Five Things That Bug Buyers

Friday, April 12, 2024

Have you ever fallen in love with someone because of the little things that person did, or had? A glance, a touch, a scent? Or avoided befriending someone whose little habits bothered you? Yeah, that happens with homes on the market, too.

Little things, the details, can be what tip the scale towards a purchase offer. By definition, details are small facts or features. And a collection of your home's details determine just how desirable your property is to buyers. So, let's review some of the details that home sellers commonly ignore, but that bother homebuyers.

Cluttered closets

Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of home staging, go through your home and decide what you don't need in the months ahead. Keep what looks great and functions well, whatever makes your home look prettier and more liveable. I've blogged about how to make decluttering easier.

Having too many belongings in plain sight makes rooms feel cluttered and chaotic. You can't stash excess in your closets, but you can store them offsite. Remove items like family photos, religious items, sports teams' and political posters, and other personal or controversial belongings.

If you're not sure what size unit to rent temporarily, here's a handy guide that gives formulas for deciding how much storage space you'll need.

Buyers have a right to look into cabinets. They want to see what 
they are paying for. Can your shelves look this neat? 

Nasty front door

If you think those buyers begin judging your home once they step inside, think again. That decision-making begins while they stand waiting as the Realtor punches in numbers to unlock the front door.

They are looking at your front door, up close. How does it look? Sometimes a paint job is just a paint job, and if your door shows signs of wear, fading, warping, poor sealing, or obsolescence, consider replacing it with a stylish and fully functioning one.

Today's doors look impressive, are more secure, and are easier to maintain than your grandma's front door. The money you spend on replacing your entry door has surprisingly an average return of 74.9% when you sell.

A front door is the smile on your house. It's part of curb appeal
 and where the judgments begin. Photo: Hidden Potential

Poor air quality 

Once buyers are inside your home, one of the first things they'll notice is how it smells. Lingering cooking aromas, pet smells, and mold or mustiness are the main offenders. While your home is on the market, you're going to have to be diligent about keeping these problems in check. These days, more people have allergies and chemical sensitivities, and more people have pets. Don't drive them away.

Start with a deep clean, and then don't mask problems with artificial fragrances. If the air ducts and heat exchangers in your home are clean your home will smell good and be healthier. Good airflow will guarantee that all smoke alarms function correctly, too.

The industry guidelines call for cleaning HVAC ductwork every three to five years. If you have systems like your home's heat exchanger cleaned as well, make the documentation of the work part of your sales package, so buyers know they will be saving $5,000 to $10,000 per year in energy expenses.

Dark rooms

Dimly lit spaces make any dwelling feel gloomy and uninviting. But a well-lit home feels welcoming and helps show off its best features. So, make sure to maximize natural lighting by leaving blinds and curtains open. I wrote my eBook, No-Sew Window Treatments to Stage Your Home specifically for budget-conscious, DIY homestagers.

Remember that you can't count on a real estate agent to turn on multiple floor and table lamps ahead of a showing. LED lights can come to your rescue because they use at least 75% less energy, so if you want to install them under your kitchen cabinets and leave them on, or leave table lamps on for the ambiance they create, don't feel like a spendthrift.

To avoid the cool look some LEDs emit, choose the warm-toned ones that emit light in the range of 2700 to 3000 Kelvin, imitating the cozy feeling of incandescent fixtures.

If the style of your home suggests it, skip the window dressing
and let the trim on windows and the windows themselves
be part of your homestaging. You'll get more light, and
buyers will easily be able to admire the views. Photo: BHG

Too many colors

No matter what your own palette preferences are, a home with a color scheme that's all over the map makes it hard for people to relax and enjoy the calm sense a home needs-- whether they are on tour, viewing your home online, or watching a video walk-through.

A simple color scheme makes your home look larger, cleaner, and newer. When each of your rooms has a different wall color, and you don't want to tackle the project yourself, it will pay you to hire painters.

The stats say you'll get a return on your painting investment of over 100%. Choose a paint color that harmonizes with your fixed features -- things like the counters, bath fixtures, and cabinets. Hire a painting company that has experienced and reliable workers, who don't get hurt on the job, who treat your home and you with respect, who stay with the job until it is finished, and who are treated well by their superiors, including fair pay. To simplify the painting, you may prefer to work with one individual instead of a crew. Your listing agent can be a source for a good painter.

By choosing a single color to paint your home's interior you'll save money. Buying paint in a 5-gallon size costs less than buying multiple colors in 1-gallon cans.

Most people dislike having to paint. Since color preferences are highly personal, it's unlikely that all the colors you like will be the preferences of a new owner. Many potential buyers will be dreading the thought of spending a few weekends painting some rooms the colors they prefer after they move in.

Having a unified, simple color scheme
that runs through your whole house makes
paint touch-ups simple and foolproof. 

Get the look, get the book

Do you want a buyer to fall in love with your home? Get the details right, and you'll see that generous purchase offer fast. When it's time to home stage, don't go it alone. You'll find all the advice you need on staging your home for the real estate market in my 155-page PDF, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You can download it now and start your staging today.

Best Tips for Staging an Empty House

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Are you faced with selling a vacant home? Perhaps you've already moved and your former home is still sitting empty on the market. Or you inherited a house with no furnishings. Or bought a house to fix and flip.

I'm here to encourage you to stage that home before you list it. I've heard some home buyers say, "Staging isn't important to me. I want to see the bones of a house, unadorned." 

Okay, but statistics prove that staged homes sell faster and for more money

If you have an empty house to take to market don't feel that your back is against the (bare) wall.  I am going to show you how to make an empty home a profitable home. 

You might choose to rent just a few pieces of classic 
furniture and then fill in with soft textiles
like bedding and draperies. Photos: Andrew Howard

Consider your options

If you have relocated a considerable distance away, and if you need the property to sell quickly, and time is more important than money right now, virtual staging might be your best route. The average cost of virtual staging for a vacant home ranges from $2,900 to $5,250. Your cost would depend on the size of your home, the quality and number of images, and the style of your home. 

The disadvantage to virtual staging is that when buyers arrive on site, they may be disappointed that the home is empty, lacks any charm, and has an echo.

You could also consider rental furniture. The average cost of renting furniture in an average home is about $3,000 per month, often with a 3-month minimum. Your cost would depend on the number and size of rooms you have and where you live. 

The disadvantages to renting furniture are the unknown factor of how long you need the service, the lack of choices, and the absence of those extra details that give a room character. 

Often sellers can leave some pieces of furniture behind temporarily. I've done this myself when moving locally. 

After you are sure you have a problem-free structure you can
start dressing it up to impress buyers.
Be sure to include simple touches like foliage and
mirrors in your props. Photo: Pottery Barn   

Where to begin

The nitty-gritty of home staging begins after you've taken care of any upgrades you know will give a good return on your investment. Any good real estate agent will advise you to have things like your HVAC system and plumbing checked. Is your roof in good shape? Are your windows up-to-date? These are the kinds of things serious home buyers, home inspectors, and lenders care about.      

Knowing that your home's infrastructure is sound, you can begin the fun of staging it! 

Paint might wisely be the first thing that comes to mind. From my years as a professional housepainter, I know that an empty home is far, far easier to paint than an occupied one. Whether you paint just the walls, or just the trim, or both, and whether you make it a DIY project or hire it out, it will pay for itself. A freshly painted house feels and looks new and clean -- just what buyers like. 

To stretch your budget, decide which rooms are your best features and focus on those. Ideally, you will leave no room unstaged, but if you must let some remain unstaged, stage the foyer or the first room buyers will see, and at least the primary bedroom, and the living room. A kitchen and bath can usually get by with a thorough cleaning and some attractive accessories. 

Do not put just a bed, or just a chair, or just a desk in an otherwise empty room. That's just depressing! Either leave it empty, or else bring in enough furnishings to make it look like someone could just move in.   

Second-string players will be other bedrooms, your dining room and a home office. A flex room that can serve as a TV room, bedroom, or home office will get the attention of buyers. 

If your target market includes couples planning to start a family, and you have multiple bedrooms, consider staging one as a children's room or a nursery painted in kid-friendly neutral colors.  

You have a number of ways to bring in serious 
 furniture pieces. Having large scale furnishings like 
these gives a high end look. Photo: Britt Design Studio

Room by room

A living room needs a few necessary pieces. They are -- a couch, two additional seats, some side tables or a central coffee table, and some lamps. 

If you don't have these essentials can you borrow them from a friend or relative? Another option is to buy second-hand pieces on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or a local listserve. You'll find remarkable bargains there. And you can resell these pieces once the home is sold. 

Don't shun second-hand furniture. I've blogged about how to shop in thrift stores and how to shop garage sales to get the best deals. 

A bedroom needs a bed (a real one or a make-believe bed) that centers the room, a nightstand or two, and a lamp or two. Depending on the room size, you might also use a bench, dresser, or chair. 

An entry area needs a mirror, and if there is room, a console table. 

Finishing touches  

Of course, you don't want your rooms to look like a furniture showroom or an unoccupied dorm room. What's called for are the details that breathe life into a space. 

Don't forget the impact that living or faux plants
add to staged rooms. An extra large potted 
plant like this can fill an empty corner.  

Add greenery or flowers -- real or fake -- to every room. Use Command hooks to hang large art on walls. Soften the feel of couches and beds with throws and pillows. Add some books on shelves or tables. Corral small objects on trays or baskets. Use a rug to tie any furniture arrangement together. Add window treatments, even if they are just budget curtains from Walmart or IKEA. 

An uninhabited house can be a target for vandals and thieves. Some smart home sellers arrange for a housesitter to occupy the home while it is being sold, and you might consider this plan if you can vet the housesitter. I've blogged about how to make sure your house stays safe and about the various home security systems available today.  

You've got this! Just focus on the additions that add perceived value to your property.                

Get the look, get the book

A Realtor once told me, "If it's clean and priced right, it will sell." Yes, but will it sell for the best price possible? An unstaged house is a missed opportunity to earn money. So, don't list that vacant home when you have options. 

My eBook will give you many more tips on making your home the one that beats the competition. Don't leave this page without downloading my homestaging eBook, Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's the only guide you'll need to learn how to maximize your budget and time when you stage a home for sale.

5 Ways to Impress Your Realtor

Monday, February 12, 2024

Listing with a real estate company is like asking someone to go steady with you. You're trusting that it will be an enjoyable friendship.  

But, you're not in high school anymore, so let's get smart about thinking ahead. Let's make sure your listing agent and you have an honest and mutually profitable relationship.  

Here are five ways to guarantee your Realtor will be impressed with both you and your home, so that she's glad to be working with you!

Schedule an inspection

The best way to get ready for selling (besides staging your home!) is to hire a home inspector. Realtors love a pre-inspected home. 

Most buyers will hire their own professional inspection because their lender will require it.  For every black mark a buyer sees on an inspection report, the price and his enthusiasm go down.  

By hiring an inspector before you list, you're ahead of the game. There are plenty of DIY fixes you can do yourself or that can be tackled by an experienced handyman. Check faucets and drains, the toilets, your doorbell, all lights, the thermostat, and any appliances that will convey. Here is a checklist of what inspectors look for.  

Good curb appeal is what tells buyers it's worth 
looking at the details, whether they drive by or see it online. 

Know what her rules are

Any healthy relationship depends on good communication. Know how your agent will contact you -- by phone call or text or another notification system. How does she feel about you showing the home yourself if friends or neighbors show interest in buying it?  Will she give you feedback after she shows it to clients? 

Ask about your agent's marketing plan so you know what's expected of you. Does she plan an open house? (Most agents don't do this anymore.) Does she prequalify her clients so she knows they are not just looky-loos? Does she want your home to be available for short-notice showings? Do your pets have to vacate for viewings? Does she expect fresh floral arrangements in your house every week? Working closely with your listing agent will increase the likelihood of a clear and friendly ongoing relationship.

Flowers and plants are a must for homestaging.
It's your choice whether you use real or fake ones,
or a mix of both in each arrangement.
Diane at In My Own Style blog decorated her foyer
with these silk peonies, but added water
to the vase for a touch of reality

View your house online

If you have not done this yet, Google your address and see what comes up. Correct any mistakes in your info if you can on the owner's online dashboard. Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia make it fairly easy., not so much. Is the square footage correct? Are the numbers for baths and bedrooms correct? Those are the most important stats online that home shoppers check. 

Are the photos in your present listing out of date? If the online photos are unflattering or too private, delete them. Make sure the profile photo is fairly recent and shows good curb appeal, even if once you're planning to have professional photos taken once you list.  

Sometimes older photos of your home appear online. 
Or your Realtor may judge your home from its
previous condition. Be the PR agent for your property!

While you're researching your own home online, check who your competition will be. It's easy to do by entering a few facts about your own home as though you were a shopper, and see what pops up in your area and price range. Doing this will help you have a realistic conversation with your listing agent about how to market your home. 

Remember, there may be benefits your home or neighborhood has that your listing agent may not know about. Check your listing before it goes live. Get in the driver's seat instead of signing off on all decisions. I have previewed and then rewritten the real estate sales copy of some of my homes once I saw what my well-meaning but naive Realtor wrote.   

Be clear on what conveys

I will assume that you plan to stage your home. Not all real estate agents know the value of staging. Hire one who will support your decision. Make sure your agent knows what stays with the property so she can do an accurate listing. Often appliances such as washers and dryers, microwaves, closet shelving, hot tubs, pools, outdoor sheds, playsets, and outdoor ornaments are negotiable items.

Some sheds are portable and some are stationary.
If you have a shed, let your listing agent know
whether it conveys. Photo: Lowes

It's smart to let your agent know when some of the furniture is rented. Often people purchasing a second home or one they plan to use as a short-term rental (Airbnb or VRBO) are eager to buy the whole package! I like to work with a small local rental company if additional furnishings are necessary. They are more likely than a major chain to offer flexible, friendly service. I'm more aware than ever of things like delayed deliveries, complicated contracts, and data breaches that can occur with larger corporations.

Price it fairly

Be realistic about the value of your home. Listen to your agent and don't be greedy, but don't underestimate its attributes. Your Realtor should show you comparable properties -- on paper or online. Since location is a major puzzle piece for establishing a fair asking price, educate yourself by driving by homes comparable to yours to judge the neighborhoods' amenities, and compare them to yours.  

Tell your agent what improvements you have made and what they cost. Get as specific as possible. Give her details like the brands of appliances and the dates of upgrades. A Realtor has a job to do, and I have learned that if you can make someone's job easier, you have made a friend. 

A broker is trained to negotiate, so give her
some variables. If she brings an offer that
is below your asking price, offer to leave
the washer and dryer, or other appliances
to sweeten the deal. Photo: Erin Kelly

My advice is not to boast or go into detail about any home improvement projects you have done yourself. You may be proud of the shelves you built or the bathroom you painted, but agents and buyers are more impressed when they think all improvements are professionally done. It shows you invested money in your property rather than go the DIY route.  

You can still brag about your home. Remember that you don't have to discuss problems or defects. There's no gain for you in mentioning that the neighbor's dog barks, or that cable service is problematic, or that someone has died in the home, or you suspect there are some lead pipes, or that you're strapped for money. An agent is legally obligated to reveal to interested buyers what she knows of defects, if asked. Just deliver the good news without lying.   

But, in the end, let the broker be the one that sets the price. If you have conveyed info accurately, the ball is then in her court. You hired an expert, so let her earn her commission. 

Get the look, get the book

Don't leave without downloading my eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You can start your staging today! Remember, staged homes sell faster and for more money than unstaged homes. What are you waiting for?! 

Top Photo: Kim Scodro Interiors

Don't Believe These DIY Homestaging Myths

Saturday, December 16, 2023

So you've decided to sell your home. And you've heard the buzz about how important home staging is. 

But when you see how "reality" TV portrays home staging, you're probably thinking that staging your own home will require money, expertise, and time that you don't have. 

The truth is you can stage your own home and do it beautifully, efficiently, and economically. Don't be misled by common misconceptions about DIY home staging.   

Myth 1: Home staging is time-consuming

Time is precious, and most of us have tight schedules. But if you are living in your home while you prepare it for sale, you can use time to your advantage. You can work at your own pace instead of creating a one-day wonder!

Time is also on your side because you've spent so much time there already. Who better than you to know what's special about your own home? Your listing agent or a professional stager may not think to emphasize some of its best features like the view from your bedroom window or how ideal the patio is for entertaining. 

When you stage, focus on those features you love, especially in the living room, kitchen, and primary bedroom -- the rooms that are most important to buyers. Your goal is to create a clean, spacious, welcoming atmosphere where buyers can easily see themselves living. 

The best place to start is with my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to  Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's a treasure trove of ideas, formulas, lists, and plans to set you on the path and follow you all the way to listing your property!  

Myth 2: Staging is expensive

Don't let those homes staged by Joanna Gaines and the Property Brothers make you think you need a monster budget. There are plenty of budget-friendly DIY tips and tricks that can work wonders. Repurpose and rearrange your furniture, pare down your belongings, make minor repairs, clean, and you'll have a buyer-ready home without draining your bank account. 

Simple steps like decluttering and a good cleaning
are the perfect start to staging your home.
And these steps don't cost anything! Photo: Angi

According to, the cost of professional staging for an average American home is between $2,000 and $2,400. You can save the expense of professional staging by doing it yourself at your pace with your furnishings and still reap the rewards of staging. Remember, staged homes sell faster and sell for 25% more money than unstaged homes. Your staged home will be ready to impress buyers. It will look better in your online photographs, so you'll attract more people. Unless you tackle major remodeling (not a good idea) whatever you might spend for staging will come back to you at the closing table.   

If you decide to buy any furnishings or decor items for your staging, consider them either as investmernt pieces you can use in your next home, or else items that you can sell on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, NextDoor, or other local listserves. 

Often the best homestaging calls for just furniture re-arranging, maybe a new lamp, or some plants, and some fresh curtains and slipcovers like the ones in the top photo.  

Repurposing items you already own is one of the 
best ways to stay on budget. This tablecloth could be 
hiding an old bistro table from outdoors or a table made 
  from a bar stool and a round of plywood. Photo: Calico

Myth 3: It requires professional expertise

While a professional stager has her own bag of tricks, you can use the same tricks to make your home appealing to potential buyers. Even if you think you don't have a creative bone in your body or an "eye for decor" you can still imitate what works in homes that look beautiful in their online listings. 

So, peruse those listings and see what your competition is doing right. Study the homes in your locale at your price point. Also, you can train your eye about what's trendy and tasteful and balanced by looking at professional decorators' online portfolios. But don't be intimidated by fancy homes that are not in your market. Be realistic about what your buyers want     

If you are old enough to own a home of your own, you are old enough to have acquired the experience and know-how in other fields that will help you stage. I have already blogged about how to use the skills you have to stage your own home. 

Whatever pairs of decor items you have 
should be displayed in the same room.
These matched dressers, lamps, and pillows 
help this small bedroom look larger, pulled
together, and deliberate. Photo: Kate Lester

Myth 4: Staging is just for vacant houses

It's a common belief that staging is only necessary for empty homes. Staging is crucial to every home unless you want to attract "bottom feeders" looking for a fixer-upper or neglected property. 

Statistics say that the more time potential buyers spend when they tour a particular home on the market, the more likely they are to submit a purchase offer. And people linger longer in staged homes than they do in a vacant property.    

A well-staged home looks lived in, but lived in by people with an enviable lifestyle. When you stage, you'll be removing whatever looks messy or poor quality and showcasing what looks luxurious and clean. It's a little like going on a diet -- it's more important to eliminate some things than what you add to the mix!  

In a nutshell, home staging is a fantastic tool you don't want to ignore. Common misconceptions shouldn't stand in your way. Even on a budget and with a tight schedule, you can make your home look great online and IRL. My homestaging eBooks and this blog have helped thousands of people like you make their homes sell fast for a price they love. Download now and start your staging journey. 

Top Photo: Pink and Polka Dot   

How to Create Rooms that Look Comfortable

Thursday, November 30, 2023

If there is one trait that well-staged homes share it's a comfortable, relaxed feeling. It's the look that makes people feel they've entered a space where they are welcome to stay and enjoy. Does your home have that vibe?

Any home -- no matter the age, style, or price tag -- can achieve this look. Here are the five  steps to create this enviable appearance.  

Set the stage 

Your first step is to arrange your existing furniture to look ever so comfy! 

The best way to do this is by using oversized pieces of upholstered seating. Consider moving some of your largest pieces of furniture into the rooms that are the most important, or the room that buyers first see when they enter the house. It may not be the way you live now, but it will go a long way to creating a relaxed first impression. 

Another trick that experienced stagers and decorators use is to create snug conversation areas that make people feel comfortable. Chairs and couches should be situated so people don't have to shout to converse. A common furniture arranging mistake is to leave all chairs in the living room facing the television. Instead, arrange seating opposite or diagonally, the way you would if you had girlfriends over for drinks!

Next, check the traffic paths that wind through your home. Make sure they are wide and obvious so people touring your home instinctively know where to walk next. I've written about how to do this in my eBook, How to Arrange Furniture -- A Guide to Arranging Furniture Using What You Have. It's full of other important tips to make your rooms look both larger and more comfortable. 

This furniture grouping makes it look like
conversation would be easy. Meredith Brie via BHG

Add your details  

The next step will be to remove whatever reveals too much of your private life. Because your home is familiar and personal to you, you're already comfy there. But to those people shopping for their next home, nothing is familiar. Put them at ease by removing distractions and surprises like your favorite knick-knacks. It's called decluttering, but it could be called de-personalizing. Decluttering makes it easy for buyers to visualize your rooms as their rooms.

While you are packing up belongings that you need to store, consider using a moving company until your actual moving day to store some of your belongings -- whatever doesn't contribute to great home staging. Most professional movers like to have a few months advance notice, so plan ahead if possible. 

Now you're ready to replace those personal items with decor items that have universal appeal. Everyone loves candles, so that's a sure bet. Another sure thing is books. They are perfect space fillers for shelves that you've emptied of things like family photos, souvenirs, and awards. Ceramics are another good choice, whether vases, planters, candle holders, bowls, or plates. 

This mantle arrangement looks interesting because 
it displays different textures. The stones, basket, 
candles, wood risers, grasses, and flowers all
contribute to the mix. Photo: In My Own Style

Choose the right colors and textures

Aim for calming colors like light neutrals and pastels. Soft colors promote relaxation, something essential for bedrooms. You can always accent your decor with bright colors in small doses to breathe some life into rooms. 

Pay attention to the textures of your decor props. For soothing textures, count on things like plush pillows, fuzzy throws, soft rugs, woven headboards, and lush foliage. Here's a great post from StoneGable blog about choosing and arranging throw pillows for your sofa.      

Keep the temperature comfy

A comfortable room temperature creates a sense of well-being. As soon as prospective buyers enter through your front door, they should feel that the house is neither too hot nor too cold. Even minor discomfort could raise a red flag about the efficiency of your HVAC.

If your heating and cooling system is inefficient, noisy, or creates any off-odors, it's probably time for a maintenance review by a local company. They will check your filters, fans, thermostat, ductwork, and heating and cooling units to make sure a home inspection doesn't stall a good purchase offer. Often a small fix makes a big difference.   

Creat ambiance with lights 

Harsh interior lighting is stressful. You want good overall, ambient light throughout your home, with puddles of light here and there. It will look cozier if you use warm-toned LED lights rather than cool ones. If you have fluorescent lights, you can replace them with a more flattering, energy-efficient fixture. 

Look for places in your rooms where you can add a floor lamp or even a small table lamp. You can also add a touch of delicate elegance or whimsy with string lights and other decorative lighting for both interior and exterior spaces. Inexpensive light fixtures and lamps are easy to find at second-hand stores. Habitat for Humanity's ReStores always have reliable lamps and lights.   

This bedroom has good natural lighting, but it gets spots   
of artificial lighting from a ceiling fixture, two bedside lamps,
and a floor lamp in the corner. Destination Lighting

All of these tricks will make your home look clean, serene, relaxing, and welcoming. And none of them take a major investment for the payoff they give. Try it and you'll see it's not difficult to make your house look more marketable both IRL and online.

Top Photo: Crystal Emotion 

Let Your Landscape Sell Your Home

Thursday, September 28, 2023

If you are staging your home to sell it, you might have heard and read tons of advice about making the interior of your home more desirable to buyers. 

But, let's take a moment to consider how the area around your house can be part of your appeal. 

There's a sweet spot between having a manicured landscape full of blooming plants, various shrubs and medium to tall trees, and at the other end of the spectrum, a yard devoid of any interesting features. You want a home's surroundings to be attractive without it looking like a maintenance nightmare. 

Here are some steps to take to help you groom your landscape to impress any buyer.     

Rent a pressure washer

Does your landscape have paved areas, such as a driveway, walkway, or fishpond? These hard areas are usually made of concrete, stone, or brick, and because they are exposed to the elements they collect moss, algae, dirt, grime, or mold. They can be unsightly and even unsafe. Let's clean them up!

Some homeowners own power washers. If you aren't one of these people, no problem. The pressure washers that equipment rental businesses supply are usually much more powerful than homeowner models. With a good power washer, the work will go quickly, whether you are cleaning up a driveway, sidewalk, fence, wooden deck, or the front porch. 

Using a pressure washer takes some getting used to, so practice first on an area that isn't front and center. Soon, you'll get into the technique of moving the wand and find that it's very satisfying to see what a difference it makes. 

Renting a pressure washer is a wise investment.
Almost every home's exterior benefits from
a thorough cleaning. Photo: Consumer Reports

 Add a fence

I am a lover of fences. Fences can help define a property, even if they don't enclose the whole yard. A small fence around a flower or vegetable garden, a play area for children, a dog run, or a front yard adds function and value to a home. Fences can provide privacy, dampen traffic sounds, hide a utility area where you store trash receptacles, and discourage vandals. 

Depending on the style and material of your fencing, it can help define the style of your home. A fence can also settle boundary disputes and let buyers know the perimeter of your property. According to Home Advisor, a fence can increase a home's value by $1,500 to $5,000.  

Consult some pros

If you contact a local Extension Service representative (it's free!) you will know what plants thrive and what plants struggle in your locale. Then you should have a better idea of anything that should be pruned or removed. After that, you might want to consult with an arborist. An arborist is a person who is trained to take care of trees and shrubs to keep them healthy, attractive, and safe.  

He'll know what kind of pruning any larger trees need.  Small shrubs and bushes like hollies, privet hedges, barberries, yews, forsythia, arborvitae, and rhododendrons can be shaped the way you like them to grow. 

Flowering shrubs like hydrangeas and these azaleas
need to be pruned at the correct time of year for
them to bloom the following year. Photo: Encore Azaleas.

If you have invasive or non-native plants like a Bradford  Pear tree, honeysuckle vines, or English ivy, an arborist might suggest removing them, and he'll know how best to do that. 

Consider a lawn care service

Whether your home sits in a woodsy area and has a naturalized setting, or a suburban area where all your neighbors have perfectly groomed yards, every home looks better when the owners take good care of it. If care of your land, whether a large tract of farmland or the yard around a small cottage, is more than you can handle, it might pay dividends to hire the experts. 

A lawn care service can do more than mow your lawn. They can remove fallen branches, edge around walkways, the driveway, and flower beds, blow leaves, and grass clippings away, kill weeds, and top-dress your beds with fresh mulch. These steps make a world of difference!     

Finish with flowers

Flowers bring life and color to your property. That's important. But don't think you have to create new flower gardens, installing expensive drifts of daylilies, daffodils, geraniums, and roses. When it's time to sell your home if you don't already have existing flower beds, potted plants are the answer. 

Buy what is in season at your local nursery or garden center. Do that before you have the real estate photographer come and the listing goes live. Look for brightly colored flowers in a coordinated color palette, and include a variety of textures. Use impressive pots. They don't need to be expensive ceramic ones. Today's plastic pots look fine, the bigger the better.  

If you live where winters are harsh, you can still use potted colorful painted branches or seasonal decorations to add color to your entrance. 

Flowers near your entrance make your profile photo
more interesting and are a wonderful way to greet 
home buyers.Photo and tips on planting: from Start at Home Decor

Get the look, get the book

You can't afford to neglect your home's landscape before putting it on the market. Spending some time and cash are the right steps to sell your home faster and more profitably. 

For more tips on selling your home fast for a price you like, download my Homestaging eBook. It's filled with all the tips, methods, shortcuts, encouragement, and budget-busting ways you can make your house more competitive in today's real estate market.

Six Easy Fixes to Guarantee a Smooth Home Sale

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Why do some homes linger on the market and others get multiple offers on day one? 

Maybe the listing price is inflated. Or maybe the location is a problem. 

But sometimes when a house doesn't sell it's details that turn buyers off. 

If you want your house to receive an offer for a price you love, and then to sail smoothly through the negotiations and inspections, make sure you don't ignore these six problems that have easy fixes. 

1. Danger signals

You want buyers to feel confident about your home's infrastructure and amenities. Don't let them wonder about basic necessities like electricity, water quality, and safety.

For example, if you bring bottled water in quantity to your home, and people touring your home see a supply of bottled spring water or purified water stored in your pantry, cabinets or garage, it gives the message that your tap water doesn't taste good or isn't healthy. They'll assume they will have to buy or filter their water. That's off-putting.

If you keep a space heater, a dehumidifier, an air purifier, or a large box fan in a room, buyers might assume there is a problem with heating, cooling, or poor air circulation in that area of the house. So, tuck these appliances out of sight if possible. 

If you have multiple security devices like window gates, deadbolts on exterior doors, and motion-activated cameras and lights, buyers will be concerned about safety. So, make sure your online listing mentions that the house is located in a desirable neighborhood.  

2. Deferred maintenance

Little things bother buyers. Are there any cracked window panes? Stains on the carpet? Cracks in the foundation? Any cabinets missing hardware?  Does the bathtub or shower area need tiles replaced or fresh grout or caulk? Does your roof have missing shingles or clogged gutters?  Any rotten boards in the siding? Loose boards on the deck? Tears in window screens? 

I always advise sellers to take care of these relatively inexpensive fixes because buyers will ask for repairs or discounts that will slow negotiations and cost you more in the end. 

Before your Realtor schedules a photographer, check that there are no red flags like these issues.

Buyers are especially particular about cleanliness
in bathrooms and kitchens. Fresh grout and caulk make these 
areas look more hygienic. Photo: Grout Masters 

3. Poor window treatments

Most buyers are looking for space when they plan to move. To make your rooms look bigger, have plenty of both artificial and natural lighting.

Don't cover your windows with heavy curtains and drapery. Simple curtains and blinds cost less money and look more contemporary than elaborate window treatments. Breezy, white drapes as shown in the top photo are often the perfect solution to replace your colorful window treatments that you want to take with you when you move. You can then list "all window treatments convey" on your MLS specs.

Make sure draperies and curtains are open for viewings, even though some photographers prefer to close window treatments for their photos. Buyers want to see the views.  

I also like the look of mini blinds or Venetian blinds in a home on the market. Blinds of 2-inch wide horizontal slats made from wood, plastic, or aluminum, are attractive and practical. There are plenty of styles to choose from, and you're bound to find versions priced low enough that you can leave them behind when you move. 

4. Not Clean Enough

No matter how beautiful your house is, you could turn off a potential buyer if your home looks unkempt. 

Prepping your home for the real estate market is the perfect time to schedule a professional deep cleaning of your home. Schedule it before your photos are taken. Professional cleaners will go over it from top to bottom.  Here's a handy checklist of what a deep cleaning includes

The professional cleaning will make your home sparkle, and free up time for you to concentrate on staging your property. 

A deep cleaning should follow any decluttering you
do because there's no sense in cleaning what doesn't stay 
in your house. A decluttered home will be easier 
to clean and keep clean. Photo: Family Handyman

5. Front door fail

First impressions are difficult to erase. That's s why curb appeal is crucial, especially around your front entrance, where buyers see things up close while their Realtor is dealing with the entry code. 

If you've arranged a deep cleaning, then the front door will be clean and ready for something extra to make your home memorable. It doesn't need to be extensive or expensive. Usually, a potted plant nearby and a seasonal wreath on the door are enough. 

If the door needs more than a cleaning, read my post about how to paint a door without taking it off its hinges. Choose a color that contrasts with the color of your siding.     

6. Unpleasant aromas

We all grow accustomed to the scents that fill our homes. But others will notice if the house has scents like mustiness, cooking, chemicals, or pets. That deep cleaning is going to go a long way, but then the ball is in your court. 

Don't let stinky stuff accumulate. Be extra diligent about taking out trash on a daily basis, or as often as needed. If you have pets, keep on top of any lingering odors from them, their toys, bedding, or litter box. 

Keeping pet odors at bay is crucial for homes on the market.
Some buyers could also have pet allergies. Photo: NBC. 

Don't try to mask aromas with chemical air fresheners, as these scents can be a trigger for chemically sensitive people and also a sign to others that you might be masking residual bad odors. 

Note that wastebaskets, compost buckets, and recycle bins can harbor aromas or attract pests like ants, roaches, or mice. So empty them often and consider using washable and lidded containers when practical.          

Get the look, get the book

None of these six steps to improving your home are major fixes. You can take care of them in one grand swoop or tackle them one at a time as you are planning your move. Don't leave before checking my home staging eBooks to see what else you can do to make your home the one that sells faster than your competition.  

Top Photo: Custom Drapery and Shades

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