Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing our experiences with selling homes. Specifically, with getting a house off the market as quickly as possible. Most recently, I talked about how treating our home like an investment helped us be ready to put our homes on the market HERE and HERE. This week I’m going to show you how much of an impact staging our Indiana home had on the number of days it spent on the market. (I have more pictures of my Indiana home, so I’ll be referring to that one in my examples.)
Definition of Home Staging: the act of preparing a private residence for sale in the real estate marketplace. The goal of staging is to make a home appealing to the highest number of potential buyers, thereby selling a property more swiftly and for more money. Staging techniques focus on improving a property’s appeal by transforming it into a welcoming, attractive product that anyone might want. Bankrate.com
If you have spent anytime viewing HGTV or another cable channel, you’re probably pretty familiar with the concept of home staging, thanks to shows like Designed to Sell and Sell This House. These shows take homes that have been sitting on the market for way too long, bring in a designer and real estate experts to give the owners the hard truth about why no one wants to buy their houses, and then transforms the property into the stuff of buyers’ dreams. The concept is that it takes a critical eye and some elbow grease to make your house marketable.
Staging is something that a lot of people give lip service to, but it’s not something that every homeowner is willing to try—at least initially—to sell their home. In the course of shopping for homes online in the areas where my husband interviewed for jobs, I did discover a market or two where a carefully staged home is the norm (at least in the listing pictures, Denver area homes looked really, really good). However, based on most real estate listings, I think most Americans tend to view home staging as something for the very rich or the very desperate. Why is that, when the evidence that it pays to stage is so compelling? (Bankrate.com suggests a 586% return on any money invested into staging when marketing a home.) Well, I think it’s because most homeowners want to get as much a possible from the sale of their home, and shelling out money to make improvements that they aren’t going to enjoy for long prior to the sell seems counterintuitive, if not risky. Many homeowners put their homes on the market with a “let’s just see how things go” attitude, thinking if it doesn’t sell initially, they will put more effort and money into the process. We tend to be blinded to our home’s faults, assuming that because we like our home and the way we live in it, everyone else will, too.
So here’s a dose of reality about the housing market in 2012. The harsh reality is that after being on the market about 14 days, every house loses that “fresh on the market” factor of urgency, and after 21 days interest wanes significantly. Which means that if your home hasn’t sold within a month, you are going to have to start dropping the price to generate additional interest. If your home isn’t priced right and staged to attract as many buyers as possible as soon as it’s listed, you could lose at least $5000 of your original asking price within the first 21 days. And, thanks to the internet, lots of potential buyers—as many as 90%– are getting first impressions of listed homes before they even make an appointment with a realtor. They are deciding whether or not they want to visit a home in person by how appealing the pictures are in online advertisements.
Guess what: that $5K I mentioned can go a looong way when it comes to home staging. And, if you’ve been heeding my advice to treat your home like an investment long before it goes on the market, it won’t take even half that amount to make your house look great for potential buyers.
You can google “home staging” for lots of great tips for how to get your home market ready, watch a few episodes of the shows I mentioned, ask your realtor for suggestions, or even hire an expert to handle it for you. The tactics vary a little depending on whether or not your home is occupied, but most of them are very DIY-able, unless you have major repairs to make.
Here’s a general list of the things we did in the month prior to putting our house on the market to stage our Indiana house:
- Cleared out clutter.
- Cleaned like crazy—carpets, curtains, bedding, windows, closets, garage—everywhere.
- Repainted rooms on main floor in neutral shades (if they weren’t already) and touched up trim work.
- Created a formal dining room in the space that we had used as a music room.
- Made minor cosmetic repairs as necessary.
- Added or subtracted furniture to some rooms to make them more spacious and/or more functional.
- Replaced bathroom towels, rugs, and shower curtains. (And, in some cases, only put up the new versions right before showing.
- Replaced or added curtains in some rooms.
- Removed most family photos and memorabilia.
- Added/edited art and accessories.
- Made it look like a dog didn’t live in our home.
- Made the house smell “naturally” wonderful. (As opposed to Lysol-induced.)
- Prettied up the house with fresh flowers.
I’m planning to go into more detail on the specifics of how we accomplished staging our home this way in a short amount of time for the least amount of money possible. But I do want to mention that we did the majority of these tasks prior to inviting any realtors inside to view the house and make market analyses. We had a feeling that their estimates would be higher if our house already looked ready to show. Did staging pay off? Absolutely. Within 14 days of our house being listed, we had 12 showings, two offers, and sold the house for our asking price.
Stay tuned for some real-life staging tips…and in the meantime, feel free to look HERE for before and after pictures of my Indiana home.