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Thinking Winter Home Sale? All Your Home’s a “Stage”

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January 7, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on pointers for selling a home during the winter. Read the first.

Considering taking your home to market over the winter? Think Martha Stewart, with long johns.

There are many crucial checklist items for anyone trying to sell a home, of course, whatever the time of year: finding a good real estate agent and determining your selling price, to name a couple. But let’s not forget that first impressions matter. This is where “staging” comes in.

Staging is simply redesigning or reimagining your residence with the aim to broaden its appeal to the potential buyers walking through your doors. Real estate experts say effectively-staged homes tend to sell faster, often at a higher price, than those that aren’t staged.  

Where to start? There are professional staging services that can rent you modern furniture, paintings and other creature comforts. But you can also take a “DIY” approach through a few simple steps:

  • De-colorize—You may like splashy, dramatic colors across your dining room walls or elsewhere. But remember, not everyone is into magenta or lime-green. Best to play it safe and apply a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color, such as white, gray, beige, vanilla or cream..
  • Depersonalize—You don't want potential buyers to get distracted by family photos plastered over your refrigerator door. Pack away those pictures and knickknacks lying around countertops and dressers. Create a neutral setting where homebuyers can picture themselves and their own belongings.
  • De-clutter—Even if you aren't a hoarder, you can create a more spacious feeling by removing a few pieces of furniture and packing it away in storage.
  • De-“doggify”—No offense, animal lovers. But dogs, cats, birds and any other pets running or flitting about can be a problem. Prospective buyers don't want to see, smell or hear them. Call the kennel or pack off the pooch to Grandma’s place during open houses.

Among other pointers, real estate experts offer a couple other words: Stay cool. Winter home sellers may be tempted to crank up the heat before an open house or showing, but remember that prospective buyers are coming in all bundled up.

“You don't want them hot and sweaty before they get through the first floor,” said Gary Rogers, a regional vice president with the National Association of Realtors. If you have a fireplace, throw a couple logs on, but “don't make it a bonfire.”

Rogers advises placing a portable coat rack in the foyer with a note inviting prospective buyers to hang up their jackets. Buy an inexpensive shoe mat where they can place their boots. “You want to get them comfortable so they stay in your house a little longer,” he said. Even putting on soft music and lighting candles during showings can boost the home's appeal.

Then there’s another time-honored tradition: baked goods. Before a showing, pop some cookies in the oven. Leave them on a plate with a note saying “Try One,” along with a pitcher of water and some cups.

Finally, lighten up. This is not the time to scrimp on your lighting bills. Be aware prospective buyers could be driving by at any time.

With winter daylight hours shorter, “open up your shades, turn on all the lights. Have a warm glow in your house. Leave all your lights on during a showing,” Rogers said.