HOUSE MARKET: Sprucing it up really pays off
“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare once wisely mused, and that timeless maxim applies especially when it comes to homes for sale.
According to statistics compiled by the U.S. National Association of Realtors, homeowners who spend the extra time and money to “stage” their home — essentially, to make it look like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine — typically sell their homes for seven to 11 per cent more than non-staged homes, and in half the time.
“If you stage it and you play up your home’s good features, you’ll get a faster sale, very likely with multiple offers, which of course means you’ll get a higher selling price,” explains Brent Melnychuk, an interior decorator with 17 years experience who stages homes for Vancouver-based staging firm Dekora.
“How much time it takes depends on how much of a junk collector you are. I would say in most cases, anywhere from two to four weeks.”
For the uninitiated, the prospect of undertaking such painstaking prep work can seem both daunting and expensive. But the first thing anxious deed-holders should remember, Melnychuk says, is that it’s worth it.
Serious sellers, he says, should consider spending at least one to two per cent of their asking price to get their place ready for market.
Melnychuk’s No. 1 tip for owners attempting their own staging is to break out the elbow grease — either their own or by hiring a cleaning service.
“People generally don’t clean their houses thoroughly enough, and buyers look in every nook and cranny,” he says. “They open closets and cabinets . . . and they’ll look in every drawer.”
Next on his long list of selling no-nos is too much clutter. “I bet most people could remove a third of what they have in their rooms,” Melnychuk says, adding that moving is the best time to purge build-ups of belongings anyway.
One of the other basic mistakes motivated sellers make is not taking the time to do the little, irksome home repairs that they’ve never bothered with — but that might really bother some prospective buyers.
“Small things really do make a difference, so if there are light switches or door knobs that aren’t working, fix them, because buyers will flip on all the switches and try everything to make sure it works, and if a light bulb is out they might go, ‘well, what else isn’t working?’” the designer explains.
And, finally, he says, it is absolutely essential to de-personalize the space. That means taking down all your family photos and painting over that brash red feature wall you love so much because ultimately, buyers are looking for a place they can personalize for themselves.
“You want the buyer to envision themselves living in the space,” says Melnychuk. “You want to neutralize your colours so they appeal to the widest possible demographic, because if you neutralize it there’s nothing to complain about.”
Once you’ve done the big clean-up and you’re staring at a blank canvas, it’s time to get creative.
“You do want to add punches of colour. If you have a neutral or taupe sofa, you can easily put some ruby red cushions on it, or add a vase of red tulips on the coffee table,” Melnychuk says. “So it’s really about suggestion. You don’t want to have too much of a good thing.”
He says a house with ample lighting and furniture also always sells much quicker, and for more than a vacant one, because buyers often need a visual aid to help them imagine what and where furniture could go and are instinctively drawn to brighter spaces.