Saturday, September 18, 2010

Staging Insider: how to de-clutter

Reality TV shows on networks like HGTV and DIY Network tell the tale of the economy’s impact on housing: Flip & Sell, Flip That House, and Flipping Out have moved over to make room for Staged to Sell, Sell It Right, and Real Estate Intervention.

On TV and in real life, one of the most overlooked ways sellers can get ready to sell their home is depicted here:

declutter from MLS 4448037, sep 2010
photo credit MLS #4448xxx (number truncated to protect the innocent)

Mr. & Mrs. Seller, de-clutter already! Space is your friend; clutter eats equity. (Besides, between me and my readers, the 1991 Sears Roebuck catalog called, and wants it’s furniture back.)

I’m sure these homeowners love their home and live in it very comfortably. But when you list your home for sale, it immediately ceases to be your home. It becomes a product. Treat it as such.

Each room in your Home-for-Sale Product needs only enough stuff to suggest what the room is used for.

The room above needs the following fixes to make it show-ready and maximize the selling price:

The goal is to transform the room into a bigger-than-it-looks space that has 2 sofas, 1 coffee table, 1 end table and mostly bare entertainment center.  Here’s how you get there.

**Remove everything from the sofas: bear, pillows, afghans. Everything. If you must have pillows, go buy new, oversized, beige fluffy pillows that look expensive.

**Adios the exercise equipment. Visually it implies the home isn’t roomy enough.

**Remove all pictures from the wall and replace them with one large, horizontally oriented, generic picture in a good quality wooden frame. No gold flocking!  Colors should be an assortment of beiges & browns with a touch of navy blue. Style: modern art or a landscape. Size: at least 2/3rds of the length of the couch. If you find a picture looks like it belongs in a model home or a doctor’s office, you’ve got the right one.

**Lose the dining room table set, entirely. Do not replace it with anything. Having it there reinforces the fact that the house isn’t big enough to have dining & living in 2 separate rooms. Pack it, put it in storage or sell it.

**I’m assuming the counter top in the foreground is a fixed, immovable cabinet, probably located in the kitchen. If it will move, pack it, store it or sell it. If it won’t move, remove everything from the top of it.

**Lose the Barcalounger in the corner and what look like TV tray tables next to it. Pack, store or sell. Leave the space empty.

**I’m assuming that stuff on the left frame of the photo is sitting on the entertainment center. Remove 1/3 of everything visible on the unit. Pack, store or sell. This gives buyers the visual cue that “there’s room for your stuff here.”

**Remove all but 1 coffee table and possibly 1 end table. Leave no more than 3 items on the coffee table, and 1 item on the end table. And I don’t mean a tall stack of magazines and 2 others things. If you leave magazines on display, fan them and use 3 or 5 at most.

**That rug probably serves its rightful purpose of anchoring the sitting area visually on the floor space. But depending on how the room looks when all the above is complete, and depending on the sellers’ budget, I might suggest replacing it with another rug. The replacement rug should have a large, bold pattern. That visually suggests a bigger space.

The End Result

Are all these things going to take time, possibly cost money and almost certainly be emotionally hard for the sellers? Yeah, probably. But I’m not your pre-school teacher here to give you a gold star tell you that “everybody loves you just the way you are!” 

Bottom line: If I’m your Realtor, you hired me to get a SOLD sign in your front yard, pronto, with the best possible price.

Pack your clutter away for now.  Because if you de-clutter and stage properly, and resist the temptation to overprice, you’ll be in that new home pretty soon. Then you can let the clutter out of their boxes to explode all over the new place.