Dress Your House for Success: 12 Steps to Staging Your Home to Sell

If you were around in the late 80s-early 90s, you have seen or heard “Dressing for Success”. It became a mantra and seminars were held to teach people how to get their dream job by dressing the part. Well, the same holds true for selling your home. It needs to be staged–dressed up to make it appealing to the critical eye of today’s consumers.

Armed with the knowledge that cash is king, (even if they do use a mortgage) and that there are plenty of houses on the market, a prospective buyer doesn’t have to settle for your home, when the “one next door” has colors and accessories that make their heart sing.

So, what do you do to make your home stand out? You need to be a critic. Imagine that you are plunking down several hundred thousand dollars for a property in a foreign country. What do you see?

Start at the front entry. Is your exterior wall crisp and clean with no pock marks, chips, cracks, or worse–graffiti? Even though you like to keep beach chairs, an array of flip-flops, and your surfboard at hand, your buyers will just see junk.

Are there weeds growing where some bright, colorful bougainvillea should be? If you don’t have a gardener, or even if you do, buy some nice pots and plant some bougainvillea. They are exotic, colorful, and eye-catching.

Is the pool crystal clear? There is no bigger turn-off then a green, grimy swimming pool. Is the lawn furniture in good repair? If you cannot afford to replace it, remove it. Stage your patio. Just before buyers are due to arrive, sweep it. Throw a few bougainvillea petals in the pool (romance, remember romance?). Roll up some colorful beach towels; put them on the foot of a lounge chair or in a basket near the pool. Make sure table tops are dust free. Entice your buyers to want to stay for the day at poolside.

Let’s go inside. Make the sniff test. Does your home smell like dog, bug spray, or last night’s broccoli? Since you may be de-sensitized to the smells in your home, ask a friend or neighbor to come by and make the sniff test. Tell them to be honest; you need their help; and you do not want to lose a buyer because your house has B.O. When you know buyers are coming, open all the windows, turn on the ceiling fans, let the house air out.

Look at each room. Do you have too much furniture and too many knickknacks? Removing clutter and even some furniture to make your home look more spacious and encourages the potential buyer to envision themselves in the house. Make sure all surfaces are dust free and gleaming. Same goes for the floors.

One of the quickest ways to freshen a room is to add some brightly colored throw pillows. Add or remove color. Color has an effect on people even when they are not aware of it. Have you been in houses that feel happy? It is the colors that did it, not a friendly ghost. Here in Mexico, we can use bolder colors, people expect it, and are drawn to the hot colors of Baja. A word of caution: It is the judicious use of color that matters here. Don’t rush out and paint every room yellow and orange. Take a look around; is there an accent wall that would look nice painted a bright color? Can you accent the inside of an arch with the same apple green in your pottery? Pick up a few magazines or a design book. A good one is Casa Mexicana. It shows all kinds of Mexican home interiors. You can get good ideas there, but, get some expert advice. There are “values” to colors; one yellow can be harsh, while another can feel like a sunny day.

Repair chipped tile; make sure all the switches and outlets have covers. Wash the curtains or remove them completely. Finish the projects you “saved for later”. You know–the unpainted cupboard doors, the new awning, or the purging of the junk in the bodega. Repair broken screens or remove them. Remove rust on doors and other metal surfaces.

Confine your pet. If your doggie is an energetic greeter, tie it up or send it to the neighbor. No one likes a yapping dog or one that jumps on them. Fido is part of YOUR family, not part of the house.

When I list a house, I walk through it with the seller. They have a clipboard and pen and take notes on what to repair, take away, or add to make their home more appealing.

Some quick fixes: a bowl of tropical fruit on a kitchen counter or in the center of the dining table. It can be real or the gorgeous faux fruit available in the shops. Some fluffy towels rolled and stacked on the side of the bathtub or on a bathroom shelf. Some shells placed here and there. Remember: you are selling paradise. Have a set of “show towels” you can put out in the bathrooms. These are never used, so they always look fresh when buyers come to snoop. Add a potted palm to delineate a space or fill a corner. Again, potted plants do not have to be real.

Buying a home is both objective and subjective. Some buyers will see garbage, dust, and clutter and feel that the plumbing and other systems may have been neglected, as well. Others will love or hate a house and say “It was just my gut reaction, I don’t know why, but I hate this house.”

The idea behind staging is to have nothing in the way to stop a buyer from saying: “I love this house; I want to buy it.”


Twelve Steps to Staging Your Home To Sell


  1. Do the dishes. If you don’t have time to be thorough, stack them in the dishwasher. No dishwasher? Wash the dishes; there is no way around it. The kitchen must sparkle.
  2. The entire house, patio, and yard must be neat and clean. Pick up the doggie-poo.
  3. Wash the windows. If you have a great view, the potential buyers will head straight to the window or sliding door that frames the view. They don’t want to look through doggie drool or dirty handprints.
  4. Make the beds. Mexican blankets and crisp white pillow cases can make the worst bed look good.
  5. Remove all the toiletries, shavers, draped towels, etc from the bathroom. Stow toiletries in a cupboard. Toss the wet towels in the dryer. Flush the toilets and put the lids down.
  6. Remove clutter. Be ruthless. Get rid of things you don’t use. Empty the ashtrays. Better yet remove ashtrays. Get some attractive baskets and stow the bills, magazines, and other clutter of daily life.
  7. Play some peaceful music at a low volume.
  8.  Turn on all the lights and light a few candles.
  9. Empty the trash.
  10. Prepare a list of items you will leave with the house.
  11. Freshen faded paint or repaint if your agent says the colors need to be changed.
  12. Go away. Let your agent do her job. If you insist on being there, sit on the patio and keep your lips zipped.

Susan Fogel is the broker/owner of Prestige Property Group La Paz and the author of the ebook: Margarita Mind: How to Avoid It: A Guide to Buying Mexico Property Safely & Sanely.



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Date: Wednesday, 7. September 2011 20:01
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