Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cluttered Houses (part two)

I touched on the challenges when a cluttered house is listed for sale in my last post.  Now I'd like to dig a little deeper into the subject.

When a potential buyer walks into a house, they don't need to be distracted. Clutter and other personal items distract a buyer's eye.  If a buyer has to be careful where they're walking because of the clutter, they are looking down rather than noticing the beautiful molding and high ceilings.  They are watching their step rather than seeing the marvelous windows and the view beyond.  They are smelling the odor of accumulated dust and last night's dinner.

When you have your house on the market, you should adopt the attitude that your house is no longer yours.  It should already be decluttered, cleaned and personal items edited before the listing agent arrives to take the listing photo's.  The yard should be well manicured, the walkways clean and the entry inviting.  Remember, most prospective buyers will drive past your house before ever asking to view the interior.  If the outside looks poorly maintained, they will assume the interior is in even worse condition and will just keep on driving.

The day of the viewing, visit each and every space in your house.  Beds made? Dishes off the sink and counter? Toilet and bathtub clean? Garbage out of the house? Curtains wide open? If you have the time and the weather is permitting, open all the windows you can to allow the house to refresh itself.  Allergies are an ever growing problem these days and sometimes perfuming a house can back fire.  There are a lot of folks out there who are allergic to many air fresheners, incense and the like.  Also, if a house is overly perfumed, buyers will often wonder what the homeowner is trying to cover up?  Cat not like to use its litter box? Problem with mildew or mold?

As stated above, you want the curtains wide open at a showing.  This allows natural light to flood into the house which makes every space appear cleaner, fresher and larger.

Get rid of very taste specific items in your house.  You don't have to throw them out.  Box them up and put them in the basement, attic, garage or even rent a storage unit.  You're going to move as soon as the house sells anyway, so might as well get a jump on the packing, right?  Those African masks hanging on your wall may make you happy whenever you see them but for many, it might be frightening and while they may forget that you have beautiful hardwoods in that room, they will never forget that you had those masks on the wall.

Let's dissect some photo's of actual properties that I found listed for sale.
  This bedroom is atrocious.  The bed's not made, there is clutter everywhere, a water bottle is on the nightstand, the closet is not only over stuffed but has no doors and they have taken a corner of the room and transformed it into an office.  Let's not forget the dirty laundry on the bed.

On closer inspection, this room appears to have lovely hardwood floors and a nice modern ceiling fan. However, you have to look hard to notice them with the current condition of the room.

What this room tells me is there is not enough space in this house for an office, there is not enough storage otherwise the closet would not be overflowing and the owners aren't very clean.  Let me expound on the "owners aren't very clean" part.  When you invite an agent to take photo's of your home to put on public websites where millions of people have access to view the interior of your private space, you are going to want to put your very best foot forward, right?  If this is your housekeeping at its very best, what is your everyday housekeeping like?

When selling your home clear out every single piece of clothing that you don't wear on a weekly basis, pack up the winter clothes/shoes if it's warm weather, invest in a nice neutral comforter set and by all means get everything out of the bedroom that is not actual bedroom furniture - yes, that includes the desk/computer. You want your bedroom to appear as spacious and light filled as possible.

Lastly, I can just about guarantee that this room smells badly.  Anytime, you have closed blinds, dirty laundry and open containers of food in a small unventilated space, you are going to get unattractive odors.  Especially if the room is carpeted and most certainly if the owners smoke.

Next, let's look at a living room that while not overly cluttered is overly furnished and poorly decorated.
You may ask "What's wrong with this room?  It's not dirty."  No, it's not dirty but it is visually cluttered.  This is not a large room by anyone's standards but it appears half the actual size because the homeowners have filled it to the brim with stuff.  To make matters worse, the stuff in this room is not to scale with the size of the room.  The ceilings aren't high to begin with so don't overfill the room as it makes the ceilings appear lower.

This is indeed a small room and nothing you do can make it appear huge.  However, you can maximize the footage in this room and make is appear larger than it really is just by editing out the overscaled furnishings.

Again, rent a storage unit and take at least half of these things out of the room and into the unit.  While most stagers loathe TV's, I am of the opinion that TV's need to stay when staging.  There are people who don't own TV's, but they are certainly the minority of people in this country.  Owning a TV is not an oddity these days.  Owning just ONE TV is.  With this in mind, I always like to leave one TV in the house because I realize that when a potential buyer walks through the house, they will look for things such as "where will I place my bed?" or "Where will the couch go?" or "Where will we put the flat screen?"

I would leave the sofa, TV and the small plant stand.  Then I'd bring in a smaller occasional chair, a mirror to bounce the light around and open the blinds to give this room as much light as possible.  Remember, just because you paint your walls white - it doesn't mean the room looks larger.  Sometimes the room just looks bland.  Since it's a small room, paint it a nice light neutral color with a large LRV number.  (LRV stands for "light reflective value" - the higher the LRV number, the more the paint color will bounce natural light).

Most people have a "mystery" room.  Usually it's a small bedroom that we don't use.  This room collects everything that the homeowner either doesn't use much (Christmas decorations, stuff the kids have outgrown or - in my case - even stuff the kids just haven't gotten around to getting out of your home once they move out).  If your house isn't on the market - no big deal - you simply keep the door closed and no one is the wiser.  However, once your house goes on the market, this room must have a better identity.  A 3 bedroom house sells for significantly more than a two bedroom plus a junk room house.  Take a Saturday and armed with garbage bags and boxes, sort through this stuff until the room is clear.  You will probably discover that most of this stuff can go to the curb.  Slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls, vacuum the carpet and voila!  A bedroom has been born!

Where do I begin on this photo?  Not only is it cluttered to an inch of its capacity, but it is horribly decorated.  Again, take a weekend out of your life and address this room!  Take EVERYTHING out and don't bring back the family photo's, keep only a dozen (maximum) of the books and/or video's.  If you just have to have the desk in that room, move it away from the window, strip the wallpaper off the walls and paint and by all means, get rid of the granny curtains and the fake flowers above the window.  NOTE: Fake greenery isn't fooling anyone.  It's just collecting odors and dust and dating the entire house.  Since fake greenery went out in 1990, potential buyers will wonder what else hasn't been updated since 1990.

Next post?  How to update and decorate on a shoestring budget.........

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