These days, it can be difficult to move a house off the market. Increasingly, weary home owners must slash the selling price to entice people to sign on the dotted line. For that reason, properly preparing a house for sale is of utmost importance. Home staging, or the process of cleaning out and updating properties to maximize their selling potential, is one of the most effective ways to do just that.
Yet when some people hear "home staging," dollar signs immediately come to mind. Certainly, hiring a professional home stager and sprucing up a home's interior and exterior requires a monetary investment, but it doesn't have to break the bank. Most of the major home-staging principles are surprisingly inexpensive to follow. In fact, proper home staging shouldn't entail revamping from floor to ceiling. Rather, it's more about pinpointing trouble spots around the house and yard and cleaning like crazy. The payoff for your time and effort can be substantial; by some estimates, home staging can reap as much as a 20 percent higher selling price.
To get that sold sign in your yard faster and with more cash in your pocket, the following five home-staging tips should fit any budget. Just remember the home-staging mantra: Less is more.
It's amazing how small adjustments can make huge differences. Whether you're cash-strapped or have big bucks to spend, the simple act of replacing hardware around the house is a wise tip for home staging. Focus especially on the handles and knobs in the kitchen and at entranceways. The kitchen is a primary focal point of the house and is often the most important room to prospective buyers. However, SmartMoney magazine reports that even a minor kitchen-remodeling project can run upward of $21,000. Instead, changing out the hardware and lighting switch plates is a quick, inexpensive update. Also inspect the doorknob and knocker at the front door. Oxidized hardware should be buffed to a shine or replaced, since it makes for a poor first impression.
Brightening up a house can work wonders for its size and charm. According to a survey conducted by HomeGain.com, lighting up a room typically costs less than $400 and adds a $1,500 boost to the final sale price of a house. To take advantage of this enlightening idea, start by scrubbing the windows, frames and screens. Next, get rid of dark window treatments and replace then with more transparent materials. Some windows may even look fine if they're left bare. Be sure to fix broken light fixtures, replace burned-out bulbs and be generous with adding additional lamps in shadier corners to really let your house shine.
A simple and relatively cheap method for enlarging a room is adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls. Trading out a dark tone for a neutral beige or cream can transform a space. Just don't trade down when you change up the color palette; going with bold or trendy colors will distract buyers from other appealing features in a room. If you're in doubt, go with neutrals. Home-staging experts state that home owners can recoup the cost of a tasteful paint job — and then some — in the final sale price. Don't hesitate to repaint doors and tiles as well. Also, touch up any cracked or peeling paint on shutters, window frames, stairwells and other areas susceptible to high traffic or the elements.
With so much staging attention paid to the interior, it can be easy to neglect your jungle of a yard. But in fact, the outside may be even more important when wooing prospective buyers. Scorched grass, overgrown hedges and bare flower beds don't bode well for what's inside the house and may deter people from ever crossing the threshold.
Minimal cash and a bit of sweat equity invested in your yard will pay off in the end. A 2007 report from Remodeling Magazine found that minor landscaping has a 100 percent return on investment. Some home stagers apply green spray paint to bare patches in the lawn and install plastic plants in bedding areas, but other professionals urge home owners to strive for authenticity. Even if you don't have time to repair grass or grow a healthy garden, mulch and potted plants can serve as more attractive substitutes. Patios and decks should be cleaned and prepped as if you're throwing a neighborhood barbecue. Pressure washing the house exterior, driveway and garage door also enhances curb appeal.
The cornerstone principle of home staging is cut and dried: Clear out the clutter. Cleaning and decluttering involves more than just sorting out and throwing away old mail and newspapers. Closets should be emptied out and organized to showcase their storage space. Remove knickknacks and dust collectors from shelves and display areas. Even living room furniture should be edited down to a few major pieces that leave plenty of open space for traffic flow. When organizing your remaining decor, think in odd numbers; clusters of three and five pieces are ideal for creating vignettes, or designed areas within a room. What isn't thrown away should go into storage boxes and put into a rental space if necessary. In addition, every conceivable surface in the house should get a scrub down.
If you're already planning to move, this step of lightening your load will come in handy when you pack up and change houses. But perhaps more notably, cleaning has a nearly six-fold return on a minute monetary investment.