How to Style Your Home for Sale
If you’ve been prepping your home for sale, you’ve probably been getting a bunch of outdated information from well-meaning real estate agents. Paint all the walls white! Hide every last family photo in a drawer or closet! Potential buyers want to imagine themselves in the home, so wipe out all traces of anyone living here!
The truth is, home buyers are much savvier than they used to be, and no one wants to live in an art gallery. To put these and other hoary old tropes of home buying and selling to rest for good, we reached out to Mary Jane White, owner of Cohen + White, a boutique real estate agency in Lenox, Massachusetts. With 30-plus years in the business and an impressive track record as one of the top producers in the Berkshires, Mary Jane has a whole lot to say about the do’s and don’ts of styling your home for real estate showings.
Fresh American: One of the most common tips we hear in decorating a home for sale is that you should paint all of your walls neutral. Is this really true?
Mary Jane White: Absolutely not. What matters is good design. On a lot of home shows, they’ll tell you to depersonalize the entire house, but buyers respond to houses that don’t look vanilla, that have a personality.
FA: What are the most important decorating or styling points to hit when you’re selling your home?
MJW: It’s more about the time you put into the prep than about spending a lot of money. The number one thing is that the house needs to be spotless. The windows should be sparkling, the floors gleaming, the countertops decluttered. You should set out fresh towels in the kitchen and the bath especially. Accessories should be clean and new. Also, make sure all lamps and lightbulbs are working.
I tell people to start by throwing out the mess from attic to basement. Messiness gives the impression to the buyer that this is how the house has been maintained. Buyers will look beyond furnishings, even if they’re not the most upscale, but they will not look beyond the disorganized, the cluttered, or the dirty. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $100,000 house or a $5 million house;,it’s about the pride with which a seller represents their home to the public.
FA: So once you’ve cleaned from top to bottom, what’s the next step?
MJW: Closets are the first thing sellers go through, so hang things neatly. If you need to, buy shelving, garment bags, or storage bins. Piles of clothes are not okay!
Next, get those stains out of the carpeting. Buff those hardwood floors and get rid of scratches. Touch up scratches or dings on baseboards, doors, and walls. Paint is cheap, so don’t overlook this! Then repair any torn screens and cracked windows.
FA: Walk us through what we should do in each of the major rooms, and the exterior. Let’s start with a general overview.
MJW: Placing fresh flowers throughout the house is a good idea, but make sure they’re not strong-smelling ones. Lilies, in particular, have a strong scent and are often associated with funerals, so don’t use them.
If you have a cat, clean the litter box as close to the showing as you can, and then figure out the best location for it, so that any smells won’t be offensive. The laundry room or basement are good.
Take another look around. Can you declutter even more? There should be no piles of mail, papers, newspapers, or magazines, not even in the office. Less is more.
Read the full interview.