Invariably I cringe when I see most photos for real estate listings. The pictures are dark, focus on personal belongings (like a bed in a bedroom – I’m not buying the bed!), or there is clutter.
These simple mistakes can turn a buyer away very quickly.
This article will give you some quick but important tips on showing and photographing your home so that it sells, rather than turning off buyers due to something that can be easily fixed.
You don’t need to hire a professional stager or need to remodel your home. Your home doesn’t need to look like a magazine cover, or even be perfect. You just need to eliminate turn-offs!
The overriding approach to remember is to depersonalize your home as much as possible so that the buyer can visualize living in your home. They cannot envision living in your home with a million personal photos around, a toothbrush on the bathroom counter, or trash in the trashcans.
1. Clean your home (inside).
The first and most important tip is to make sure your home is clean! It doesn’t need to be Army inspection clean, but you should take the time to do a thorough cleaning before you list your home.
Nothing turns off a buyer like hair in the bathtub drain or dust bunnies that greet them at the door and hop around!
If you do a thorough cleaning at the time of listing, you will only need to touch up here and there when you have a showing (which shouldn’t be too many, since you are going to be following the rest of the tips, right?).
2. Clean your home (outside).
Don’t forget the outside! Take a broom and sweep away any cobwebs, get rid of debris, pull weeds, and pick up trash and items laying around. Even an hour or two of tidying outside and land you a SOLD sign in the yard.
Remember, buyers will form an impression as they pull up to the house and will justify whatever that first impression is!
Your home may be stunning inside, but an unfavorable first impression may lose them.
If you can afford to hire someone to powerwash the exterior of your home, do it. Dirty siding and gutters will date a home and make it appear in poor repair, even if it is not.
3. Ensure a solid first impression.
Most buyers enter your home through the front door. Most people do not enter their home this way, so it may be off your radar to check what the impression is from the street or driveway to the front door.
Park your car in the street or driveway and walk to the front door. Notice what catches your eye. Are there weeds in the front beds? Are there dead leaves in the bushes or trees? Is the sidewalk dirty or cracked? Is the front door faded?
A small investment in the appearance of the front door area will be returned many times over. One of the most important investments you can make is to buy a new, fresh door mat, simple planters with fresh plants, and make sure the front door is painted.
When I purchased my home 2 years ago, the front door was a faded, tomato red. The house is a pale, yellow stucco. It looked terrible! I painted the front door black and it looks like an entirely different house!
4. Declutter. Then declutter again.
Nothing says uninviting like clutter. Make sure your counters are almost empty. Bathroom counters should have very little on them – maybe a soap dispenser or a decorative item. All personal belongings should be stored away – makeup, soap, toothbrushes, shaving items, and appliances. No one wants to see your toothbrush.
Surface areas should be as empty as possible – tables, desks, and counters. Put that stack of papers on your desk in a drawer!
Here is an example of an outdated yet inviting kitchen. It is clean and bright, with lots of space and charm. The appliances look old, as does the wallpaper border on the soffit. Notice the shelves by the window are empty – no clutter! This actual listing image is a good example of good listing and showing preparation.
Other items to put away during a showing include laundry baskets, fans, trash cans, storage containers, cat litter boxes, and dog crates. Get rid of anything that is storage-oriented that is not necessary to the functioning of the room, such as extra baskets with junk.
Right now, I have several binders sitting on the desk in my kitchen that I use regularly. They will be put away when I list my home!
Here is an actual listing photo that makes me want to start tidying! Notice the messy wires at the desk, the desk chair askew, the keyboard, the fan, the clothes on the sofa, the pet items, and the curtain placement. I would do a lot of decluttering, as well as removing the rug from the floor – it just clutters and darkens the room. I would probably also encourage the homeowner to paint the room something other than stark white – it looks cold and drab. Ideally, I would remove the sofa and the corner shelving.
5. Pay attention to closets.
Don’t shove everything in closets. Prospective buyers always look in closets to see how big they are. If your closets are cluttered, they will appear smaller and the buyer will subliminally think that the house doesn’t have enough storage.
Here is a before and after of how to stage your closet to make the home appear to have adequate storage.
I literally cleaned a few things out for donation, folded some items and put them away, rearranged some bins, and spaced my clothes apart. Nothing says “not enough closet space” like clothes crammed together. Buyers will not think, “Gee, she sure has a lot of clothes.” They will think, “These closets are too small.” This decluttering literally took 5 minutes.
Anything you can do to neaten a closet will help buyers have a more favorable opinion of your home.
6. Get rid of any unpleasant smells.
Just like the commercial that talks about going “nose blind,” you may not realize that your home has peculiar smells. A thorough cleaning will help, but you may also need to shampoo carpets, clean baseboards and trim with cleaner, and address any mildew smells. If you use any artificial smell enhancers, such as scented plug-ins, make sure they are not overpowering and just add to an unpleasant smell. Make sure it is something that “runs in the background” and isn’t noticeable.
Baking bread or cookies before a showing can create a pleasant smell. Just make sure it isn’t overpowering.
7. Get rid of any signs of animals.
While you may love and adore your pet, a prospective buyer may not. In addition to possibly unpleasant smells, make sure you rid your home of any signs of pets. When I sold my last home, all pet products went in my car. I packed up the litter box (just stick it in a trash bag, right side up), toys, dog crate, and food bowls.
Even if the buyer has pets, the thought of other animal hair and potty accidents is a turn-off.
Make sure the yard is landmine free, too. The buyer may take a walk around the yard to look at the exterior of the home or inspect the property.
8. Don’t forget the garage and basement areas.
People often focus on the main living areas of the home but prospective buyers are interested in garage and basement space. Don’t shove everything in the basement or garage! Just like the closet dynamic, a cluttered basement or garage will send a message of insufficient storage.
Make sure you sweep, too. Get all the cobwebs and buggies cleaned up. Buyers will appreciate not having to do a thorough cleaning of these storage spaces before they move their items in. It also sends a message of age when the garage looks like it has a bug graveyard in the corner.
No, you do not need to repaint your entire home. However, anything other than white, light grey, or light tan paint is putting you at risk of turning off a potential buyer. Even though
I have what I think is a very dramatic navy blue in my living room and dining room. I get a lot of compliments on it and the rest of the décor matches it very well. However, at sale time, those rooms will become a very lovely light tan color! The rooms look dark and smaller with the navy paint and it probably only appeals to a few buyers.
Also make sure you touch up any nicks, marks, and dings. They send a sign of wear and tear, which is not the message you want to send. You want a potential buyer to be thinking “light, bright, well-kept, clean, open, lots of storage” as they walk through your home.
10. Tidy up before a showing
Here are a few suggestions to make that showing perfect:
- Remove everything off the refrigerator – photos, business cards, kid’s artwork, magnets. Also, get rid of anything off the top – no food or storage items.
- Don’t be afraid to place fresh flowers in the bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom. Some people may think that it looks hokey, but I think it sends a message that the house is ready for sale, and the homeowner pays attention to details. A buyer will subliminally think that a seller who pays attention to details such as flowers, must have taken good care of the home. You don’t need to purchase an expensive arrangement – a few flowers from the yard or grocery store flowers will do.
- Arrange bathroom towels neatly and layer bath towels and hand towels. I love to roll up washcloths and put them in a cute basket. Again, attention to details will send a message that the home was well maintained. Think “model home.” Why are you so impressed in a model home? It’s the layered and rolled towels!!
- Put all of the toilet seats down. Make sure they are clean – people will look!
- Dry the shower or bathtub if it has recently been used. Again, it feels invasive and too personal to tour a house where someone has just showered.
- This may sound odd, but clean the drawers in the bathroom and make sure there is no hair. People will look in cabinetry drawers to assess the storage. A drawer full of hair is a
turn off. Also, declutter under the bathroom sinks.
- Don’t leave laundry in the washer and dryer. People look here, too!
- Empty and hide trash cans. No one wants to look at your trash, so empty them and put them in a closet, if possible. If you have a kitchen trash can out in the open, empty the trash and put the can in your car, or in the garage.
- Wipe down kitchen counters. People will wipe their hands across your counters, especially if they are granite. They may also put their papers or belongings on the counters. FYI – clean them again after you get home!
- Make sure the sink is free of dishes, wiped clean, and dry.
- Make your bed and make sure it looks neat. Messy beds and disorderliness
catchesthe eye when you walk into a room. The eye likes neat and orderly!
- Make sure pictures/ artwork is straight and not crooked.
- Open all of your blinds and curtains.
- Turn on every light in your home.
- Make sure the heat or air conditioning is on and functioning. No one wants to come into a 58 degree home in the dead of winter. It sends a message that the home is not well maintained and not comfortable. Ditto with the summer – if you have air conditioning, make sure you keep the home cool for showings.
- Leave a list on the kitchen counter of any extra amenities (alarm system, irrigation, upgrades) and any items that are included in the sale of the home, such as curtains. Even if the realtor has a list, leave an extra one. Make sure it is typo-free and neat.
- Declutter one last time. Pack away
knick knacks, even if they are cute and lend to the décor. Remember, open and airy is the message you want to send.
- Keep the grass cut more often. Make sure the yard looks as neat and tidy as possible. Long grass sends that “not well-maintained” message you are trying to avoid.
- Finally, make sure your valuables and medications are either removed or locked away. Sadly, it is a reality that some people have sticky fingers.
Overall, try as much as possible to remove yourself and your emotion from the selling process. It can be difficult but the key is to think “model home” as you prepare your home for listing and showings.
I hope this list is helpful and helps your home sell faster and for more money!
BonVoyage! – Kristin