Love at First Sight
Frederick Peters | President, Warburg Realty
Real estate is a love-at-first-sight business. More often than not buyers respond viscerally one way or another within 30 to 60 seconds after they walk into a property. The subsequent 20 to 30 minutes of the showing either bolster or contradict that initial impression, but it lingers. So the initial impact of the property often determines how quickly and how well it is going to sell. With that in mind, I offer a few suggestions for how to make those first moments as appealing as possible for potential buyers:
• Space sells. There should be no clutter anywhere. If necessary, rent a storage room and move half of your possessions into it. Your property should appear spacious, whether it is a studio apartment or a six-bedroom townhouse. Remove almost everything from tabletops. Get rid of most ultra personal items like photographs, although leaving one or two around can create a nice sense of hominess. Clear out your closets, not mater what size they are, so it looks like they have a little extra room in them. Buyers want to imagine that THEIR possessions will fit into their new home – if you are bursting out of every closet and room that is what they will project into their own future there.
• White sells. Very pale pastel colors are OK too. But that aubergine bedroom you thought would be so entertaining when little Miffy was a baby…it has to go! Likewise the big floral wallpaper you hung in the 80s. You don’t need a fabulous new paint job (and sometimes you can even get away with painting over the wallpaper) but pale neutral colors make a great first impression, on both walls and furniture. Remember: this is staging, not decorating. Your goal is to make the property appeal to as many people as possible, so the simpler and brighter it looks, the better.
• Light sells. Wash all the windows. Remove the heavy draperies to let the natural light into the room. Pull up the shades, or remove them altogether. If you have a really awful view, put sheers up after the windows are washed to soften it. If the view is BOTH awful and pitch black, get an LED lighting strip with natural light and install it behind the sheers, ideally within a small, simple valance.
• Sight lines sell. A house or apartment, like a garden, needs focal points and a sense of orientation. As you declutter, try to be aware of the path the buyer’s eye will follow. What will they see when they walk in the door? Have you made it easy for them to walk directly to the windows, which every buyer wants to do? Have you worked with your agent to figure out the most impactful way to walk through the space? Have you arranged furniture and wall color to provide the greatest sense of continuity leading from one area to another?
• Smell sells. You may love your cat, or your poorly trained dogs, or your half pack of Marlboro Lights, but they do not enhance the quality of the buyer experience. Get a cleaning service in to scrub, scrub, scrub. Get rid of the old stained carpeting and rugs (you may ask yourself why you were living with them all this time anyway?) Open the windows WIDE for a few hours, and while the property is airing out, go out and buy some of those nice expensive scent diffusers and put one in every room. Also, especially in springtime, lilacs and peonies and lilies. No one can be expected to bake bread or simmer spiced cider on the stove every time a prospective buyer come over, but these are some simple steps you can take to create a warm and welcoming scent when buyers walk through your front door.
The above suggestions sound simple but they are not. We all become both blind to and attached to the things around us, so editing or disposing of them can be both complicated and exhausting. Sometimes a stager is necessary to adequately revise a property’s presentation. Sometimes the seller and her agent can work together to achieve the necessary result. Everyone’s home needs to be prepared for sale. We all accumulate, we all personalize, and we all let certain things go. Curb appeal exists differently for apartments than for houses, but it is no less important. I like to tell my agents that while people don’t necessarily know what they WILL buy after 30 seconds in a property, they almost always know what they WON’T buy. We can help you create a great first impression.