The following article is from Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine.
Preparing any property for sale can be a daunting and often overwhelming task, even for a seasoned investor. Whether you are living in your current investment property or if it has been tenanted for years there are some key staging strategies that can help get your property open house read.
1. Start with a change of mind
Too often investors/home owners become either too emotionally attached or not attached at all. I have worked with investors who were renovating a property and blew their budget on some obscenely expensive tile they "had to have" and had nothing left for furnishing the place. On the other hand I've worked with landlords who did not see the value in painting a place that had gone through 3 tenants! Looking at a property from a buyer's perspective is key.
Take a tour with a realtor or a staging professional and get some outside opinions on what areas you should focus your dollars on and what's needed to get the maximum offers.
2. Maximize curb appeal
The outside should draw people inside. Neatly trimmed bushes, mulched beds, weeded lawns all help make that crucial "first impression". Freshly painted front doors with new mailboxes and house numbers are easy ways to create maximum impact without breaking the bank. Adding seasonal urns by the front door for some colour are another way to brighten up concrete steps or boring brick.
3. Choose neutral colour palette
Bold colours are great for living, but not for selling. Light and Bright should be your motto! Stick with a warm, neutral palette like tans, taupes and greys. Avoid dark colours, especially in small spaces (like powder rooms). Keep the ceilings white to keep walls looking tall. Rule of thumb, if the walls haven't been painted in over 2 years, now is the Time!
Return on investment: 109 per cent*
4. Let there be light
Lighting plays a vital role and is often overlooked when getting a property ready for sale. Dark hallways, rooms with little natural light, basements and bathrooms should be addressed. A minimum of a 2-bulb overhead fixture with maximum watt bulbs can transform a dingy area. There should be NO overhead receptacles without a light fixture! Consider adding pendant fixtures in dining rooms and eating areas. Big box stores offer affordable options in brushed nickel or silver fittings.
Adding ambient lighting is essential especially in areas where there is no overhead outlets. Adding table lamps and floor lamps will help brighten up any room and help your property appear as "light-filled" as possible.
Return on investment: 303 per cent*
This is the other main area that always increases the value of a home. It will ALWAYS cost you less to replace worn carpet or add new flooring then to leave it to the new home owners.
Most purchasers are looking for reasons to discount their offers. Flooring is one of the first things buyers see when they walk in. If their first thought is "I will need to replace these floors", I guarantee they are discounting their offers $5000-$10000 for condos and $7000 – $15000 for houses. Doing the work yourself will cost you a fraction of that amount.
Return on investment: 107 per cent*
6. It's all in the details
Replace all burnt out bulbs, touch up any nicks and dents in high traffic areas, replace torn screens and fix leaking faucets. Once the fix ups are done it's time to focus on the pretty stuff. Fresh linens in the bathrooms, a bowl of fresh green apples on a kitchen island, fresh flowers on a dining table or in the entrance way.
Adding live or silk greenery to bathrooms and adding a new crisp bedding set to the Master all help create the impression of a well-cared for home.
7. Clean, clean, clean
This may seem like common sense, but unfortunately it's still the one area owners tend to try and shortcut. This is the time to hire a professional cleaning company. Special attention should be placed on appliances, inside and outside of cupboards, baseboards and windows. Bathrooms should be scoured and if necessary use grout cleaner to get the tiles looking spotless!
8. Highlight best use of the space
Tenants may have liked to use the dining room as an office, but it should be shown with it's intended purpose. Giving a room more than one function (i.e. guest room and office) is a great way to effectively show the space. In condos this becomes essential when space is at a premium.
Using small glass desks with a stool you can tuck in can creatively introduce a "work space" where one wouldn't think possible. Adding a daybed to a den/office creates extra sleeping space. Determine what adds the most value to potential buyers in your neighbourhood and showcase the space accordingly.
9. Kitchens and bathrooms are the place to invest
If you have dated cabinetry, cracked and worn laminate counters, chipped or broken tiles, consider investing in repairing and upgrading these rooms.
If your budget is limited, changing cabinetry hardware to brushed nickel or silver knobs and handles will give it an immediate appeal. Consider painting cabinetry instead of replacing them.
Depending on the price point of your property it is often worthwhile to install stone counters. This immediately adds value and is very durable for long term use. If stone is not in the budget, consider a "stone– like" laminate counter. Recaulking around sinks and bathtubs is a simple improvement that can greatly improve the look of a bathroom.
Return on investment: 172 per cent*
10. Vacant properties sit, staged properties sell
Staged homes sell 2 – 3 times faster and up to 6 per cent more than unstaged ones**. People perceive staged units that are well decorated as worth more. Professional stagers know how to highlight the features of the unit and distract from any "not so desirable" features.
If your budget is limited consider focusing on the main living areas and at least one bedroom. If you can't borrow furniture and artwork, rental companies carry everything from furniture to linens. Just keep in mind that the goal is to show people how to use the space effectively.
Return on investment: 299 per cent*
Remember that 79 per cent of buyers have already viewed your property on the MLS, make sure that your property stands out among the competition! Staging is your key to getting noticed and getting SOLD.
*Homegain Survey 2011
** Joy Valentine Coldwell Banker Survey of 2772 homes
From Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine, a monthly publication focused on building value through property investment, covering topics such as values and trends, mortgages, investment strategies, surveys of regional markets and general tips for buyers and sellers.