Even the stars are having trouble selling their homes.
Newly divorced Britney Spears recently unloaded her seven-bedroom house in Malibu for $12 million — $1.5 million less than the asking price — after nine months on the market.
On July 30, Paris Hilton put her Spanish-style house in Hollywood Hills, built in 1926, for $4.25 million. She paid close to $3 million for the house in November 2004. Will she get her asking price?
If celebrities can’t seem to get what they want for their houses, how are the rest of the country’s home sellers supposed to cope?
One solution: Home-staging. Beth Ann Shepherd is president of the luxury Los Angeles home staging company Dressed to Close , and bills herself as “home stager to the stars.” She lists among her clients the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, and actors Josh Duhamel, Greg Kinnear, Christina Ricci and Eva Longoria.
While she does focus on the rich and famous, Shepherd insists that her techniques can be tailored to everyone’s pocketbook.
First, “glamorize your curb appeal.” Whether it is all new sod, fresh landscaping, new exterior design, landscaping lights, or something as simple as an updated, modern front door and handle, “curb appeal is paramount to getting buyers through the front door.”
Make a memorable entrance. The minute a potential buyer walks in the door, he or she should think “looks good, sounds good, and smells good.” Put an oversized mirror in your entry (“people love to look at themselves”) or a dramatic piece of artwork. Fresh flowers and scented candles go a long way for this first impression, Shepherd says.
Next, refresh old or worn attributes of the home. If you have hardwood floors, have them sanded and re-stained in a darker color, since “dark wood floors are more popular than ever and quickly add drama to a home,” according to Shepherd.
If you have carpet, have it steam cleaned or replaced with a light taupe berber — appealing to most people and makes the room actually appear larger, she said. If you have stone floors, have them pressure cleaned.
Make your furniture unobtrusive. “Open your mind to new furniture layouts,” she said. “Remember, the fireplace does not always have to be the focus of your seating area. A lanai, beachfront or pool area may be more pleasing to the eye.”
Modernize your kitchen with stainless-steel appliances. Stainless steel appliances immediately add perceived value. If you have the room, add a glass-front wine cooler.
Get the five-star hotel look in your bathroom. “Everyone loves to go on vacation; therefore, bring the same thick, white, luxury hotel towels into your home bathrooms,” she said. Always have the thickest towels on your racks and have two hand towels carefully placed next to each sink. A wood tray with infused scented reeds or scented candles, beautiful bathroom cotton-ball, as well as a Q-Tip holder (with cotton and Q-Tips) are “delightful in projecting the five-star hotel look.”
Professionally built-out closets add value to your home. Have closets only one-half filled to capacity. Have all your shoes on racks and nothing on the floor. If your closets are scraped up or dingy, paint them white. Put cedar blocks for scent and always, always have matching wood hangars for every item of clothing.
Look at your master bedroom as if it were a luxury-hotel suite, she said. You only need a few items to impress. Thick white sheets and pillows. Thick white duvet and duvet cover. A nice tray with a couple reading books. Scented reed diffusers (or scented candles). One plant to reach the ceiling (adds perceived height to any room) and, if room, a nice chair with reading light in the corner or a sofa seating area.
Make sure your house “sounds good.” Hook your iPod up to inexpensive wireless speakers casually placed throughout the house and have “Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits” playing during open house and viewings. “I strongly recommend you invest in at least one plasma television,” she said. “If possible, one for the main TV-watching area and one for the master bedroom. You will get your money back in the sale of the home.”
Add perceived square footage by dramatizing outdoor areas. If you have a small patio, put an oversized leaning mirror on the back wall to double the size and place a café table with two chairs, two placemats and colorful napkins with interesting napkin holders. If possible, hang a candle-light chandelier or an outdoor light above the table. If you have a larger area, create an outdoor living room with eating area. Outdoor living rooms are impressive to buyers and add to the perceived value. Purchase extra-long white sheer mesh draperies and install rods around your trellises or outdoor area for that billowy drapery feeling found only in exclusive resort hotels throughout the world.
“This is a dynamic, fast way to provide the major, “Wow!” needed to sell your home higher and faster,” Shepherd said.
Written by Al Heavens