Richard Gere sang about it in "Chicago," Razzle-dazzle them." That's exactly what you may have to do in order to sell your house when few are buying. And just how you do that breaks down in A's, B's and C's according to Anne Kenney of Anne Kenney Associates, a Manhattan-based staging company for sales and rentals. "I tell my clients the A's are must do's, the B's are great to do if budget permits, and C's are good to do if budget permits. Since there's a recession out there, let's just concentrate on the must do's.
So, what's on Anne's A-list? First and foremost, de-clutter every room. Including closets. "If the room feels bare to you, it's probably perfect for buyers who want to see space, not your stuff," says Anne. Remove excess furniture and accessories, wall décor, plants, toys, papers, books, magazines and clothes. Clear off furniture surfaces, coffee tables, dressers and nightstands. Do the same for kitchen and bathroom counters.
Remove all distractions. These are frequently items of a personal nature such as family photos, trophies, diplomas and collections. These may have made your house your home, but you want potential buyers to see it as their house. Your belongings may make them feel uncomfortable even though they may not know why and you want them to imagine themselves in your abode surrounded by their trophies and the rest.
Limit room function even if you had multiple purposes for some of them For example, a dining room should look like a dining room. If you had a desk stuck in the corner for extra workspace, move that desk out. If the family room also served as hobby center, clear that stuff out. Each room must be instantly identifiable as one thing so the buyer is not confused about purpose of room. Sounds weird, I know, but buyers could walk away wondering whether they just saw a house with fewer rooms than the listing indicated.
Clean as though your mother and mother-in-law were both coming to visit. There is no bigger turn-off to a potential buyer than the odors of someone else's life., smudges on the wall from someone else's kids, stains on the carpet from someone else's pets.
Make repairs where obvious. Fix that leaky faucet, patch any holes, fill-in missing grout, replace any broken light switches, repane broken glass, make sure cabinet doors and drawers open correctly. Repair and paint ceilings and walls that are obviously cracked or dingy. And if you have any rooms that are highly personalized in choice of color or wallpaper, change to something neutral. Not every one will love your royal blue kitchen or lime green powder room.
Add light wherever you can. It makes a room appear bigger and more welcoming. It's an easy and inexpensive way to create some drama to an otherwise ordinary space.
And don't forget the exterior. Curb appeal is important. It is a buyer's first view of your home. It doesn't have to be a landscape architect's dream, but it should appear trimmed . Don't invest in new shrubs but put out some potted plants near the entrance. Make sure the entrance door is sparkling. Repaint it if necessary. This trick can make the whole house look freshly painted.
Short of paying for repairs and painting, these are all self-staging maneuvers. When do you need a professional? If your house is empty and you want to rent furniture to make it look more inviting, it's a good idea to get some advice. If you know you won't do any of the above unless you hear it from someone else, it's money well spent.. Prices vary by location and amount of staging required according to Anne.
Frequently your real estate agent knows of local staging professionals. Ask to see some examples of their work before signing on. In this case, you don't have to buy a ticket until you see the show.
(for more of my stories go to nbcnewyork.com)