It’s one of the most challenging parts of preparing a home for sale: staging. As years tick by we tend to fill our homes with stuff. Closets become a repository for rarely used and seasonal items, countertops are covered with stacks of paperwork, knick knacks clutter our tabletops, sentimental photos collect on shelves and walls, and furniture once belonging to loved ones occupies rooms. It’s easy to overlook this steady accumulation of clutter and belongings when you’re living in the home, but when it’s time to sell the task of preparing your spaces for photography and showings can be physically and emotionally overwhelming.
Where do you even start? For many sellers, this is a good time to hire a professional. Someone like Inga Lopez, owner of Organizing by Inga, an experienced professional stager, decorator, and home organizer who has been working in the business for the past 12 years. Originally employed as a personal assistant, Inga would find herself cleaning and organizing her employer’s home during down time between projects. She has always enjoyed it and her employer recognized her innate skills and encouraged her to consider offering this service to others. Word got out that Inga was available for hire and before long she had taken on a number of new clients, eventually growing to lead a team of six employees. Today much of her work comes from partnerships with Realtors and word of mouth referrals from families she has helped.
“A lot of times people struggle most with the process of decluttering,” explained Inga.
That’s why the first step is always to assess the items in the home and sort them into different categories; keep, store, discard, sell, and gift. Once these decisions have been made Inga can strategize the best way to display those belongings and maximize the spaces. When there are fewer items to consider and everything has a designated place it’s also easier to keep everything neat and tidy, which makes preparing your home for showings much simpler than having to find a place to hide things every time.
According to Inga, one of the most common mistakes that sellers make is not removing enough of their personal items. Without a professional there to guide them they may opt to leave collectibles or family photos on display, and doing so can give the spaces a cluttered feeling which makes it harder for buyers to conceptualize their own belongings in the home. “You don’t see past the mess, that’s why you want to clean it out and organize it,” said Inga. By reducing the amount of keepsakes, clothing, and even food in your pantry you give your home “breathing room” and it becomes more appealing to buyers.
Speaking of pantries and closets, for many homeowners those are some of the hardest spaces to tackle. Because they are repositories for a variety of frequently-used items it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed by clutter which distracts the eye from the structure of the space. Inga starts by removing everything, categorizing it, storing some things, discarding what is no longer useful or out of date, and then putting what’s left back in a neat and orderly manner. She often utilizes baskets or other containers to group like items together to maintain a visual sense of cleanliness. “You make space for everything so that you can see the beauty of the closet.”
Another common mistake sellers make is to not move or remove any furniture. While a room may be set up in a functional way for someone to live there it is not always the most compelling for photography and showings. Inga’s goal is to make spaces feel large, open, and bright, and sometimes that means rearranging or removing furniture. Having worked in clients’ homes for more than a decade, Inga has found that well-lit rooms (natural light is best, but supplementing with light fixtures is fine as well) with clean lines and modern decor is most appealing to buyers. A trick to making a room feel big is to utilize low profile furniture and embrace the less-is-more mentality. Removing window coverings can also go a long way to opening up spaces and making them look fresh and light.
It is worth noting that not all sellers have the ability to keep their homes furnished while they are on the market, and selling an unfurnished home presents its own unique set of challenges. “If you have an empty house a lot of times people cannot visualize the space, but if you have it well staged people can really see the size of the home,” said Inga. This is especially true in houses that have the ever-popular open concept floorplans where rooms flow into one another without walls to define them. “When it’s empty it actually looks smaller because people can’t see the potential of the room,” she explained. In these cases Inga brings in her own furnishings to pull the spaces together and help potential buyers understand how they might use those rooms themselves.
“Make the room feel airy and light, with no clutter. Less is more when it comes to furniture, decorative pieces, and clutter; it makes the space feel bigger and more spacious.” Check the surfaces in your living spaces and ensure they don’t have miscellaneous papers, mail, personal and sentimental items, and knick knacks on display.
“Try to bring light in. Nobody likes dark spaces, so use lamps or natural light. I think it’s much more inviting when you have light.” Splashes of color can also make a big difference especially when you are working with homes that feature rich wood tones and dark colors.
“Mirrors reflect light, so placing mirrors facing the windows gives you more light in the room, and makes the room look bigger. Mirrors are great.” Thoughtful use of mirrors can make a space look significantly larger and give the illusion of more windows within your home. This tip is especially handy in smaller spaces.
Inga offers organizing and staging help for homeowners throughout the selling process. From the initial consultation to organizing, hosting estate sales, staging, and even the boxing, moving, and unboxing of home goods, she is an invaluable resource for those preparing to sell their homes.
Check out some before and after shots of Inga’s work below: