Excerpt from Chapter One: Staging Your Home for Top Dollar
A few years ago, a client came into my office with a problem. His home had been on the market for almost two years without selling. He had tried four different real estate companies and a variety of marketing programs and nothing was working. The Realtors he worked with kept trying to get him to lower his price, believing that was the only solution to selling the home, but he owed too much to bring the home down to the level his most recent Realtor had suggested. His job transfer was only weeks away, and he was desperate for help.
Before I went to the property, I looked over the listing information and it appeared to be a very nice home that was priced correctly based on the current real estate market-it had over four thousand square feet of living space on two acres of land with an in-ground pool. It was actually quite a package for the price compared to other similar properties in the area. When I arrived at the home, I determined the problem was not the asking price, but rather the staging of the home.
The home was intentionally hidden by huge trees in the front to obscure the home from the road. While this accomplished the owner's goal of having privacy and seclusion from curious eyes, it did not fit with most buyers' desire to have sharp curb appeal.
Walking into the home felt like walking back in time. Although this was an extremely well-constructed home, it was built in 1969, and the decorating was original. While buyers will overlook some things and are usually willing to do some redecorating to their tastes-in terms of the paint color on the walls or the color of the carpets-almost no buyer will purchase a home he or she feels needs to be completely remodeled unless he or she gets a true premium on the price.
Upon first entering the home, a potential buyer would walk into an enormous living room with narrow yellow pine floors and white walls-a very 1970s look. To further exacerbate the problem, the front door was at the far corner of the living room, and the ceilings in the room were lower than normal-under eight feet. The room appeared awkward and rather than giving the appearance of a spacious living room, it appeared to be a long, generic room.
As buyers turned toward the kitchen they found green oak cabinets that were probably very expensive in the 1970s. However, thirty years later, this was probably where the seller was losing most of the buyers. Every buyer who came through the house for the first two years it was on the market would say there is too much work to be done because the first two rooms they looked at both needed updates.
The bright side of the home was that it had spacious bedrooms with hardwood floors, a walk-out lower level, a beautiful private backyard, and plenty of closet space. Unfortunately, the initial impression the potential buyers had entering the home negatively impacted their view of the rest of the property.
We solved the problem for less than $300, and sold the home in six weeks for full price without reducing it like the prior Realtor wanted to. First, in order to change the initial impression buyers had when walking into the home, we asked the owner to place a mauve-colored area rug-a simple inexpensive carpet remnant-in the middle of the living room, leaving hardwood exposed around the edge, yet updating the colors. Then, we had the owner wrap the room in a black and mauve wallpaper border, which took only twenty minutes for the owner to install and yet made a big difference in the appearance of the room. The border helped to pull the mauve out of the carpeting. The final touches in the living room were mere furniture rearrangements. When I had first viewed the home, I did not realize that there was a pair of windows directly across from the front door. These windows looked out over the backyard, a highlight of the property. The owner, however, had chosen to place large furniture in front of the windows, obscuring them from the view of potential buyers. By removing the furniture, a buyer entering the home immediately looked across the room at the expanse of yard behind the home.
Other changes we made included asking the owner to remove and cut back some of the trees in front of the house and to place flowers and add some color in the kitchen. A new country tablecloth with red in it helped to complement the green cabinets. Matching hand towels were hung from two cabinets. Bright flowers and table settings helped the buyers' eyes to focus in a different direction than directly at the cabinets, and they brightened the room. The last addition was some decorative towels in the bathrooms. A few hours of work and a few hundred dollars probably saved that home seller ten thousand dollars or more.