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How to effectively 'show' your home

Showing your home is a lot like a first date: You get your house all gussied up, put the prettiest face possible on the property and try to impress the heck out of someone you barely know -- the potential buyer. The objective, however, is not to get a phone number or a peck on the cheek. It's to make a sale, which in most cases, is a far greater challenge.

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But showing a home does not have to be an overwhelming, costly process. Regardless of your home's size, age, style, and location, there are ways to spruce it up and effectively showcase its assets. So grab your paintbrush, carpet cleaner, lawn mower, and Lysol -- the four ingredients to a great first date -- and get to work on your house.

The condition of your home is one of three factors that influence a buyer's decision, says Judy Wakeley, an accredited staging professional and owner of Refined Spaces, a real estate staging and interior redesign company based in Westchester, Pa., and Lewes, Del. "Unlike location, this is one factor you can control," she says. But the idea is "not to improve the condition of your home to your liking, but to improve it to sell it."

Creating good flow
There are four main areas of the home sellers should focus on, according to Lori Matzke, owner of Center Stage Home, a home presentation company based in Minneapolis, Minn. The first is the entryway. "That is your first impression of the house. Anything visible from this standpoint needs to look great," Matzke says. "If you don't impress them immediately it will be an uphill battle from then on to regain their interest." The family/living room, kitchen, and master bedroom are the three other crucial areas.

The key to showcasing these rooms is to create good flow. "Buyers want to move easily from one room to the next," she says. But at the same time, they need direction. "It's important to assign each room a purpose -- a commonplace purpose," she says. "Even though you may use your formal dining room as your office, you must show the dining room with its intended purpose."

Sellers should personalize the experience for the buyer. "The buyers have to be able to see past your life and your stuff so they can visualize what it would be like for them to live in your home," says Allyson Bernard, regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors' New England region. "Minimizing clutter and packing up personal belongings helps them do that."

There are two schools of thought on de-personalizing your home. "A lot of people say to take down the family photos, but I disagree. You're not fooling anyone by pretending you don't live there," says Matzke. She does, however, recommend that wedding and graduation photos, as well as collections (i.e. stuffed animals, teapots), be removed. "Those are too personal," she says.

Wakely, on the other hand, believes anything that could potentially pose a distraction should be put away. "Buyers only spend 10 to 15 minutes in a home. You don't want them to be distracted by unimportant details like personal mementos. That won't help you sell your house," she says.

Cleanliness is godliness
At the same time, it's not possible to fully neutralize a home that's being occupied. Furthermore, "vacant houses do not show well. A room looks smaller without furniture and stuff in it," says Wakeley. But it must be understood that each person has a different sense of style. That style is often reflected in the type of furniture one chooses and in the way that it is arranged. "As long as the house is clean and well-maintained, buyers can look beyond the purple bathroom or the floral wallpaper in the bathroom, which might not be their style," says Bernard.

-- Posted: May 16, 2005

'05 Real Estate Guide
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