House to House: Realtor-stager shares top tips for preparing home to sell

This week’s column, the last in a three-part series, was written by Allison Moore of Warnock Real Estate in Fort Smith. Moore is a licensed real estate agent and has been selling and staging homes in Arkansas since 2014. As a Realtor-stager, she combines a passion for the real estate industry, a background in marketing and an eye for design to help her clients reach their real estate goals. She serves as vice president for the Fort Smith Board of Realtors.

When getting your home market-ready, staging can help make your home sell more quickly — and for top dollar. Here are the Top 10 tips I implement when working with clients who are selling their homes.

1. Clean, clean and clean.

Buyers want to know the home they are viewing has been well maintained and cared for. A dirty space can send the wrong message.

You cannot change the location of your property or what the current market demands.  You can, however, control how clean your property is when it is listed, and for all showings while it is on the market.

Give special attention to kitchens and bathrooms. These rooms help sell properties — and they also can be the grimiest.

If your budget allows, hire a professional cleaning service to do the job. If you tackle the work yourself, have a friend or neighbor come over to make sure nothing was overlooked. Don’t forget to clean the tops of appliances such as refrigerators and range hoods. Also be sure to clean ceiling-fan blades, and it’s important to clean the windows.

2. Declutter and pre-pack.

Buyers will look at every inch of your home, and overfilled closets and drawers give the impression that there is a lack of storage space.

If you have been procrastinating about cleaning out the garage, bonus room or that entry-hall closet that has become a catchall, now is the time. Sell or donate items you no longer need or use, and pre-pack as much as possible for your upcoming move. Pack away collectibles and seasonal decor. Edit closets and drawers so that buyers can easily see there is ample storage throughout the home.

3. Depersonalize the living spaces.

Remove family photos and anything that has personal information, such as framed awards, diplomas, etc.

The idea is to create a neutral space that buyers can easily picture themselves living in.  In addition, you don’t want buyers spending time looking at your vacation photos instead of viewing your home.

4. Remove bulky furniture.

The way we live in a home and the way we market a home are very different.

For instance, you may have two recliners that you love and are your absolute favorites — but if they are taking up valuable space, you need to remove one or both of them. When buyers enter a room, they immediately question if their furniture and belongings will fit in the space.

Think about what truly makes sense in the room and what allows for an easy traffic flow.

5. Be mindful of odors.

If a home smells like pets or smoke, buyers may not get much farther than the front door. Make sure there are no odors lingering in your home.

It may be necessary to have rugs, drapes and furniture professionally cleaned. You can also rent odor-neutralizing machines, if necessary.

Do not use perfumed air fresheners, outlet plugs or scented candles, as many of these can irritate allergies. Open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in to help neutralize any smells.

6. Choose a neutral color palette.

When preparing your home for the market, the objective is to make it as appealing to potential buyers as possible.

Neutral paint colors throughout helps make a home appear spacious, and creates an easy flow for the eye. The eye stops when it sees color. While a pop of color for accent is good, it should be only used in accessories or art. If possible, paint the walls a neutral color throughout.

7. Be consistent with lighting.

Whether if you use incandescent, LED or halogen bulbs to light your home, be sure to use the same type of bulbs throughout. This detail doesn’t matter for everyday living, but it can impact the quality of the photos that are used to market your home.

You want to avoid a mix of cool and warm tones in the same room. If you cannot use the same type of bulbs throughout the house, use only one type in each room. For instance, if you have incandescent lighting under your kitchen cabinets, be sure to have incandescent bulbs in the other kitchen light fixtures.

8. Bump up your curb appeal.

Curb appeal is like the bow on a birthday gift. It doesn’t tell you what is inside, but it makes you excited to open the box.

You want to draw buyers to your property. A freshly painted front door or a new mailbox can make a big difference, and potted plants or new house numbers can as well. Make sure the lawn and shrubs are tidy. If the exterior of your home looks a little tired, consider power washing it, or painting the trim.

9. Define all living spaces.

Make sure each room and space in your home has a defined purpose. Buyers can be confused with what they would do with a space if it lacks definition.

Highlight built-in desks, alcoves, window seats and breakfast nooks for their intended purpose. If you use the bonus room for storage, now is the time to set it up as a home office or home gym.

Don’t forget the outdoor spaces, either. If you have a sun porch or covered patio, show buyers how they can utilize those spaces.

10. Have professional photos taken for marketing purposes.

According to Realtor.org, 92 percent of buyers begin their search on the internet. The use of a professional real-estate photographer is critical; in fact, it may be the most important factor in selling your home.

You know what they say about first impressions — and you don’t get a second chance to impress potential buyers. You want to wow them at first look!

Spend some time online looking at the homes listed that impress you, and the ones that don’t. You will find that it is easy to spot the home photos that were snapped quickly from a smartphone.  Even if you or your agent has the best camera-phone available, it does not replace professional photographs. Good-quality photos help sell homes!

House to House is distributed by the Arkansas Realtors Association. For more information about homeownership in Arkansas, visit www.ArkansasRealtors.com.