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First Impressions Count!

The "secret weapon of real estate," staging is the art of preparing and packaging a home for sale and industry statistics seem to bear out its value. The bottom line is that staging makes buyers want to move in - not move on. It creates a strong first impression and that's something you don't get a second chance to make.

As homesellers, you are too used to your home and it's difficult to see your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. Once you decide to sell, you need to detach. The home is no longer about you, but a house that needs to appeal to its next owner.

Staging should not be confused with decorating. Its about figuring out how to showcase the best features of each room.

Decorating means personalizing your space — staging is about de-personalizing it. Ultimately staging is about helping prospective buyers see themselves occupying the space.


Make a Good First Impression
You start the home-staging process by sprucing things up inside and outside so that your home will make a great first impression. Some of the things on this list won't cost any money, like opening windows and sending pets to grandma's, which is always good for making sure the odour of your home doesn't offend potential buyers. Other simple things won't cost much: Paint the front door ($25), put out flowers ($100), mulch the front yard ($65). Spending less than $200 is worth it when you consider that people decide whether they want to buy a home within the first eight seconds.


A neat closet is a sign of a house in good working order, and be forewarned — people do look in your closets. Prospective home buyers also need to see themselves moving in the space, and they can't see past clutter. Rent a van to dump old furniture ($75), clean closets ($0), clear off countertops ($0), and change doorknobs ($40). Spending about $115 is not bad if it adds to the final resale value.

Let the Sunshine In

Lighting is the No.2 reason home buyers cite for choosing a particular property. No.1 is location. The third step in home staging is to make sure you let the sunshine in. Clean the windows with Windex ($4), dump old drapes ($0), replace lampshades ($100), and buy stronger light bulbs ($25). Total cost will run you about $129.

Freshen the Bathroom

A bad bathroom is the No.1 turnoff that can kill a sale. Everyone hates a dirty bathroom, and cleanliness is key to moving property in a slow market. The bathroom is also the most personal space in the home, so do everything possible to depersonalize it. To freshen up, regrout tile ($15), caulk the shower ($5), buy a new shower curtain ($20), and invest in new hand towels ($20). Tip: keep bathroom doors shut and toilet lids down.

The kitchen

is arguably the most important room in the house, as far as most buyers are concerned, spend extra time making sure yours is friendly and exudes a feeling of health and prosperity. Keep counters clear of small appliances and immaculately clean, organize your pantry, and keep all wastebaskets out of sight. Tip: avoid cooking smelly foods such as fish, garlic, cabbage, or anything fried or spicy just before showing your home

Paint / Repaint Your Home

If your taste in decorating is a bit, shall we say strong, it may pay you to hire a professional to tone down some of the more dramatic color rooms. Many people love dark red dining rooms, but none of them may be looking at your house. Neutral colors are best for marketing your home for sale

Appeal to all the senses

Psychologists tell us that the nose influences us far more than we imagine. Make sure that your house smells fresh, clean and appealing. CLEAN is the keyword. One of the best ways to freshen your home is to wash all the curtains and fabric fittings in a fresh-scent laundry detergent and hang them. For a quick air freshener that doesn't leave behind a 'chemical' scent, toss a clean sheet in the dryer with a fresh-scent fabric softener sheet about twenty minutes before a showing, or sprinkle some cinnamon and fresh orange peels in a pot of water and simmer it on the stove. Just be sure to remove it BEFORE your potential buyers get there. Tip : cinnamon or pine scents have been proven to be more effective than vanilla or floral scents.

Buy, borrow or rent what you need

If your furniture shows the effect of raising five kids or if pets have ruined the rugs and upholstery think about storing or getting rid of your existing furniture and finding just enough more attractive stuff to get by. If your nest is empty and the kids' rooms are beaten up, throw out the furniture, give the walls a quick wash coat of paint and put one or two small flea market pieces - a hobby horse, a bean-bag chair, the old bassinette from the attic - in the room to merely "suggest" its use. A rocker, table lamp and a pile or books in an otherwise bare room gives it the feel of a cozy study and so forth. If you want to go all out there are dozens of companies, some of them national, that will rent a roomful or a houseful of furniture on short term contracts. Not cheap, but maybe worth looking into.

Clean up the yard

You've heard of curb appeal? How about unseen from the curb? Cut back overgrown shrubs, particularly those that obscure windows or make it difficult to get to the front door. Mow the grass. Rake or pick up downed leaves and branches. Put away lawn tools, kids' toys and discard or store any outdoor furniture that is rusty or ragged. If season and funds permit, put down some colorful annuals or put a few nicely planted containers on or near the front porch. Paint the front door an attractive colour and add a splash of color to the landscaping.

The Pet Zone

If you have pets, keep cages, dishes, and kitty litter boxes clean at all times. Pet hair should be frequently vacuumed. Doggy droppings should be scooped up from the front lawn and disposed of. And always cage or kennel pets when your house is being shown. Take your dog for a walk or have a friend/relative look after them if you are at work.

Finally, get a "trained eye", someone whose job is to look at homes on a daily basis and hears buyers comments. Sometimes you just need a helpful objective opinion.

More Helpful tips:

  • Clear out closets and clutter—sellers can give away or pack up toys, linens, and small kitchen appliances to store offsite. Buyers are more forgiving of storage boxes neatly tucked away in a garage or basement.
  • Focus most on the most visible areas—the foyer, kitchen, living room, master bedroom, and family room.
  • Use plants in colorful pots or inexpensive wicker baskets to fill in empty spaces.
  • Look to home catalogs for little details on beautifying the home. For instance, group books, pictures, and objets d’art appealingly on bookcases.
  • Try angling one or two pieces of furniture slightly and move furniture 4 inches to 6 inches from the wall to create more interesting room spaces.
  • Put away large collections— porcelains, plates, bottles, dolls, pictures, ornaments, and so on.
  • Remove valuables, prescription medicine, collectibles, jewellery and breakables.
  • Garden - Trim trees, prune shrubs, and make sure the lawn is mowed and watered regularly.
  • In summer, turn on the sprinklers for five minutes, 30 minutes before the open house. It makes the lawn and driveway sparkle.
  • Refrain from cooking anything that leaves distinctive odors, such as cabbage, fish, garlic, curry or even popcorn.
  • Hire a professional service to clean the home, including the carpets and the windows.
  • Set the dining room table with attractive linens, dishes, and stemware.
  • Arrange some fresh flowers & fruit in some of the main areas. (no fakes)
  • Light a fire in the fireplace in fall and winter.
  • Mirrors can make a small room feel more open.
  • Use as much natural light as possible. Add extra lamps in dark rooms or corners.
  • Make functional repairs—fix dripping faucets, sticking doors, and broken fences.