Part 3: The Interior: Declutter, Neutralize, and Clean.
Declutter- This is the first step and will help with the rest of putting the inside of your house in show ready condition. Think of this as packing for your move. Collections and knick knacks are the stuff of the American lifestyle, but we want prospective buyers to look at your house, not your personal items. This is the instance where the saying “Less is more,” holds absolutely true. Fireplace mantles, end and coffee tables, bookcases and counter tops are places where most of us have far more stuff there than we should. Get some boxes and packing paper, and pack the stuff up. Paying for off-site storage will help you get the items out. Also, extra pieces of furniture should go into storage (and if you are not going to use this stuff again, have a garage or yard sale or donate your items to charity). It is extra furniture if it is obstructing the flow of foot traffic from one area to another. When it comes to kitchen and bathroom counter tops, have as little as possible out. Personal toiletries of any kind should be put away in a drawer or cabinet – not left on the counter. Bottles in the shower or tub area should only be what you would use in one bathing session, not a vast collection. What is left on the kitchen counter should be the appliances that you use daily and perhaps a decorative focal point in a corner (glass container of lemons, cookbook on a stand are common staging items in kitchens). The more “stuff” that is put away and out of site, the better. Very personal items (think family pictures) should be packed up. If you have walls full of multiple items, remove them and leave a single piece of artwork on the wall. In some cases, 3 items may work better than one, but you should have no more than that. Your property will be a lot easier to keep clean for showings when there is a lot less stuff and just show better. Neutralize- Now that we have gotten beyond the stuff and cleared a lot of it out, now is the time to ask yourself “Can prospective buyers picture their own belongings in this property?”. Do you have rooms with really interesting wall colors or floor coverings that are an outdated color? There is no better friend to the property seller than paint (good quality – not cheap). I recommend an eggshell or satin for interior walls with a primer included in the paint. This is so the old paint color will not bleed through, although if you are covering a really dark or bright paint, it can easily take 3 coats to cover it. If you have wallpaper, get rid of it. Nobody wants wallpaper anymore – this is why you don’t see it in new homes. You are best off removing it and painting the room (don’t paint over wallpaper – buyers will see that and consider it more work for them to do). I know, sometimes you see decorators use it on HGTV, but they are trying to be “creative” and “artistic”. Preparing your property to sell is not the time for that. Pops of color in a room are great and can lend itself to good looking staging, but do the colors in small items, like throw pillows. Rather than use a stark white, use something that would be considered earth tone, mellow and not in-your-face. Taupes have been popular, cream or beige tones often work well, earth tone mellow greens have been popular, grays have recently gotten popular (watch out for going too dark). White on trim work is classic and crisp – I like a semi-gloss ultra white for trim. Painting is not difficult and can be done by a seller, but if you really don’t have the skill, get a friend who knows how to paint to show you the ropes or pay someone to do it right. Nothing is worse than having to go back and re-do work that was done incorrectly. Flooring – if it is carpet that is a strange color or just worn out and nasty or mismatched all over the house, change it. Currently, people favor non-carpeted surfaces, particularly in living areas, so you may need to consider something other than carpet. Have one type of flooring throughout living areas and carpet that matches if it is in bedrooms. You want someone to pay top dollar for the place, so putting some money into selling it may be crucial to it selling, and selling for as much as possible. Same can be said for interesting or worn counter tops. Clean- Buyers are picky! We live with little things that we ignore, but having a home super clean, especially kitchen and bathrooms, is more important than ever when your house is on the market. Remember, you are in competition with other sellers to get a buyer to make a good offer on your home. The cleanliness of your home can make the difference between no offer at all, an unacceptably low offer or a good offer. The idea of going top to bottom is a good one here. Start at the top of the rooms by clearing off any cobwebs that you didn’t notice before, then clean off ceiling fans and light fixtures (think dust and dead bugs). Next, a good dusting, including chair railings and baseboards, and then floors. If the carpeting has stains, get a professional carpet cleaning service in to do a good job on it (the do-it-yourself cleaners are not as good). Bathroom fixtures and tile should really shine. Kitchen sink, counters, cabinets, and appliances should be free of food residue. Lastly, you don’t want to forget the windows. Now the challenge will be keeping it clean! So, with the outside and inside of your home ready to have photographs taken and ready to show, all you need to do now is have your Realtor set up the marketing, have it priced right for the market, and be ready for the buyers to come looking! Prep right, price right, and you will sell right. Cheers, n.