Selling Canned Soup or Houses?

Spring is here as is the start of the home buying and selling season.  If you’re thinking about selling your home, then today’s guest blogger, Karen Otto of Home Star Staging, has some excellent news to help you get ready for that.  If you want to get top dollar for your home, presentation is very important, and Karen’s 5 tips will help you accomplish that!  – Ed Wise

Think about the last time you purchased something, anything at all. Let’s say it was a can of soup. Imagine the canned food shelves are crammed and disheveled as you look for your brand. You’re getting annoyed. The first couple of cans you spy are dented and the labels torn. In fact, is that a rodent’s dropping on the top of that one? Disgusting!

You search the back rows for a better looking can; I would, or at the very least, demand a discount on the only can that had one dent instead of six once I get to the register. I’d also have a nice chat with the manager on the condition of his store. I’d say I probably wouldn’t be shopping that market again either. How dare they display their merchandise in such a poor manner? Don’t they care about the health and well being of their customers? I may even call the health department.

How, you may ask, is this related to packaging a house?

Buying a home is like purchasing any other product on a shelf. Whether soup or nuts, a consumer will search out the best looking product, in the best looking wrapper, in the best possible condition and usually at the best price.

How is it then that we’ll take such care in the mundane task of purchasing groceries but not think about the preparations we need to make when we go to sell a home? If you are selling a home, welcome to the world of real estate merchandising folks. You are now in the business of selling soup cans, I mean houses. And no, your Realtor won’t do it for you.

As you embark on the journey to sell a home, the first thing you need to think about after the decision is made is how to best prepare the home for sale. A house is typically your largest asset, why wouldn’t you package it in the prettiest wrapper on the real estate market? Wouldn’t you detail your car first if you were to sell it? Why wouldn’t you put the same, even more effort into your home, which is now a high dollar marketable product?

Today’s buyer desires a home that is move-in ready. They generally have lots of options to choose from. If there are many homes in your price range, location and in similar condition how will yours stand out from the competition? I’ll let you in on a little secret, stage your property.

Staging is the art of preparing your home for sale to get you the fastest sales time and the highest dollar possible. Staging works.

It’s really quite simple. Use this list to help you get started on the road to preparing your home for sale.


1. Start thinking about your property as a marketable product. You need to disconnect your emotional attachment to your home and treat it as a product for sale that you want people to buy. Try and sever your emotions to your house and start envisioning the memories you’ll make in your new one. Whatever the circumstance for selling your home the goal is to get this house to help pay for the next!

2. Look objectively at your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. Consider how your house shows both inside and out to potential buyers. As the old expression goes, “we stand so close to the trees that we often can’t see the forest.” By being honest and objective you’ll be able to see the flaws that others most certainly will. If you can’t be objective ask your Realtor or hire a home stager for a professional consultation.

3. Clean, clean and clean some more. This is what I call the white glove treatment. From baseboards to light switches, grout to faucets, everything must sparkle. A clean house says “I’ve been well cared for AND I’ll be easy to maintain!” Don’t remind buyers of the work involved in keeping up a house.

4. De-clutter and de-personalize. Remember you’re selling square footage, counter space, architectural details and a lifestyle. Ask yourself through the process, “is this something I’m selling?” It’s really not about your stuff!  Pare down excess furniture, accessories, personal items, dusty florals and other knick-knacks that tend to accumulate over the years. Go through all closets too. Sell, donate, store or throw away things you don’t really need or love. Give your children the same task and make it a family project. You’re moving anyway, start packing early. The house will be so much easier to maintain while showing this way too.

5. Neutralize colors and outdated features. Think “move in ready”. Does the rooster wall paper or 1970’s dark wood paneling really translate to that? Also make repairs as needed. Fix cracks in walls, nail pops or condensation damage to window sills. Scrutinize every detail as a buyer would.

By considering yourself a real estate merchandiser, similar to the grocer, and knowing how packaging any product is so important to the consumer, you’re well on your way to preparing your house for sale.

Just make sure all the dents are removed before you open your house for business.

Copyright 2007-14 © Karen Otto

Karen Otto, RESA-Pro is the owner of Home Star Staging, a Real Estate Staging and Consulting company in Plano, Texas. Karen is a recognized expert in the home staging industry and has her work appear on HGTV’s “My First Sale”, FOX 4 Good Day Dallas!, The Dallas Morning News, MSN Real Estate Online along with books, ezines and blogs around the globe. While Karen doesn’t sell houses, she knows how to turn house hunters into home buyers! Karen is passionate about educating the Real Estate Community on the benefits of home staging. Karen is available to the real estate community and media for articles, information and workshops on home staging. Please contact her at

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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