Staging a Home to Sell
Homes, condominiums and land should be staged to help sell.
All properties that are for sale should be given some attention to maximize the appeal to prospective buyers. Even in the heyday of foreclosures and bank owned properties for sale, which btw the Mt Washington Valley survived at a better rate than most of the country…, the banks and asset management companies allotted a budget to me, as the broker, for aesthetic maintenance and even monthly “sales cleaning”. Like a shop owner sweeping his walk and keeping the windows clean and products looking fresh, the property seller and their agent need to put on the buyers’ glasses and see what they would see as the potential buyer. Today, when we “spruce things up” for sale we are calling it staging. My point is that every property owner should plan to put some time and energy and/or money into their property to prep it for sale. Homes and condos are complex structures that may need true updates that seem to overshadow the need for short term repairs and even upkeep items. However, super clean and neat, in need of some upkeep, is better than cluttered, tired and/or dirty and in need of upkeep. Land is much simpler but will also, usually, have some aspect that can increase it’s appeal and add value. Trash and clogged drainage (culverts and run-offs) are obvious concerns but adding a driveway entrance, trimming access roads and light site clearing are all ways to make a lot of land’s appeal more obvious for the buyers that lack the vision. It can also show nearby property owners that the neighborhood could soon be growing. Abutting property owners will always take notice of any progression towards development. All real estate properties follow the same general rules of selling anything.
Is it Worth It to Stage a Vacation Property?
The best property values in the Mount Washington Valley are achieved by sellers that have created alpine – dream living spaces that embrace White Mountain Living, even when no view or location are factors.
It was only my second year in The Valley and I was with ReMax in Conway (now only in North Conway) and I landed a seller client that had purchased a very small but functional log home kit and had it built on a tiny lot in North Conway. I walked onto the front porch and just wanted to sit in the rocking chairs, under the recessed lighting. I went in and met my soon-to-be-client and saw that the entire 975sf or so had pine cone switch plates, moose and tree light fixtures, faucets that looked like branches, wired for sound (analog days) throughout, and he put it on a walk out foundation to add a bunk room, bathroom and heated snowmobile garage. I walked into my own dream vacation cabin! I forget how quickly we sold it but it may very well, to this day, stand as the highest $/sf sale in North Conway Village (other than the new condo on Cranmore Mountain, Kearsarge Brook, which didn’t exist at that time). I learned then, that creating the dream for the buyer is the best way to maximize value. Anything a seller can do to make their home or condo more White Mountain Living Dream, will add value and make their property more likely to sell faster. The switchplates, light fixtures and decor could very well be worth more than new carpet or a remodeled bath, if push comes to shove. Focus your attention at the entry point for prospective buyers and see what they see in their first 5 steps into your home or condo. Draw their eye to an ooh or an awe, even if it is just a switchplate that turns on the mudroom light that looks like a forest cut out scene, or a picture of Mt Washington in sunset. Exterior staging is important as well. Do the same thing with their drive into the property and from car to door. Holiday lights, a sitting area, the tool shed strung with white lights, are all things you can do to show that the property is cared for AND ENJOYED. Do your best to not make it look like owning a second home has became a pain in the rump!* Deferred maintenance implies a burden.
Should I Heat My Vacation Home?
If you want to sell your vacation home it should definitely be heated to at least 55 degrees f. If you are not selling, or don’t really want to sell for the highest value, your property is still better off staying above freezing. Most thermostats have a low setting around 45-50 F. If you do not heat your vacation property, even a condo, the water main should be shut off where it enters the home.
*Not heating your second home or vacation property while it is for sale implies that the cost of heating is a burden on the property owner. Common sense seems to dictate the question of the value of staging a property to sell it for the best price. Staging and “sprucing it up” are meant to help a potential buyer see themselves living in the property you are selling. Hopefully (and this is important) more so than the other properties they will see! And they WILL see other properties. Vacation homes are not a “need” based purchase and the activity of shopping for a vacation home is an important part of most buyers’ luxury purchase experience. It is a safe bet, then, that maintaining a temperature that supports human life should be the most fundamental step in staging and the easiest to maintain. A flick of a switch and paying the cost of heat for a season will keep people in the property longer and allow them the chance to picture themselves living there without needing to worry about the cost of heat so much that it is kept off, in spite of the common sense of keeping it on to sell the place. Over 15 yrs of going into ice cold vacation homes and even some condos has taught me that the first question a buyer asks in a cold house is, “Why wouldn’t they have left the heat on?”. Followed by… “It must be expensive!”
Common sense, as we all know, isn’t all that common and we all get caught up in our own world and looking through our own lenses of experience and situation. If you are thinking about selling a property, just take a step back and try to see what the potential buyer will see. Ask other people to be objective and give you their opinion, especially ask if keeping the heat off implies that it is too costly to pay for even when trying to sell. A new kitchen or bath, or even flooring, may not be affordable even if their is a good roi, or perhaps the distance to a vacation home makes a remodel of anything out of reach. A landscape – front of house clean up and a day of shopping for switchplates, light fixtures and decor, and a day of paying the stager to get it all done, or saving a few bucks and doing it all yourself, will come back to you in value and terms of your sale.
Written by Bill Barbin, Real Estate Broker in NH and Maine (and MA) , with Keller Williams Lakes and Mountains Real Estate’s North Conway NH – Intervale office. Bill can be reached at 603-986-0385 or by email at email@example.com