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Highland Lakes Realtor Zina Rodenbeck: Less is more when staging homes for sale

Cleaning up the clutter in the kitchen might be the hardest part of staging a home for sale. No family photos or school schedules on the refrigerator and no appliances, drying dishes, or family detritus on cabinet and table surfaces. Potential buyers should see the house and little else.

A clean, uncluttered home with a welcoming front entrance both inside and out appeals to buyers and sells faster, according to Highland Lakes Realtor Zina Rodenbeck. For that advice to work, sellers need to realize that clean and uncluttered are two different things. Off-site storage is recommended, and spiderwebs and wasp nests must be swept away.

“The number one thing is to clear the clutter,” Rodenbeck said. “The home should be spacious and easy to walk through.”

Highland Lakes Realtor Zina Rodenbeck's No. 1 rule to staging a home for sale: 'clear the clutter.' Courtesy photo

Clean means dusting the corners, sweeping away cobwebs, and scrubbing windows and floors. Clearing the clutter goes beyond the sheen of clean. All knick-knacks, family photos, and unnecessary furniture must be removed and stored away — just not in closets.

“You want it to be open and inviting so that they can see themselves living there,” Rodenbeck continued. “Not you living there, but the new family that might want to come.”

Decluttering begins by packing everything away in boxes and moving it to storage, if necessary. That includes all the miscellaneous items and clothes that you don’t use but are stuffed into your closets nonetheless.

“You want your closet space to be at its maximum,” she said. “If it’s packed, potential buyers will think your house is too small. Goodwill and the library thrift shops are your best friends.”

What goes for the inside goes double for the outside. Get rid of dead or droopy flowers and replace plants in ragged gardens with mulch. Front doors should be inviting and clear of bugs, spiderwebs, and especially wasp nests. Once scrubbed and swept, consider painting the door, replacing its hardware, and buying a new, classy welcome mat.

“You may like pink flamingos and have them on your doormat, but it might not appeal to all buyers,” Rodenbeck said. “Bottom line: You don’t want people looking at your family, furniture, or knick-knacks. You want them to see the house.”

Another important factor is smell. When Rodenbeck holds an open house, she bakes chocolate chip cookies for visitors. She’s not masking orders; she’s creating an inviting atmosphere.

Covering up the odors of a household pet or indoor smoker won’t work in the long run, Rodenbeck said. Mainly because some odors can’t be overcome by defusers and sprays.

“Pet odor is a huge sales killer,” she said. “Cigarette smoke comes in second. And moldy smells. You can’t mask them. It all comes down to a good deep clean. You want a clean smell when that front door opens.”

A clean smell, a clean look, and uncluttered surfaces all go a long way to selling your home for the price you want, Rodenbeck said.

“This is a good time to sell,” she continued. “Inventory in the Highland Lakes is short and buyers are here. It’s a good time to buy, too. Mortgage rates are low.”

To get the right price for your property, get out the vacuum cleaners, mop buckets, and storage boxes and get to work.

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