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  • Writer's pictureRebecca B.

Make your Listing Bidding-War Worthy

I usually start these posts assuming I'm speaking to people who will be using me as their real estate agent. I mean, obviously. But let's say that you haven't spoken to an agent yet and you want to sell your home. You googled "I want to sell my home" and found this article. You're curious about what's in store for you, but you've been putting it off because you just KNOW the agent will want you to "stage" (cue scary music).


Let me help you get over the fear. First, know there are degrees of staging and you don't need to pick the most extreme version. If you can do the whole shebang-- hire a stager, stow your furniture, rent more furniture, and have a professional make your space look like the American dream, YOU SHOULD. According to Forbes, fully staged homes sell for 17% more and 87% faster. Yup. Let that sink in a minute. Rethinking your situation? Maybe there is a way you can get the family to your mom's for a couple months so everything can go into storage? Then yes, you should make that happen and stage your home. Living in chaos for just a little bit will pay off big time, I promise.



But what if your kids are in school and the grandparents are in another part of the country so you must live in your home while it's on the market? Of course that is fine, and no real estate agent is going to force you out of your home. But! That doesn't let you off the hook. In this case, you and your agent will come up with a plan on how to "stage" yourselves. No, you don't have to rent furniture. Well, if you have a particularly cat-scratched couch or an Archie Bunker arm chair, you need to replace that. (Does anyone even know who Archie Bunker is anymore? Why do I!?) But for the most part, you use what you have, with some HomeGoods finds added in.



The first step is the hardest. You will pack up and store a third to half of all your stuff. Yes, this part is worthy of dread. Let yourself go there for a day, but then just get over it and see it for what it is: packing to move! You will have to do this anyway if you want a new home. The more you pack now, the easier it will be once the house is sold. Now why do you need to put away so much? Well, put on your stager cap, you're trying to make this look like the perfect space to buyers. If your closets are full to the brim, they may think there isn't enough storage (and you know if a buyer is really interested, they're gonna open EVERYTHING). But if your closets have room to spare and you're living there, they don't know you put things away! They think, "Oh, if I had this many closets, I would be organized too, like these people!" Lies, but we all do it. We see an image, assume something, and place ourselves in the narrative. It's your job to go through your entire home and give them the best story possible.



What do you put away? First all personal items. It's harder to imagine yourself in a space when there are pictures of another family. This includes trinkets, souvenirs, or even pieces of art that obviously have a personal story behind them. If you have books packed into built-ins, pack away some of that. Wise to do this at the start of a season so you can pack away a good deal of clothes. Spring is great so you can put all coats and winter gear in storage. Do you have a junk drawer? A medicine cabinet filled with hotel shampoo bottles? Gone. Kids have toys overflowing their toy bins? Work with them to decide what to put away for a while. Give them a reward for being so helpful and something to look forward to once the house is sold. Have a garage/basement/room/closet where you just stick stuff? Think, "Oh, it's ok if I leave that one space messy"? Don't you dare ruin this perfect fairy tail with the reveal of your pile of junk! Get rid of it. The buyer must be in love with everything. The story doesn't end till they are walking away, and even then we hope that they can't get it out of their mind. You want to get to a point where every cabinet, drawer, shelf, and closet is orderly and has room for a good deal more. At this point in my lecture someone usually says, "I can get my space all pretty and organized, but I can't keep it like that for weeks at a time!" Of course you can't. Don't worry. You will work with your agent to have set showing times. A weekend open house and a few weekday times that you will always tidy up for, before leaving your place.


Now that the pre-packing is done, you can have some fun. Oh, first you should celebrate how organized you feel. Maybe you'll realize you don't need a lot of that stuff anyway and you Marie Kondo-ed your life without even knowing it. Then you very minimally fill in any gaps you have. Talk to your agent about this. They may have things to use. Or you can shop together for things that will also look great in your next home. Bookshelves are kind of bare without all the books and pictures? Get some "sit-around" things from TJ Max-- candle holders, brass bowls, vases, small plants. Couch needs something now that the "I Love Aruba" pillow is gone? Work with your agent to choose accent colors for rooms. It's best if the furniture is neutral, then you add pops of color with accent pillows, coasters, small books, that sort of thing. Less is more, remember nothing can feel cluttered.


Then finally, ask yourself these questions about each room: Is there enough light? Is the paint ok or need any touchups? Are there cracks anywhere in the ceilings that can be repaired (cracks = leaks for buyers, even if there isn't one. And fixing them is not hard)? Are there any oddly blank spaces on any wall? Does the furniture make sense or is there a different way to organize the room that uses the space better? Is there a plant here or room for one? Does this room feel cluttered in any way? Does this room need more anything (color, seating, rugs, sit-arounds, light, etc)? Make the appropriate adjustments, with your agent.



This is the recipe for creating a listing buyers will fight over. Why is it good to know before even talking to an agent? Because making changes to your home can be a tricky conversation for some. Even I have found it hard to be completely honest about changes needed when a seller seems emotionally connected to their home as it is. The initial conversation will be much more fruitful if you offer some changes you want to make. Let your agent know you plan to put away much of your stuff and organize. Point out if rooms need lights or if you know your bulky living room set has to go. If I recognize you are open to the work then I can be more open about what is needed and we establish that great communication that is necessary for the process. I will be happy to take the listing. Believe me, if your home needs changes and you aren't willing to make them, good agents won't take the job. Also, if we work together to get your home ready for market, I become attached to the space too. That excitement will be felt when buyers enter the space and add to the fairy tail.


So, now that you know what's in store, are you ready to talk to an agent? Reach out anytime! Happy home hunting, NYC!



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