How to stage your home to quickly close that sale

You have given your sale home the required lick of paint, patched all the obvious signs of wear and tear and managed to tame the garden into a semblance of order and, with the “For Sale” sign finally on display, you might believe your work is done.

When you’re selling your home you need to declutter but keep it warm and inviting, so that potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. This lounge in a nine-bedroom home in Constantia in Cape Town is a prime example, with fresh flowers on the table and a selection  of magazines within arm’s reach of the sofa. The house also boasts a movie room with bar, a games room, wine cellar, separate cottage, tennis court, heated swimming pool and staff quarters and is on the market for R23.8 million.

But, if you’re hoping for a quick sale at a good price, especially during an economic downturn, then a little more effort is required for the most critical part of the sale process – show day – when a negative first impression can quite literally impact the bottom line and knock down your eventual sale price.

Sandy Geffen, Executive Director of Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty, says: “Sellers who effectively 'stage' their homes are far more likely to sell their properties faster and achieve a higher price.

“It’s important to remember that the decision to buy a home is strongly influenced by emotion and it’s therefore essential to engage buyers emotionally by highlighting your home’s best features and making it as appealing as possible.”

This is not always easy to do because, after years of living in a home, we no longer view it objectively and tend to be oblivious the flaws and general clutter of our daily lives.
Geffen says that sellers can effectively prepare for a show day without too much effort if they follow a few simple guidelines and implement the following tips.

1.       De-personalise.
Whilst your home should not look unlived in and impersonal it’s important for buyers to be able to imagine the space as their own. Pack away all the personal knick-knacks such as kid’s drawings on the fridge, memorabilia and kitsch ornaments, but do modernise frames of family pictures and keep those on display, because they make a home feel warm.

2.       De-clutter. Too many beauty products cluttered around a basin or shower stall and small kitchen appliances piled on kitchen shelves can make a room seem smaller and less attractive, as can messy countertops which are found in most homes.

3.       Remove sight-line impairments:
Take a good look around each room to see what first attracts the eye and possibly detracts from the room’s appeal. Randomly placed objects which are out of place in their surroundings or imperfections like chipped paint or dying plants should not be the first thing to catch the eye. If removal isn’t an option, most imperfections can be disguised. For instance, older furniture can be downplayed by buying colourful new scatter cushions or throws.

4.       De-odourise. Unpleasant or strong odours can easily discourage the keenest of buyers. Although the owner may have become immune to the smell their pets have embedded in their home, lingering cooking aromas or the lingering fug of cigarette smoke, anyone opening the door will smell it immediately. A spray of air freshener is seldom effective and more drastic measures like replacing carpets may be necessary but it is worth the effort and expense. A nifty trick is to microwave a small dish of vanilla twenty minutes before show time and place it in a strategic but out of sight place.

5.       Don’t ignore the floors. At the bare minimum, ensure all floors have been thoroughly cleaned and the carpets steam cleaned, but with older homes it’s worth considering having wooden floors refinished and carpets or rugs replaced. You may not notice your floors anymore, but the buyer will spot them immediately if they are shabby or stained.

6.       Disguise awkward areas.
It’s impossible to hide the cupboard under the stairs or the odd alcove in the study but you can show how they can be put to use best. By setting up a small work station in the alcove or putting up shelving for storage in the small cupboard, you can turn the disadvantages into interesting selling points.

7.       Create a positive mood. Dark gloomy rooms are very uninviting, so turn on all your lights, especially of your home doesn’t have an open plan living area. Open all the curtains and blinds.

8.       Style your dining room table. The dining room is often overlooked when decorating the home and if the table is used regularly it is often bare and uninviting between meals.  Add a colourful runner topped with a small fresh flower arrangement, attractive pottery dish or fruit bowl for an eye-catching yet neutral effect.

9.       Inviting entrance. Whether you have a small porch, a spacious patio or even just a doorstep, a new welcome mat and an attractive potted plant or two will set the tone before prospective buyers even step through the door.

10.   Kerb appeal. Unless your property is an apartment, a buyer’s very first impression of your home is formed when he or she gets out the car and overgrown grass on the pavement, a broken or rusting gate or a wall in need of paint will be the first things they see.

Says Geffen: “The most often overlooked area in the spruce-up process is the property’s entrance; from the pavement and garden gate to the front door, where the potential buyer may even spend time waiting for the agent with nothing to do but scrutinise the view presented to him or her.

“Regardless of how much effort you have made inside the house, if the buyer’s impression is negative from the get-go, you’re already at a disadvantage.”
As most people buy or sell properties only a handful of times in a lifetime, it can be a daunting process involving reams of legally binding documents and myriad unfamiliar processes to navigate before a sale is concluded.

And, as trends are constantly changing, traits that were considered appealing when the home was bought a decade ago may no longer be sought-after and may even be extremely unpopular.

Geffen says that this is where an experienced and knowledgeable agent from a reputable real estate company is invaluable, as they will not only be able to guide the seller throughout the process, but also offer sound advice on all aspects of the sale, including how best to stage a home for viewing.

“They regularly conduct viewings and therefore have a wealth of experience and up-to-date knowledge of buyers’ needs, currenthome trends and how to identify and highlight the best features of a property.”

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