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Unlock Your Home's Potential


Article by Marilisa Vergottini

Photography by Etta Foto

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Whether you've been in the market to buy or sell, you'll have been exposed to the beguiling seduction of a beautifully presented home or the off-putting distraction of a messy, sometimes dirty, occasionally poorly smelling abode. Or indeed, a home that smacks of "bah" indifference. As an open house pro I've seen it all, and experience has taught me that a carefully curated, clean, inviting home will sell exponentially faster than the unkempt one. It will also sell for more money.

In this article I'll dispel some myths and pre-conceptions associated with prepping a home to list, while guiding you on how to maximize the value of your house. It does not have to be a costly investment, but will require a little time commitment.

1. Curb appeal. Before buyers even hit your doorstep, they'll be sizing up the exterior aspect of your home. You don't have to spend a fortune here to make an impact.

Mow lawns, de-weed, leaf blow, clear gutters and rooftops and trim back overgrown trees. Switch out tired plants in your beds with fresh, colorful ones and consider adding potted plants and seasonal hanging baskets to bring the exterior of your property to life.

2. Cleanliness. A dirty home on an open house day is a big no no - and beware, buyers notice everything. Key areas to focus your attention on are kitchens and bathrooms - and closets, because yes people will peek into your walk-ins to gauge space, and a tidy closet will make it seem so much more spacious and organized. Here are a few pro tips:

  • Glass shower doors can be spruced up using a vinegar-based solution and towel-dried for that "just installed" look. Or, replace tired shower curtains with a fresh one (I regularly do this for my clients as part of my pre-listing prep services).
  • Bathtubs, sinks and tile can really show the age of a bathroom. Remove water marks, seal chips and clean grout. Re-caulk where necessary. These items can really up-level a tired bathroom or kitchen.
  • Gleaming hardwoods and steam cleaned carpets for the win. I am often asked if carpets should be replaced prior to list, and generally, my answer is no unless the owner is a heavy smoker or there is significant damage/pet smell. Meanwhile show off those hard surfaces; whether it's tile, laminate, engineered or solid wood, clean, well-maintained flooring will truly elevate your home.
  • Sparkling windows are a must. That includes skylights too! Invest in a professional window cleaner or do it yourself.
Selling your home fast and for the highest value means selling a lifestyle your buyers crave.

3. Handyman Jobs. Take the time to touch up paint (or re-paint), remove any surface mildew and perform small visible repairs (see caulking and sealing above). It's of relatively little cost to you but will ensure that you sell your home for top dollar.

Perception is everything — flaky paint, a couple of chipped tiles, blown light bulbs or a loose floorboard all convey the idea that the home is poorly maintained, which in a buyer's mind could be symptomatic of deeper, more costly problems.

4. Your kitchen is the way to a buyer's heart. The key is to create a functional, yet harmonious space. De-clutter kitchen sides and islands, clean thoroughly and re-grout if necessary. Hide anything superfluous and bulky items, but feel free to expose choice, aesthetically pleasing kitchen accessories, such as your stainless steel mixer, espresso machine or professional juicer. Did you know that staging a "coffee bar" area within your kitchen or butler's pantry is on trend at the moment? Plus, we do love our coffee in Seattle...

Re-arrange recipe books and file away paperwork and mail that tends to accumulate on kitchen islands and counters. Wipe down your cabinetry inside and out and be sure to leave nothing in the sink or drying on the side (you'd be surprised).

Finally, if you're up for going the extra mile and your kitchen is a little outdated, painting tired cabinetry can be a game changer at a small cost. And if painting feels a little too much, then simply switching out the hardware for something more up-to-date will absolutely give your kitchen a notable face lift.

Perception is everything

5. Organize and de-clutter. Now is the time to "purge." It will also reduce the amount of time you spend packing (and then unpacking) once you have sold, so really, it's a win-win.

Prospective owners want to imagine how their lives will be so much better/cleaner/easier/tidier once they live in your house; selling your home fast and for the highest value means selling a lifestyle your buyers crave. Some examples include:

  • Organize your (and kids') bookshelves and built-ins. I relish doing this on behalf of my clients because it transforms a busy room into a zen space that has been artfully "put together."
  • Be intentional about the purpose of each room. For example, if your living area is part sitting room and part kid play space, remove all the kids' toys and present the area as a luxurious, adult-centric relaxation & entertainment haven. Put anything that you can't hide away in temporary storage. It's worth it.
  • Organize Your Pantry. I love the Home Edit crew and their acrylic containers are the most elegant and user friendly solution I have yet to see. However, you don't need to purchase all new storage solutions; simply organize, tidy and throw out old food. It makes a huge difference.
  • Clean out and reform your closets. Whether it be a walk in or linen closet, organize it and throw out anything that no longer fits or "brings you joy," in the words of Marie Kondo. Fold your towels and sheets, organize your clothing by type and fold your tops. I did have a room mate once who ironed and neatly folded all of her underwear too. You can draw the line there.
Your kitchen is the way to a buyer's heart.

7. Minimize. No matter your personal taste, when a buyer is touring a home, less is more. In practice this means:

  • Keep floors free of "stuff" and remove excess furniture.
  • Reduce the amount of exposed trinkets on open shelving.
  • Stow away toys and keep wall space open (read: do not completely fill with artwork and wall hangings).
  • Clear surfaces such as kitchen islands and tables. Your realtor or stager will advise on centerpiece placement.

8. De-personalize. The odd family or baby photo is absolutely OK and can add warmth to a home. However, I have walked into rooms filled with personal photography and it's a little overwhelming. The same goes for highly customized accessories such as family crests. Even if it's at a subconscious level, a buyer will not feel that they can make the home their own if it's too heavily imbued with the owner's energy.

9. Let there be light. If there is one feature that the majority of buyers crave, it is light. I always make a point of opening blinds, drawing curtains and letting the sunshine in. Believe me when I say that it's the easiest way to lift your home and provide maximum appeal to buyers.

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