July 9, 2012
Less is best when showing your home
Preparing your house for viewings can be done quickly and cheaply, HGTV host says
BY JULIE BEUN
The mortgage financing is settled. You’ve been scanning the Multiple Listing Service like a stalker. You’ve already had the clear-out garage sale. There’s just one last, teensy, tiny detail to take care of: You have to completely make over your house so it looks like a show home. Intimidating? Maybe, particularly if you assume your buyer — like you — will look under the kitchen sink, try to pick you out in family photos and investigate every closet, like they’re looking for bodies.
But according to Jodi Gilmour, realtor, décor expert and host of HGTV’s For Rent, prepping your house for sale can be done quickly and cheaply. “Today’s buyer wants to be able to find a place that is move-in ready and if they have to paint a room or two, they don’t mind having to do that, but they don’t want to have to do it. So if you take away the strongly personal taste and neutralize the main areas of the home, you’ll get a broader range of buyers and a shorter time on the market.”
The first step, she says, is possibly the most brutal. Like the fashion rule of looking at yourself quickly in the mirror, then removing the one accessory that draws too much attention, homeowners have to purge, purge, purge. Clean up bookshelves so they’re 40 per cent books, 20 per cent décor and 20 per cent negative space. “Take away 40 per cent of your stuff in general. Start packing. Buyers want to assume they can grow into the house,” she says.
“You want your rooms to feel like they have extra space, so take out furniture, pack your fall and winter clothing away. Even edit the cutlery drawers. You can live with eight place settings instead of 18.” And while you’re packing up the kitchen, make sure you remove all the half bottles of cleaning products, dubious-looking cloths and the 400 recyclable grocery store bags you store under the kitchen sink. “If someone is serious,” she warns, “they’ll look under the sink.”
Staging the main rooms is also critical to moving your property quickly. You may love your treadmill in the dining room, but that’s not really where it should be. “You stage your house differently for sale than for life,” she observes. “Edit anything that gets in the way. The first rule is to use each room as it is purposed for.” That may also mean packing away most of your beloved ceramic owl collection, keeping the children’s’ toys stowed for a few weeks and storing some of your furniture.
“The more floor space,” she says, “the bigger the room looks.” And while removing personal art such as family photos may create more wall space, it also diminishes the distractions. According to Gilmour, the minute people look at portraits and family pictures, they are no longer engaged in seeing the house as theirs. “If you have a gallery wall, human beings are naturally going to look at photos, like Facebook.” This might also be the moment to ignore your husband’s protests and take down the black velvet Elvis oil painting. Ditto nudes and representational art. “You’re better off going with abstract pieces. Where there are distractions, people either make a judgment about the house and the life going on in it or they’re too distracted.”
Finally, painting and cleaning carpets cannot only refresh your house, but make it accessible to the imaginations of potential buyers. While brightly coloured children’s bedrooms are generally fine to leave as they are, living areas, bathrooms and the kitchen should be toned down. A coat of paint with a good primer can also neutralize years of cooking and smoke smells. But whatever else you do, Gilmour suggests starting at the front door and entry to your home. Tidy up the garage and front step, paint the door and ensure the front hall is warm and inviting.
“You can tell a lot about the condition of the home from the layout and condition of the front hall. It’s hard enough to get buyers to accept pictures online,” she says. “So the front of the house needs to be beautiful. Buyers make the decision about whether or not they want to see the rest of the house from that first 30 seconds in the front door.”