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Warm Up an Empty House for Faster Sale

If you're selling a house you've already moved out of, chances are it's looking a bit neglected and cold. While sparsely-furnished rooms look bigger and help potential buyers imagine how their own possessions will look in the house, completely empty ones feel lifeless, without the warm and friendly ambience of a house that's obviously lived-in. It can be hard for buyers to fire up the imagination and visualize themselves living in a house that doesn't have that lived-in feeling.

If you're willing to spend a few thousand or more - and if you're selling a home for several hundred thousand dollars, consider hiring a staging company. They'll provide furniture and accessories that are in keeping with the look and feel of the property. However, if you don't have the money to spend, it can be just as effective to do the "staging" yourself. If you're selling an empty house, you have a variety of options for putting some life into the place and making it more attractive to potential buyers.

  • Make sure the house is thoroughly clean before adding your staging equipment. Don't forget the garage and any large storage spaces such as basements or attics.
  • Rent some furniture. It doesn't need to be expensive; you can typically rent several items for just a few hundred dollars. A few items in the most commonly-used rooms such as bedrooms and the living room will help give the house a more lived-in, comfortable feeling.
  • Add vases of flowers or low-maintenance potted plants (such as ferns, spider plants, or snake plants, which require only infrequent watering and low to medium levels of light) to kitchens, bathrooms, and dining areas.
  • Unoccupied houses quickly start to smell stale no matter how clean they are, so use room fresheners to keep the air smelling clean.
  • Give out-dated or scratched walls a fresh coat of paint to liven them up. Neutral colors are best, so that you don't run the risk of turning off potential buyers who have strong color preferences.
  • Consider adding some inexpensive window treatments - curtains, blinds or shades need not cost a lot of money to increase the appeal of an unoccupied property. They'll help make the place look more appealing from the outside as well as the inside.
  • Keep up the curb appeal. Make sure that circulars and other mail doesn't pile up in the mail box, and consider hiring a temporary yard worker to keep the lawns mowed and the grounds tidy. If the property looks unattractive on the outside, it's a sure bet that you'll get fewer buyers through the front door.

Granted, all of these things will cost money. But it's better to spend a few dollars, or even a few hundred, to make sure that the property isn't sitting vacant for months on end. A vacant house can fall into disrepair surprisingly quickly, and is more likely to get vandalized. The longer the house is on the market, the lower your chances are of selling at a good price, so it's much better to spend a little extra money on getting the house sold quickly. In addition, many estate agents believe that staging is effective for both occupied and vacant properties. In a slow market, it's a great way to help ensure a quick sale, and in a strong market, it can even increase the sale price of the property

Republished with Permission from
© 2008, HouseValues Inc.