Newspaper Columnist Lori Matzke calls herself "A Domestic Fitness Guru." She's a Home Staging Expert™ who wants
the public to know how to make their homes sell faster -- and for more money. And she wants to make it all very easy.
"I hear these horror stories about staging experts who go into homes, have the owners move out to a motel, bring
in a huge crew, and then work round the clock for two or three days, hauling in outside store furniture -- all at the homeowner's
expense -- and I just cringe," says the outspoken Minnesota native, who recently staged a house for the front cover of the national
publication Realtor Magazine. "People with homes on the market are already busy and harried. That's why I teach them how to stage their
places in a matter of hours -- usually two to four hours -- using what furniture is already on hand."
In addition to her national workshops, Matzke has come out with a new book, called Home Staging: Creating
Buyer-Friendly Rooms to Sell Your House, which takes the mystery out of home staging.
With colorful "before" and "after" photos - and chapters on various types of houses, such as Traditional Tudor,
Urban Condo and Custom Design -- her reader-friendly book shows even amateurs how to put the "best face" possible on a home they want to
sell. And for the least amount of money -- and time. Matzke says: "I totally subscribe to the idea that 'less is more' when it comes
to preparing your home for potential buyers to see. It's all about first impressions. I tell homeowners, pretend you're getting ready
for a hot date -- a hot date to sell your house!"
In her book, Matzke outlines five secrets to staging your home for sale:
- ASSESS YOUR SPACE - Take a quick walk-through of your home and make a list of all the positive features (hardwood floors, built in bookshelves, fireplace, etc.). Consider these your assets. Assets are always a part of the actual structure of your home, not something you plan to move with you, such as a big-screen TV, or a beautiful sofa. Now, list the negatives, such as a very small room, a clear view of the dumpsters in the back alley, or overgrown shrubs. Playing up the positives will downplay the negatives and turn them into 'liveables' for the potential buyer.
- DE-CLUTTER AND EDIT - My Rule of Thumb: Anything smaller than a football should be packed away, including knick-knacks, wall decor, and anything excess. You are moving anyway, and, unless you need a particular item on a day-to-day basis, these little tchotkes are a distraction for the potential buyer. Removing excess furniture and placing it in storage will allow a more open and spacious presentation. "Less is more" when showing your home for market.
- REFURBISH, REPAIR OR REPLACE - Once you have the excess out, it's much easier to see the "bones" of your structure. If your home needs fresh paint, new carpeting, or, that leaky faucet requires fixing, now is the time. Anything that needs replacing, such as worn carpeting or dated lighting fixtures, should be replaced now and not left for the potential buyers. Buyers expect mechanics to be in working order. They can only see what's in your home right now - and that is what they will base their first impression on.
- ARRANGE AND ACCESSORIZE - Your furniture layout and accessories should always be arranged to only enhance the positive features of your home. Anything left behind to accessorize should be placed with purpose to draw the buyer's eye to a particular feature, or add a little warmth to the room.
- CLEAN! - You can have the most up-to-date home with the most glorious views on the planet, but if your house can't pass the white glove test, you've just turned off a lot of potential buyers. Windows need to be spotless, grout between tiles need the toothbrush treatment, and, unless your carpeting was replaced within the last 6 months, it should be professionally cleaned. Kitchens and bathrooms are especially scrutinized during showings, so go the extra mile and show the buyer's what they really want to see. This is your first - and most likely - only chance to impress a would-be buyer. Don't waste it!
ADDITIONAL SECRETS TO STAGING YOUR HOME FOR SALE:
- DOWNPLAY YOUR DÉCOR - Everyone thinks their décor is appealing to others. But, frankly, how you decorate your home is a matter of personal taste. Don't expect potential homebuyers to fall in love with your idea of interior decorating. Even if it is magnificent, potential buyers need to be able to see your home - not your décor. Take steps to downplay it, like altering a country décor by using patterns sparingly and minimizing adornments. Put the emphasis back on the space - and the room - itself.
- CHOOSE A NEUTRAL WALL COLOR FOR THE MAIN ROOMS - Check any wild impulse to paint the living room the latest shade of tangerine. Instead, look at the walls in the main rooms - living room, dining room, kitchen, foyer - as objectively as possible. Neutral grays and creams on the walls go over much better with a buying public than a deep shade of violet. Make the main room walls a neutral, comfortable part of your home - not the focus.
- FLIP-FLOP YOUR FURNITURE FROM OTHER ROOMS - Flip-flopping is basically exchanging furnishings or accessories from one room to another. Keep in mind that a potential buyer is not there to inspect your furniture. They have no idea how one piece or another came into your possession. They are not aware that you bought those tables to go with that sofa. If you need space in the bedroom and your dining room has more space than it can handle, why not turn your dresser into a buffet? Who's going to know? Flip-flopping can resolve many issues resulting in a perfect presentation. And a perfect presentation is exactly what you want.
- PRETEND LIKE YOU'RE GETTING READY FOR A HOT DATE - Show your home to the best advantage by doing something as simple as cleaning your lighting fixtures! Just as you'd present yourself to a first date in great lighting, your home can also be shown at its best when you've taken the time to replace light bulbs and dusted dirty light fixtures. You'll be amazed at the difference. Sparkling lighting will play to your advantage every time.
- KIDS AND PETS: A "NO-NO" FOR SHOWINGS. Kids and pets, as cute as they might be, are a distraction to showing your home to potential buyers. And you absolutely do not want anything taking a possible buyer's attention from your house. So, unless the kids and pets are part of the deal, they should not be around for showings. You also never know how pets will react to strangers coming into your home. So, take the kids and pets to Dairy Queen or visit Grandma for an hour - while your realtor shows off your beautifully staged home.
Lori's Quick Fixes for Some Common Problems
A Worn and Dated Looking Chair
- Problem: Dated, ratty looking furnishings grab attention away from the home's actual features. Buyer's tend to assume if you don't take care of your furniture, you've probably neglected the upkeep of your house.
- Resolve: If you can't live without the piece completely, an inexpensive, store-bought slipcover will help it blend into the setting and place attention back on the room's positive features!
A Side Table and Lamp with a Dated Shade
- Problem: A dated, dusty lamp shade can put a dimmer on your showings.
- Resolve: New shades add new life (and a lot more light!) to a room. Changing out lower wattage bulbs for a higher wattage also helps brighten up the space!
A Tall, Cluttered Bookshelf
- Problem: Cluttered shelving - whether permanent or not - makes potential buyers think you've run out of space. And they tend to check out the clutter more than they check out the space you're trying to sell them.
- Resolve: Decluttering and thoughtfully rearranging, leaving some shelving completely open, will leave potential buyers with a feeling that the house has plenty of room to spare!
A Large Area Rug
- Problem: A buyer's eye will automatically go to the rug and visually break up the space. They also make a potential buyer wonder what you're hiding under there.
- Resolve: Removing the area rug completely will make the room feel much more open and airy, creating the illusion of a larger space!
- Problem: A visual turn-off for potential buyers. Bad vibes and very distracting.
- Resolve: Replacing sickly looking plants for something lush and green will add a bright shot of color and make the space feel a lot more lively and cheerful!
Kids Toys and Pet Stuff
- Problem: We all love our kids, we all love our pets, but not everyone feels the same. Scattered toys are messy. And even an animal lover can have issues with the thought of lingering pet odors and hair.
- Resolve: Removing blatant signs of kids and pets from the main areas of your home will be one less reason for a potential buyer to cross your house off their list.
Matzke offers workshops through her website: www.homestagingexpert.com.