Now that real estate seems to be the hot topic these days (what with the mortgage bust and the major shift in the real estate market), more people are thinking about selling their homes. Now everyone knows that you can’t put your house on the market, fling the doors open, and expect interested buyers to come streaming in and handing you cash. It requires a little more effort than that. The market is a little shaky right now, and the competition is pretty fierce. You want your property to shine above the others. So everyone knows that much. The real question is HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
Have you ever heard of the book, Dress Your House for Success? It was written 20 years ago, a groundbreaking book, way before its time. It’s a book about the art of “home staging,” which is preparing your home to look, smell, and feel attractive to prospective buyers. It was written by Martha Webb, author and home staging expert. I got the chance to ask Ms. Webb a few questions about home staging, especially for the renovator who has an older home. Her answers are very insightful; some surprised me. Here’s the interview:
Mrs. Mecomber: What are the worst things you’ve seen some homeowners do when trying to sell their house?
Martha Webb: Do nothing, or believe that lived in is good enough for selling. Fail to pay attention to the basics – clean, clutter and odor free, in good repair.
Mrs. Mecomber: When I was looking for a house, over decade ago, it seemed that people were not averse to buying a “fixer-upper.” Does this hold true today?
Martha Webb: No, there are so many properties on the market that are phenomenal deals, there isn’t the reason to buy a fixer upper to get sweat equity. Also, today’s buyers (average age 39) have less time and money to fix up a property. With all the competition for buyers, they need only look around the corner for a house that won’t require time, work or money.
Mrs. Mecomber: Do perennial gardens add much to the emotional value of a home? In your opinion, about how much emotional value would a garden (or gardens) have, overall?
Martha Webb: A garden (perennial or well-landscaped) tells buyers that the house has been well cared for. The garden can add to the “homey” feel of a property and may be an added benefit to some; to others, they may not want the work to maintain it. If the gardens exist, sellers should make sure they are well-manicured to add to the charm of the house, not elicit the response of work. If there are not gardens, I would not recommend spending money to install them.
Mrs. Mecomber: What are most prospective buyers looking for the most when walking through a prospective home?
Martha Webb: Research has shown that buyers’ first impression have to do with the basics of cleanliness, clutter and repair, which translate to “well cared for,” “spacious,” and “no work.” They also want the “homey” feel, but are less likely to be able to describe that; they recognize it when they feel it – and that where staging comes in.
Mrs. Mecomber: What are some inexpensive “props” or techniques for staging a home?
Martha Webb: Entry: make sure that you show some elegance or style – possible a half-round table, artwork, a mirror, flowers
Kitchen: show more than an organized space, include a hint of entertaining or family gathering: a cookbook, serving dish, fruit arrangement
Bath: counter the cold of tile with a fabric shower curtain and matching rug, stacked or rolled towels and a packaged spa-like soap or bath product
Bedrooms: add comfort and relation with pillows and throws, a book on a nightstand
I really appreciate Martha Webb taking the time to answer my questions. Someday I hope to sell my own house, and I’ll come back to these tips and the ones in her books.
I’ve been through a lot of homes, and the one thing that strikes me just as much as the appearance of the home is the smell. I have a very sensitive nose (more women than men do, too). If I smell stale cigarettes or mildew or dog, that’s a REAL turn off. You can count on me turning down the house. So I recommend eradicating the sourest smells from the home before showing the home. For other smells, like cooking oil (another smell that makes me wretch), burning toast, or an oddball stinky sneaker that one of the kids left in the front entry, I recommend the new Febreze candle. I have used the Apple & Spice and I am nuts about it. I have four kids, a cat, and a bird in the house. I NEED these candles. They have a special core that freshens the air while the colored section fills the house with frangrance. The Apple & Spice is sooo good, and I love to burn them during the winter months. It just makes the house feel warmer.
I hope these tips help you! And really, even if you aren’t selling your home, you can always do yourself a favor by staging your home for yourself! The holidays are coming up, so this is actually a terrific time to pamper the family and spruce up the place for them.