Thursday, January 9, 2014

How We Stage and Sell Our Homes

We have bought three homes, and sold two in our almost nine years of marriage. Prepping a home to sell is HARD WORK, but I think it’s an opportunity for Lachlan and I to use our gifts to be a pretty great team. Even though it’s stressful, we both thrive in having a specific goal before us with mapped out tasks to accomplish together.

We are not expert decorators. Our lived in homes are not blog worthy. They’ve always been cozy and comfortable, with lots of things we love, and lots we’d change if we could. But I’d say we are pretty decent in the staging-and-prepping-to-sell department. Staging and decorating are completely different. True, if you have a well designed home, staging might be easier for you, and if it’s a pretty neutral style, it will appeal to lots of potential buyers, but you can certainly stage your home without spending lots of money or having the best decorated home. I think a well decorated home welcomes people into your space, a well staged home welcomes people into their space. It’s neutral, it guides the eye, it shows people what a well organized life might be like there, it focuses attention on the best of the home, and doesn’t distract from the home itself.

Over the past few months, several friends have put their homes up for sale, and ask us to give them some tips. In order to save some time, I wanted to compile our list here. Feel free to share this with others, and add your own tips in the comments! This is really just a place for me to have a link to send friends. It's not the best "blog," since I have no pictures, but here you go.
First thing, first.
Get a good realtor. It’s invaluable. In the Louisville area, we cannot over state how amazing Cynthia Madsen with Real Estate Unlimited has been.
She is the perfect balance of completely professional, with a caring heart. We are needy clients, we call a lot, we want to know things that other sellers don’t care about, we ask lots of questions. Cynthia is always available; either has an answer, or gets one quickly, and is a kind and warm person. Both of our homes have sold in short order with her at the helm-- 2 weeks and 6 weeks I believe. She was also a huge help in purchasing our homes. If you are anywhere near the Louisville area, use Cynthia. She’s represented lots of other friends as well, and they have all had great experiences. Tell her the Coffeys sent you!


Fix it...

This is the go crazy for 2 weeks part. Like totally crazy. Everything else on hold crazy. Stay up late and recruit babysitters if you can. You will hit the pillow hard these two weeks when you finally do make it to bed. You will stay up late, and get up early, and never sit down during your baby's naps. You will eat too much pizza. But at the end of those two weeks, you will stick that FOR SALE sign in the yard and feel so great. And you may not want to move, because your home will be amazing!

Make a list of all those little things you haven’t fixed; the loose door knob, the closet door that sticks, the creaky floor board. Do you have a light switch plate that is beige, and the switch is white? Change it. Eliminate any little thing you can that will be an eye sore or negative to the potential buyer. Make your Lowes list, and make your first trip. Introduce yourself. You are going to be BFFs with those people over the next few weeks.

Other things to consider; Do you need to repaint? Are there paint splatters all over your ceiling? Can you see finger prints on every wall or the art your 3 year old made for you that Mr. Clean and his Magic Eraser couldn’t defeat? Then the answer is “Yes, you do need to paint.” And the other answer is, “if you are not a great painter (splatters on the ceiling?) You need to hire someone.” I know. That stinks. But you really are paying yourself. Your house will sell faster. You will have to prepare for less showings. You WILL have an edge on your competition. Now, on the other hand, if you have a nice paint job, and the walls are clean and the trim in great shape, I don’t think that you have to have every room Beige. But Neon Orange may be something to consider changing.
You have to spend money to sell your home. And it’s painful. Because usually you are spending money on the things you never really cared about enough to spend money on. Our front steps on our last home were chipped and crumbling in spots. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t the end of the world to us.  There were plenty of other things we WANTED to spend money on for our house, but when it comes to selling, you have to do it, because the buyers don’t want to spend money on those things either, and they start making a list in their head, comparing your home to the one down the street. The one without the crumbling front step will take the lead.
Pack it...
After you’ve made your ‘Fix It’ list, it’s time to start packing. At the end of this step, you will think, “WHY DO WE HAVE SO MUCH CRAP WE DON’T NEED?!?!” And you will also be half way done packing when you sell and it’s time to move. It’s like a gift to your future self. See? Glass half full.

Throw away, and donate as much as you can during this stage. Everything you do pack up in this stage, you should mark with some special symbol, to remind yourself to go through it again when you unpack at your next house. After living without it for a while, you will realize that you can toss or donate lots more of it.

We personally try to pack more than half our stuff up before we list. I HIGHLY recommend getting a storage unit, because half of your stuff also includes furniture. Shop around, google coupon codes, and do it. You want to have the bare minimum to keep your home livable.

Here are some room by room tips:


-Pack up all gadgets and specialty tools that you can. If you usually use a zester, but can use a pairing knife for a while, it gets packed.

-Reduce your pots and pans to the bare minimum it takes to make a dinner.

-All specialty pans, extra casseroles, everything, PACK IT! You should make it your goal to reduce each cabinet and drawer by 50%.

-Remove EVERYTHING from your counters, exception would be a coffeemaker and maybe a cookbook holder and cute cookbook.

-Do a good fridge clean out, toss and then scrub, organize it well.

-Organize your pantry and leave extra space. You don't want it to appear you ever lack for space

-A big bowl of apples or citrus looks great on your table, is useful, and last longer than flowers, although, I think fresh flowers are always nice.


-New shower curtain liner

-Reduce your towels to your best 6

-Eliminate all makeup, meds and bath crap by 75% Think basic. Foundation, mascara, eyeliner and 1 lip gloss. 1 lotion, 1 shampoo, 1 bodywash, 1 all-in-one kids wash.  If you happen to need more before you sell, just buy what you need.

-Cute hand soap and maybe a candle

Living room

-Keep no more than 4 DVDs out, if any.

-Reduce your furniture if you can. We stored one of our couches each time.

-Remove all family pictures, and try to keep, purchase or make just one large neutral piece of art.  

-If you have bookcase you can get rid of, do. If you need to keep the bookcase, or if you think it makes sense to, pack up 80% of your books. If you have to keep books that are not pretty, buy a cute basket that will fit on the shelf to put them in, otherwise, only keep books that are hardcover and look nice.

-Only 3 or 5 (odd number) of knickknacks can be kept.

-No toys in the living area.

Kids Room

-Get 2 cute non see through boxes for each kid room, 1 for  books and 1 for toys. Keep 1 or 2 special stuffed animals they sleep with.


-Closets--reduce by 50% and color code arrange.

-1 sandal, 1 tennis shoe, and 1 school shoe set a kid (and snow boots if it’s winter)

-Remove flat sheets and just use a fitted sheet and quilt, it makes for really easy bed making for last minute showings. We’ve stopped using flat sheets for our kids at all, it’s just too hard for them to make beds with the sheet.

Master Bedroom


-Only keep out 2-3 books you are currently reading, a lamp and an alarm on your end table

-Clear your dresser (If you have two, see if you can reduce to one!)

-Cut your closet by 50-75% and arrange by color (You don’t have to give these clothes away, just make yourself do it. It will be much easier to keep up!)

-Keep a brown and black pair of dress shoes/heels, one pair of athletic, one sandal or flip flop and one pair of boots if it’s winter.

Dining Room

-Really keep this simple. Table, buffet if there is ample room, and a piece of art on the wall.

-Fresh fruit or flowers or a candle for the table.

Overall, reduce your furniture so that buyers can see the potential to live simply and have room to grow.

(If a buyer doesn’t think you take care of the outside, they may not go inside. We left a house or two without ever going in...)

-Add or feature an outdoor eating area. Consider a new umbrella for your patio set.

-LOTS of potted flowers! You can take them with you!

-Flowers for your front porch

-A seating area on the front porch, if possible, with a little table. (Help them imagine passing the evenings away here!)

-A new welcome mat

-A simple wreath

-You may want to consider painting your front door if it is too neutral, dated or worn. This is a pretty quick project that can really make a huge difference.

-Power wash your siding and porch if necessary.

-Stain your deck if needed.

-Lay new mulch, WEED, edge and keep your lawn looking nice.

-If it’s winter, make sure the sidewalk and steps are shoveled if it snows

-Make sure you do a crazy cleaning. Baseboards, mirrors, WINDOWS! Windows are one of the best indicators that you keep a clean house (note to self: Wash windows…)

-Scrub grout

-Clean the ceiling fans and light fixtures.

-Check all the corners (up high on the ceiling and down low behind door...this is where all the dust and cobwebs you miss on your regular cleaning go to hide...


-Turn on all the lights, open all the blinds and curtains, and make sure the windows are clean.

-Buy a couple of laundry baskets to run through the house and throw crap into them and put in your car. (Seriously you may have people drive by and want to see your house, and this will help have it show ready in 15 minutes!) YOU MUST COMMIT TO BRINGING SAID BASKETS BACK IN THE HOUSE TO DEAL WITH AFTER THE SHOWING!

-If you have any dirty dishes, put them in the dishwasher and start it (so long as its a quite one)

-If your washer and dryer are quiet, start a load of dirty laundry. If not, put dirty laundry in a closed non-see through hamper. Take unfolded laundry with you

-Make beds (it’s so easy with no flat sheets! J )

-Wipe down all counters, mirrors, and toilets.

-Take out the trash!

-Put the kids by the door with the iPad, or better yet, buckled in their car seats with a snack and the iPad.

-Light candles.

-If it’s winter and you have a fireplace, light it!

-Vacuum yourself out the door. (I usually just threw my vacuum in my trunk too)!


Reducing the stuff in your home makes managing last minute showing so much easier. When all the toys in your kids room go in one box, it’s easier for them to help as well. Ellory was such a happy kid with her reduced toy load. She actually played much better and kept her room clean on her own, she was 4 the last time we sold our home.

Then, just keep up on the daily stuff. If I knew we were having a showing, I’d try to mop, but if I couldn’t, I just sprayed the visible spots and wiped them up.

Help your realtor sell! Help write the description of your home. You know it best! Tell buyers about your neighborhood, where they can walk, what it’s like to sit on your front porch. What do you love about your home? A playroom near the family room? A kitchen where everyone can gather? The light in the living room?

We do not have pets, but we’ve looked at lots of houses with pets. TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU. It’s very weird to be in someone’s home, without them, and their pets to be there. Your pets are freaking out, and distracting us from seeing our potential home. Also, you may not know it, but your house smells like your pet. Spend the money to have your carpets cleaned and light some high quality candles. There was more than one house we walked in the door of and turned around and walked right back out of because of either smoke or heavy pet odors.

As best as you can, every time you leave your home, for work or the grocery, have it show ready. You won’t light candles and the fire place, but you should have beds made and dirty dishes put away. We got lots of requests for last minute showings when we were not home. Our neighbors or realtor would show up a few minutes early and light the candles, and do a quick run through. But it is a good habit to try to put your kids in the car, and run back through your home every time you leave. You never know who will be the buyer!

Selling your home is hard work, but if you put some up front effort into it, and develop some new habits, it can make your job much easier.

Happy Selling!





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