The Creatives Guide to Great Results
The other day I was talking with a friend who is getting ready to put their home on the market.
Now, anyone who has ever done this will know that it is quite the task. But if you want to sell quickly and get a great price, extra effort up front can make all the difference. In the past few years I have sold a quite a few times, as my now husband and I traded in our respective properties to buy our first house together, and then moved from that first home to something that would give us the chance the renovate. Somewhere in between my parents sold their investment property, and now they are getting ready to put their home on the market and downsize. It seems the past few years I have been surrounded by buying, selling, moving and lots of packing boxes!
In all of this busyness of life I have learnt a few things about getting ready to sell, something I love because it allows me to be a bit creative and really style the space to be beautiful. Funny how we often do that to sell, rather than doing it first up so we can enjoy the space we live in!
Create a Blank Slate
Most realestate agents will give you tips to prepare for sale that run something like this:
- declutter – get rid of anything that you are not using by either storing it, donating it or taking it to the rubbish tip. This creates space. and when you are selling you want people to feel that tidy sense of space.
- de-personalise – take down your family photos, put away your mail. Some of this is a bit of personal security, and some of it is about helping your prospective buyer see themselves in the space. As someone who has walked through many houses for sale with huge wedding portraits around, I know its hard not to feel like you are intruding. Not a feeling that helps you feel great in a space and want to buy.
- clean – everything. Give your home the kind of cleaning it has never seen before and may never see again.
And this is great advice. You should absolutely do these things. I call this the ‘blank slate’ phase and it really should be the first thing you do. Heed this advice, and then I encourage you to go further.
The Extra Mile
I really think you can go the extra mile and will sell much more quickly and well if you do. All of the properties I have sold recently have received top dollar, some even setting record sales for the area (well, that one time). I honestly believe a big part of that is because of what I am going to suggest in the rest of this post.
So, what are my biggest suggestions to style your house for sale? Once you have done the above, try these.
Work your colour scheme
Pick a consistent colour scheme for the main parts of the house, and remove things that don’t fit that. Now, I am not suggesting you cant have neutrals as well, please do. However you want colour in your property and that colour has to feel nicely resolved. That is, it needs to go together. Why colour? It makes your photos online pop, and you want that attention. It also helps the space feel alive and welcoming.
I suggest you pick two or three colours and keep to those. My friend chose two out of a piece of art on the wall and reflected that in the rest of the space. One of those colours was turquoise blue which was in their bar stools so she carried that through to cushions on the sofa and small pieces of art in the room.
Where do I put these colours? Depending on what you have (please, use as much of what you have as you can! Don’t have it? Try to borrow before you buy) you can do cushions, vases, rugs, throws, trays, coasters, plates, glasses, art work, bedding etc. Sprinkle that colour all around. And I mean sprinkle, not over do! Then use neutrals to fill in the gaps. I love grey and that straw or sisal coloured tan. But use whatever you want and have. Of course white helps the space feel light, bright, clean and airy. And i am a sucker for that personally.
When it comes to adding colour, throws and soft furnishings really are your friends. If can also inject some texture using these as well you get extra points!
Show How to Use the Space – aka Issue the Invitation
This next idea is all about showing how the spaces can be used, and I like to think of this as issuing an invitation. Pretend that your potential buyers are friends invited over for a party and set the house up in that warm, inviting way. Yes, even just for the photos. Especially for the photo’s.
One way to do this is to set the table. This is big in display homes, and it can really make your space feel welcoming. Once you have done the decluttering and cleaning a space can feel really hard, sharp and a bit cold. Bring that life back in with a beautiful table settling.
Bring out your placemats (in a neutral or one of your key colours), set out the plates, cutlery and glasses. If you can, stack the plates (large plate under a smaller plate or bowl) and dress up with a napkin. And of course, add in some flowers, a plant or some kind of centre piece. Have a lot of candles around? Try grouping them in the centre of the table for an inexpensive centre piece.
You can also dress the table without doing the whole thing. In one of our recent houses I set up the dining table as if we were having people over for drinks. I had a ice bucket with wine in it, glasses huddled together, a cheese board out. In another home we set up the island counter with a newspaper, coffee cup and croissant, as if it was just waiting for prospective buyers to come down for their morning coffee.
These things might seem a little silly, but trust me, they work. They help give the spaces in your home a purpose, and can help your photos show how big or useful a space really is. Perhaps most importantly, they create an invitation and a sense of the house as a home. And that is worth its weight in real estate gold.
I am also a big fan of creating little ‘vignettes’. This is taking the idea of ‘set the table’ and going that extra bit further. What does this look like? In my townhouse I set up a picnic blanket on the lawn outside, with cushions, magazines etc. Why? The living space was upstairs and it would be easy to look at the yard and the lawn and think ‘oh, I’d never use that’. I wanted people to go out into the yard and realise have nice and quiet it was. By creating a vignette the dialogue becomes more like ‘oh wow, I’d love to sit out there on a sunny day’.
In my husbands place I set up a game of backgammon on the back deck. ‘Yes, you can sit here in the fresh air and enjoy a nice friendly pass time on this lovely outdoor setting’. This small courtyard holds a wealth of possibilities for you!
Vignettes are also a great way to liven up a kitchen. Once you have cleaned and cleared your benchtop, its easy for this to feel quite hard. Bring back the colour with a chopping board and some herbs and a knife for example. Yes, as if you were interrupted mid dinner preparation. If there are lovely smelling herbs I would even cut some and get a bit of aroma going too.
Which brings me to our sense of smell. I’m not going to suggest you need to bake bread just before everyone arrives, but you should address scent. Personally I think candles are a great way to go. I usually place one scented candle near the front door and have that lit during the whole open. You want people to walk in and feel ‘wow’ and at home right away. And a beautiful soft scent is great for that. But please no overly strong or sickly sweet scents that get too much!
For the rest of the house, depending on the scents you have you can either burn them and put them out just as you leave your agent to it, or keep some burning. Just make sure its not overpowering and the scents go together.
I am also a fan of fresh flowers. And I do mean fresh, buy them the day of or the day before your open. A nice alternative is also a beautiful orchid plant. Gorgeous flowers that last a little longer.
Finally, make your entrance welcoming. Bring colour, fun and warmth to the space. This is usually a welcome mat of sorts, and some accessories on your entrance table, perhaps including some flowers and a candle. I usually have a mirror, particularly if the space needs a bit more light. And plants are great. A nice, lush green plant as you enter the home can really add that sense of life you want to evoke.
The Down Side?
If you do a really great job here you may find the you really don’t want to sell. And if you end up feeling that way, I highly encourage you do get to work using these tricks in the new home you move to. Don’t wait until you ‘settle in’ first. Do as much as you can within your means and budget to really make your house a home from day 1. We spend so much time in our spaces it seems crazy that we might make them beautiful and liveable just to hand them over to someone else.
Have you tried some of these tricks before? Or do you have your own secret to styling for sale? If so, I would love to hear from you. Just share your thoughts in the comments below!
As always, thanks for reading.