4 Steps to Staging for an Open House

Give your home the "wow" factor it needs to impress potential buyers.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/fstop123 Before opening your home to potential buyers, follow these four steps to ensure it looks its best.

Holding an open house can be a great way to get your home for sale noticed -- that is, if your home is in good condition. If not, well...

"I have personally witnessed people who have walked into a house, turned around, and walked back out," says Alice T. Chan, a professional stager in San Francisco.

If you're even thinking about selling your home, chances are you've heard of "staging," or the process of preparing a home for sale via de-cluttering, depersonalizing and neutralizing, among other techniques. If you want to avoid an open house snub similar to the one described above, staging, repairing and generally prepping your home for sale is a must in today's market.

"Buyers really want turn-key these days," Chan says. "If a buyer can actually get a loan right now, they're so strapped after they purchase a property that they literally just want to move in and live. Even if they want to make upgrades later on, they want to feel like they're getting the best value possible. So give it to them."

So how do you make your home open-house ready? Depending on your home's current condition, it can be a large, overwhelming job, so you'll want to stay organized, take it slow and work step-by-step.

Step 1: Plan and Prioritize

You definitely don't want to start preparing for your open house by making updates willy nilly. Before getting started, it's important to understand what improvements will help you sell your home and to make a realistic plan that fits your budget and time frame. Ilaria Barion, a professional home stager in New York and Chicago and author of Set the Stage for a Sale, offers three tips to get you started:

  • Let go emotionally. The moment you put your house up for sale, it becomes a product, Barion says, so you have to train yourself to stop thinking about it as your home. "What I suggest sellers to start doing is calling it their property instead of their home," she says.
  • Identify the target audience. Think about what kind of neighborhood you live in. Is it young and hip and filled with first-time buyers, or is it mature and established with lots of families? It's important to know what type of buyer you're targeting so you can stage accordingly. For instance, if you live in a neighborhood that's popular with first-time buyers and your home hasn't been renovated since 1977, you'll want to strip the wallpaper and remove the dated draperies to appeal to young buyers. If you live in an upscale neighborhood, buyers will expect certain high-end features and upgrades. Your real estate agent can help you determine what's standard in your area.
  • Determine what buyers want. Barion believes homebuyers are looking for three things: an emotional connection with the home, value for their money and move-in ready conditions. As you're preparing your home, think about these factors, because you have a lot of control over them. For instance, a buyer will not be able to envision themselves living in your home if your family photos are plastered all over the walls, but you can easily fix that.

Keeping your target buyers and what they are looking for in mind, your next step is to grab a pen and paper, walk through your property as a buyer would and jot down your home's problem areas, Chan says.

"Really be hard on yourself," Chan says. "Look through the buyer's eyes as much as you can. If you can't be objective, bring someone along you who will tell you exactly like it is, not just what you want to hear."

Once you've finished your list, rank it, putting top-priority issues that are sure to turn off buyers first. Depending on your budget and time frame, it may not be feasible to address everything on your list. But remember, today's buyers are looking for move-in ready properties. Putting a little more time and money into updates could lead to a quicker sale and a higher sales price.

Zillow Real Estate Search

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