7 Pro Tips To Help Your Home Sell Faster, For More Money
It’s overwhelming to clear and sell a home that’s been occupied for many years—the piles of papers, trunks full of tchotchkes, mountains of miscellany. Nobody knows this more than Glendale, Calif.-based Betsy Wilbur, who professionally “stages” homes for sale. But with a small investment of time and/or money, homes that are set up to sell can reap more rewards than ones that haven’t been staged —and even vacant houses.
Wilbur recalls a recent client, the daughter of the owner who’d lived in a house for 50 years. The home had fallen to “fixer” status. “She was a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of selling the home and didn’t know if she wanted to prepare and stage the home or just sell it as is,” Wilbur said, adding that if there were no changes, the home would have gotten lowball offers from contractors ready to flip it after making cosmetic fixes. “But by doing some simple upgrades and staging the home we could reach another buyer pool—first-time home buyers who could see the potential.”
Wilbur outlined the client’s options, which ranged from $3,500 to $10,000. The clients wanted the works, so Wilbur:
- Removed tile covering the original hardwood floors
- Painted interior walls, front door and trellis, bathroom cabinets and shower tile
- Updated the kitchen floor and light fixtures
- Provided landscaping for added curb appeal with landscaping
- Brought in temporary furniture, art, plants and accessories
In the end, the home had 16 offers, and sold in 14 days for $62,500 over asking price–not a shabby return on investment.
Which is not unusual for a seller who stages her home. Wilbur says her clients’ properties sell for an average 6.3% over asking price in 12 days. The area average is 97% of asking price and 56 days on the market.
According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400 . Compare that to the average sale price, which is a reduction of 10-20% from asking. So an average home with a $400,000 asking price will be reduced by $40,000 to $80,000.
“Staging can save you from a costly price reduction,” Wilbur says. “A staged home will sell for 17% more on average than a non-staged home, and 95% of staged homes sell in 11 days or less. That is statistically 87% faster than non-staged homes.”
How Home Staging Works
Home staging is considered a marketing technique that turns the home into something that will appeal to the greatest common denominator or buyers so it will sell quickly. “This involves ‘neutralizing’ the home and portraying a lifestyle that buyers want to have.” Wilbur says. So even though you may love your beautiful and expensive taxidermy collection, not everyone else will, and it can have a negative psychological effect on a potential buyer.
Stagers will use specific techniques to highlight the home’s architectural features , and make rooms feel large and inviting, Wilbur says. The stager will also take into account the target market for the home: Spaces designed for young singles, empty-nesters and families will all look different.
A stager will do a walk-through and make recommendations on which existing pieces in the home will be assets and which should be removed, and come up with a list of high, medium and low budget options for re-design. Stagers will bring in some of their own pieces, or rent them.
One of the hardest things to do is to get out of your own habits and preferences and into the mindset of a buyer seeing the home in person or on the Internet for the first time. Maybe the TV has always been the focal point for the living room, for example, but for a buyer, the fireplace would need to be highlighted. “When we are getting ready to sell, we want to rearrange that so the room is balanced and furniture is not blocking pathways, windows or great features of the home,” Wilbur says.
She offers these tips for staging:
- Keep décor neutral: Neutral does not mean boring, but it does mean staying away from shocking colors, and even avoiding all-white and all-beige walls. “I’ve staged some fantastic rooms with deep purple or black walls – it’s all about knowing how to make it work.”
- Remove clutter: Clutter makes people feel uncomfortable. “Think of it as getting a head start on your packing.”
- Remove personal items: All personal pictures, family plaques, framed certificates, etc., should be packed. “I also suggest packing up anything smaller than a cantaloupe. We want the buyer to envision themselves living there right away, and a house full of someone else’s pictures doesn’t do that.”
- Never put an empty home on the market: “One of the challenges of trying to sell a vacant home is that buyers can often have a hard time visualizing themselves living there.” When rooms are unfurnished they actually feel smaller than they are; so a buyer might be unsure how to position furniture or if their current furniture will fit. Buyers also notice more flaws when a home is vacant and might incorrectly assume a home needs a lot of work when it really needs minimal cosmetic updating. Finally, a vacant property can give buyers the impression a seller is desperate, which could result in lower offers.
- Don’t remodel before you sell: You may think you have great taste in kitchens, but the new owner may not agree. It’s better to spend the money doing cosmetic fixes than worrying about getting the full return on the investment of an extensive remodel.
- Avoid divisive décor: When staging an occupied home we are always careful to remove religious and political items, as well as any other items that might be offensive.
- Stay timeless: It’s good to be “on trend” with pops of color in, say, pillows and curtains, but avoid anything that’s too trendy. A stager can help draw the line.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that staging isn’t creating illusions—it’s about revealing truths . “We are simply showing the buyer the potential of the home through simple and inexpensive upgrades,” Wilbur says. “A buyer reaching to the top of their price range might not have additional money for remodeling, so if the home looks ‘good enough for now’ and doesn’t seem like an overwhelming project, then they will throw their hat into the bidding ring, resulting in higher offers for the seller. I had one home where the agent told me going into the project that it was probably going to be considered a tear-down property, but when we were finished it ended up selling for $110,000 over asking price.”