Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but not when it comes to real estate. Viewing a number of high-end properties in recent weeks brought this fact home to me again: Every property needs to be dressed for success. Editing and staging completely transform a property’s curb appeal, especially during those first crucial minutes. I have told my agents for years that buyers don’t necessarily know what they want to buy right away, but it takes no more than a minute for them to know what they don’t want to buy. It’s quite easy to make sure your listing doesn’t fall into the latter category. Even after 40 years in the business, I can still be thrown off by old grey furniture, empty bookshelves, sallow carpeting or dirty windows.
Here are a few ideas on how to make sure new listings entice:
Clean it up. It’s remarkable how many messy and/or dirty properties I have walked into in my career. Any agent who allows this to happen in a property they represent should be fired! There should be no dishes in the sink or on the counters. Nothing should be strewn on the floors, which should be polished so they shine. Rugs and carpets should be washed or, when beyond hope, discarded. And please, wash the windows!
Paint it white. Or off-white. The walls should be pale and uniform to create as bright a feel as possible. I like an eggshell finish because it has a soft glow.
Strip it down. Sellers don’t see their home the way we see it as professionals. They need our help to turn it from a highly personal home into a marketable product. Remove clutter from the tables and bookshelves. Make sure the closets are only half-full so they look bigger. Take away about 80 percent of family photos (I like to leave a few; they create a homey vibe.) Once these steps are taken, it becomes easier to evaluate the furniture. Antique (or as it’s now known, brown) furniture doesn’t create the feeling most buyers are looking for – even the highest quality antiques still look like Grandma’s house. Furniture should define the rooms but not fill them. Often it’s best to stage the property with rented pieces which feel contemporary and unobtrusive.
Use color as an accent. Few buyers are seeking a home in which orange and purple are the primary paint colors. The same goes for electric yellow and avocado; in fact, just about any color associated with a Formica color from the 1950s probably doesn’t belong on the walls of a home which comes on the market. But color does have value as an accent. Sofa pillows, a colorful piece of art in an otherwise neutral room, even a pair of brightly colored chairs enliven a space without overwhelming it.
Lay out your tour. Every property has good and bad features. One purpose of the above list is to emphasize the good while minimizing the bad. Just today, I advised an agent to put sheer curtains on a pair of dining room windows facing a wall only a few feet away. Laying out the most positive route to take buyers through a listing is a critical aspect of the agent’s job. Always try to get the buyer focused on one of the property’s good points within a few moments of the buyer’s entry into the unit – these can be a view, architectural details, light, or an exquisite renovation detail. The showing route should be designed to highlight the property’s strong points while relegating its weaker ones to secondary status.
Every home that agents sell has good and bad points in some balance. Clearly, it’s easier to sell the ones in which the good overwhelms the bad. But not every listing is that way. Using the methods described above can help agents and owners reimagine the spaces they sell as products which require strong visual marketing. The buyer’s eye must be brought to appreciate a property’s assets while concentrating less on its deficits. It’s the first step on the way to a sale.