How to Sell Your House in Any Market – Make Your Home Irresistible to Buyers

“How can I sell my house for the most money in the least time” is an even more important question in a buyer’s market. ‘Dressing’ your house is the answer, and it’s something anybody can do. It’s sometimes called ‘staging’ or ‘fluffing’, but ‘dressing’ is a more appropriate term. These techniques have been used by professionals for many years but information has been surprisingly hard to come by for the layman. Here you’ll learn the secrets and why they work.

Many buyers think they’ll be able to look past a poorly decorated or empty house, but they do have a negative psychological effect on most people. Have you ever noticed that successful home builders always use a professionally decorated Model Home or Sales Suite? Buyers want to fall in love with their new home, and it’s very hard to do that if it’s cluttered, in disrepair, out of style, or empty.

Every realtor knows that the longer a house is on the market the lower the final selling price will be. ‘Dressed’ houses sell twice as fast as ‘non-dressed’ houses. A survey in California of 2,772 homes showed the average number of days on the market for non-dressed houses was 30.9, while dressed houses sold in 13.8 days.

Phenomenal Return On Investment

Some of these techniques involve spending a little money, and many people have a psychological block against spending money on something they won’t get to enjoy. But when you look at the Return On Investment (ROI) you’ll realize this may be the best investment you’ll ever make. Research shows that houses that have been ‘dressed’, sell for more money, and the higher selling price more than makes up for the investment.

Statistics from the National Association of Realtors show that the optimal amount to spend on ‘dressing’ your house is between 1 and 3% of the home’s value, and it brings in an average Return On Investment of between 8 and 10% in increased selling price. So if your house is worth $300,000, then investing between $3,000 and $9,000 will return an average of $24,000 to $30,000 in increased selling price.

Even if you look at a less than average possible scenario – if you invest $3,000 and get a return of $24,000 in 5 weeks, you’ve received a net profit of 7 times your investment. That’s a Return On Investment of more than 4,200% on an annual basis. It’s difficult if not impossible for most people to find another investment with that rate of return.

The key to making your home irresistible is this: “Once you decide to sell, you have to understand that this is no longer your home. It has turned into a great opportunity to make thousands of dollars in extra cash. YOUR home is waiting for you somewhere else.”


Dressing your house is about understanding and appealing to the psychology of home buyers. They want a home that’s bigger, maintenance free, and a step up in class from the home they’re living in now. And they need to be able to picture themselves living there.

Making your house look bigger There are a few simple techniques you can use to increase the perceived size of even smaller homes:

  • Leave an absolute minimum of furniture and wall hangings, perhaps half of what you have now, and put the rest in storage. You may think the rooms look empty but leave them for a few days and see if you get used to them. Although you may be proud of your furniture you’ll be more proud of selling your house quickly for the right price.
  • Make it completely free of small items and clutter such as magazine racks, small plants, stools, garbage containers, umbrella stands, shoe racks, CD racks, and throw rugs.
  • Use large accessories such as cushions, table lamps and flower pots.
  • Turn on all the lights, open all the curtains.
  • Add a coat of off-white paint. If you need to, consult a professional with help on colors.

Giving the impression of a maintenance-free home

  • Upgrade electrical switches, plug-ins, lighting and plumbing fixtures to give the impression that your wiring and plumbing are up to date and will be maintenance free.
  • Make your home spotlessly clean. People naturally feel that if the surfaces of a house are well maintained, things below the surface are in the same good condition. A clean house also feels more comfortable. Be sure to hide all your cleaning materials. Having them visible just reminds people about doing chores.

Gaining a competitive edge with style and features

Every house in your price range is your competition. The first step in gaining a competitive edge is research. You need to find out what style should your house be, what features should it have, and how much you should ask.

Style – When most people are buying a new home they want to take a step up in class. If your house is just as ordinary looking as their current one why should they buy it? They are looking for a home they can be proud of. To find out what current house decorating trends are, look through magazines like Better Homes and Gardens. Look particularly at what colors they use. Of course you want to stick to soft neutral colors in general but also look at the accent colors. Fancy cushions give the appearance of luxury. You can buy large pillows for your sofa in the latest colors. Put a slip cover on your old sofa if it is out of style.

Make sure none of the rooms in your house have been decorated in a particular theme. Themes appeal only to a very limited percentage of the population and in order to make your home sell it needs to appeal to the most possible buyers. Paint any rooms that need it with soft warm colors, not bright white. You want your house to feel comfortable, not stark or institutional.

Features – What are your house’s advantages and disadvantages over other houses for sale in your area? Dressing your house is about highlighting the positives and minimizing the negatives. Compare your house to the standard for your price range and improve the points where it is below standard. Have a look at the age of people who are moving in and out of your neighborhood. Are they empty nesters looking for a smaller home that is easy to maintain, young couples with small children, or growing families looking for more living space? This will affect what features your house should have. For example, people with young children or empty nesters may want to use one of the bedrooms as an office or den.

Asking Price – The best thing to do here is call an experienced realtor you can trust. They should be able to give you access to a comprehensive website such as or where you can conveniently do your research. Most importantly they’ll provide you with a comprehensive Comparative Market Analysis to help you establish the correct asking price. A Comparative Market Analysis will show you what houses have sold for in your area and what features they had, as well as which homes are your competition.

The time to dress your house is before you do anything else, before you ask your realtor to come over and certainly before any pictures are taken. Your house has to look its best on your realtor’s website. Having your house already dressed will affect the recommended asking price.

Imagine Yourself Living Here People need to be able to picture themselves living in your house, and you make it more difficult if you have personal photos on display, your collections, and any personal items at all. Remove yourself completely from the equation.


Take Pictures Before Dressing Your Home – The first step in dressing your home is to get hold of a digital camera and take pictures of every room in your house from every angle, including what prospective buyers would see if they pulled up in front of your place right now, before it’s dressed. Then after leaving them for 3 or 4 days, take them to a nearby coffee shop. This is important. Leaving them for a while and viewing them off your premises is the only way to ensure you’ll be looking at them objectively, seeing your house as prospective buyers would be seeing it. Don’t confuse this exercise with your final photography session. This is the ‘before’ set of pictures that only you will see. The photos you use for selling your home will be taken after all your dressing has been done.

The Best Bang For Your Buck – The cheapest things you can do that bring the most Return On Investment are:

  1. Lighten and brighten
  2. Clean and de-clutter
  3. Landscape and yard work
  4. Repair electrical and plumbing

Curb Appeal – The most important place to scrutinize is the outside front of your house. This is not only what prospective buyers see first when they drive up, or drive by, it’s also going to be what people see on real estate websites. You want people to look at the photo of the front of your home and say “What a nice looking home. Let’s see what the inside is like.” Large flower pots, small shrubs, and hanging plants on the outside can increase your home’s curb appeal tremendously.

In The Kitchen – The next most important places to improve are the kitchen and the bathroom, because that’s where new owners will be spending most of their time. New cupboard handles and hinges, or a granite countertop can make a huge difference in the luxury appeal of both your kitchen and bathroom. If you have small kitchen appliances on the counters, first put away the ones you hardly ever use. Then buy new ones for all the rest. Of course you take them with you when you move. Put half of the things that are in your cupboards in storage, and buy small cans and packages of food to make the cupboards feel larger. Be sure to buy a new shower curtain for the bathroom.

Entry Way – The next most important area of your home is the entry way. Here again, it’s about making a good first impression. If you do that, there is a much better chance that buyers will be sold on your place before they even see the bedrooms or basement. The front door is important because it is the focal point of the front of your house. Replacing or painting it with a touch of class would probably be a money making investment.

Make a Budget – Look at what projects around your house need to be done, such as remodeling or repainting. Set deadlines and budgets and plan how you will meet them. The cost and time required for each will help you to decide on which order they should be tackled, and if you need to get help or hire a professional.

Avoid Hidden Deal Breakers – Most people don’t know the smell of their own place. Either you aren’t sensitive to smell or you simply get used to it. It’s very difficult to be objective about the smell of your house. The best thing to do is invite a neighbor or a friend you can trust to come over, and be sure to stress that they must be brutally honest. Then don’t just cover up the smells, get rid of their root causes. There are service providers that specialize in getting rid of odors in homes. Be sure not to put a potpourri out before a viewing. These days so many people have allergies or are sensitive to strong odors that you will most likely be doing more harm than good.

Last Minute Touches That Really Sell – Before someone views your home open all the windows for 20 minutes to bring in some fresh air. Even if you don’t have a smelly place it will be good to get rid of any stuffy feeling. If you like you can bake cookies or squeeze some lemons. Both are appealing natural smells. Fresh flowers are always a nice touch. Play soft FM music at low volume.

In my next article I get into the specifics of exactly how to accomplish all your ‘house dressing’ tasks – room by room and item by item. Then we’ll get into dressing special properties such as vacation homes, rental properties, vacant homes, and talk about flipping homes. We’ll conclude with more exceptional tips and valuable knowledge about putting your best foot forward at show time.

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