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As a Realtor, I help people sell and buy homes… but today I’m going to talk about staying IN your home.  Since most of you will sell or buy sometime in the next 5 to 7 years, today most of you are probably planning to stay where you are for the time being.  If you’re not, call me immediately and let’s sell your home!  But if you’re not planning to move in the very near future, what I’m telling you today will help you regardless.

When I go on a listing appointment with a potential seller, sometimes the house is perfect for selling.  Perfectly staged and ready to go.  You know the home – the one that looks like it belongs in House Beautiful or in the pages of Dwell.  But this is the exception rather than the rule.  If I can come in, get the listing agreement signed, have the pictures taken and get the listing in the system right away, that’s marvelous – but more often there’s work that needs to be done.  And often after the work is done, the seller will tell me that they wish they had done the work long before OR that they now don’t want to move!

SO let’s talk about the advice I’m going to give you when you go to SELL your home – if you do these things now you’ll be way ahead of the game and when you’re ready to really sell, you won’t have as much work to do; if you plan to stay, you’re going to LOVE your home all the more.

  1. CURB APPEAL. It’s everything when you go to sell – the first impression of your home is the most important.  So spend some money on landscaping and make sure you keep it up (this means an irrigation system if you don’t plan to water your plants yourself).  Don’t have too much “stuff” in the form of yard art and the like.  This will be a common theme as we move inside.  While we are out here, keep these in mind:
    1. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way in terms of curb appeal. A home’s exterior should be repainted every 7 years or so.
    2. A new welcome mat IS welcoming. And not that expensive.  Spring for a welcome mat you love.
    3. Consider adding seating somewhere in the front yard – some place welcoming, a place to rest, a place to enjoy the yard. You will meet a lot more neighbors if you hang out in your front yard!
    4. Along those same lines, if you have a front porch, use it! You’d be surprised how many people have awesome front porches and don’t use them.  For a small front porch, a small cafe table and chairs will do wonders.
  1. CLEAR THE CLUTTER. Moving inside, remember that most of us have way too many “things” for comfort.   Clearing your possessions also helps to clear your mind, as pointed out by that great NY Times bestseller “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.  Because so much of it is relevant to real estate, it’s worth mentioning here:
    1. Only keep things that are useful and which you love. If it’s in a box that you haven’t opened or unpacked in more than a year, chances are you never will and it needs to GO.  Same with clothes!  I recommend a rotation system.  When an item of clothing comes to the front of your closet, you either wear it or donate it.  After it’s worn, it goes to the back. This way you avoid the trap many fall into of wearing the same thing over and over and over and never wearing half of your closet.
    2. The general rule for closets is that they should be HALF full with NOTHING on the floor whatsoever and if there are shelves, nothing folded on the shelves. Instead, use baskets and put extra items in there.
    3. Visual clutter kills a sale, and it makes you feel unorganized and unfocused. The best thing to do is to CLEAR EVERYTHING off horizontal surfaces – that is, from shelves and bookcases and tabletops, then come back and put only a few items back.  Ideally, your home should feel a little sparse to you.  Believe me, you’ll get used to it and you’ll love it.
    4. Much of the psychological difficulty about getting rid of stuff, I find, is that people don’t want to WASTE things. But you don’t have to THROW THINGS AWAY.  Give them to Goodwill.  Make it a goal to go to Goodwill with a bag of items at least once every two weeks until you feel you have clutter under control.
    5. Clearing clutter includes FOOD. How many of the items in your pantry are EXPIRED?  I am guilty of this, and after my son-in-law pointed out a few expiration dates, I went to work clearing out pantry and fridge.  It feels marvelous!
  1. TAKE PICTURES. My stager, after she’s met with my sellers and given a list of things for them to do which includes enhancing curb appeal and clearing the clutter, recommends that they go around their home with a camera or their iPhone and take pictures of each room from multiple angles.  Do this!  Then go back and take a close look at the pictures you’ve taken.  There will be lots of things you don’t notice with your straight eyesight that will pop out in a picture.  There are many reasons for this, but among them that you are USED to seeing your own home.  Seeing your home through a camera lens gives you a new perspective and you’ll notice things you wouldn’t otherwise, like cords that add visual clutter.  Taking pictures will give you a whole new perspective.
  1. REPAIR LIST. This is less visible, but an important part of making your home wonderful for yourself!  Keep a list of all those “little” repairs that need to be done.  You know – the ones that you notice only at certain times but which always bother you when you notice them.  The door that sticks; the drawer that doesn’t close all the way; the dimmer switch that heats up too much; the wood rot on the exterior.  It’s well worth your investment to hire a handyman at least two times a year to take care of this stuff.  Most of them will charge you by the hour plus materials.  And while you’re at it you can have them change the lightbulbs you have trouble changing or install that new light fixture you’ve been eyeing at Home Depot.  If buyers see a stuck door or dripping faucet, they are going to wonder if the home is well cared for and will be looking for other “problems.”  You want them focused on what’s RIGHT with the house.  The same goes for you!

That’s just a start of things I suggest for “staging to stay”.  In a future blog post, I will cover renovations – how to plan renovations that will pay off when you go to sell, but will increase your enjoyment of your home in the interim.  And never hesitate to call me, your Realtor, for advice and counsel.


Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full-time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Her knowledge of residential real estate and her legal expertise allow her to offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne serves on the Committee that drafts and reviews the contracts utilized by all REALTORS in the State of Georgia. In addition, she is a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: maryannesellshomes@gmail.com.