As almost every property show on television will tell you, a little House Doctoring goes a long way… not just in getting a sale, but in getting a good price for the sale of your home.
There are two considerations in how your home looks. One is practical and financial, the second is more concerned with the emotional decision of buying a new home.
On a pragmatic level, viewers do not want to see things that they consider to promise expensive or time-consuming work (unless the house is being sold as a renovation project!). Half-finished DIY, holes in plasterwork, polystyrene ceiling tiles, missing doors or doors that don’t close, broken light switches, sticking locks, dodgy window-catches. These are the simple things that many of us have in our own homes… the little things that we have grown used to and don’t see as a problem, in fact often don’t see at all any more!
To strangers, walking around your home for the first time, these can appear like huge obstacles that are impossible to look around, blocking their view of any potential the house might have for them. As an agent, it can be extremely frustrating to know that a particular buyer would be ideally suited to a specific house, but that they cannot get past the minor visible jobs that need doing.
Indeed, it can be easier to sell a home that needs a new kitchen and bathroom, than one which needs a few broken tiles replacing and a good clean: a new suite is a job for a professional and a tangible improvement to the property, while a minor repair and a bit of bleach is just ‘work’.
The second consideration for presenting your home has more to do with how people think when they make a decision to buy a place to live. Buying a home is an emotional decision as well as a practical and financial one – indeed, you may have bought the home you are now selling because it ‘felt right’.
In order to decide that the house is right for them, a buyer needs to imagine living there. That, in effect, is what ‘feeling right’ means… it is an instinctive recognition that the viewer can see themselves living happily in that house.
Now, nobody can make someone buy a house they don’t want. But it is possible to stop someone recognising a house that would ‘feel right’, if that home’s potential is buried under an avalanche of possessions.
The golden rule of all home-staging shows is: de-clutter! In effect, the reason for this is simple. The heavier impression your lifestyle has made on the house, the harder it will be for the viewer to imagine their own life there. If a room is full of furniture, it’s hard to imagine it empty. But if a room is empty, it’s easy for a buyer to mentally arrange their own furniture into the space.
This idea works at every level. The less furniture you have, the more possibilities the buyer can see… unless you have a very clever and minimalist arrangement, in which case you might be highlighting possibilities, not reducing them. The fewer ‘personal’ items – family photographs, pictures, etc – that you have, the easier it will be for the viewers to imagine their own valuables and treasures in place.
Tidy rigorously, clean thoroughly, and then start getting ready to move. Pack away your precious things. It will make your home easier to sell, and it will help to prepare you for leaving. It may have been a wonderful home to you, but you are moving on now. Try and reconcile yourself to the idea that your new home is in the future, and that, for now, this house has become the place you stay in while you prepare for that new home.
Try to present each room in a functional sense. If you’ve turned the spare bedroom into a kid’s playroom, made the dining room your stamp collecting den, and put the dining table across the lounge.. sorry, but put it back! ‘Dress’ each room to show what it’s for. Dining rooms need a dining table. Double bedrooms should have a double bed… or, at very least, be arranged to show that one would fit easily enough. It is no longer about how the space worked for your lifestyle… you now have to show how these same rooms can work for someone else.
It’s even worth considering a little redecoration, especially if the house has a very strong colour scheme and personality. New people will bring new tastes, and the popularity of magnolia and cream is not that people love those colours, but that they are a blank canvas for new buyers to colour in as they choose.
Home staging can be time-consuming, and packing up possessions can be emotionally hard. But it’s free, and it needs to be done at some point anyway, so you may find it makes it easier to reconcile yourself to the move. More to the point, it might well make you money in a higher offer, and the work you put in may be why your house is chosen in preference to the others on the market.