Taste-Specific Decor Scares Away Buyers!


imagesl8f441f44-w10oIf you want to attract the most buyers possible when selling your home,
you need to present it to appeal to the masses by adopting at least some popular trends and eliminating taste-specific décor. In my 3-plus years of staging, I’ve come across some homes and seen countless photos on-line of many more that languish for many months or even years because they showcase out-dated colors, materials, finishes, or unusual décor, artwork, and collections that apparently no agent advised them to put away or change. About 95% of the time, homes have too much furniture that makes them look cluttered, cramped, or worn and tired! I find it hard to believe that any seller who truly wants to get top dollar for their home and move on would choose to waste months of time trying to sell a property that isn’t competitive in the marketplace.

Since many sellers don’t spend hundreds of hours a year keeping up with décor trends and they don’t have an eye for design, or know what sells, your best bet is to hire a stager to consult with you on how to present your home in order to market it effectively. Staging is a critical part of any home’s marketing plan, just like grooming yourself and dressing up in a conservative suit or dress is a part of a job interview in order to make a good first impression. A good stager will tell you much more than just what and how to de-clutter and what should be cleaned (OK, that’s easy, everything!). Stagers advise you on:
• What décor needs to be changed in order to capture many more prospects, 90% of whom troll the internet to decide on the homes they want to see: things like 1980s mauve and green carpeting, bright or out-dated paint colors, wallpaper, for instance, or bathroom fixtures and appliances in anything other than neutral colors, knotty pine paneling, old laminate kitchen cabinets, outdated lighting and hardware, Hollywood lightbulbs around bathroom mirrors (this is endemic in northern New Jersey, for some unknown reason), etc.
• How to enhance curb appeal, both for daytime and nighttime (think good lighting for pathways and the front door, even inexpensive uplighting for trees)
• Why and how much to pare down personal collections that will distract buyers from the selling features of your home and prevent them from seeing themselves living in it; I’ve seen gun collections, doll collections, old toy collections, deer heads on walls, stained glass “art” throughout a home, etc. These items are way too personal and can even be offensive to the vast majority of buyers.
• Eliminating family photos, pet paraphernalia, grandma’s crocheted afghans, doilies, etc. , and anything else that screams “this house is someone else’s home, I can’t see myself living here.”
• What repairs to make, if they are obvious to a critical eye: thinks like broken steps, doorknobs, missing tiles, mildewed grout, cracked walls or outdoor foundations, etc.
• What to stow away, such as garbage cans and personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies.
• What furniture should be removed, re-arranged, slipcovered to neutralize outdated patterns and colors or cover up stains, and generally positioned to maximize both space and your home’s selling features, such as fireplaces, views, nooks, etc.
• How to visually expand spaces by getting rid of scatter rugs, rugs that are too small for rooms, exposing hardwood floors, removing curtains, changing paint colors or adding mirrors in dark rooms.
• How, where, and what size artwork to hang to bring color and life into a room as well as to emphasize features
• And more . . . just too much to cover in this blog post!

The return on investment for staging is anywhere from 200% to 600%, according to HomeGain’s annual surveys on improvements that sell homes. I never make recommendations that won’t, in my experience, at least return their cost for that home’s location, and most improvements are inexpensive. Also keep in mind that buyers tend to over-estimate the cost of repairs, many don’t know who to turn to to get those improvements done, or don’t have the time to make those repairs and updates. They just know they want to live in homes like the ones they see on TV and in magazines, and sellers that give them what they are looking for are the ones who get more buyers and competitive bids and sell for higher prices!

Stage Before Listing!

A prospect asked me this week if staging before listing is better than the other way around — absolutely! There are at least 4 good reasons why:

1) Get your home looking its best before you invite the agents to tour your home and do their comparative market analysis (comps), and it is very likely they will come back with a higher listing price.

2)Agents will be more excited about listing and showing your home, because a well-presented home out-shines its competition and gets buyers excited about living there!

3) The photos your agent takes of your home will look much better once it is staged. For proof of this, take a look at random MLS photos of houses for sale in your area, and think about which houses YOU would want to see based on those photos. I’ve seen far too many terrible photos of rooms crowded with furniture, outdated wallpaper and paint colors, messy bathrooms and kitchen counters, rooms with the blinds and curtains closed, tons of family photos and toys scattered about, and unmade beds or tired-looking bedrooms that need that luxury “spa-like” touch to avoid turning off buyers. Between 80 and 90 percent of buyers look at MLS photos before contacting an agent, and if your home’s photos aren’t as beautiful as they could be, most buyers will move on to the next property without even asking to look at your home.

4) Stagers are the experts in knowing what to do; agents may know the bare-bone basics, but they aren’t going to spend hours “fixing” your home’s problems, and most don’t know just HOW to solve the problems anyway. Stagers have the design background or “eye” and a large inventory of accessories that will add the pizzazz most homes need — like jewelry adds the sparkle to an outfit — and we also can handle renting furniture for you when necessary.

5)  Better late than never: If your home has already been on the market with no offers or only low-ball offers, it’s never too late to stage to renew interest and get those offers coming in! Remember, the cost of staging is always less than the cost of a price reduction!

Make Sure Your Home’s Photos Don’t Scare Off Buyers!

Toilet paper trailing out of toilet

Bad MlS Photos

Ugh! Way too much clutter will make buyers feel there's not enough storage.

Bad MLS photos

A room you can't see; this mess doesn't appeal to anyone.

Bad MLS photos

Too much clutter!

Unattractive MLS photo

Mouthwash and an open toilet . . . not a pretty combo

A few pics I’ve seen recently on the MLS have made me cringe . . . and I’m pretty sure they do the same to buyers!

My first thought is: Would you want to BE in these rooms, let alone LIVE in them? Shouldn’t the goal of photos of any house for sale be to pique the interest of buyers, not scare them off? Home sellers need to be told to clean up and de-clutter. If they don’t, the agent must warn them that their house is not going to get the calls and the traffic it should, since it’s well-known that 90% of buyers today search the internet to find the houses they want to see before they call an agent.

And, if you’re an agent taking photos, pay attention to what you’re taking photos of! Always take a good hard look at them on your computer screen: often, you will notice a lot more drawbacks in a photo than you did “in real-life.”

Although with these photos, it’s hard to imagine NOT seeing how bad the rooms look when you’re standing in them!

A few basics before you snap shots:

1) Toilet seats should always be down; bath mats removed.

2) Remove personal hygiene and cleaning products.

3) Take down family photos.

4) Remove all that clutter, including pet dishes, beds, and toys.

5) If you have towels anywhere, make sure they’re hung either neatly on a towel rack or rolled up next to a Jacuzzi, not left lying on the floor, draped over a shower curtain rod, etc. And make sure they look clean!

6) Speaking of towels, remove all dishtowels – they just never look classy, plus they look like clutter and remind buyers of work (hey, does this place even have a dishwasher?)

7) Remove laundry/clothes/shoes that are visible in open areas. Stow away in baskets and hampers that are out-of-sight in closets or under vanities.

8) Clear floors of all small items.

9) Beds need to be MADE, pillows fluffed, and there should be at least two layers of pillows to make the bed look comfortable. Do not pull bedspreads over the pillows — pillows belong on top, and a throw or a luxurious blanket folded across the bottom will really make the bedroom inviting.

10) Move everything off the fridge and on top of it.

11) Pare down your kitchen counter appliances to an essential one or two, such as the coffee maker and toaster. Remove knives as well.

12) Remove unhealthy-looking or tiny plants. Remove fish bowls (and other containers with little critters) from kitchens and bathrooms, especially, and make sure there are no pets or people in your photos.

13) Make sure no furniture is blocking any windows — the more light the better, and especially if you have attractive views, you want to show them off!

14) Put all lights on in every room, open all curtains and blinds, and bring in fresh flowers for the dining room table and kitchen table. If you have a fireplace, light it to really draw buyers’ eyes to this special feature.

Let your MLS photos put your home’s best features forward to attract the most buyers possible!