'Stage' Your Home for Resale
With home sales plummeting and prices dropping in some areas, sellers who want out need to put the best face possible on their properties. No one knew that better than I when I decided to put my Washington home on the market last summer-right before a 100-year downpour put the backyard under 10 inches of water and flooded the basement.
We didn't want to completely refinish the basement, but we did want to make it watertight-and we wanted to make it look good. So we set aside just $2,000 and went to work: We simply cleared a clogged drain and dug a hole near a discharge spout. We lined the hole with landscape cloth and filled it in with limestone rocks, ensuring proper drainage. Cost: about $200, including materials and labor.
Inviting. We then plunked down $900-our biggest staging investment-to install wall-to-wall carpet over the basement floor. Its off-white color instantly transformed a dark storage space into an inviting room. "That made all the difference," says Gloria Crowley, the professional stager our real-estate agent hired. "For $900, you basically added another room to the house."
Next came our basic-but-functional kitchen. Rather than replace the Formica countertops with $3,000 granite or swap out major appliances, we focused on what many people notice first: the kitchen faucet. For $194, I found a sleek black-and-stainless-steel Moen pullout, adding gourmet appeal for a pittance.
The biggest bang for the buck, though, came from thorough cleaning and de-cluttering. Getting rid of a lifetime's worth of junk is easier with curbside storage bins-PODS.com and DoorToDoor.com-that let you hide those stacks of old New Yorker magazines. An 8-by-15-foot container cost us about $75 a month.
We then hired a professional to give the house a deep clean ($250, including first-floor windows). And while Crowley rearranged our art and furniture, I hit the yard, spreading six bags of mulch ($50) and planting about $300 in flowers.
Finally, on the morning of our first open house, I spent $8 on ingredients for an apple pie. I left it cooking throughout the event. Apparently, it smelled good enough to eat-we got our first bite within hours and had a signed contract just four days later.
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.