Staging your home to prepare it for listing is a big trend for sellers. But it’s not always well understood. There’s something about being ‘staged’ that feels theatrical. And decorating your house to entice buyers may seem counterintuitive: Why spend money when you’re moving? Think of staging like a good haircut or new shirt for a job interview—it is simply making a great first impression. Statistics show it is usually worth the effort. According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2019 Profile of Home Staging, 53 percent of buyers’ agents say that staging reduces the amount of time a property is on the market, and 44 percent say that on average, staging increases the dollar amount offered.
Preparing your home for sale is about encouraging potential buyers to envision their life in a new place. So if 2020 is the year you have your eye on your next perfect Breckenridge home or you want to downsize, upsize or right size—there is a lot you can do to get your current residence ‘buyer-ready.’ Don’t ask if you should stage, ask how to make it work in your favor. It is an essential part of marketing your home and showing it at its best.
If your home is going to be empty, staging is critical. An article in USA Today noted that in a review of 2,800 homes in eight cities, staged homes sold in half the time as non-staged homes and with a 6.3 percent higher sale price. It’s a much bigger undertaking than getting your lived-in home ready, so if that’s your situation, paying a professional stager may be worth the investment, especially if your home is in the luxury market. Consider hiring a professional ‘stager’ either to help stage your home or for just one consultation to offer ideas about what to do before you list. If you’re going to be living in your home during the selling process, it may not be necessary to hire a home stager. There are many things you can tackle on your own.
Curb appeal is important, but during the winter months in Breckenridge, snow is what buyers see. Good shoveling is the first order of business. Then focus on your entryway and front door—the first thing buyers see. The Christmas wreath has to go. Something simple and appealing—a wreath of pine cones, a welcome mat or small pine trees in decorative containers flanking the door—can make a good impression before potential buyers walk in.
Probably the single most important thing to do inside is to undertake a deep cleaning. Look at every room through the eyes of buyers who are carefully assessing your home. Wash the windows inside and out, clean ceiling fans, baseboards and blinds. Hide the litter box. Be objective; it’s easy to get used to the missing cabinet knob in the kitchen, but buyers notice and those little things don’t help you make a good impression.
Decluttering is different than cleaning. Move the slow cooker, blender and toaster into a cabinet. In fact, it’s a good idea to move at least half the clutter off the coffee table, beside tables, kitchen counters and bookshelves. Tons of family photos and trip mementos won’t mean anything to potential buyers, who have to envision their things in your rooms. They should be able to tell their own story as they look around, not be overwhelmed by yours. Decluttering makes your home more appealing, and doing it now will make your move easier! Clean out every closet, organize the pantry and pack away items that you don’t currently need. Inexpensive DYI closet systems can make a big impact in how buyers view the storage space in your home. It’s a weekend project worth the time and money.
A light, bright home is infinitely more inviting. Higher-wattage light bulbs, window coverings that don’t block the sun, and more generic accessories are another inexpensive way to make rooms look fresh—sort of like the relaxing feeling you get when checking into a simple, clean hotel room. Get rid of dark accent pillows, towels and throw rugs. Fluffy, light-colored towels in the bathrooms and new, lighter-colored spreads and throw pillows on the beds go a long way in making buyers focus on the space, not the stuff. Plants can bring the beautiful mountain environment inside. Simple is best—plain pots and not too many.
Furniture should be arranged to tell a story and to welcome people, saying, “This is a family home” or “This is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the view.” The back of the couch as buyers enter a room or tables blocking the flow of traffic should be rearranged to create uncluttered pathways. Leave all doors open; buyers need to feel comfortable walking freely through a home that may soon be theirs. Creating a conversation area—with chairs facing the sofa and places to put a drink—feel more welcoming than everything facing the TV. And if your main living spaces are overcrowded with chairs, tables, toy boxes and book shelves, consider editing. Put things into storage for now. Less is more!
If you have a garage, you have something buyers want. Spend time and a little money to show it off—it’s part of your home. It should be clean and uncluttered. Skis, bikes, hockey gear, helmets, rakes, hoses—everything should be neatly stored. Make sure all the lights are working and the wattage bright enough to show every nook and cranny. Storage shelves may be a good investment before your first open house. A good area for tool storage, ladders and other homeowner necessities will pay dividends.
There are a few ‘don’ts’, too. Don’t over-design; keep it simple; your taste may not be aligned with potential buyers. Nothing fake—no fake fruit, plants, computer or TV screens. Don’t overdo the aesthetic; a few touches that say ‘SKI!’ will remind them of the wonderful town their considering, but too much may seem kitschy.
A few carefully considered changes—mostly cosmetic—won’t cost a ton of money. Some beautiful planters, new towels and bed linens and fancy (unused) soaps in the powder room go a long way. More expensive options like a fresh coat of paint—especially if your preference runs to darker tones—may be worth the expense, but don’t feel like you have to go completely neutral; one room with a ‘wow’ factor—a deep red powder room, for example—will be memorable, and after looking at many homes, could be the standout thing that helps a buyer remember yours.
Breckenridge Associates' website has more tips for sellers. Just click on the main menu bar - Seller - or specifically visit Preparing your home for sale.