The one they buy will be the one that raises the fewest objections, for the money. If you want that money, you have to do everything you can to take away your buyers’ objections — before they think to raise them.

Not willing to do that? It’s not a problem. Just cut your price.

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Home staging advice: How you can get your house ready to sell on a shoestring budget

We know a seller who doesn’t have the budget to spruce up her house to get it ready for market. Though it would be better for her to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, there are still things she can do for free to help her house sell.

The first thing that every seller should do to help their lister sell the house is box things up. You’re going to have to box up everything once the house sells anyway, so start right now… before you put your house on the market. Go through your closets. What’s in there that you don’t plan to wear for the next three to six months? Pack it up and put it in storage. Take a critical look at the traffic flow in your house. Have you just become accustomed to swerving to avoid that overstuffed chair that sticks out a little too far? Time to downsize. If you can’t afford to rent an inexpensive storage unit until the house sells, store that chair and those boxes of clothes that you plan to fit back into by the holidays in the garage. If you’ve run out of room there, ask your friends and family to help. Maybe one of them would love to lay back in that chair to watch the tube until you need it back again — in your new house. Do you keep the leaf in your dining room table, so you don’t have to bother with it when you have company for dinner? Plan to not have company for dinner until you invite them over to see your new house. Take the leaf out of the table and pare down the number of chairs that are set up around the table to only three or four. If the kids bring home a friend for dinner, give them the TV trays.

Next — and probably most important — clean, clean, clean. Clean as though you were having Martha Stewart over for dinner. Is your bathroom floor so clean that you would sit down and play a game of jacks on it? It should be. Touch the walls of your shower. Are they smooth as glass? If not, here’s an investment you must make: Kaboom! Thirteen dollars for two bottles and add your elbow grease — this is a small enough investment to sell your home in this market. Everything that’s made of glass should shine: windows, mirrors, light fixtures, oven door windows (oh yes, clean that oven, too!), everything that’s glass. All your appliances need to shine. All of your countertops need to shine. You want a light, bright, shiny house. Dust the slats in your window blinds; dust the tops of your ceiling fans; dust every surface that you haven’t already just scrubbed. Make sure your air filter is fresh … and put a new one in every month till the house sells. You haven’t noticed it for years, but the prospective buyers will see the dark build-up that’s accumulated along the edges of the air vents and returns, so clean those, too. Scrub everything that hands have touched and over the years left their mark — light switches, door knobs, drawer pulls. Don’t neglect your floors. Clean them like Christmas is coming. And after you’re done with all this you’ll be able to notice the other areas that need your attention before the photographer comes.

Remember high school? Remember when the photographer scheduled a day to come take pictures of all the underclassmen? The seniors had each already payed a handsome sum for private studio sessions to make sure that would great senior pictures for posterity. But the underclassmen had one chance and a prayer of getting a decent photograph in that year’s yearbook. If you were like me, you paid extra attention to your skin during the weeks leading up to the shots, to make sure your complexion was clear. The night before the photography, you picked out your nicest looking outfit. And the morning of the pictures, if you were a girl anyway, you got up early to make sure your makeup and hair were perfect. Well now — with your house — we’re talking about a six-figure asset. So the morning that the photographer is scheduled to arrive do whatever you can to make your house picture perfect.

Put away the Sunday paper.

Wipe the dishes and put them away — don’t leave them out draining. Clear the reminders from your refrigerator. And — for goodness sakes — don’t leave your prescription bottle sitting out on the counter.

Take your dirty clothes off the bed and make it! This includes putting a cover on the bed that’s at least long enough that the bed skirt’s slip isn’t showing. (Do I need to mention picking the garbage and more dirty clothes up off the floor?)

And please put the toilet seat down!

But there’s more you can do. Set the table as though you were expecting guests. Make up the bed so it looks like a display in the Neiman Marcus Bed & Bath Department. Put out a vase or two of cut flowers. Fill a glass bowl with fresh fruit.

I recently staged a home for sale, which had previously been listed but not staged. Pictures from the earlier listings were well taken… but just look at what a big difference little touches can make.

One final tip. Look at the photos your agent uses when the listing goes into the MLS. Be very particular.

This photo was used on MLS with the caption, “Master Bedroom.” Is this the image you want prospective buyers to have of your master bedroom? If this is the image that’s being presented, then expect yours to be one of the tens of thousands of houses on the market today that are not selling.

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Do you want to make sure your home will sell? Little things matter

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

Do you want to make sure your home will sell? Little things matter

I tend to do a lot of previewing. I will go into houses alone to take photographs. My buyers and I then use those photos to draft a short-list of homes to view when they’re ready to see for themselves.

Because of this, I get to spend a lot of time alone in homes, looking at absolutely everything, with no distractions.

Here’s what I’ve learned from looking at thousands of homes for sale: Little things matter.

Is the home picked up, or are there clothes, toys and magazines scattered everywhere? Are there dirty breakfast dishes on the kitchen table? Dried up orange juice splotches? Toast crumbs? Are last night’s dirty dishes piled up in the sink?

Is the house clean? Does it look and smell like the cleaning crew just left? If I look for dirt, I can find it. But can I find it easily without having to look?

Is every room of the house packed to the walls with furniture? Are there pictures of every member of the family for three generations tacked all over the walls? Do the kids like dark blue, dark purple, dark black paint?

I can probably guess your religion by the stuff you own and the other stuff you don’t own, but my buyers should never, ever see symbols of your religion in the house. Why? Because it can be subtly off-putting to them without their even knowing why at a conscious level.

Likewise, if they can smell your cat — or the fish you fried for dinner last week — you’ve probably already alienated potential buyers before they have even given your house half a chance. Odors kill sales, so kill those odors now.

Fix any obvious defects. Only a specialist can say for sure if the air conditioner is working properly, but no one has to be told when it’s completely broken.

It only takes a few small things to drive buyers on to the next house on their list. If you want for yours to be the one that sells, it simply must be better than others. Little things matter.

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Web site demonstrates how much goes into staging a home for sale

This is my column this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

Web site demonstrates how much goes into staging a home for sale

Week after week, I hammer away on the idea that the only homes that will sell in our current market are the ones that are priced right, prepared right and presented right.

But here’s an unwelcome fact about the real estate market: Home-sellers can be bull-headed. I don’t know how many times I’ve had sellers tell me all about what is wrong with the other houses for sale in their neighborhood.

My answer? I agree. But we’re not talking about those houses. We’re talking about what it will take to sell the sellers’ house.

And that’s when I get to hear about all the improvements the sellers have made — some of which are actually worth what they think they’re worth.

But what I really want is for my sellers to look at their own home with the same critical eye they bring to the neighbors’ homes. It’s motes and beams, surely, but seeing your home through a buyer’s eyes is a very instructive exercise.

It’s fun for me, because one of the things I tell sellers is, “You know what’s wrong with this house. You know exactly what you would frown over — or your mother-in-law would frown over — if you were seeing this home for the first time. Those are the issues we need to address before we can try to sell this house.”

This is the threshold of staging, which entails a lot more, in most cases, than laying out a few decorator items. A home that is prepared for sale is in complete turn-key condition, with no obvious defects left uncorrected.

One of our listings in North Central Phoenix just sold. We made a before-and-after record of the staging process, so you can see what we’re aiming for. You can view this demonstration by clicking here.

Staging is all the rage right now, and preparation is only one part of a sound marketing plan. But staging is a wasted effort if the home is dirty or in palpable disrepair. Our slide show illustrates a more robust idea of home staging.

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