Showing Your Home: Extra Touches to Make Your Home Look Its Best

(Page 2 of 2 of Preparing Your House for Showings )

Here are some secrets used by the pros to get the maximum bang for your buck in dressing up your house:

  • Buy blooming, potted plants to frame the front door. You can probably take them with you when you move! If you're willing to spend a bit more, landscaping your property (particularly the front yard) yields great returns in home value.
  • Buy an attractive new welcome mat. Also be sure that the doorbell works.
  • Leave window shades up about halfway and turn on a few lights for showings. That way, you'll have sufficient -- but not glaring -- light.
  • Make sure the place smells good. At the very least, hide the kitty litter box. You can also keep some scented potpourri in an attractive container in the bathroom, or dab vanilla on the light bulbs.
  • Put vases of flowers or bowls of mixed fruit or lemons throughout the house. The kitchen or dining room table, the fireplace mantel, and the bedroom dressers are likely spots for these.
  • Play some tunes. Pleasant (but unobtrusive) background music is a nice touch.
  • Buy new towels. Plush, fresh folded towels in the bathroom add an irresistible note of luxury -- and you'll enjoy them in your next home.
  • Take a hard look at your furniture. A faded old armchair may be better off hidden -- and the room will look bigger without it.

Should You Pay a Professional to "Stage" Your House?

Staging has become the rage lately in many parts of the United States. It means more than just sprucing up a home for sale. Professional stagers aim to help you sell your home more quickly and at a higher price, by giving your home a makeover, starting with the paint and landscaping, and often topping it off using their own furniture and art. For more information, see Nolo's article Should You Hire a Home Stager?

Security During House Showings: Your Safety and Possessions

The unhappy truth is that a few prospective buyers are interested in seeing your home for just one reason: They want to steal from you or case the joint so they can burglarize the place later. Take reasonable precautions every time your home is to be shown to strangers:

  • Don't display silver, china, expensive art, or other valuable possessions. Be especially careful about items that are easily stolen or accidentally broken.
  • Hide the money. Make sure items like credit cards, ATM cards, checkbooks, and house keys are either on your person or under lock and key.
  • Hide or lock away all prescription or high-priced medications. It's all too easy for a visitor to pretend to need the bathroom, lock the door, and clean out your cabinet.
  • Go through your closets and remove expensive clothing, such as designer dresses or fur coats. Open every accessible drawer in your house and remove or hide whatever valuables, such as jewelry or cameras, might be easily lifted.
  • Ask everyone who visits your home to sign a guest register. An experienced thief will simply use a false name, but this sort of organized procedure may make some think twice about victimizing you.
  • Consider hiring a private security guard. This costs money, but makes a lot of sense if you own a large luxury home full of valuable objects.

If you'll be showing the house yourself, keep these additional precautions in mind:

  • Don't discuss your personal schedule or lifestyle with strangers. Avoid comments like "It's so safe here we leave the back door open!" or "It's only two blocks from church, and every day I can leave at a quarter to twelve and be in my pew for noon Mass." And be particularly careful if a visitor asks probing questions about your personal habits or lifestyle like "Are you married?"
  • Be sure people touring your home can enter and leave through only one door, except, of course, when you're escorting them through another, such as the door to the backyard or garage.
  • Escort and accompany prospective buyers. You needn't be at their side, but do keep them within sight at all times. This is obviously easier to do with one person who made an appointment than with 20 people at an open house. If two people come to an appointment, be alert for a known scam in which one keeps you talking while the other goes through your valuables or medicine cabinet.
  • Draft a few relatives or friends to help control traffic or keep you company in case you end up alone with someone creepy. If too many people show up at once, ask some of them to wait for the next "tour." Don't be afraid to structure the open house so that you feel comfortable.

If you live in California, an indispensable resource is For Sale By Owner in California, by George Devine, California Real Estate Broker (Nolo). In other states, you'll find excellent advice in Selling Your House: Nolo's Essential Guide, by Ilona Bray.

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