You may have heard talk of "staging" homes, and the importance of staging to a quick, profitable sale. The first thing to remember is that "staging" is nothing more than a fancy marketing term for "make the place look neat, clean and presentable." There are no secrets to staging; most of it is common sense. The best way to begin is to imagine how you would want your home to look if you were using it to host your child's wedding or another fancy party (minus the balloons and streamers, of course!):
- Clean and tidy: Carpets vacuumed, floors swept and mopped, windows sparking clean. No papers piled up on the kitchen table, no magazines, toys or dirty clothes on the floor.
- If you have a lawn, make sure it's mowed and raked free of leaves, and remove any dead plants from the garden.
- If you have a cat, make sure to scoop the litter box at least twice a day, and do a dump-and-scrub weekly. If you have a dog, make sure the yard is scooped daily, and before every showing!
There's also no reason to remove all of your paintings and family pictures from your walls, with the caveat that you do not want too many things on the walls. If every square inch of wall is covered by a picture, buyers may wonder if you're trying to conceal a problem. Remember that the objective is for the buyer to actually see the house. They must be able to see that the walls are not cracked and full of holes, the windows are not broken, the carpet isn't torn up, etc.
You don't have to empty closets, but straighten them up as much as possible to make them look as big as possible. Don't keep a pile of tee-shirts thrown haphazardly all over the shelves; fold and arrange them neatly. Arrange shoes neatly at the bottom of the closet, preferably on a shoe rack. In the kitchen, make sure your dishes and cooking instruments are arranged neatly on the shelves.
Arrange your furniture in a way that makes each room look as large as possible. You may wish to relocate some furniture from one room to another, or even store a piece or two in your shed or basement, to achieve this effect. Make sure curtains and blinds are clean, and that each room is as light and bright as possible. If you have heavy drapes, pull them back for showings -- or better yet, buy some light curtains. They're inexpensive and can really brighten up a room.
Arrange your garage and (if you have them), basement, attic and shed as neatly as possible, but keep in mind that most people expect these areas to be cluttered; they don't have to be as neat as the living room. These are areas where you can relax a little, and maybe store some of the things you've moved out of other rooms. Just make sure there isn't so much junk packed in that the buyer cannot see anything (for example, make sure the buyer can see that two cars fit comfortably in the garage).
Finally, put any pornographic or political material (books, signs, etc.) into a box and store it out of view. You do not want a buyer getting hysterical because they brought their 10-year-old with them, and he saw your Hustler. In addition, everyone has their own strong opinions on abortion, marijuana, the War in Iraq, etc. There's an old adage about keeping religion and politics out of business, and as mentioned in the first paragraph, selling your home is a part-time business. A home showing isn't the time to get into a political debate; you want the buyer to concentrate on your product--the house--not your politics.
If you're still a little challenged regarding decor or furniture arrangement, pick up a copy of Better Homes & Gardens or a regional home and garden publication like Sunset or Southern Living. You don't have to mimic everything you see in the magazines, but they're full of great tips on topics such as making a small home appear larger or brightening up a dark room.