Upstaging

By Chandra Orr

March 20, 2009 5 min read

UPSTAGING

Get your home ready to sell, and you may want to stay

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Whether you're moving in a month or have plans to stick around for a few years, chances are your house will be back on the market at some point.

A few inexpensive improvements will make a big difference in the bottom line. But why let the next owners have all the fun? Get your home showroom-ready now and you might just fall in love with it all over again.

TONE IT DOWN

Forget what you've seen on the home design shows. You may be itching for a perfectly pink bathroom, but neutral hues are your best bet for attracting buyers.

"The top interior feature buyers look for is freshly painted walls in a neutral palette," said Christine Rae, author of "Home Staging For Dummies" ($20, Wiley) and president of Certified Staging Professionals in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Buyers are looking for a blank canvas, but that doesn't mean you have to live with boring walls. Creamy butter tones, subtle blues, warm grays and golden hues that compliment woodwork make a statement without overwhelming the eye.

"Neutral doesn't mean real estate beige," Rae said. "It's not the color that's important. It's the reaction to the color that counts."

Stick with light colors to preserve a feeling of spaciousness and be sure to maintain a cohesive color scheme throughout the home.

DECLUTTER CLOSETS

"Invest in a closet system. Whether you are moving or living in the house there is nothing better than an organized closet," said Kelly Fallis, president and chief executive of Organized Outcomes Home Staging in Toronto.

Walk-in closets are ideal, but even the smallest spaces can make a big impression with do-it-yourself kits. They typically cost less than $100 and can be installed in just a few hours.

Look for an organizer with multiple shelves and bars at various heights for maximum versatility. Place a few storage cubicles on the floor, add extra shelves to the ceiling and invest in an over-the-door shoe organizer.

"You'll love being able to see all your clothes and accessories and the cost of the system will pay itself many times over upon resale," Fallis said.

FOCUS THE FURNITURE

Think of what sold you on your house in the first place. Then use your furniture to highlight your home's best assets.

"Rearranging the furniture to accent the features of the home -- and not focus on the big screen TV -- will draw more value," said real estate agent and accredited home stager Rhonda Duffy of Duffy Realty of Atlanta.

Try centering the couch in front of the fireplace, clearing clutter from that giant bay window and drawing the eye up to those expansive cathedral ceilings with some well-placed artwork.

GUT THE GARAGE

"Buyers are looking for a functional garage -- a combination of storage and utility," Fallis said. "The want to have space to park their cars but also room to store their gardening tools, bikes, snow shovels and even house a workspace."

A great garage starts with proper storage. Shelves, cupboards and storage units go a long way in keeping things tidy, but even a simple pegboard and hook system for organizing tools and garden equipment will help. Also, consider installing bike hooks, a self-contained recycling center and a workbench.

"It is important, no matter how large your garage is, to maximize your space because potential buyers factor usable space into a purchase offer. Keep the clutter to a bare minimum, and clean it in the spring and fall," Fallis said.

MAKE IT SPARKLE

For a stellar first impression, cleanliness is key -- and we're not talking about a quick once-over with the vacuum and feather duster. It needs to look and smell as fresh as it did the day you moved in.

"People don't want to trade their old dirty house for yours," Rae said. "Your old house is their new one, and they need to feel pride of ownership from the instant they see your property."

To keep that new house feel, perform a deep cleaning twice a year. Steam clean the carpets, wash the walls, clean the cupboards inside and out and get the gunk and rust stains out of bathtubs, sinks and toilets. Don't forget to vacuum the cobwebs from the ceiling, clean the light fixtures and wash the windows and screens.

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