Whether you’ve lived in your home for one year or 50, odds are good you’ve collected a lot of stuff. You’ve also made memories, kept pets, had parties, and maybe even raised children. And your living space reflects all of those things. But when it’s time to sell, those quirks that make your house feel like home may not be as attractive to a prospective buyer.
That’s where home stagers come in. Avril Brown of Prep Home Staging in Halifax guides people through the process of renewing their homes for sale. “Because I’ve never seen the home before, I’m able to go in and see it as a home buyer would see it,” Brown says. “I can see the changes that need to be made right away.”
With buyers more informed and sophisticated than ever before, home staging can make or break the sale of your home. Generally, you’ll sell your house faster and you’ll be more likely to get your asking price—sometimes even more.
That’s what happened when Emma Lee Arsenault, owner of Moncton, New Brunswick’s Organize 2 Sell, was hired to stage the home of someone who had passed away. The realtor contacted her because the homeowner’s children needed help getting the home ready for sale. “They wanted a certain amount of money and they got it,” Arsenault says. “The same day, they received four offers, including a cash offer at $6,000 over asking price. And this was a remote area. This wasn’t a subdivision with close schools and young kids.”
If you want to sell your home in a tough market, there are a number of staging elements to consider. The first to think about is how your home will look in photos. “People usually form their first impression of a home online, so I always have that in the back of my mind,” says Brown. “What is this going to look like in a picture? How should we change the furniture layout? Will the paint colours photograph well?”
Once you’ve nailed your photography, you’ll need to work on creating a warm, inviting on-site impression that will make potential buyers fall in love with your home. And since it’s likely that you’ll need to live in your staged home while it’s on the market, you’ll need to make sure it’s comfortable for you, too.
Dawne Smallwood, a home stager in St. John’s, Newfoundland says staging a lived-in home can mean less show-day prep work. “Once all your clutter is gone, it’s much easier to dust,” she says. “And if you only use the rooms you really need, you won’t have as much to clean. If you have three bathrooms in your house, just use one of them.”
Start by packing up knick-knacks, magazines and out-of-season clothes. Put away anything you don’t use on a regular basis. If you have a shelf full of trinkets, choose one attractive item to showcase and put the others away. Keep items you need in stackable storage boxes that will fit in your closet. But don’t overstuff your storage space—if your closets look too full, people will assume your house doesn’t have enough space.
Next, fix any flow problems. Make sure it’s easy to move around your home without bumping into chairs and coffee tables. If not, decide on a layout that will allow groups of people to pass through your house easily and comfortably.
It’s also critical to make sure that your décor and other cosmetic details are attractive and up-to-date. “People place value on what they see,” says Arsenault. “If people see an old flowered couch, they perceive that the house is dated and isn’t worth the asking price. But if you put a cover on it and add a few up-to-date pillows, those same buyers will have a whole new impression of your home.”
Smallwood suggests giving bathrooms a fresh look by leaving a couple of flowers in a vase on the vanity. Adding some new white towels, bathmats and an unused bar of soap will go a long way.
Finally, she stresses the importance of appealing to your buyers’ senses. “Bake homemade cookies,” she says. “Have fresh flowers around. These are little things that make people happy and get them thinking, ‘This is what my house could be like.’”