5 areas agents focus on when getting a home ready to market

Agents helping clients get their homes ready to sell, focus on several key areas to help them get the most out of the home selling process. From paint colors to flooring and everything in between, we spoke with some agents to find out what they tell clients when getting their homes ready to market. 

Paint Color 

Paint color is important because dark colors can make a home feel smaller and it’s too personal, according to Mona DeRosby real estate broker at LAER Realty Partners. DeRosby, who also has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, says she tries to have her clients use neutral grey beiges from Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore to Edgecomb Grey and Light Pewter — she says these are her go-to colors for light grey beiges. 

“Paint and floors in general change an entire house when deciding whether to update or not to update because it gives you a sense the house is clean and you can move right into it,” she says. 

DeRosby says new paint and flooring are inexpensive ways to transform an entire house. 

“Most people looking at single-family homes are families and they don’t want to move into their house and paint the walls, plus they’re usually moving from another house and need to move right in,” she said. “Doing floors and walls are the two biggest things you must do before you sell. With neutral colors, they can later paint the bedrooms the color they want. At least for now it looks good.”

Dark wood is also not in unless it’s an antique home, she says. “Painting everything white for trim is the way to go,” she says. 

DeRosby says wallpaper is also making a comeback, but only as an accent wall in a bedroom behind a headboard or in a bathroom on the sink wall. People are also using paintable wallpaper to add texture. 

Tracy Spaniol, Realtor with RE/MAX Encore also believes neutral colors are best and that a fresh coat of paint is important for getting your client’s home ready to market. 

“Bright or specific colors can be very off-putting to a potential buyer because it immediately makes them feel that they have to move in and do work,” she says. “Bold colors may look nice in the seller’s eyes but be hated by potential buyers. A seller’s best option is to stick with a basic tone, we are seeing lots of light gray tones right now. Keeping it light and neutral gives the buyers the ability to picture the home as a blank canvas. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way in making a home feel fresh and clean.”

Declutter and Depersonalize

If a client does nothing else, they need to declutter to enable potential buyers to envision themselves in the home rather than envisioning the sellers living there, Spaniol says. 

“I always tell sellers that they need to make their home look and feel like no one lives there,” Spaniol says. “This is not an easy task but I always recommend that they start to pack up and either put their things in storage or find a spot in the basement or attic where they can keep it.” 

Spaniol also suggests her clients take all personal pictures and belongings off the walls and furniture.

“Less is more, again giving buyers a blank canvas to work with,” she says. “If a buyer is walking through a house loaded with furniture and tripping over things they are going to feel like the home has less space than it actually does.”

Curb Appeal

It’s not just the inside of the house that agents recommend cleaning up before putting a home on the market. The outside of a home is its first impression to a potential buyer. DeRosby recommends mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes and mulching because it can go a long way. 

“When you have a yard that‘s not well kept, it stresses people out,” DeRosby says. “They haven’t made it to the house and are already thinking about how they’re going to clean up this yard.”

Minor Repairs and Fixes 

Both DeRosby and Spaniol say making sure all the little things are handled is also important. Both say walking through the entire property with their client is key to finding anything that needs to be fixed before putting it on the market. 

“I typically go through the entire property with people to see if anything stands out, things like deferred maintenance, if there’s a leak, if there’s rotted wood,” DeRosby says. “These are cheap fixes for people. People who live in their homes don’t realize the things that stick out, like outlet covers, light bulbs, etc.”

Spaniol has the same philosophy that sellers should make minor repairs and fixes. “For example, I think there is nothing worse than when I walk through a home with buyers and there are missing electrical outlet covers or light switch covers. That shows me that a seller does not take pride in their home,” she says. “If a seller wants top dollar for their home, they need to make buyers feel like it is worth it. If they can’t put out a few dollars for an obvious inexpensive repair, what other big repairs did they not do?”

Spaniol says sellers should also be careful not to spend too much money on big-ticket items right before listing their homes. 

“In most cases, they will not get back dollar for dollar,” she says. “I like to walk through a potential seller’s home with them and make suggestions on a case-by-case or item-by-item basis, discussing the pros and cons of any work they are considering doing to get their home ready to list. For example, if a roof is on the older side but still has some life left in it, that would be a different conversation than a roof that has an active water leak in it.”

Pet Areas 

For her clients with pets, Spaniol suggests keeping litter boxes, dog beds and animal cages in an area where they are not going to be smelled. “Pet smells can be an immediate turn-off to buyers walking through a home,” she says.

Further Reading

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Staging for the post coronavirus error: 3 features buyers will want

Staging for the post-coronavirus era: 3 features buyers are going to want

There are many ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives, but one of the most obvious is that it has contained us in our homes — maybe for months.

While life on lockdown will eventually end, a calamity of this scale means lasting, permanent changes in the way we work and live. Just as the Great Depression gave rise to a “waste not, want not” generation, the coronavirus has given rise to a “work from home” revolution that’s likely to stick around in one form or another. And that, among other factors, is likely to shape what buyers want in a home. Agent Publishing talked to agents and stagers across the country to find out what will be important moving forward.

  1. Home office

At the top of the list is a dedicated home office. Remodeling site Houzz recently polled its community of homeowners and design professionals and found that the majority of respondents (55%) have a home office, but a quarter (25%) work from their dining or kitchen table, with one in ten laboring from the sofa (11%).

According to the poll, top challenges associated with unexpectedly working from home in light of the coronavirus pandemic include: Finding a private or quiet location away from high-traffic living areas (30%), securing a computer with a strong Wi-Fi connection (25%) and creating a comfortable workspace (25%).

With that in mind, agents marketing homes without dedicated offices need to get creative, said Houston agent Amber Kuhl, with The Collection Real Estate by JLA Realty. “It’s going to be super important to fit in some sort of office space where there wasn’t one before,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged office, but you do need to stay at the forefront of what clients are looking for.” Kuhl and her partner Kelly Donawa, who offer staging as part of their concierge services, suggested the following home office hacks:

  • Carve out an office space in a nook or entryway.
  • Turn a hall closet into an office by adding built-ins.
  • Install a vanity cutout on the periphery of the kitchen, in a pantry or wet bar area.
  • Utilize unused space like an upstairs landing or underneath a staircase.
  • Make the dining room do double duty.
  • Reimagine the master bedroom as a multi-function room.
  1. Private outdoor space

Showcasing outdoor space has always been important, according to Ilaria Barion, owner of Arizona-based staging company Ilaria Barion Design, but thanks to social distancing, it’s now a top priority. “Outdoor space defines the kind of lifestyle you can have,” Barion said. “We normally recommend staging as many outdoor spaces as possible. If you have to cut out anything, cut out the bedroom.”

Depending on the target market, Barion recommends focusing on one of two things when it comes to outdoor space: entertaining or family time. While family-friendly outdoor spaces outfitted with pools, fire pits and outdoor kitchens tend to sell themselves, condos and townhomes with limited outdoor space require a little more imagination.

“For a condo with a small balcony, I think having two chairs and a small table with a bottle of wine is nice. If you have outdoor space off the kitchen and facing the back of the building, then add a grill and eating area.”

Keep the furniture mostly neutral, Barion said, and add pops of color with pillows or cushions and flowers. “You’re not selling the furniture, you’re selling the experience,” she said. Outdoor lighting, rugs and plants will add a sense of luxury and help create an emotional connection that’s particularly important right now. “If someone connects emotionally, they’re less price sensitive. It’s also important to change the language in a listing to highlight outdoor space.”

  1. Mudroom

Often the main point of entry between the garage and the kitchen and a depository for coats, shoes and sports gear, the mudroom has taken on new importance during the COVID-19 pandemic as a decontamination station and place to stash potentially infected packages, grocery bags and even takeout bags.

But what if there’s no mudroom? According to Rachel Cristobal, owner of Staging Sells in Chicago, an easy solution can often be found in the garage.

“I would suggest putting in some type of a bench with cubbies for boots and shoes as close to the doorway as possible along with some disinfectant wipes for door handles,” she said. Installing a pegboard wall is another cheap and easy solution. “You can hang bins to hold packages, install shelves and get as creative as you want.”

While the garage is probably one of the best places, if that’s not available, try to carve out some space on the front porch or front entryway, she said.

Throughout history, how we inhabit physical space has been a primary defense against epidemics, and this time is no different. “We’re going to see people come out of this with a much better understanding of lifestyle and awareness of what they’re looking for in a home,” Kuhl said. “Learning to rework space makes all the difference in the world. It can be a simple re-tooling. That’s what agents are going to be tasked with moving forward.”

For more information on staging homes, watch AgentEDU’s course on staging and preparing a listing for the market.