Home Staging Expert®


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Set the Stage: Boost your current home's resale potential

Today, there are more existing homes on the market than just a year or two ago, so moving your home quickly may take a little more effort. We asked two top local stagers to help. Lori Matzke and Deanna Ryan shared with us their top ten tips for setting the stage to sell your home quickly and profitably!

1. Start at the Curb

Lori Matzke: "Buyers will keep on driving and never stop if they aren't impressed with the exterior of your home. Overgrown shrubs, weeds, and a lawn cluttered with kids' toys and too many adornments is sure to be passed by. Trim overgrown shrubs and trees, add fresh mulch, and wash down cobwebs around the front entry. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint. If needed, power-wash your siding. Invest in simple entry mat and a lush potted floral arrangement to add color. In the summer, keep your lawn mowed and replace worn spots with sod. In the winter, make sure all paths leading to the entry and around your home are shoveled."

Deanna Ryan: "Absolutely. Really try to see what others are seeing from the street. Dress the outside to scream WELCOME. Keep up on mowing, weeding, shoveling. Paint any needed areas (don't forget the fence). Add colorful potted plants and a welcoming door mat."

2. WOW Factor

Deanna Ryan: "Each room needs a focal point, be it a fantastic painting, the fireplace, the table in the dining room, or the bed in the bedroom. Let these pieces be the center, and the rest of the room should quietly fall in behind. You want people to be impressed!"

Lori Matzke: "Their very first impression is really important. You want to "WOW" potential buyers the moment they step in the door! Your front entry or foyer and any rooms directly visible from the main entrance should make the buyer want to see more. This is their first impression of the homes interior. Get rid of ragged-looking rugs and that pile of shoes in the front entry. Clean or replace overhead lighting fixtures and brighten the space with a fresh coat of paint. A mirror will make the space look larger and reflect in more light. Greenery or fresh flowers will make a buyer feel welcome."

3. Show your Home in Move-In Condition

Lori Matzke: "Many homeowners and realtors® make the mistake of adding an "allowance clause" to their listing. An allowance means you will be deducting a certain amount of money from the sale price of the home so the buyer can purchase and install new carpeting or linoleum, remove wallpaper, paint, etc. It's better to make the changes yourself! Buyers have a hard time imagining how great the house could be. They only see what's there right now. They view an allowance as an inconvenience and typically over-estimate the cost involved in making the changes. As a result, buyers are more likely to make an even lower price bid, if they ever decide to make an offer at all."

Deanna Ryan: "I certainly agree. Simply adding a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors is an inexpensive update, and it goes a long way to say "'I'm cared for.'"

4. A Touch of Class

Lori Matzke: "Besides fresh paint and new flooring, consider upgrading lighting fixtures, kitchen cabinetry hardware, switch plates, door knobs, and faucets, too. These are all fairly inexpensive purchases and most of the work can be done yourself. They seem like small details, but will make the overall presentation of your home stand out. Likewise, appliances being sold with the home should be in clean, working order or replaced for new."

Deanna Ryan: "I also like to add fresh flowers, set the dining room table with the good china and wine glasses, put out a bowl of green apples in the kitchen and add fresh decorative towels in bathrooms. And, during an open house, light candles, fill the bath and add rose peddles and don''t forget a plate of chocolate chip cookies."

5. De-Clutter!

Deanna Ryan: "Definitenly remove all clutter, edit each room, have a garage sale! Pack up anything that is not absolutely necessary. That includes all knick knacks, collectables, excess toys, piles of magazines, cluttered book selves and entertainment centers. Remove all items from kitchen counters, really, ALL ITEMS. Clean off the outside of the refrigerator; remove distressed plants and all "unique" posters on the wall. Do not overlook the closets and personal hygiene items in the bathroom either."

Lori Matzke: "Deanna's right on here. Potential buyers walk through a home in about 10-15 minutes. They can only take in so much. You want them to remember your home as open and spacious and you don't want all that clutter to distract from the positive features. The same goes for bookshelves and glass cupboards, whether they are built-in or not. Box up anything smaller than a football, unless it's something you absolutely need daily. Neatly store excess in a far corner of the garage or basement."

6. Less is More when it comes to Furniture

Lori Matzke: "Get rid any furniture you don't plan to move with you. Other excess furnishings should be stored. Worn and dated pieces are distracting and reflect on the upkeep of your home. Freshen up scratched and scuffed items with varnish. Dirty, stained upholstery should be professionally cleaned. If cushions are worn, try flipping them over. If the entire piece is worn, a simple slip-cover will help it blend in rather than stand out as a negative. Arrange furnishings to draw the buyers eye to the positive selling points of the space. Pull sofas and chairs 8-12 inches from the wall or try placing them at an angle for interest. This will make your rooms look more spacious and add a sense of depth to the overall layout."

Deanna Ryan: "The goal is to create open space and an easy flow. Remove all oversized furnishings to make the home feel large and breezy. With correct sized rugs, pillows and accessories, you will still be creating a warm, homey space."

7. Let There be Light

Deanna Ryan: "Open curtains, shades and windows if possible, letting in the sun and a fresh breeze. The sun shining in on a cold day really warms up a home. Dark spaces are cold spaces."

Lori Matzke: "I even suggest removing any window treatments that aren't completely necessary for privacy. You can also remove screens that aren't being used to bring in even more light, but remember to mark them for easy replacement. Ideally, windows should be professionally cleaned. Pay attention to your artificial lights, too. Clean and polish overhead lighting fixtures. Dust lamp shades or replace dated, dingy shades for something new. Add brighter bulbs if possible. The best lighting to show off your home is a good mix of natural, overhead, and a few well placed lamps for drama."

8. Banish All Odors

Lori Matzke: "Not everyone is going to love your pet like you love your pet, so remove any trace for showings including beds, toys, and dishes. It''s best for both the animal and the buyer if the pet isn't home for showings, as well. You never know how your pet will react to a houseful of strangers, and a buyer is likely to frown at a pant leg full of cat hair. Buyers will think negatively about potential pet stains or lingering odors left behind. Smoking is another no-no. The truth is, smokers are in the minority, and a good portion of the majority do not tolerate smoking. It can be a deal-breaker. Air fresheners only mask the problem temporarily. It's best to air-out the house and repaint the interior. The smell of fresh paint will kill the smell of smoke, but you'll have to refrain from smoking inside again or you will undo your best efforts."

Deanna Ryan: "Odor in a home is definitely one of the top reasons potential buyers turn and run. Smoke outside, clean cat litter daily, use a dehumidifier in the basement. And I agree, you should be very careful with room powders and sprays - they usually just add an unpleasant second smell and cause a lot of allergy issues."

9. Clean, Clean, Clean

Deanna Ryan: "Shampoo all carpets, rugs and draperies. Clean doors, walls and inside all kitchen cabinets. Clean all appliances thoroughly and make sure the windows shine. Vacuum floors daily. Bathrooms should be spotless."

Lori Matzke: "You want buyers to feel your home has been well maintained and that means the entire house needs to be super clean! Unless the carpeting is brand new, have it professionally cleaned. Walls that have not been freshly painted should be washed down, excess nail holes filled. Kitchens and bathrooms should be 'hospital clean' without the hospital smell. Cleaning solutions with a fresh citrus scent are more appealing. If you can't do the cleaning yourself, find a professional who specializes in "move-outs." They are more apt to give your home the kind of deep-down cleaning required to sell than your typical maid service provides."

10. Show Livable Space and Enlist a Critical Eye

Lori Matzke: "Potential buyers come to the door with certain expectations. It's important that you show then what they've come to see. If you are promoting a formal dining room, but it's currently used as office space, convert it back to a formal dining room. On the other end of the spectrum, vacant rooms tend to feel smaller than they actually are. If you have a room that is completely bare, try creating a seating area with some of that excess furniture to show livable space. Buyers need a frame of reference to compare to so they can imagine how their furnishings will fit in the room."

Deanna Ryan: "I also always suggest homeowners enlist a friend or relative with a critical eye to pose as a potential buyer. They can give you feedback on things you may have overlooked."

Lori Matzke is the founder and president of Center Stage Home, a company that assists real estate agents and homeowners prepare their house for market. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she now conducts workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Canada, and recently published her first book, "HOME STAGING: Creating Buyer-Friendly Rooms to Sell Your House." Lori can be contacted through her website at www.centerstagehome.com

Deanna Ryan is founder and principal designer of d'Encore Staging and Redesign. She has 15 years experience and specializes in staging vacant homes."Staging and Redesign is not just a hobby or job for me; it is a life-long passion. I enjoy nothing more than working with my clients to create the beautiful environments they have always dreamed of," she says. "I employ years of experience, a huge network of quality contacts, and a keen, creative eye to make your decorating dreams come true." Deanna can be reached online at www.d-encore.com