Maybe you need more space for your growing family or you're ready to downsize and move to a warmer climate. Whatever the reason, when the time is right to put your home on the market, you hope it'll be a swift sale. But it's going to take more than baking a batch of aromatic chocolate-chip cookies right before potential buyers arrive to make your home as irresistible as possible. For example, you'll have to—and this may hurt—rid your home of any trace that people actually live there. "If I walk into your house, and you have 50 pictures of your family and dog, I see your life there and I can't imagine mine," says Santiago Arana, a real estate agent and developer with The Agency in Brentwood, California, who oversees the staging of homes.
Another thing you'll want to do, even if you're eager to sell, is to adjust your mindset. "The minute you decide to sell your home, it is no longer your home," says Robin Kencel, an associate real estate broker at Compass Real Estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. Thinking of it as a product that's for sale will remove your emotions and benefit the entire selling process. Read on for more of their expert advice and you'll hopefully soon be hearing that beautiful word: "Sold!"
Get a pre-inspection.
Before listing your home, hire a building inspector to conduct a mini-inspection and identify (and take care of) any problems they find. "Having fewer issues identified in [the real] building inspection will reinforce the idea that care and attention have been given to this home," says Kencel.
Give your agent all the answers.
"Buyers ask about things like property boundaries, annual maintenance/utility fees, and what year the kitchen was last renovated," says Kencel. "Your agent's ability to give concrete answers is another opportunity to create the impression that this is a property that will be easy to step into."
Do a deep clean.
If your home is thoroughly scrubbed and polished, buyers will fantasize about living there—who doesn't want to hang out in a spotless place? Also, a clean, organized house shows that you've taken good care of it and gives a potential buyer more confidence in the health of the house.
Declutter, or at least get the junk out.
Crowded, messy rooms take away the buyers' ability to fantasize about where they would put their own things, says Daniel Rash, managing director of REAL New York in New York City. That's why you should take some time to go through every closet, drawer, and bookcase, and donate anything you don't use or wear anymore. "Storage is a big selling point," says Jeffrey Phillip, a professional organizer and interior designer in New York City. "Buyers should be able to see the available storage space without any of it bulging at the seams."
Define every room's purpose.
"Help a potential buyer see what a room could be by staging it as an office, a guest room, a craft room," says Phillip. Just don't let it be a temporary storage space for any junk you intend to get rid of.
Color your walls.
Painting your home in neutral colors is one of the most effective and affordable staging strategies, says Arana. "It gives a fresh, clean look to a home and smells good. "But you don't necessarily have to do the entire house. Sometimes painting just one wall can make a huge difference in how a room is perceived. Too many colors in a house can overstimulate the senses and cause buyers to flee rather than explore their surroundings. "Make the room feel welcoming by using monochromatic colors or analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel) in soft, calming hues," says Phillip. This will create a more relaxed atmosphere than using complementary colors (opposite one another) or bold analog.
Create a flow.
Rearrange furniture throughout your home in welcoming configurations that highlight the optimal flow for a room. Buyers should feel comfortable, not confused, by a room's layout. You'll also want to create a comfortable, welcoming environment from the first moment buyers walk in by giving the entryway some love. "You don't want them to open the door and the entryway is empty," says Arana. He suggests setting up something simple but attractive like a console table topped with flowers or books.
Make your home not be about you. Besides removing personal photos, says Rast, put away your vacation souvenirs, trophies, and anything else that may prevent buyers from imagining themselves living there.
Seduce their senses.
"Wouldn't you rather be greeted by fresh air or something that appeals to your senses than the smell of last night's dinner?" asks Kencel. But be careful to not overdo the scent—stick with lemon, lavender, or another soothing fragrance. "But nothing beats an open window." Another easy, effective way to establish ambience is with music. "I'm very conscious of setting a mood and playing something from the Great American Songbook or something that's light and happy to fill the air," says Kencel.
Increase the light.
A home that gets good light is what many buyers are looking for, says Phillip. If your home is dark, you can increase the natural light in a room by replacing heavy, dark drapes with something in a pale color or that's lightweight. Adding a table lamp, floor lamp, or new ceiling fixture will also help brighten up the space.