Unless the home you’re trying to sell is under a rock, you already know the real estate market is insane right now. You’ve probably read plenty of stories of sellers entertaining bidding wars on homes that may not have pulled in much interest just a couple of years ago. So, does that mean you can put any old broken-down mess on the Internet and sell it by tomorrow?

Actually, no. Even in a market that’s on fire, some homes still don’t get much attention. After reading this article, you’ll know how to make sure yours isn’t one of them. Get ready to look at your home with a critical eye.

First, what are some of the reasons homes get ignored by virtual buyers? According to Homeway Real Estate, lack of curb appeal, over-the-top quirkiness, poor photos, visible need for repairs, lack of staging, and old appliances are some reasons potential buyers click away from your home’s web page.

What’s involved in staging a home?

The process of staging a home for resale begins, ideally, the moment you move in. If you even suspect that this isn’t your forever home, start planning ahead for updates that will need to be made over the years. That way, you won’t be faced with insurmountable remodeling costs when you’re ready to go on the market again.

If you’re about to go on the market now, though, the time to worry about some of the more expensive or time-consuming reno jobs is passed. It’s best to focus on what you can do, right now, to make sure your home looks its best.

Things you should splurge on

Anything that will bring cleanliness and brightness to your home is worth spending on before you sell. That includes professionally cleaning or replacing carpets, polishing worn wood floors, replacing damaged laminate flooring, patching and painting any wall damage, replacing outdated lighting (looking at you, 1980s ceiling fixtures), and updating idiosyncratic wall coverings or paint colors to neutrals. Remember, clean and bright!

On the outside, anything that appears broken or dangerous needs to be dealt with before you go on the market. That includes access points such as the driveway and front steps/porch. These areas should be clean and well-lit so that potential buyers can picture themselves entering the home safely. Peeling paint or damaged vinyl siding needs to be fixed, too.

Things you can do inexpensively

Build curb appeal

Your home should look inviting and approachable. Inexpensive fixes include bright paint on the door, a pretty wreath or some planters, and clean walkways and driveway or parking area. If your home’s siding gets moldy, be sure to power wash it before it’s photographed. Put away porch and yard clutter.

Clean and declutter inside

One of the biggest turn-offs to a potential buyer is dirt and clutter. Trouble is, one of the hardest things for homeowners to do is see their own dirt and clutter. You’ve been living with it for years!

Your best bet may be to ask a good (and honest) friend whom you know keeps a neat home to bring a critical eye to yours. Did stuff pile up in the fridge? Get rid of it. Small appliances balanced on top of cabinets? Pack them away. The message this type of clutter sends is that your home is short on storage space, so make sure surfaces and appliances are clear of anything that would ideally be in a cupboard, closet, or pantry.

Here’s something that doesn’t seem to occur to many sellers: Put away your personal stuff. When staging your home for photos, be sure to take down family portraits, clean everything off the refrigerator, and make sure knick-knacks and other “junky” items meaningful only to you are stored away.

Consider renting a storage unit. That way, you have a place to put all the clutter you’re going to have to move out of the house soon, anyway. Bonus: As you’re filling that storage unit, ideally you’re also donating or pitching stuff you don’t need.

Define spaces

If you’ve lived in a home for a while, you’ve no doubt developed your own ways of using and getting around in it. For example, maybe your family doesn’t really “do” dining rooms, so you use it as office space, or maybe an elderly parent uses it as a bedroom.

Think about how potential buyers may want to use that space, though. You may not mind weaving around a futon or eating at your desk, but is that what buyers in 2022 want? People’s home lives changed dramatically when the pandemic started; yes, we’re working from home more, but we’re also in our homes more. We want them to feel homey.

Try not to leave rooms empty, though. If you just moved your mom out of the dining room but you don’t have a dining table to put there, borrow one from a friend, or get one from a thrift store and put a pretty tablecloth and bouquet on it. It’s one thing for potential buyers to look at a dining room and say, “I can use that dining room as a home office”; it’s another entirely for them to see an empty space and think, “What’s that supposed to be?”

Make small updates

Unless you’re living in a home that has period appeal (for example, a midcentury ranch with all-original 1950s appliances), it likely needs some updates. A little work can go a long way in this category.

Start with anything that’s not working (or not working properly). Although a leaky faucet won’t necessarily show up in images, an old one that’s oxidized, crusted in hard water stains, or visibly broken will.

Other easy(-ish) updates include painting older cabinets and vanities and adding architectural details such as crown molding or mirror frames. Particularly if your home still sports many of its builder-grade amenities, such as yellow oak sink vanities and kitchen cabinets, some carefully applied semi-gloss enamel in a neutral color (white is always a safe bet) can make a world of difference.

Hardware is another item that can be quickly changed out to update a home’s look. Changing out 1990s builder-grade brass doorknobs and hinges for oil-rubbed bronze and replacing faucets throughout the house with oil-rubbed bronze ones, can create a clean and inviting look. New pulls on freshly painted kitchen cabinets provide an updated kitchen for pennies on the dollar.

What you can’t fix, camouflage

Sometimes, a home has a feature that you really wish you could change, but finances and/or time just don’t permit. In that case, try to work it into the room with some artful camouflage.

For example, a home built in the ‘90s has an apricot-pink shower and toilet. Replace the toilet with a new one. If replacing the tub and shower surround is out of our budget, paint the bathroom in a favorite neutral (Behr’s Cotton Grey); paint the vanity, door, and trim white; and dress the shower as if it were a window: Over the curtain liner, attach decorative curtains, split at the center and tie back to either side. Will it completely hide the pink shower? No, and that’s not the goal—the goal is to camouflage the imperfections.

Get a good photographer

Make sure your real estate agent employs a professional photographer, not some random person with an iPhone. If your agent doesn’t provide this service, either find one who does, or budget to hire one yourself. Professionals bring expertise in lighting and architectural photography that will make your home’s features stand out.

We’re here to help you

These tips are some of our favorite tips. Contact our team today to learn more about how our professional home staging services can help sell your home in 2022.