By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Staging and organization pros Lorie Marrero and Ashley Whittenberger have seen how clients can quickly get overwhelmed with the selling and moving process. Not to mention, how clutter and a few questionable decor choices can prolong the process even more by turning off buyers.
In honor of National Moving Month, the two experts have teamed up to help provide tips on how to improve your listings’ showings to get the house sold so your sellers can finally move on.
Marrero and Whittenberger recently answered some questions for Styled, Staged & Sold on everything from getting a home ready to sell, how to intervene with your seller’s messy ways, and how to show your sellers how they can live in a staged house and keep it clutter-free and sparkling while it’s on the market (which is no easy task!).
Marrero is the author of “The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life” (Reason Press, 2009) and the creator of ClutterDiet.com. Whittenberger, a staging expert, is the president and CEO of Interiority Complex LLC.
To hear more of their moving and showing tips, Marrero and Whittenberger will be hosting a telecast, “Sell Your Home Faster & Improve Your Move,” 12 p.m. (EST) on Thursday that is geared for real estate professionals, stagers, sellers, and professional organizers. You can sign up here.
What are the main problems you often see in homes when sellers get ready to put their home on the market?
WHITTENBERGER: Too much clutter, too much furniture, and décor that is very taste specific. When staging, less is more. I always tell sellers that it’s important to remember that we’re selling your home, not your things! We want the home to be the star of the show, not your décor.
On the other hand, I have seen a few cases in which the seller has gone to the extreme of neutralizing and de-cluttering, and the home just looks bland with no personality whatsoever. The key is in striking a harmonious balance when designing the space. Professional home stagers do this by appointing and arranging appropriate art, décor, and furniture which highlights the architectural features of the home and helps it to stand out among the rest.
What’s a low-cost idea for prepping a home for sale that can have some of the biggest impact on its look?
MARRERO: Decluttering can have some of the biggest impact of all with the least cost. Decluttering accomplishes several things: 1.) It makes the space look larger; 2.) It de-personalizes the space so buyers can picture themselves living there without being distracted by your "collections" and stacks; and 3.) It makes the space feel cleaner and the home seem better maintained in general.
In fact, HomeGain.com's 2011 survey says that decluttering brings a 586 percent return on investment when you sell.
Trying to keep a home always clean and clutter-free when you’re trying to sell can be a challenge. Do you have any tips for sellers on how to make living in staged home more simple?
MARRERO: First, try to limit where you spend time in the house, closing off some rooms in "ready state" if you can. If possible, kids can even share a room for a short amount of time to leave another bedroom show-ready. If you have both a family room and a playroom, agree with the family that we'll all watch TV together in one place instead of two for just a few weeks.
I don't usually like recommending self-storage facilities, but in a time of transition that is their best use. Extra belongings can be packed up ahead of the move and stored temporarily, especially off-season clothing, holiday decorations, large collections, and other items that are definitely not needed on a daily basis.
Also, have a plan and a checklist for home showings... assign each family member certain items on the checklist so that when the call comes, you can say “GO” and know exactly what to do before you leave the house. If you have pets, make sure a "pet plan" is part of that checklist to contain or remove the pets during a showing.
WHITTENBERGER: As someone who is living in this situation right now, I can personally speak to this! The simplest way to stay on top of this is to clean and organize as you go (which is what we should be doing anyway). You get out of bed, you make it. You finish your coffee, you wash that cup and put it away. When the kids get home from school, have them place their backpack and shoes in a dedicated area, and so on. This makes getting ready for showings much easier.
Also, keeping extra laundry hampers in closets is a great place to hide those things that need hiding at the last minute before showings (i.e. dog bed, bathroom rugs, towels, etc.)
If you keep on top of it, and everyone in the house contributes, you should only have to allow an extra 15 minutes or so in your schedule every day to get the house “picture perfect”.
Real estate professionals should also be sure to call at least 30 minutes to an hour beforehand to make sure their clients have time to prepare.
How can you intervene with a seller’s messy ways without hurting his or her feelings?
MARRERO: It's easier to talk about clutter problems when it's time to sell a house, because the client knows you are bringing the objectivity to the situation that they need. When you know that strangers are going to be parading through your house opening your closets, it's quite a reality check!
WHITTENBERGER: We start by educating them because we understand that most home sellers only go through this experience a few times in their lifetime, whereas a professional home stager or real estate professional goes through this experience every day. To help educate our clients before their home staging appointments, we created a special online home staging guide that they view prior to their consultation. In the online video presentation, we share important tips on home staging basics as well as lots of statistics that help sellers understand the science, psychology, and marketing strategy behind staging.
We help teach the sellers to shift toward viewing their home as a product versus viewing it as their personal abode and “home sweet home”. Once they make this shift, they are ready, willing, and able to package their product to stand out from the rest.
How can real estate professionals and stagers help sellers have a smoother move?
MARRERO: The main way to help is to keep in mind the process they are going through, and in doing so, anticipating the resources they may need to help them. Moving is incredibly stressful, and there are many details to manage and remember.
In your professional networking efforts, make sure you identify a list of several resources for people who are moving, such as nearby self-storage facilities, moving companies, professional organizers, repair services, lawn care services, house- and pet-sitters, and the like.
I'd also like to suggest giving them some great tools. We have an Improve Your Move Product Pack, which includes a workbook and a kitchen product I invented after 11 personal moves and countless client moves in over a decade in the organizing industry.
In your upcoming telecast, what are some of the ideas that you will be highlighting on how you can sell your home faster in this real estate market?
WHITTENBERGER: Lorie will be focusing on the organizing aspects, such as: How to organize yourself and your paperwork for the move and how to know what to pack and when… and what you NEVER should put on a truck! I’ll be talking about the marketing and packaging aspects of preparing your home for sale, such as the areas of improvement with highest ROI; how you can leverage current home buying trends to stand out and compete with new construction; and how to save money and time when preparing your home for sale.
To sign up for Thursday’s telecast, “Sell Your Home Faster & Improve Your Move,” visit the Interiority Complex.