Why Decluttering Accelerates the Sale of a Home & How to Implement It Successfully
Nearly every professional real
estate agent or home stager will tell you how important it is to declutter your
home before selling it. “Decluttering” is a universal term for
putting your personal items away, leaving spaces clear from things that
distract from the home and its potential for a new owner. The process involves
putting away extraneous belongings, making way for clear lines of sight, and
removing visual distractions. Buyers would prefer not to see the things that
feel personal to the seller and messy to the eye. However, in a pandemic when
we are working from home, children are in classes at home, and more of our
lives are spent at home, this decluttering is a tall order.
Does decluttering really matter?
After all, the buyer has a home too, filled with personal items and can
certainly understand. The answer is yes. Buyers are looking for the magazine
cover page, the Instagram® image, the HGTV® reveal. As more than a third of home
buyers are now in the millennials age range, they are seeking the
picture-perfect home as promoted on social medias and television networks.
As a professional home stager, I
have seen some cluttered homes that can be deemed “real hot messes” –
to use my southern emphasis. Many of these cluttered homes that have been on
the market for months, and by walking into the front door, I’ve tiptoed around
items and personal belongings. The buyers have likely walked the same maze of
belongings when touring the house. I’ve also viewed properties where sellers
collect lovely things that they display on shelves and dressers, in china
cabinets, and throughout the house in various places. While perhaps neatly
placed, these items draw curious glances and distract from the property itself.
I have also spoken with sellers who refuse to believe that their personal items
are clutter, and thus have paid the price with time on market and/or lower
Growing up, my mother had a mug
that read, “Great Minds Have Messy Desks.” The sentiment was
accurate, given that my mother’s desk was often very cluttered. She could find
anything she needed, but the desk was definitely a mess. Her desk functioned
perfectly fine for her because our house wasn’t for sale. However, if your home
is on the market, a messy desk or a messy bathroom, for example, could have
poor implications when prospective buyers tour the home.
To some the idea of decluttering
is daunting, especially if you are not an organized person, cherish your
collectables, or have a “real hot mess,” in your home. From my home
staging experience, I have learned some tips and strategies for making the
process a little easier and less intimidating.
Start with horizontal surfaces,
like tabletops and countertops – these surfaces should be free and clear of
almost everything. A buyer’s eye should not be stopped from observing a home
from floor to ceiling with items that interrupt the horizonal flow of the
In the kitchen, exceptions may be
daily use items (like a coffee pot or bowl of fruit). Everything else should be
put away into the cabinets or drawers. Likewise, in the bathroom, no buyer
wants to see your toothbrush, used bar of soap, collections of lotions or other
hygiene items. Tuck these items away out of view.
Finally, in living spaces, dining
rooms and bedrooms, clear shelving of items smaller than a man’s fist. Anything
else should be carefully analyzed for color and curiosity. If it is odd or
brightly colored, it should probably be tucked away.
Aside from furniture and large
planters, nothing should take up valuable floor space. The more floor space is
uninterrupted, the bigger the room will feel. (This may even include removing
rugs.) Small statutes, umbrella stands, tray tables, baskets, etc. should be
packed away. These items conflict with the scale of most rooms and while
functional for day-to-day use, are unnecessary for the staging of the home.
Kids’ bedrooms should be free
from toys on the floor and as much as possible, any other items that take up
floor space. While many buyers give grace for children’s rooms, it is in the
best interest of the seller to remove as much clutter as possible for a room to
feel large and tidy, creating a positive impression for buyers.
Keep art to a minimum. Remove any
art pieces that are off scale (most often art that is too small). Art with
strong subject matter should also be taken down. While it may be tempting to
think that a cool gallery wall could be a great way to showcase art, gallery
walls require very careful measurements and installation. In my opinion, one
thoughtfully placed art piece per room is generally enough and should be placed
on the first visible wall when entering the room.
4. WHEN IN DOUBT, TAKE IT OUT
Less is always more when
preparing a home for sale. If you are struggling with whether an item is clutter,
it probably is. Many people feel that their home will be too sterile after they
declutter. In fact, clean and clear is quite attractive and allows a buyer to
see the qualities of the home (space, character, amenities, etc.) without being
distracted by personal “stuff”. It may be helpful to engage the
services of a professional home stager to provide assistance and direction.
When selling a home, it is essential to present the home at its best to
Laura Landesman, Owner of Showhomes of The Woodlands, is a certified staging professional in The Woodlands, Texas and a RESA-PRO member. She is passionate about the power of home staging and loves working with Realtors and homeowners in The Woodlands and Spring areas to help sell homes faster and for more money. Thanks to Lorelie Brown, Owner of Showhomes Charleston, for her contributions to this article.
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