I have a dear friend in Nevada who keeps almost two dozen giant bins full of fall decorations in her garage. There’s actually an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves dedicated to all-things-autumn.
We made a trip to see her one fall and I remember how overwhelmed I was by her delightful decorations. She has a real knack for figurine-placement (would that be a knickknack knack?) and I couldn’t deny the finesse with which she had placed all those hundreds of items. I could barely take my eyes off the plethora of carefully posed scarecrows, and the clusters of pumpkins and gourds on every surface in the room, and little hay bales and “I Love Fall” placards and maple leaf garlands and every other red and brown and gold and orange thing you could imagine.
While standing there trying to absorb it all, my friend said, “Hey! You haven’t said a word about my new mantel!”
New mantel? I never noticed.
And therein lies the problem with seasonal decorations, especially when they’re adorning the house you’re hoping to sell. We’ve all heard, “Less is more,” and that’s never truer than when it applies to staging.
If you’re trying to sell your home this fall, here are a few helpful tips:
- Remember the goal: you want every buyer who walks through your front door to think warm, cozy, comfortable, restful and spacious. Stand for a long moment in every room of your house and ask, “How can I set that scene in this space?”
- Eliminate every single item that doesn’t work toward your goal. That pile of papers you can’t bear to move because you just know you’re going to need something in it eventually? Find a way to get over that. Ideally, you can move the pile to an unseen spot, but if you must keep it out in the open, put it in an attractive basket. Do you really need to keep the bottle of dish soap next to the faucet, or could you put it under the sink? How many decorations did you put up? Will they be the focal point of the house, or do you have just enough that they serve to enhance and not mask your home’s best features? Fill a vase with beautiful fall foliage, or set some pears in a wooden bowl. A hint of autumn beauty is better than a truckload of scarecrows and corn stalks. The number one thing you can do to make your house shine is to get rid of all the clutter.
- Wash the windows. With all the beauty outside this time of year, make sure that buyers get a good glimpse. Clean is always better.
- Have you set a cozy tone? Your preferred style may be sparse and utilitarian, but your buyers’ likely won’t be. Nothing says “inviting” like plump pillows and soft, nubby blankets or quilts. Stage the couch so that every person who walks in will wish they could put their feet up and sit a spell. If you’ve got a fireplace or a wood stove, keep the home fires burning. That’s a quick way to add warmth (literally and figuratively) to your home.
- How does the house smell? Do you have indoor pets? The chances are, you no longer notice their scent, but visitors will. Light a spiced-apple or cinnamon-scented candle and let it work its magic. Bake a batch of cookies and heat some cider in the crock pot. Your visitors will appreciate the gesture, and it will set a welcoming tone.
- Now that the inside is the way you want it, go outside. Your buyer’s first impression of your house begins at the curb. Does your house have curb appeal? Does it set a tone that will continue through the front door? Maple leaves are gorgeous this time of year, but if they’re scattered all over your front lawn, the buyer’s very first impression of your home will likely be, “This looks like a lot of work.”
And here’s my final tip: Let’s not hang realistic-looking spiders from all the windows and doorways. Let’s just not.
I met with a client tonight and we drove a loop from Sunnyside to Lake Stevens and back, trying to find that just-perfect house. From our initial list of five homes, we ended up looking at three. This is a client who makes it very easy: she knows exactly what she wants (and what she doesn't).
When we walked into the house just off Sunnyside, my immediate thought was, "This house is staged." From the perfectly plumped pillows to the ringed napkins on the table, not one item was out of place. Generally that tells me that listing agent has either hired a professional home stager, or decorated the house with his or her own furnishings. But rarely is it done on a scale we saw in this home.
To confirm my suspicions, usually all it takes is a quick peek in the fridge. Staged homes have empty fridges. So I took a peek … and saw food. Lots of food. Condiments, soda, leftovers … I slammed the fridge shut and turned to my client.
"Someone really lives here."
I have no idea how the owners manage to live in that perfectly-arranged house and give absolutely no sign of their existence (beyond the mustard and half-eaten sandwiches). But I was truly impressed.
I know how hard it can be to keep your house clean and ready when you're trying to sell. But just know that when you make that effort, it makes an impression on the buyer.
We may just be back.