It’s official! Our house is under contract and a new owner will get to love this space just as much as we have. It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful, but oh my gosh, things couldn’t have gone any better. We listed on Friday, had two showings that day, received our first offer that night, then had four more showings on Saturday and Sunday, followed by two more offers! On Sunday at 4:30 pm we chose the best offer and checked that “accept” box. And just like that, it was over.
Seriously, two days y’all. Two days! When we got the call Friday night with the first offer, we were over the moon. By the third offer, we couldn’t believe what was happening. I’ve read about staging and felt like I was pretty educated, and I’ve coached clients on staging before as well, but this was the first time I’ve ever put it to use personally. I’ve got to tell ya, I’m a believer! So today I want to share with you what I did to prep my house the week before it went on the market.
Update Curb Appeal
They say kitchens and baths sell houses, but nobody even clicks on your listing to see the kitchen or bath if the outside of the house doesn’t look so hot. To boost the first impression, we added a fresh layer of mulch to the front beds. We gave the porch a good cleaning, then added potted flowers and moved some of our indoor plants outside. I also gave the door a fresh coat of paint to make the entrance really pop.
Mulch- $25 for one truckload
Flowers- $20 (B1G1 sale at home improvement store)
Paint for door- $15 for small can
Total spent on exterior: $60
Declutter And De-Personalize
I know you’ve seen it a hundred times. Every blog post you’ve read says to declutter and de-personalize. I won’t beat you over the head with this, because you already know, but I decluttered the heck out of this place. I removed quite a bit of furniture, took down 75% of my wall decor, cleared off all the surfaces, and pretended like I was styling a furniture warehouse’s showroom. By removing furniture and creating wide open traffic patterns, I was able to make my 1180 square foot house look and feel nice and airy. I also made sure I filled each and every nail hole and touched up paint anywhere needed.
One other thing I did was something I absolutely hated doing. I removed the stenciled paint I had put in the guest bathroom. It hurt my heart so much to strip away my hard work, but honestly, it is very style-specific. Since that’s the only bathroom in the house with actual tile floors (the other has vinyl) I wanted to make sure it was clear that the tile is in fact in good shape. Painted tile isn’t for everyone, so I sucked it up and stripped it all off to restore the tile to it’s original state. At least I still have the pics and the memories of it. (And a little bit of lingering back pain.)
Sold unneeded furniture and decor on Facebook Marketplace- (-) $200
Donated unneeded items- $0
Stripping materials for floor restoration- $30
Spackle and sample sized paint jars for touch ups- $10
Total spent on interior: (-) $160
You may think your house is clean, but until you put on your “house hunting goggles” you don’t see how bad of a cleaner you really are. It’s easy to look over things we see every day. To get my Buyer Eyes on (what I was constantly saying to my ten year old) I would pretend like HGTV was coming to photograph my house. I know it sounds crazy, but when you’re cleaning for a television network to come over for a shoot, you find so many nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned.
I cleaned the fans, light fixtures, vents, under furniture, shelves, plant leaves, and even Noah’s toys. And my mom came over to pressure wash the exterior siding for me, which was such a huge help. If you’ve seen that viral video (embedded below) floating around the internet of the man dressed as a lady freaking out about a clean house, that was totally me. I’m pretty sure I actually yelled “there can be no sign of living in this house” just like he did.
Nagged kid to stop leaving dirty socks and crumbs everywhere- $0, but 40 eye rolls
Pressure washing- $0 thanks to an amazing mother (who refused any sort of payment, even though I tried)
Total spent on cleaning: $0 currently, but I’ll need to get a massage very soon. Haha!
In contrast to the whole clean, clear, and minimal advice I just gave you, there’s also a bit of styling that I did to make the house feel warm and inviting. I didn’t want it to look like a blank house that was staged, but more of a home they could sit down and live in. When a house is too decorated or not decorated at all, it’s hard for a buyer to envision a life there. They view the house more as a guest and treat their visit as if they were in someone else’s home. It works the same way when there’s no decor, too. It’s hard to connect with a home that doesn’t even look like the owners are comfortable there.
I found the perfect balance by setting the table with a simple tray, coasters, and placemats. I cleared the kitchen counters but left out one appliance and a large cutting board. I fluffed the beds and pillows, added warm blankets, and put a book on the coffee table. In Noah’s room, most toys were put away, but a few were left out on shelves so kids could envision themselves playing in the room. In the office, the laptop stayed on the desk so a buyer could see what it felt like to sit there and work.
Rearrange decor- $0, but thirteen movements of one book
Total cost for styling: $0
Have you seen those Febreeze commercials about being Nose Blind? Well it’s not just a marketing campaign, it’s an actual thing. Think back to the last time you took a weeklong vacation. When you came back home after being away for seven days, your house smelled different, didn’t it? Not bad, just different. That smell is what people experience when they visit your home. Whether it’s a pet smell, a mildew smell, or just a weird scent from a new rug that was just taken out of the plastic, it’s the first thing buyers notice when they come through the door.
I chose to use a wax burner as my method, although room sprays and essential oils work well, too. The key is to make sure the scent isn’t overwhelming. If it overwhelms you, even just a little bit, it’s going to smack your buyers right in the face and plow them down like a linebacker. Avoid floral or woodsy scents because they’re too strong and very preference-based. I recommend a nice airy scent like fresh linen or a warm cozy scent like baked cookies.
Wax cubes for my burner- $0, already owned, because I keep a stock on hand that will last through an apocalypse
Total cost for boosting the “nose appeal”: $0
Pay Attention To Lighting
Nothing kills a good showing like bad lighting. I replaced any light bulbs that were out, as well as cleaned every single fixture. The dining room light has a glass globe around it, so I took that down and washed it so it was nice and clear. I dusted the recessed lighting and made sure all the bulbs in multi-bulb fixtures matched.
If your bathroom has that basic builder-grade strip light and you’ve got the frosted bulbs in it, I highly suggest swapping those out for the clear bulbs. They look so much more modern and updated than the frosted, and makes the room look a tad more expensive.
Replace light bulbs- $14 plus a lot of leg workouts going up and down step ladders to clean all the bulbs
Total cost for lighting: $14
Hire A Great Photographer
Included in our Realtor’s agency perks is professional photography. And boy did it make a difference. One of the offers we got was actually from someone who was out of town and wasn’t even able to see the house in person. The offer was based solely on the photos of the house. How crazy is that?! I think I owe the photog a Starbucks gift card or two for doing such a fantastic job.
If professional photography isn’t included with the agency you’re using, don’t settle for basic photography. It may seem like you’re saving money, but I promise you, nobody will book a showing for a house that looks bad in pictures. I’d suggest that you check out some other listings your selling agency has and review the photography of comp homes. If it doesn’t look so hot, it’s totally okay to hire a photographer. This is one thing you should never skimp on, but you should also make sure the photographer doesn’t Photoshop any elements of the house or distort the images too much. Buyers will be super disappointed if the house doesn’t look the same as it did in the photos, and it’s doubtful that they’ll put in an offer because you’ll be perceived as someone who isn’t 100% truthful.
Professional photography- $0 (well, kind of. It’s provided as a courtesy from our agency but I’m sure we’re paying for it in the end somehow)
Total cost for photography: $0
Other Things To Consider
Although we didn’t have to do these things in our particular case, it’s important to consider the following if it pertains to your situation:
- Mow the grass
- Clean the windows
- Clean the garage
- Touch up trimwork and doors (a fresh coat of white paint makes a HUGE difference)
- Paint walls a neutral shade to appeal to the widest audience
- Put toys and extra furniture in storage
- Make any necessary repairs
- Lock away personal valuables
- Deal with any pest issues
**Above all else, the most important thing of all is having a good Realtor. Ours is absolutely amazing. Pretty sure this woman is an angel. She is so incredibly knowledgeable and really worked hard to make this all happen. You can stage all day long, but without a good Realtor to market your home well, you’ve pretty much wasted your time.
My Total Investment
When the staging was all said and done, the photos were taken, the showings were over, and the winning contract was signed, we spent a total of $114. But we profited $200 in furniture sales, so if you want to get really technical, we spent absolutely nothing and still made $86. You can mark that down in your book as a win!
If you need advice staging your own home or styling it to sell, I do offer one-on-one coaching sessions. For thirty minutes, you get my undivided attention and you can ask me anything you’d like. We’ll work up a clear action plan and you’ll walk away with the knowledge to make your home gorgeous. Shoot me an email to schedule an appointment here and I’ll get you on my calendar asap!
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