Set the Stage (to Sell)

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

Don't get discouraged by the housing market. Set your home apart from the rest for sale by staging to sell.

Diane Griffin is the owner of Griffin Properties in Grand Rapids, and she says a home staged right won't last long on the market. Getting a house ready to sell can be as easy as swapping out pictures and clearing off the counter tops, but Diane has a few more tricks up her sleeve. Follow these tips for staging, and selling, your home.

Remove clutter. "That's a no brainer," Diane says. Clean up items that are placed on the tops of shelves, cabinets, or bookshelves to make the room more open. No more than two items should be displayed on flat surfaces, like the mantelpiece, so maybe box up your Hummel set for the house showing.

"The goal is to clear out visual space so that they can imagine their own things there and also to really accentuate the features of the house. When there are too many things to look at, you miss great details like crown molding or custom woodwork," Diane says.

A quick fix for cleaning closets is making sure there is nothing on the floors or on top of shelves. This will make the closet look bigger. When closets are packed from top to bottom, buyers get the feeling that the house lacks storage space, Diane says.

But don't empty rooms completely. In vacant homes, focus on rooms that are harder to imagine like the living room. Bedrooms are pretty typical, bed, dressers, etc. but in a living room, especially one that is oddly shaped or has focal points like a fire place, Diane says sellers need to give buyers something to work with.

"We find that buyers now have just over zero imagination," Diane says. "I think staging really enhances a relatively limited vision on what a space could look like."

Avoid fragrances for your showings. Baking a pie will only make the house feel like a home if it's coming out of the oven when buyers walk in the front door, Diane says. Apple pie candles are no substitute, either. Beware of conflicting smells as well. Cinnamon in the living room, apples in the kitchen, lemon in the bathroom, and so on will just give buyers a headache.

Keep personal photos to a minimum if for no other reason than because buyers may come into your house and recognize you. Diane says personal photos are one of the most distracting elements when she's showing homes because buyers get stuck on trying to place the family and miss the rest of the elements in the room.

"I find myself trying to reel them back in," she says.

Removing personal photos is not meant to erase the family, but to help buyers focus on the house, not members of your family.

The most simple way to get a house ready for a showing is to walk through it as if the owners are actually the buyers.

"You are trying to have the fewest number of obstacles period when somebody goes through a house," Diane says. "The goal is to be as appealing as possible to as many as possible and that increases the number of people interested in the house and the quickness it sells and ultimately gets you a better price."

Other quick tips:
Clean the gutters, paint over the pink bathroom with a neutral color, make the outside entryway feel inviting by sweeping off the front steps or clearing cobwebs from the light fixture and door frame, clean the basement, and "interestingly enough, paint the basement floor," Diane says.

Written by: Erika Fifelski is the West Michigan Woman magazine editorial coordinator. She was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys gardening, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photos Roger Kirby, Darko Skender

More stories you'll love