Today I was sitting with a client and her real estate agent. We have been clearing the clutter and reorganizing to get ready for the house to go up for sale in the upcoming months. Very soon though, there will be more to do than just organize: it will be time to stage! And while we talked about each of the rooms and how best to showcase their size and attributes, the agent mentioned a phrase she had heard many times over: “Clutter Eats Equity!”
Clutter eats equity. This is so true. Think about it. When a buyer walks into your home, they only notice how much space there is or isn’t. If they open your closets and see clothes crammed in, they will think “How will I get all my clothes in there?” If they see additional storage items on top of counters and pushed into corners they will think “There is no storage in this house.” When they see furniture on every inch of wall, they may think “How will my furniture fit?” When they see open spaces and organized rooms, they don’t think anything but “Wow, this has great space and storage!”
Organizing to live and staging to sell are quite different. Organizing to live is about purging and finding a home for everything left. Organizing to live is about creating systems. Sometimes organizing is about creative storage solutions and to bring calm and beauty to your home or office. Staging to sell is about creating an almost formal calm and as much open space as possible. Staging is about selling someone the dream of how they want to live. Have you ever seen a stock photo of a “perfect closet?” You wanted that closet, right? However, did you ever really think about what was in that closet? How many clothes and shoes were actually IN that closet? Yep… staging, much like the closet, is selling an idea, not the contents. That is marketing.
So, let’s talk about staging “rules.”
- The Three Foot Rule – Did you know that a human needs 3 feet in any direction to truly feel comfortable walking in a space. Most of us do not live this way, but when staging, remove any items from all areas that break this rule. Yes, use a tape measure if necessary. If this means removing furniture and storing it until the new home, do it. This is purely human psychology. No one is coming into your home with a tape measure but they will feel it without thinking about it. Don’t let basic human nature lose you money or a sale.
- Lights, Lights, Lights – Open all the blinds. Remove all heavy draperies. Make sure there are enough lamps. Use a higher wattage than you would normally use in the room. This is another psychological thing. Light opens up a room and makes it feel bigger. Remember, you are selling the amount of space you have. You need to light up that room like it is a stage!
- Depersonalize and Declutter – I love the pictures of your families and vacations. I really do! In fact, when I am organizing and decorating, I LOVE a great focal with properly arranged pictures in matching frames. Seriously! You know who doesn’t care about your pictures? A home buyer who is trying to picture THEIR family on the walls. Plus, pictures and personal objects are visual clutter. Do you know why you feel so calm at a spa or hotel? There are hardly any pictures or personal objects. Yes, they make your house feel like home… your home. The buyer needs to feel like it is their home though. So, you don’t have to put it all away. But the personal objects need to be kept to a minimum to look like a designer room, not your room. Get a head start on packing for your move, and pack most of these items now. The same idea goes for anything you haven’t used recently. (Maybe it shouldn’t be moved to your next house if it has been THAT long!) Finally, you need to clear off the counters and most surfaces. Remove items from desktops and take about half the items off your shelves. Are you selling these pieces of furniture? No, of course not. But it adds to the visual calm and the feeling you want a home buyer to get when they come into your home. It is still all about psychology!
- Function- Don’t confuse home buyers. You may (and probably do) use rooms for multiple functions. In the world of home selling, each room needs to have a single function. Is it a living room or a play room? Is it s spare bedroom or a home office? After you decide what you are staging the room as, remove everything from the room that doesn’t fit this function. You don’t live like this, but you do sell like this!
- Clean out the Closets! – OK… so how much are you REALLY using in your closets. The average house sells in under 3 months. Do you need ALL those sheets? How about 12 seasons worth of clothes? How many towels does your family ACTUALLY need for just a few months? Is there expired food in the cupboards and pantry taking up space? Are you using that good china in the next few months? How about all those glasses? You will save yourself time packing later and AND make yourself some money by showcasing how much space is in your closets and cupboards. I know… not a lot… no one has enough! But for right now, you have to pretend. Get yourself to the bare minimum!
So, there are the basics to staging. There are hundreds of tricks and nuances but this list should give you a much better chance at selling your home. I am aware the list I just gave you will make it harder to live in your home. It is only temporary. Look at it this way. The better the house looks, the sooner you sell it, the sooner you get to unpack and live any way you want in your new home! You wouldn’t go to a job interview without showering, putting on your best outfit, and putting your best foot forward, right? Your home is being interviewed. Help it get the job! And if it is too much work to take on for yourself…. hire a professional organizer or staging professional to get there! I may know a few! (wink, wink!!)