The properties selling for $5million or more, are obviously in their own world, so if that's you, go ahead & hire a stager. The advice below is appropriate for most of the rest of us!

1) CLEAN, Clean, Clean: There is no such thing as being too clean! Females make most buying decisions, so having a spotless property goes a long way to showing your property in the best light. The last thing the lady of the house wants, on top of having to move a whole household, is to have to scrub the new place! Not just visually either. Make sure there are no unwanted odors. Bring in a neutral third party for the sniff test - you might not notice that Fido and Fluffy's odors linger. Take appropriate action. Clean says: "Clean enough to move in right now."

2) EMPTY, Empty, Empty: Unless you have a really weird layout that no one would be able to imagine themselves in, EMPTY is always preferable, because people are more likely to be able to imagine their own possessions in a space if they are not distracted by yours. If they brought their measuring tape, it's a whole lot easier to measure for their furniture, too. If you must leave stuff there, or you can't move out before you sell, move as much as possible into storage, get rid of clutter, and throw clean upholstery covers over any tired couches or armchairs with a few new pillows. Remove everything from your kitchen countertops, table tops, window sills, etc. Make sure closets are at least half empty. (Those store-it-yourself places are really very reasonable.)

3) PAINT IT WHITE: A fresh coat of paint is usually necessary, and, unless you have gigantic windows facing south or your room sizes are really HUGE, the only color you should consider is white (or slightly off-white, but not that "antique white" that ends up looking like paper bag brown). White makes spaces look larger, brighter, and airier. If you want a more sophisticated look, paint the ceilings bright "ceiling white" and the walls a slightly warm off white. Unless your ceilings are higher than 9 feet, do not do the reverse and make your ceilings darker than your walls, or it has the visual effect of lowering your ceiling.

4) REGROUT & CAULK Bathrooms: This is a must! Moldy caulk around a bathtub, and yellowed grout just does not look CLEAN. Regrouting & recaulking will make even older tilework appear newer, or at the very least, well kept. If the bathtub is old and beat-up looking, it's also worth it to have it reglazed by a professional. (avoid painting it- it will just look painted).

5) KITCHEN HELP: In the current market, you will not get your money back out doing major renovations. However, sometimes replacing worn flooring, along with painting and a super cleaning job, may be all you need to give that old kitchen a facelift. Replacing countertops is more complicated. If you feel you must do that, replace it with a laminate counter that looks like the latest granite or marble craze. You're going for the look. Chances are, the buyers will want to renovate the kitchen anyway, if it's more than 15 years old.

6) STAGING: I don't care WHAT you see on TV about the current fad of "staging" property. Unless you are selling a multimillion dollar property and/or looking for a very specific buyer that will love your choice of decoration, or have a really unusual layout which would be difficult to furnish without your specific personal guidance, DON'T stage. Leaving stuff, or deliberately putting stuff, in your apartment or house only interferes with buyers' ability to imagine their own possessions there. As many as two thirds of folks are not good at visualizing, so having furnishings there that are not to their taste can be a deterrent to a sale.

7) The only "STAGING" I can recommend: On showing days, make sure that on cold days the property is warm; windows opened or space cooled on hot days; all blinds & curtains open for maximum light if it's a daytime showing; vanilla drops on warm light bulbs or chocolate chip cookies in the oven (this is for that pleasant home smell, but you can also give away the warm, freshly baked cookies) if you're feeling creative. Maybe a dish of chocolates too. Nothing says "home" like something freshly baked, and chocolate plays well in all environments.) And of course a printed flyer they can take home with them, with an identifiable photo or 2, a reasonably accurate floor plan, and a list of neighborhood amenities. Fresh flowers can be nice too. Put them in places where you want to catch the buyers' eyes, either to say "Look over here!" or to distract them from a less than exciting view.

8) WINDOWS, Clean and Operable: All windows should be cleaned: even if they only look out on the brick wall next door, they are a source of light and air, and if they look or are icky to touch (to open), that does not add to the impression of a clean house. (see #1 above) Plus, cleaning them makes them look a lot newer. Also check them all to make sure they operate properly. Nothing is so embarrassing as a buyer trying to open a stuck window, or finding a broken lock on a fire escape window. (If it's a co-op, make sure you notify management asap to do any necessary repairs.)

9) PLEASE, Please, Please, DON'T TALK! while buyers are looking at your property. Let the buyer look, and talk. They will ask if they want to know something. Limit your answer to their questions ("How old is the roof?" "New in 2002."). A feature you may think is fabulous may be a negative to the buyer, and your talking about it may turn them off. At one showing, in a 1 family zoned Victorian neighborhood, the homeowner kept talking about how the buyer could rent the attic (an illegal proposition in any case) for extra income, and "by the way everyone on the block did it," a statement which was not even true. My buyer had been interested in a 1 family home in a 1 family environment, and lost interest in the house after hearing that, even after I told him (truthfully) that it was not true that "everyone is doing it." Worse yet, he lost interest in the neighborhood! Another homeowner bragged about his 50's installation of paneling and drop ceilings in his brownstone, and how that made his home more valuable. This while the buyer was doing mental math of how much removing all that unwanted panelling and drop ceiling tile, to restore the original brownstone look, would cost. Ooops. You don't know what the buyer is looking for, so don't presume what might sell the house or apartment. Watch and listen. What has value to you, may not represent value to the next person. After the buyer has had a chance to look around, you can ask things like, how long have you been looking for something? What other kinds of homes have you seen? What do you like best about this home? Etc.

10) BE PREPARED: House owners: Plumbing, heating, and electric should be in working order (including appliances) and the roof free of leaks. This requirement will be in the contract of sale if the buyer needs to get financing, so make sure this is verified before you put it on the market. Have you utility bills handy, because buyers will want to know how much it costs to carry the house. Co-op/Condo owners: make sure any pending repairs that are the responsibility of the Co-op or Condo Corporation (such as window issues or exterior leaks) are completed before marketing, and make sure you have all necessary paperwork that will be required by the buyer's attorney (Offering plan, amendments, 3 years worth of financial statements, sublet policy, pet policy, copy of your stock certificate, copy of the Board application, etc). Everyone, please make sure that you have your attorney lined up to proceed post haste when you do have a buyer. You don't want to give them a chance to find another home while you go looking for an attorney to write your contract.

NOTE THAT NONE OF THE ABOVE MAY HELP IF YOU DON'T PRICE THE PROPERTY RIGHT! I have not included information about pricing, as the market is constantly changing. Call me for some free and timely tips about pricing when you are ready to sell. There is no obligation for any initial phone consultation. Contact me at



What is Home Performance?

When you buy a car, you expect good gas mileage with low upkeep, safe handling, and comfort inside. In other words, respectable performance. Why would you have any other expectations for a house?  The ability of your home to deliver comfort, health, and affordability is what a Home Performance Assessment is all about.  Is the home functioning at its optimum?  Or are there deficiencies and inefficiencies?  An assessment can often determine which cost effective items can improve the performance of your home most!

Check out the Home Performance Assessment page and its Learn page for the issues and how your home can be improved!

Are you new to Home Ownership?

Make sure you look at the suggestions on my Renovations page;  more useful information on my Real Estate Pages; and an excellent read on the Building Science Corporation's website: The Building Science Guide to Home Ownership! See my LINKS page for more.

Of course, feel free to call (718.941.3725) or email me with questions and concerns!

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As an independent third party,  I can provide initial and test-out Blower Door and CAZ testing along with Infrared imagery to help make your project a success. 

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