Archive for December, 2007

Staging the Kitchen

December 26, 2007

“Kitchens are the heart of the home. The kitchen can make or break a sale. The kitchen, more than any other room, tells what the current occupants are like, how they treated the home, and whether there will be any unpleasant surprises when the new owners move in…”

The above paragraph is how we started last week’s Staging for Advantage discussion. I repeat it here to emphasize the point…Staging cannot overcome a messy kitchen. Staging is not about covering up stuff, it is about enhancing the positives of a space. No matter what the positives, though, if your kitchen is not clean, we will not get the reaction we are looking for.

OK, enough of the cleanliness review, staging a kitchen is mostly about elimination. You can call it decluttering, but that is a soft word we apply to nick-knacks on tables and in display cabinets. In the kitchen we want to eliminate things. Let’s start at the beginning.

The first phase of kitchen staging is going through all the storage areas and eliminating anything that has not been used in 3 months. Home buyers will look into cabinets and we want to create a spacious environment. Make sure the pantry is included in this phase. Also eliminate hand towels, washcloths and sponges.

Phase two involves eliminating the counter top appliances. The only two appliances that I leave are the microwave and coffee maker, if necessary. While my preference is to start with the most counter space possible, the microwave and coffee maker are usually such integral parts of the seller’s life style that removing them is a hardship.

Phase three is removing wall paper and repainting, if necessary. Wall paper is is such a personal decision, it almost always has to be removed (you can paint over many of the newer papers). Paint color needs to be bright and coordinated with the cabinets and counter tops. Yellows are popular in the kitchen.

Phase four is adding some accent color. Small bowls, candles and greenery make small color splashes that create the most punch without absorbing too much surface area. In a vacant home, you can stage for a meal at the counter. In an occupied, keeping the countertops clear is the most important task.

The kitchen speaks about the rest of the home. Either it is complementary or something to be overcome, there is really no middle ground here. Fortunately, getting the kitchen ready for sale is not expensive – all that is required is some elbow grease and a willingness to give up that toaster oven for a few months!

As always, all the best!

Monica, ASP 703-851-2690

the art of home preparation

Make Sure Your Home has a Healthy Heart

December 17, 2007

Kitchens are the heart of the home. The kitchen can make or break a sale. The kitchen, more than any other room, tells what the current occupants are like, how they treated the home, and whether there will be any unpleasant surprises when the new owners move in. If it is true that buyers buy with their emotions, and kitchens drive strong emotions, then the kitchen is where most homeowners should focus in getting and keeping their home ready for sale. It is a lot of work, but worth every effort.

Since the kitchen is so important, we will devote two segments to it. This segment will relate to why cleanliness critical. The next segment will discuss what we can do in the kitchen to appeal to a large number of buyers.

OK, visualize walking into an apartment. The kitchen sink is overflowing with dishes. The trash smell hits you as soon as you walk in. Crumbs and food scraps can be seen on the floor. What do you think would run through the mind of a potential buyer?

Now, visualize walking into a neighboring apartment. The kitchen is immaculate. You wonder if the owners actually cook. Which apartment will sell first, everything else being equal?

This very simplistic exercise draws an extreme point. It is important to note that most people have the same reaction as the first example even if the mess is substantially less. What if just one meal’s worth of dishes were stacked in the sink? What if just a few food items were on the counter? What if the trash did not smell unless you got really close to it – you know, like most people live?

Well, which apartment do you think will sell first? The immaculate one – buy a huge margin. When it comes to kitchen cleanliness, buyers are very unforgiving. The smallest amount of dirt or grime sets off alarm bells in their head, “I wonder, if this is ‘clean’ for them, is it usually much worse? I wonder if they have a bug problem? If they don’t have time to keep the kitchen clean, what other maintenance might they not have had time for?” and so on.

Job number one in the kitchen is to clean the kitchen and keep it clean. It is a lot of work, but if you want to sell a home, you have to do it.

  • All surfaces must be scrubbed. If you have white cabinets, they show a lot of dirt and stains. Just because you do not notice it does not mean the buyer will not.
  • Clean the oven – if it is dirty, it may take 2 or 3 cleanings.
  • Keep surfaces clean by keeping a box of cleaning wipes under the sink. Every morning, wipe the counters, eating areas and sink and throw the wipe away. This avoids the dish cloth hanging over the faucet syndrome.
  • Sweep or vacuum the high traffic areas each day.
  • Buy a new trash container. If yours is more than a few months old, no amount of Lysol will deodorize the plastic. Better to replace it every 3 months while the home is on the market.
  • Deodorize the sink by pouring baking soda and then white vinegar down the drain. Let it stand for an hour before running water to flush out the excess.
  • Dishes (ugh!): empty the dishwasher first thing in the morning and put everything in the dish washer as it is used. New Rule: The sink is not a storage area.

As always, all the best!

Monica, ASP

703-851-2690 the art of home preparation

Staging the Family Room

December 11, 2007

The family room is a unique space in almost any home. This room tends to be customized to fit a specific function for the home owner. The family room is also one of the most used rooms in the house. Maybe it is the primary media room with a large screen TV, a huge stereo system and a gaming system; maybe it is a play room with child gates and toys scattered about. Maybe it is used as a home office. This room usually fits the owner to a “T”. Notice I said, “fits the OWNER to a T.” Family rooms are usually in desperate need of decluttering and staging.

Staging a family room usually requires that the home owner make some compromises to take themselves out of the picture in an effort to sell their home. The owner needs to tone down the family’s specific use of the room and emphasize the generic purposes.

Traditionally, the family has two main functions – as a family gathering place, and to a lesser degree, a casual entertaining spot. A family room should be relaxed, with comfortable furniture arranged to enjoy a focal point as well as for conversation.

We frequently encounter sectionals in a family room. These are great lounging spots, but trouble when trying to sell a home. Sectionals limit furniture placement, suck up a tremendous amount of floor space and can create awkward traffic patterns. We suggest reducing the sections and breaking the furniture into pieces to provide more traffic paths. Try to find other spots in the home to move one or two sections.

If the family room is large (a “great” room), don’t be afraid to create multiple functional areas. The areas need to be distinct, but you can add interest and make the room seem larger.

Electronics need to be neat and tidy. Wiring needs to be hidden behind the supporting furniture. Eliminate DVD and game cases that are not regularly used. Some entertainment systems overpower an otherwise promising space. In these cases, we recommend down-sizing the appliances and possibly relocating them to a different room.

As always, all the best!

Monica, ASP703-851-2690


the art of home preparation