Selling your home may require some ‘blanding’

• What is house staging?

House staging is a process where a seller stages or prepares a home for sale in order to make the best impression upon potential buyers.

Many of the staging tips and techniques are common sense. The challenge that many home sellers face is living in a home with their family and pets while the home is for sale. There are studies that have shown staged homes sell quicker and for higher prices.

There’s the 3-second rule, and the 30-second rule, and both impact how quickly you sell your house. Potential buyers will give your house 3 seconds in a photo and 30 seconds in person to decide if they like it. This means you have to impress — fast! Home staging, whether you hire someone or do it yourself, is key.

We hear most about getting the inside ready. No clutter, neutral colors, as little personal effects as possible. However, staging starts on the outside. That’s the first impression, and it’s easy to make it a good one. So cut the grass, trim the hedges, rake those leaves, sweep the sidewalks, clean out the carport and powerwash the driveway. Hardly anyone wants to live in the most unkempt house on the block.

Here are some tips for staging:

— Make a great first impression: Realtors often talk about “curb appeal.” Homes with it sell more quickly, and those without it can languish on the market longer, further eroding the price buyers are willing to pay. Many buyers know the house is “the one” when they see it the very first time. For this reason, doing what it takes to get your house into selling shape is one of the most important factors if you want to get close to your asking price or sell as quickly as possible.

— Clean: The property must be extremely clean inside and out. Areas to focus on are kitchens and bathrooms inside, and the front yard and entry outside. A home for sale can never be too clean.

— Think spacious: People often move because they want more room, so make your house feel as spacious as possible. Closets should be half-full, and you should be able to see the bottom of the closet. Show people a jam-packed closet and they’ll think it’s too small for them, too. Similarly, bedrooms should contain only a bed, nightstand and dresser — or perhaps a comfy reading chair in the master bedroom. Want to make the master bedroom feel even larger? Swap out the king-sized bed for a queen-sized bed. When possible, allow the corners of a room to be visible.

— Balance: When staging a particular room, it’s essential to have a good balance of hard surfaces, such as a coffee table, and soft surfaces, like a carpet. If you have hardwood floors but no rugs, it’s too hard, so you want to add a rug, for example.

— See your home as a buyer would: Look at your home from the doorways since would-be buyers will get their first impression of each room from the doorway, homeowners should use that perspective to plan and evaluate their staging.

Make homebuyers experience your house the way you want them to. The front door, porch and entry area are where buyers will linger as they wait to enter the home. This is where you want to wow them now. Make sure the paint is a creamy neutral and fresh, and the flooring looks great. This is a great opportunity here in Hawai‘i to take advantage of the wide variety of tropical flowers available. Fresh flowers work great as centerpieces in rooms or where you want buyers to focus in a room and they work especially well in the entryway.

— Brighten and neutralize: Light definitely sells, allowing more natural light into the home helps, and if you have dark colors on the walls, painting them an nice neutral color is the ideal. In addition, light colors will make a small room look larger — an objective for the home seller, as space is valuable commodity when you are selling a home.

When the buyer looks at the home, they’re making a mental list of what needs to be done to it. You want to eliminate that list. It helps to paint dark or brightly colored walls a light neutral shade — a color most everyone could feel comfortable living with. Painting can be one of the most economical ways to get your house in selling shape. Also, lighten up the space. You want as much light to come in as possible so people say, “I could live here. It’s nice and bright.”

— Depersonalize: Many of today’s buyers wants to move into a Pottery Barn home.

When you look in a magazine or a catalog, there’s no clutter in those pictures. That’s not the way we live, but it’s how Pottery Barn and companies like it sell furniture — and how you can help sell your home. The first thing you do when selling a home is to remove as many unnecessary objects as possible: tchotchkes on the mantle piece, boxes piled in closets, the clutter of daily living that lands on the kitchen counters — out it goes.

Streamline the kitchen counters, too; you can have a coffeepot, but put away the toaster and the toaster oven. You don’t need it. You want sleek, clean lines. Moreover, you want the buyers to say, “Wow, look at the counter space.”

Remove everything in your home that marks it as yours, a potential buyer needs to be able to visualize themselves in your home and you want to make it as easy to do so as possible. Another name sometimes used for staging is blanding because now is the time to sell your space, not your personal tastes, because you never know what may turn off would-be buyers. It helps to appeal to a broad audience.

• What features do homebuyers look for?

The top ten home features desired by all homebuyers nationwide, according to a National Association of Realtors 2007 profile, include:

— Central air-conditioning.

— Garage (2 or more spaces).

— Walk-in closet in master bedroom.

— Backyard/play area.

— Cable/satellite TV-ready.

— High-speed Internet access.

— Separate shower enclosure in master/main bath.

— Patio.

— Fencing.

— Home less than 10 years old.

• Why do real estate agents have different initials behind their name?

Realtors are real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors, and they are able to pursue various specialist designations. These usually require hours of classes and study along with testing. Designations do not necessarily equate to success. Some of the most successful Realtors on Kaua‘i have no specialist designations but are extremely successful, and some Realtors have many designations but fewer sales.

Below are some of the popular designations and what they mean:

— Accredited Buyer Representative: ABR designees have completed a course focusing on all aspects of buyer representation and provided documentation of buyer agency experience.

— Certified International Property Specialist: CIPS designees have demonstrated their international experience and participate in international programs offered by NAR.

— Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager: The CRB designation is a recognized industry-wide as the measure of success in brokerage and real estate business management.

— Certified Residential Specialist: The CRS designation is awarded to experienced Realtors who complete advanced training in listing and selling.

— Graduate REALTOR Institute: The GRI program has helped the best and the brightest in the industry achieve a keen level of understanding the real estate business.

— e-Pro: e-Pro is a revolutionary new training program presented entirely online to certify real estate agents and brokers as Internet Professionals.

— Realtor: The R designation identifies real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors, The Voice for Real Estate. As the world’s largest professional association, Realtors are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

— Realtor-Associate: RA’s are independent contractors or salespersons affiliated with or employed by a REALTOR member or a firm, partnership, or corporation of which any REALTOR member is the sole proprietor, partner, or officer, and who has been deemed qualified by the local board.

— Resort & Second-home Property Specialist: RSPS designees are real estate practitioners, who facilitate the buying, selling, or management of properties for investment, development, retirement, or second homes in a resort, recreational and/or vacation destination.

• The Kauai Board of Realtors is a nonprofit organization comprised of 700 Realtors and associates from the bank, mortgage and escrow industry. The board answers reader questions twice a month in the Business section. For more information, visit www.kauai-realtor.com

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