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By Thomas M. Mitchell

RISMEDIA, April 3, 2008-No one needs to remind agents that today’s market is a challenging one and there is, on average, more than 10 months of inventory on the market. So it is vitally important that sellers make sure that their house stands out above the others it is competing with for the buyer’s attention. And that is really not that hard to do.

If sellers will just employ some of the basic staging principles it would make a huge difference and leave a much better impression; drawing potential buyers back to the house for a second look. And that’s where a professional stager, or a real estate professional with staging knowledge, can help them get their house in order.

Here are some basic pointers from the Accredited Home-Staging Specialist (AHS) course from RealtyU that will get most home sellers headed in the right direction; changing their “lived in homes” into “houses for sale.”

1. De-Clutter – This one is simple. De-clutter everywhere; inside and outside. If it’s taking up space it is a potential candidate to be thrown out. The sellers need to make that all important mental conversion from “home to live in” to “house for sale.” Personal “things” are a big distraction as you want the buyers to be able to visualize their own belonging in the house.

2. Repair – Buyers want everything working so don’t disappoint them – dripping faucets, broken windows, leaking roofs, damaged walls and doors, etc, beg the question in the buyer’s mind … What else is broken or doesn’t work?

3. Lots of Light – The last thing home buyers want to see is a dark home with all of the doors and windows covered. Let the light in and open some windows to let in some fresh air. Room de-odorizers leave the impression of covering something up as does a window with the blinds drawn.

4. Clean Windows – Buyers want to know and see the view they will have from every room – don’t make them look through dirty windows. If they don’t the impression of a great view is literally going “out the window.”

5. Kitchen and Bathrooms – Two of the most important rooms. They must be spotless and first class. Just cleaning up isn’t going to be good enough – you need to “deep clean” all counters, floors, cabinets and all the fixtures in the bathrooms. In the bathrooms consider new fixtures or countertops and perhaps redoing the shower and tub enclosures.

If new fixtures are not in the budget you may want to consider having them refinished. Think about having all the tile steam cleaned and make sure all grout is free from grease and dirt.

6. Odors – Absolute deal killers are cigarette or pet odors. If this is a problem – have the drapes, carpets and furniture professionally cleaned and “no smoking” in the house. Also, cooking odors are not a good thing. The best bet – fresh air. Often a little lemon oil mixed with water in a spray bottle “lightly used” will add just a bit of freshness without overpowering the house.

7. Paint – A fresh coat of paint on the outside or inside is an excellent way of freshening up your home. Be sure they use neutral colors and avoid accent painting – they are only guessing what the buyer likes. This can be done by the home sellers but in most cases they should use a professional painter. It’s always a bigger job than they think.

8. Yard Work – Deal with overgrown bushes, shrubs and trees. Everything in the yard needs to be trimmed, watered, manicured and “living.” Remove everything lying around the yard including sports equipment, boats, trailers, toys, etc. You may also add some color by placing some annuals in planters in the back as well as in the front. Curb appeal makes that all important “first impression.”

9. Furniture – The bottom line … less is best. If it’s old, worn or dated they should put it in storage. They need to remember they are setting a stage and the actor needs to be the house – not their furniture.

10. Hardwood Floors – Hardwood floors can be a huge plus for buyers unless they look like a 20 year old basketball court. It may be a great investment to have them all refinished – and suggest to them it’s not a simple weekend project.

Staging a home correctly and placing each house in the best possible light has become a must in today’s economy. With spring upon us and summer around the corner, the time has come for you to show your clients the way to prepare their homes for what could be the best selling opportunity they have this year.

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