Like you described here, Katie, I’m one of those people who loves looking at homes for sale, even though I’m never actually buying one. I look online, I look for signs in the yard, I look at the photo ads in the newspaper that most people toss aside.
And if there is an open-house anywhere near me, I’m at it. Not just for the free mints and attractive realtors, either—I’m interested in design, architecture, and the way people live. I’ve even trained Luke and Taj in open-house etiquette. They take off their shoes at the door, say hello to other snoopers, and compliment the odd things they notice from their kid- perspective. (Last time we were in an apartment for sale in downtown San Francisco, Luke opened the door to the furnace and said enthusiastically, “This is a really nice heater, Mom!”)
After all this touring and, of course, help from HGTV, I’ve learned lots of tricks for staging open houses. We sold our house last year and are currently trying to find new renters to take over our lease in Palo Alto, so I’ve been hosting a few open-houses of my own lately. I pull out all the stops: I bake cookies right before the showing so the house smells yummy; I turn on all the lights so it’s as bright as possible; I leave glossy neighborhood brochures on the dining room table, next to the lit candles.
But these are the tips everyone knows by now, so I decided to come up with a fresh list of my own, of things that might not be so obvious.
6 New Tips for Home Staging
- Vaginal cream should not be on the coffee table, but in the bathroom, on a dark cabinet shelf that reaches far, far back.
- Your child’s money jar should also be tucked in a less conspicuous location. I don’t know who would actually steal money from a child, but you can’t take chances, as it comes in handy since your 6-yr-olds began constantly losing teeth and you aren’t in the habit of carrying cash. Also, the local Chinese-delivery-place doesn’t take checks.
- An empty bottle of high-quality red is OK left in the kitchen recycling bin, but the Costco-sized bottle of vodka is best placed in the outside receptacle.
- Try to conceal any evidence that children use the bathrooms. A seasoned pro might recognize the signs and detect that every fixture in the vicinity has been soaked repeatedly with urine to the point that no amount of bleach is effective at permanently eliminating the smell.
- No matter how much time you give yourself to clean, it won’t be enough. Once you have only a few moments to spare, throw anything that needs to be put away in a big laundry basket that you will place in your car trunk and drive around with for weeks because you’ve forgotten it’s there. This includes, but isn’t limited to: important papers and bills, small toys, mostly-empty packages of food, dirty coffee cups, dirty laundry, clean laundry, and your cell phone.
- If you have small children, it may be effective to show up right before the showing is over, depending on their cute-to-annoying ratio. The better-looking the kids, the more likely they can charm potential buyers. If your kids aren’t cute, it’s best to stay away and take down family pictures. Nothing zaps the momentum of a sell like ugly kids.
Have fun and good luck!