Stage one: Six simple things you can do inside to sell your house in a tough market

Stage one: Six simple things you can do inside to sell your house in a tough market

News_Staging a home_dining room
Two ways to make your house show better: Use neutral colors and nix the knick-knacks. Courtesy of Valerie Splaine
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home part 2_June 2011_fridge
Don't bury your refrigerator with papers and stuff. Photo by Christina Pesoli
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home part 2_June 2011_metal monster
And here’s the master bedroom—wait, I think it’s a home gym…or maybe it’s a big storeroom.” Get rid of items that distract your buyer from your home’s selling points. Photo by Christina Pesoli

For those of you just joining us, this is the second installment in a two-part series of simple things you can do to help your house sell. In the first installment, we went over tips for the outside of your house. This week, I'm going to go over some pointers to make the inside show well.

1.  A picture is worth a thousand… dollars off your list price

Pack up and store all of the personal photos. Yes, I mean all of them.  Yes, even the ones in really nice frames — and also the ones you had taken at Olan Mills with your family where you all wore light denim, white shirts and no shoes. (Maybe especially those.) I know you love them, and yes, your family is beautiful. (No, really—I mean that.) But remember: Our goal is to get the buyer to see this house as his house, not your house. He doesn’t even know you, so why would he have photos of your kids in his house (even though they are hands-down adorable)?

Right now we’re trying to get you out of your house so that there’s room for your buyer.

2.  Using the fridge:  You’re doing it wrong

Stuff goes on the inside, not on the outside. That’s why they put the shelves in there.  Take down all of the stuff you have plastered all over your refrigerator. From “save the date” notices, to school photos of friends’ kids you got in Christmas cards, to all the artwork made by your little ones.  Don’t forget the stuff on the sides, too.

And yes, that includes your magnet collection that shows how clever, witty, poetic or multi-lingual you are. Remember, this isn’t an E-harmony exercise--in fact, this is one area where compatibility doesn’t matter and personality can actually hurt you. You may be a Francophile but your potential buyer may be still be nursing a post 9-11 grudge against France that extends all the down to his Freedom Fries. We don’t want your artsy impressionist magnets from the Louvre to create the wrong…wait for it…impression.

3.  It’s a gray area

If any of the walls in your house are painted bold, non-traditional or non-matching colors, repaint them a neutral color. I know you love the bold colors on your walls, and I believe you when you tell me that all your friends give you rave reviews on them, but here’s the thing: You and your friends love those walls because they’re so you. Right now we’re trying to get you out of your house so that there’s room for your buyer.

A light shade of grey contrasted with white trim is a good choice. A couple of suggestions are Grey Mist for the walls and Frost for the trim (both are by Waverly Home Classics) or Sterling for the walls and Steam White for the trim (also by Waverly Home Classics). Those, plus many other choices, are available at Lowe's. Err on the side of going lighter, not darker because (a) you want your walls to be a subtle backdrop, not a focal point; and (b) you don’t want a color that will drag down the light in the room. 

4. Curtain call

Curtains are like clothes for your house. Styles change over time, and what style resonates with you is a personal decision to begin with. Rarely do I see curtains in a house for sale that actually improve the look of a room. Most of the time, they are a distraction at best, and a detraction at worst. Styles typically fall into one of the following categories:  Mee Maw and Grampy, Country Bumpkin, Faux Grande or Bed Bath and Beyond Help. None of these looks will help you sell your house. So, my advice? Take down the curtains and instead put up some simple faux wood blinds in white or off white.

5.  Nix the knick knacks

I’m not generally a fan of the following saying, but in this context it’s dead on: Less is more. As in, the less stuff you have lying around, the more luck you’ll have selling your house. If you have a bunch of momentos cluttering up your house, go buy a few of those big plastic storage bins and put them all in there, then store the bins in the garage until you move.  While you’re at it, gather up all your stacks of magazines, catalogs and paperback books and either get rid of them or pack those up, too. 

Then take a look at your coffee table and end tables. You want to be very selective about the home accessories that you feature, both in terms of what and how many. This is not the time to display your entire collection of Chia Pets, no matter how much people love the stories about how you came to own each and every one of them. And the sculpture you bought at the PETA fundraiser that creatively combines barbed wire and animal bones to make a powerful yet poignant statement? It’s getting axed.

If you don’t have a modest collection of nice, non-controversial accessories, take a look at what Target has to offer. You can also check out stores like West ElmCrate & Barrel and Back Home if you have the time and a little bit of money to play around with. Remember, you don’t need much. A regular-sized coffee table only needs one or two accessories. Same goes for an end table — especially if it already has a lamp on it. 

6.  You want your home to SELL, not smell

Most houses have a smell. Make yours a good one. If you have pets, makes sure litter boxes, pet beds and feeding areas are sparkling clean. Then, go to Central Market and buy two or three nice candles in scents like vanilla, fig or grapefruit. Brands likeArchipelago or Thymes, while a little pricey, are worth the money because they burn for hours and smell fantastic. Then don’t just set them out.  Burn them.  Often. 

There's a lot in today’s real estate market that you can’t control, these are some things you have complete control over. If you follow these basic rules, I can’t promise that your house will sell overnight, but I can guarantee that many of the other sellers out there have not put forth the same effort. That means your house moves ahead in the competition without setting you back financially. You’re welcome.

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Jennifer Burr

Jennifer Burr

East Jordan/ Lake Charlevoix/ Boyne City/ Charlevoix
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