Timelines and Turn-Offs for Home Staging for Sale

If you are planning to put your house up in 30 days or 60 days, it is important that you sit down and develop a Timeline. Even if you do not stick to it perfectly, it will give you a structure and with the myriad of details leading up to a move, the Timeline will save your sanity.

Tip. If you do not want to type out a timeline, take a commercial calendar and fill out information on the dates.

You might start with Week 1 and list what you want to accomplish. Things like painting, cleaning up outside, contacting realtors about appointments, possible house inspection, gather yearly bills for gas, electricity, water, and others. Week 2 might be to work inside, clean rugs, wash windows, begin packing for storage, start any painting; you get the idea. Only you can decide what will work for you. There is something about writing everything down and checking it off that helps with the stress by letting you see that you are making progress.

I am going to suggest that you put painting on your Week 1 "to do" list. You want all paint smells out of the house long before the first walk-through. If you need to brighten some of your rooms, shades of white account for 50 percent of paint sales, and for good reason. Subtle whites are refreshing, restful, and all furnishings look good against white (not bright white though). A house with neutral colors accommodates everyone's decorating style. Do not forget the woodwork, mouldings, trim, and doors and if these are painted white, a fresh coat of paint will revive them.

I guarantee that the house will feel cleaner and newer. You do not have to repaint every room of your house but try to neutralize the more important rooms, like the family room, front room, and master bedroom. In addition, if you have a teenager who has painted his or her room bright purple or black, repainting is a must. Therefore, as soon as you have decluttered and cleaned out a room, start painting, and while it is drying work on another room.

My suggested 4 week general Timeline might be, Week 1. Paint, Begin Uncluttering, Week 2. Unclutter and Repair, Week 3. Clean, and Clean, and Clean, Week 4. Accessorize and Stage. You can take your calendar and fill in your fixups day-by-day according to your repair and cleanup

If you know something is broken, fix it! The truth is that your home probably needs some if not a lot of, work to prepare it for sale. I just moved into my house a year ago and I can look around and find dozens of small items that need fixing or finishing before I could put it up for sale and I have been working on it steadily. Failing to fix broken items sends a message to the buyer that you do not care enough to get these things done.

What should you fix? For a start, anything that a prospective homebuyer will think should be in working order on the day of sale.
Many homeowners and realtors make the mistake of adding an "allowance clause" to their listing. An allowance means you will be deducting a certain amount of money from the sale price of the home so the buyer can purchase and install new carpeting or linoleum, remove wallpaper, paint, and so forth. It is better to make the changes yourself! Buyers have a hard time imagining how great the house could be. They only see what is there right now. They view an allowance as an inconvenience and typically over-estimate the cost involved in making the changes. As a result, buyers are more likely to make an even lower price bid, if they ever decide to make an offer at all.

Do not lie about what is wrong with your house. Many buyers will hire professional inspectors and most problems will be uncovered. You might be able to fool some homebuyers but chances are a home inspector will discover it. The new homeowners will get angry and sue if they have already moved in and discovered the problem. Ask your real estate agent about what your state law says about disclosure. I was very impressed with the lengthy form in Florida that our sellers had to fill out and sign. Never lie, it can come back to haunt you.

Here are a few of the ways sellers have tried to fool buyers. 1. Newly repainted basement walls and floors to hide water damage. 2. Heavy furniture or stacks of boxes pushed against walls so buyers and inspectors cannot check the foundation or floor for cracks, mold, or pests. 3. Rugs that cannot be pulled up (tacked down) so buyers cannot check the floor condition. 4. Water valves that are shut off possibly to hide leak problems. 5. Using a pet to keep people out of a room.
On a side note, some 'repairs' and additions sellers make can actually decrease the value of their house. Many people think that adding a pool automatically increases the desirability of their home. An in-ground pool can start at $24,000 and costs thousands a year in maintenance, equipment, electricity, and so forth. Many potential homebuyers look at pools and see dollar signs. Do not decide to fix something that is not broken (like getting rid of a small half bath and expanding the laundry room). This costs you and does not add real value.
Do not neglect your outside air conditioners and the way that they look. Clip shrubs around them, and be sure that they are clean and operating smoothly. If the air conditioners look bad, the price of your home will go down (this also goes for gutters). Might as well get your hot water tank serviced and flushed 'before' putting it up for sale. It is another thing that will cost you and reduce the price.

Realtor Jane Wickell has a great article on the Top 10 Buyer Turn-offs. Most of the Top 10 problems are home selling issues you can correct without spending a lot of money. She suggests fixing these problems before you put the house on the market, because if your house develops a reputation among agents as the house that smells, the house with the huge barking dog, or the house where the owner will not leave people alone it will be too late. Your house will be last on their list to show potential buyers.

The National Realtor's Association provides this list of frequent house problems.

10 Most Frequent House Problems
  1. Improper surface grading or drainage (water in the basement or in a crawlspace).
  2. Improper electrical wiring.
  3. Roof damage.
  4. Heating system.
  5. Poor overall maintenance.
  6. Structurally related problems.
  7. Plumbing.
  8. Exteriors.
  9. Poor Ventilation.

Miscellaneous (sticking windows, dripping faucets, as well as environmental concerns, such as lead-based paint, and asbestos).

HouseMaster (a Home Inspection Company) lists these 5 items as the Biggest Buyer Turnoffs.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online How to Prepare, Stage and Sell Your Home course?

Poor Physical appearance of the house and property. Dirty, peeling paint, loose railings at the front door, broken doorbell, unkempt lawn and landscaping, cracked, or loose bricks, driveway, or steps. I addition, dirty dishes in the sink and dingy, dirty windows.

Obvious plumbing problems. Dark brown stain on the ceiling in the den sounds off alarms, even if the original problem in the bathroom above was repaired. So do neglected bathrooms with cracked, stained, or loose tiles; mildew, crunchy floors (sign of water damage or warped or delaminated plywood), low water pressure, old, cracked or chipped fixtures, loose toilets, bathtub rot, and dripping faucets.

Water in the basement. Signs of a wet, damp basement, such as watermarks on the walls, dank, musty odors, and mildew.

Dingy kitchens. Dirty appliances, loose handles, missing components of appliances, worn countertops, old stained sinks, poor flooring (even old linoleum), and bad lighting.

A chilly house. A very cold house in early spring will leave most buyers unfriendly and disinterested. If they can see their breath or if they rub their hands together often, either to get the blood circulating either your thermostat is set too low or the heating system has a problem. Same goes for a very hot house in the summer, particularly in warm climates where cooling systems are a key element in any house.

These lists are really eye openers? Did you read about problems your home has that you have not considered? We all learn to live with house deficits and we can almost forget they exist. Would-be buyers will not be so forgiving.

If you and your husband or partner both works, with little free time, you might want to see about a cleaning service to clean your house initially and then you maintain it while it is on the market. There are now decorators who will help you "stage" your home for sale. You might ask your real estate agent if he or she knows someone to do the job. They usually charge by the hour and rearrange your own things but might suggest buying a few accessories.

Best Investments in Home Upgrades.
Kitchen. Upgrade Countertops.

What to do. Go for good quality and low maintenance, such as granite or a solid surface.

Bathrooms. Upgrade Surfaces.

What to do. Use low-maintenance tiles (that look good even when dirty) on floors and walls.

Master Bedroom. Upgrade Closet.

What to do. Add an organizational system, especially if you do not have a walk-in closet.

Overlooked Upgrades.

Lighting. Cove fixtures and dimmer fixtures add function and accent.

Trim. Thick crown mouldings create a more finished look for a room.

Ceilings. Raising ceilings by cutting into attic space 18 to 24 inches gives rooms a more spacious feeling.