As if shelling out thousands of dollars to remodel your kitchen wasn’t fun enough, you’re about to experience the best part of moving: the part where your house is on display for total strangers who come and go at all hours of the day. That’s right, you’ve reached the open house.
“Once you’ve made the decision to sell, your home isn’t your home anymore,” said Paul Orphanides, a realtor with RE/MAX of Ashburn. “It’s merchandise, and you have to treat it that way.”
While a seller’s initial impulse can be to show their home’s personality, Orphanides said, the most appealing homes are those in which the owner’s tastes are downplayed.
“A prospective buyer wants to visualize their family in that space, in that home,” Orphanides explained. “One or two family photos is okay, but nine or ten is not. When you have lots of pictures from all the years, from graduations other stuff, they can’t see themselves there. They see you.”
A home’s color scheme can play a large role in the way it’s perceived—with neutral tones like beige and off-white, “virtually any furniture works”—and one of the most critical aspects of presentation is one that many people don’t consider: lighting.
“Incandescent lighting is best,” Orphanides said. “Fluorescent lighting kills all warmth. Regular lighting has a reddish yellow temperature. It makes woods pop, and anything with a warm tone really comes alive. We all have what’s called a Kodak eye; Kodak film is biased towards red tones. Kodak wanted everybody to have a nice pink glow, and incandescent lighting has that same red tone. What it does for fabric and wood tones is great. Fluorescent lighting is a very green lighting. It’s horrible. It makes people look kind of yellow.”
Once the walls are painted and the mementoes tucked away, your realtor will give one piece of advice: clean.
“People aren’t looking to buy a dingy house,” said Bob Caines, another realtor with RE/MAX. “They’re looking for a fresh, bright, clean house. If you have dirty hardwood floors in the entrance people think about that before they see the backyard. They think, ‘Oh, I already have to fix that.’ You can lose them at the door, but if you get them to the kitchen and they’re excited, they’re not as concerned with the upstairs bedrooms, with bedroom sizes, maybe not even with lot size.”
Caines counseled prospective sellers to pay attention small details.
“If you spend all this money on a new kitchen and you don’t have clean light bulbs, you’ve missed a little thing that could make a difference,” he said. “The little things don’t cost money but their impact is huge.”
When the house is cleaned and depersonalized, a home stager can help further enhance its appeal. Stagers, to whom homeowners are often referred by their realtors, will sometimes advise major changes to the home but typically help a seller make the most of what they already have.
“A stager may suggest shampooing carpets, removing a certain table and putting it in a different spot,” said Orphanides, who offers a free two-hour staging consultation to his clients. “They have a great sense of how a room should flow, how a room is best accessorized. It’s amazing. In a few minutes they can really enhance a home.”
The bottom line: declutter, depersonalize, and clean.
“You have to have trust with your realtor,” said Caines. “They do this every day. Take their advice and you should be able to get your house sold for the highest value in the quickest time.”
Part 1: The right time to sell
Part 2: The right improvements