They say you only get one chance at a first impression. So if would-be buyers have already sidestepped your bursting-at-the-seams closet or shuddered at your dreary laundry room, you can’t undo it — but you can do some strategic home staging before the next house-hunter shows up.
Barb Nazzaro, a professional house stager who runs A Simply Staged Home, in Natick, Massachusetts, insists that it’s essential to stage. “When people walk into a house, they form an opinion almost instantaneously.” There’s a knee-jerk reaction that happens, she says; within seconds, buyers either adore the place or want to flee. And while homes in hot neighborhoods may sell themselves, Nazzaro says any home can benefit from staging to bump up the asking price and help speed a sale.
“People see gorgeous homes on television and want exactly that for themselves,” Nazzaro says. And, she adds, just as you wouldn’t wear sweatpants to a job interview, your home needs to put its best foot forward. Moving represents a fresh start, and if your home isn’t clean and doesn’t evoke a peaceful feeling, potential buyers will bail.
Here’s how to make your house gorgeous for its time in the spotlight:
1. Purge the hallway closet.
Remove at least 70 percent of the coats. “Wooden hangers are great investments,” says Nazzaro. And make sure each coat is facing the same way. Nazzaro also likes to hang just one beautiful red raincoat in the hallway, with rain boots neatly arranged on a doormat, to set a boutiquelike tone.
2. Edit the china cabinet.
A chaotic collection of mismatched teacups and saucers inherited from your great-grandmother looks more Hoarders than home sweet home. “I like to see a nice, clean and organized, elegant, understated china cabinet,” Nazzaro says. “It speaks to how entertaining will go.” Pare down and clean out, and store items you don’t really need right now, using china cases designed for the job.
3. Liven up the laundry room.
It goes without saying that drip-drying your unmentionables during an open house probably won’t get the place sold. But put extra effort into transforming the room where the dullest household chore takes place to show buyers that your laundry room is a place of peace, not punishment. Use apothecary jars to hold wooden clothespins and powdered laundry detergent, clear everything else off the shelves and lay down a small, plush area rug. “Who lives like that?” Nazzaro asks. “Not too many people! But we’re trying to tell a story.”
4. Tidy the kitchen cabinets.
Yes, house-hunters will open and close your kitchen cabinets a half-dozen times during walk-throughs. Clear out the clutter — you’ll have to pack up that fondue set sooner or later! — and make sure pots and pans are sparkling clean and in their place.
5. Scale back on photos and wall hangings.
Remove any family photos (visitors want to envision their family in the home, not yours) and any art that might evoke a strong reaction. “Religious icons and anything that really reflects a personal taste should go,” Nazzaro says, recalling a client whose basement was filled with nude sketches. “They were probably very expensive,” she says, “but I said, ‘These have to go!’”
6. Add a bed skirt.
Nobody wants to inspect your slipper collection or your dust-bunny farm. “A dust ruffle or bed skirt is an absolute MUST.” Nazzaro laughs, “I’ve worked with bachelors who don’t know what they are. But a bed skirt is a finishing touch that completes a room.”
7. …And while you’re at it, change your comforter or duvet.
Nazzaro recommends a solid, neutral-color comforter or duvet, and a tasteful arrangement of throw pillows and blankets. “Make the bed look luxurious.”
8. Round up the kid stuff.
Have a mountain of craft supplies in the dining room, or a giant table for the little one’s train set in the center of the living room? That only tells potential buyers that your home’s too small for a family. Start packing early, and box up the Barbie dolls and board games first.
9. Beautify bedroom closets.
Again, the idea is to make the space feel like there’s ample storage; the closets shouldn’t appear overstuffed. Get rid of lonely wire hangers, neatly fold and stack clothing and clear all but essentials off the tops of shelves. Store most nonhanging clothes and accessories in pretty bins — “Not an old wooden crate,” Nazzaro advises (or — the horror! — old milk crates you used in your dorm). Metal cubes are fine in the kids’ rooms, she adds, but not the master closet, which should feel more upscale.
10. Don’t forget the basement and the attic.
Many potential buyers will want to poke around. Nazzaro has heard of buyers who ask for a ladder so they can climb into the attic — which means that staging your house by stuffing your belongings into the attic or the basement will backfire. It’s better to store your items attractively, or simply get them out of the house.