Can Your Personal Items Get in the Way of a Sale?

If you are planning to sell and have been listening to the great advice available on effective home preparation, you have undoubtedly heard the term depersonalize. I have found that the concept of removing personal items from the home for selling has been one of the most difficult strategies for my clients to accept. When I recommend painting, rearranging of furniture and bringing in new key pieces to add an element of wow, no problem. Ask a family to pack away their family pictures or wall to wall book collection though, and invariably a little push is required to get them on board. The key is for sellers to view their property as a product for sale rather than as their home.

Why depersonalize? How does that make a difference to the sale?

Effective selling targets the buyer. The first step of a good staging strategy is to know who the target buyer is. Ideally that target audience is broad; more interest equals faster sale and better selling price.
The more neutral the space is, the more likely a broad range of buyers will feel at home. If the seller loves Royal Daulton figures but these make the buyer feel like they’re at Grandma’s house, there can be a barrier to the sale. If the seller loves the coziness of a cluttered space, and the buyer craves open space and clean lines, that buyer will not enjoy their time in the property. Consider a single, professional buyer viewing the property of a young family with toys, children’s books, and games everywhere. This buyer is not going to relate well to this property, even if it would be a perfect fit once the seller’s possessions are removed.

Help buyers see if this is the house for them. It has been estimated that only 10% of buyers can visualize beyond what is shown to them. Nine out of ten buyers can’t imagine a different color, or different furniture, or a new bathroom. A staged house is enhanced somewhat by the décor. The goal of staging, however, is to show the home rather than the contents. Effective staging uses just enough décor items to showcase the best features and show ideal lifestyle. Personal items interfere by overwhelming a room, and in many cases overwhelming the prospective buyer. For example, an entry way full of shoes and coats does not allow the buyer to see the space.

Allow buyers to feel at home. When a prospective buyer enters your house, you want them to feel welcome and excited, not as a guest but as someone who will live there. For selling, remove your family pictures hung in the front hall which claim the house as yours. Remove religious items, hunting trophies, naked portraits, and the overstocked bar on display, which the buyer may be very uncomfortable with. In kitchens and bathrooms where it needs to be cleaner-than-clean, the model home look works best; just a few pretty counter top items in the kitchen and a spa-like bath with toiletries tucked out of sight.

Remember your goal: to appeal to buyers. Your house is about to become a commodity on the market. Know your target buyer preferences and meet them as best you can. Your prized possessions will be packed safely away and ready to display in your new home, so that the prospective buyers coming through this house will see it as their new home. Even if your house is not a good fit for someone who comes to view, you want them walking away impressed and ready to tell someone else about it in a positive way.

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