Your potential buyers’ imaginations are one of your biggest allies during the home selling process. It’s important that you fully understand this fundamental concept while preparing your home for sale. It will help bring to light why it’s so important that you keep the place spotless and remove any personal touch before anyone steps inside of it. There’s three main concepts to keep in mind that I like to call the 3 D’s: declutter, depersonalize, and deep clean.
Make sure to schedule time to perform all three—and recurring attention when warranted. You’ll notice that you get better overall feedback from showings and open houses than you will if your home is kept in a “lived in” state. Let’s go into each of the three in some depth to explain how they will impact your selling efforts.
Want to know what a buyer’s worst nightmare home is? It’s a hoarder’s house! These homes are typically disgusting to walk through, thanks to all the junk piled up. It’s also almost impossible to get a good feel for what the place would look like empty.
Now, that’s an extreme example, but the same concept applies for all home sellers. You want your home to essentially be the opposite of a hoarder’s home. You want just enough furniture to stimulate the buyer’s imagination, and everything else out of sight and out of mind.
Thus, the best thing to do is either rent a dumpster or storage unit. Start taking out as many unnecessary things as you can. Stuff with no value should be thrown away. The added advantage of doing this is it makes your next move easier and less costly.
If you have a large garage with extra storage space, you may be able to save on the storage unit. Keep in mind, if you have a ton of furniture that you need to store, loading up your garage isn’t much better than leaving it in the house.
Not sure what to keep and what to remove? Simply ask yourself if the item being considered supports a buyer’s own style or not. Neutral, functional furniture, wall art (but not family photos), and basic day to day items are fine to keep. Everything else should be removed whenever possible.
It may be best to use a professional staging company to replace some or all of your furniture. A home pre-listing audit is the perfect opportunity for your real estate agent to determine if you should keep what you have, add select pieces, or start from scratch.
The second step in the declutter, depersonalize and deep clean process is to depersonalize your home. Unless you do professional interior designing for a living, assume that your decorating style will hurt your chances of selling more than it will help. This might seem crazy to you, especially if like me, you’re obsessed with scouring Pinterest for amazing home projects. If you ask me, my home projects should be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens!
Here’s the issue: your cute, funny and/or funky photos, doo-dads and conversation pieces look great to you, but they won’t necessarily to your home buyer. While it’s a bit counterintuitive, it’s best to keep your home as neutral as possible. This way, your buyer can imagine their own style and stuff in the home, rather than your style—even if you think it’s great.
The decluttering process you performed prior to this step should have taken care of the majority of your personal items. It’s still a good idea for an unemotionally invested person, such as your agent, to do a walkthrough with you. This is because they’ll look at everything objectively and won’t gloss over certain items that you may otherwise want to keep.
Remind yourself that the goal here is to sell the buyer on their next home, not to sell the buyer on your home. The personal things in your home are what make it such a special, comforting place for you and your family. Likewise, the buyer’s belongings do the same for them.
The final step of the 3 D’s is deep cleaning, which you should perform on your house from top to bottom. Don’t let your amazing home give a bad impression because the stove is covered in grease, the bathtub has a dirt rim around it, and the floor has food particles and dust covering it.
A home showing is like a job interview. Your home is the interviewee, and the prospective buyer is the interviewer. As an interviewee, you’d make sure you were clean, smelling great, wearing a sharp outfit and looking like you have everything in perfect order. You want your home to give the same impression.
I highly recommend hiring a maid service to perform the cleaning for you. They’re typically skilled in finding places to clean that you might miss. Additionally, they usually know how to clean certain stains without damaging whatever the stain is on. This includes delicate items such as walls, grout, and stainless steel.
Maintenance and Feedback
Because of the amount of foot traffic your home will receive, you should plan to perform a maintenance cleaning every week or so. Even if you won’t be living in the home, this should still be completed. The buyer who comes to a showing during the third week should get the same amazing experience as the buyer who came to the open house on the first weekend.
Additionally, you should be requesting feedback from every buyer who comes through your front door. This can be an instrumental way to identify issues that you missed on your own. If the issues are easy to fix and you identify it with early feedback, you can resolve it and mitigate the damage before many buyers visit your home.
Feedback can also help you determine what to emphasize further, or deemphasize, depending on the context. Perhaps buyers really like a painting you have in one of the bedrooms, and it would make sense to bring it into the living room. Alternatively, you might notice that there’s a pattern of negative feedback towards the dining room decor. In this case, it might make sense to revisit how that room is staged.
If you have any questions about how to best declutter, depersonalize and deep clean your own home for sale, please let me know in the comments. You can also contact us if you’d like to discuss specifics of listing your home in more detail.