Setting the Stage for Showings

Setting the stage for showings

June 1, 1999

Sellers may already have made repairs, repainted, and cleaned the carpets. But they don’t always realize the power of small details.

After I’ve listed a home, I stand at the front door and try to imagine that I’m a prospective buyer. And almost always, the rooms are too cluttered.

I start by removing the first thing in my way and going on from there. Gradually, a path opens up, and the features of the house start to emerge.

The difference between personally uncluttering a home and merely advising sellers to do so is that both you and the sellers can see the results immediately. When I’m finished, the house looks bigger, brighter, and more open. Sometimes sellers say to me, “It looks bare. It’s not like home anymore.” And then I know I’ve done my job.

Setting the scene in each room sells the house—no question. And sellers appreciate your personal involvement. It shows you care.

An expired listing I uncluttered recently was beautiful but crammed to the rafters with collectibles, floral arrangements, antiques, tapestries, and other treasures. After we removed about 25 percent of those items—a typical amount—it was still beautiful, but now you could see the space, features, and detailing. It sold in three days.

In each room, I have three goals:

  1. Depersonalizing the space by removing family photos, taking everything off the refrigerator, and stripping the kids’ rooms of posters and baseball trophies.
  2. Clearing high-traffic areas of excess furnishings to maximize feelings of space and comfort.
  3. Highlighting the key features in every room--such as fireplaces or French doors--by making sure they’re not obscured by plants or furnishings.

Sometimes, when you’re selling a vacant house, you need to switch gears and add a little clutter. We listed a home recently that was 3,000 square feet and felt like a big, old barn inside. I asked the seller to bring some items from her home so that we could create a warm and friendly atmosphere.

She brought over two table settings for the breakfast bar, wine glasses, decorative pillows, candles, floral arrangements, towels for the baths, and pretty items for the shelves and counters. The result was that the house sold almost immediately at close to full price.

Here are some tips to help you set the stage for sellers:

  • Start with the living room. This is often the buyer’s first impression and can make or break the sale. If extensive clutter exists throughout the home, do the living room first and the rest later.
  • Partially clear off built-in shelves, cabinets, and countertops. These are important features that need to be prominently displayed.
  • Be encouraging. Remind sellers that removing clutter is a giant stress reducer as well as a good way to get a head start on packing.

Lin Hill, who has been selling real estate for more than 20 years, is the listing specialist for The Caudle Group, a division of RE/MAX–House of Brokers in Springfield, Mass., that had total sales of $22 million in 1998.

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.