Home Sellers: How to Keep Your House Clean for Showings

blog-how-to-keep-your-house-clean-for-showingsWhen your home is on the market, it has to be “show-ready” with very little notice.

Home buyers are extremely judgmental (and really, shouldn’t they be? They’re evaluating whether to spend thousands and thousands of dollars, for Pete’s sake). Whether it’s a fair assessment or not, most buyers tend to perceive a neat, clean house as one that has been well-maintained and likely has fewer problems. A cluttered, dirty home triggers the exact opposite reaction.

Savvy sellers keep dirt and clutter at bay daily so that when a real estate agent calls and wants to show the home, it’s ready to go. Check out our tips to help you get the job done quickly and (hopefully) without losing your marbles:

  • Reduce and simplify. Not once in all my years of staging homes and hundreds of consultations have I ever walked into a home that didn’t need to “simplify and reduce” on some level. Buyers will view your personal treasured possessions with a very impersonal eye, and the “stuff” that makes your house feel like home may distract a buyer from seeing the beautiful bones of the house.
  • Focus cleaning efforts on the main areas of the house: living room, kitchen, bathroom, and master bedroom. Stand in the doorway of each space and figure out what jumps out at your eyes first — start there!
  • Clear kitchen and bath counters and wipe clean. Hide away any appliance you don’t use every single day. In the bathroom, keep daily essential hygiene products in a storage container you easily slide under a cabinet or into a linen closet.
  • Do a daily “clutter sweep” of the house before heading to bed to put things in order. Keep a few baskets or bins around the house to scoop up and hide things if you get a last-minute showing request from an agent.
  • Manage the paper clutter, like bills and junk mail, as it comes in — don’t let it build up!
  • Share a bathroom. If you’ve got more than one in your house, consider having everybody just use one when possible to keep the others nice and neat.
  • Reach out to a professional home staging company, like Three Bears Home Staging. We have lots of tips and tricks we can teach you to keep your on-the-market home more manageable by working smarter, not harder.

To help you out, we’ve put together a FREE downloadable Cleaning Checklist for Home Showings to make sure your house will sparkle and shine for every visit from a potential buyer.

 

Keeping your house spotless while it’s on the market can be an incredibly stressful, but a little daily maintenance can go a long way toward making the process more bearable. What are your tricks for keeping the house show-ready when selling? Share them with us here! And if you need a little extra help, contact us at Three Bears Home Staging to schedule a consultation.

12 Ways to Keep Your House Smelling Fresh All the Time | ThreeBearsHomeStaging.com

12 Ways to Keep Your House Smelling Fresh All the Time

12 Ways to Keep Your House Smelling Fresh All the Time | ThreeBearsHomeStaging.comThe smell of your home makes a huge first impression on visitors — sometimes even more powerfully than design style or cleanliness. The right smell — which is sometimes a lack of smells — gives the impression of cleanliness and comfort, making potential buyers want to linger and explore the possibility of buying your house! Unpleasant odors have the exact opposite effect and will have buyers walking right out the door, sight unseen.

Here are our tips to keep your house smelling fresh and a few warnings on funky places you may never have thought to check.

  1. Open the windows. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, this is a great way to get rid of stale odors and cooking smells.
  2. Take out the trash. Does this one really need an explanation? Garbage stinks. Empty it often, especially if your home is on the market.
  3. Don’t smoke. My dearly departed grandmother smoked like a chimney and firmly believed that a good heavy spray with a can of potpourri-scented Glade air freshener hid all evidence of her smoking in the house. My friends, I hate to break it to you…but this does not work. Cigarette smoke (all kinds) is an odor that clings and lingers in textiles, carpet, and even paint, despite thorough cleaning. Going outside to smoke is definitely a better option, but unless you’re smoking out there naked, understand that the odor will still cling to your clothes, which will be coming back into the house and into a laundry hamper where they’ll likely sit for a day or two. This odor is often difficult for smokers to detect, but trust me — non-smokers will still smell it, and this is a big turn-off to many potential home buyers.
  4. Run an air purifier. Not only do they reduce smells, they help reduce pollen and dust in the air.
  5. Remove mothballs. When I visit a client who’s using mothballs in a closet or garage, I can tell almost instantly by the distinct, pungent camphor fragrance. The next thing that immediately pops into my mind is “What kind of pest are they trying to thwart — Snakes? Mice?” Your buyers will head down this same train of thought! Find a different method of pest prevention while your home is on the market, and lose the mothballs.
  6. Seal up spices. If your family likes to use particularly pungent spices for cooking, keep them sealed in plastic baggies or storage bins to contain the fragrance.
  7. Use an essential oil diffuser or wax melt warmer. Both offer gentle, continuous pleasing fragrance that’s a little safer than the open flame of a candle. BUT if you’re putting your house on the market — seller beware! Some fragrances can work against you! Read our blog post on Scents That Sell.
  8. Fire up the crockpot. If you prefer a more natural way to add fragrance to your home, check out some of Three Bears Home Staging’s recipes for crockpot/stove-top simmering potpourris using ingredients you may already have on hand! We have suggestions for both summertime fragrances and autumn-inspired recipes.
  9. Sprinkle baking soda on carpet. Baking soda is inexpensive, natural, and a proven odor absorber. To use it, clear rugs of as much furniture as possible and sprinkle baking soda liberally. For best results, leave it for at least a couple of hours or even overnight (sprinkle right before bedtime) to allow it to fully absorb odors. Then vacuum it up and toss it out.
  10. Be vigilant with pets. Obviously we can’t just get rid of our fur babies, so how do we deal? Keep pets clean, brushed, and bathed as often as possible. Launder their bedding frequently. Clean up any accidents IMMEDIATELY to avoid odors setting in. Regularly vacuum carpet and furniture. Empty litter boxes as often as possible (I mean really, you can’t overdo the litter box cleaning).
  11. Deal with shoe piles. Like many people, my family removes our shoes before entering the house, not only to reduce the amount of dirt that gets tracked in but to reduce the amount of bacteria that comes into the house (yeah, those same shoes I used to walk around in a public restroom? They do NOT need to be schlepping through my house). Consequently, the area where shoes pile up can get a little funky. Periodically, spray shoes with an odor eliminator to get rid of the smell. Another trick? Use a little dry shampoo to absorb stinkiness.
  12. Clean the disposal. Garbage disposals and sink drains are notorious culprits for hidden odors. To safely clean your blades without the use of harmful chemicals, pour a couple tablespoons of salt down the disposal, add five or six ice cubes and a few thin slices of lemon (or lemon juice if you’re worried about the rind clogging things up). Run the cold water, then turn on the disposal and let it grind. Continue running water for a minute or so afterward to flush out any remaining lemon particles. Once everything is safely turned off, give those hard-to-clean rubber flaps around the opening a good scrub as well (these can get SUPER funky).

What are some of your favorite tricks to keep the house smelling fresh? Share them with us! And when you’re ready to sell and need a little objective feedback on the fragrance in your home, give Three Bears Home Staging a call at (832) 377-0785 to set up a Walk and Talk Consultation.

DIY Simmer Scents for Summer: Make Your House Smell Great!

As we’ve blogged before, simmering potpourri recipes are an easy and inexpensive way to make your house smell seasonally fresh using common household ingredients and WITHOUT the use of harmful chemicals! They’re especially useful for anyone planning to put their home on the market soon — research shows that potential buyers can find overly complex fragrances too distracting. These natural fragrance recipes are light and clean, a great way to make your house smell welcoming to anyone who visits this summer!

How to Do It:

Cut up all your ingredients and add to a small sauce pan or pot. Add water until ingredients float. Bring to a gentle boil, then immediately turn the heat down to a low simmer and enjoy! Add more water as needed, typically about every 30 minutes (otherwise, you’ll end up with the smell of scorched food wafting through the house–YUCK).

Try these aromatic combinations (measurements don’t have to be exact so adjust according to your taste):

  • 1 sliced lemon, a few sprigs of lavender, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • peel of 1-2 oranges and 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (smells like a Dreamsicle!)
  • 1 sliced lime, handful peppermint leaves (or extract), fresh ginger slices
  • peel of 1-2 oranges and 2 teaspoons of coconut extract
  • sprig of fresh rosemary, teaspoon of vanilla, lemon rind (also known as the famous “Williams Sonoma scent”)
  • 1 sliced lime, 2 teaspoons of coconut extract, half cup of pineapple juice (very tropical)
  • 1 sliced grapefruit, a few sprigs of lavender, 1 teaspoon almond extract

blog-summer-scentsIt should probably go without saying, but being the conscientious home stager that I am, I’m going to say it anyway:  don’t leaving anything burning on the stove unattended. Another (safer?) alternative is to simmer the entire mixture in a small crockpot, uncovered on the “Low” setting. Save the mixture in a glass jar in the fridge when you’re done (can last several days). Just reheat the next day to re-scent your home.

If you’re selling your home this summer and need more tips on how to freshen up your home,  Three Bears Home Staging can help! Call us at (832) 377-0785 to set up an initial consultation!

Free Printable: New Year Purge List

NewYearPurgeList-ThreeBearsHomeStaging

Reducing and simplifying (or “de-cluttering” as I prefer NOT to call it) is the hallmark of home staging advice. Most of us think, work, and feel better in an environment that is clean and easy to maintain. The first step toward achieving that goal:  out with the old and in with the new!

Whether you’re planning to sell your home this year or you’re just trying to get more organized in general, getting rid of all the extra clutter is a good baseline from which to start. We’ve put together a handy little check list to help you get the new year off to clean start. You can download our FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST by clicking the button below!

Are you reducing and simplifying this January? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! And if you’re thinking of selling your Katy, TX home and need some help figuring out more ways to show your home in its best light, we can help! Give Three Bears Home Staging a call at (832) 377-0785 or contact us here to schedule a consultation.

Take These 3 Steps This Holiday Season to Prepare for a New Year’s Home Sale

Deciding to sell your home is a big step, but almost all home owners will still have a few things to do before actually activating their listing. Remember, buyers assume that a clean, organized, updated home has been well-maintained — and they make the opposite assumption about dirty, cluttered, or dated homes. Once you’ve made the decision to sell, don’t leave any money on the table. Give yourself an edge on a successful sale and a “show ready” home by getting an early start with these three tips this holiday season:

  1. Start paring down the master closet. “This house has way too much storage!” said NO BUYER EVER. It probably goes without saying that an empty closet shows better with buyers than one packed full of clothes and miscellany. That being said, emptying all the closets is not practical for most homeowners so concentrate your efforts on THE most important closet in a home buyer’s decision-making process: the master bedroom closet. Organize, eliminate, and get stuff off the floor. For more detailed info on how to organize your closet for staging, check out our book, Just Right! Easy DIY Home Staging for Bedrooms & Closets, now available in the iBooks store.
  2. Begin de-personalizing. Buyers need to be able to walk into your home and easily envision their family living there — not reminded that they are a guest in someone else’s home. Start packing family photos, collections, sports memorabilia, and anything related to your hobbies or religion. This may feel especially difficult during the holiday season, but if you plan on listing at the first of the year, set yourself up for a faster sale by starting the de-personalization process NOW.
  3. Take care of any maintenance, repairs, or updates. Leaky faucets, that one light switch that doesn’t work, the places on the wall that need touch-up paint…the list goes on and on for most homeowners. NOW is the time to start updating or fixing all those things you’ve been putting off. One trick we use with our clients is blue painter’s tape — just stick a small piece on every spot in your house that needs maintenance or updating. The tape pieces are a constant visual “to-do” list that you can work on in the months leading up to your listing.

When it comes to preparing your home for sale, it’s extremely hard for most sellers to be objective about their own home. Hiring a professional home stager to do a guided Walk and Talk Consultation or even just having an honest, heart-to-heart discussion with your real estate agent a month or more BEFORE you list your home will give you more time to make the changes needed to get you a faster sale and a higher profit. Ready to get started? Call Three Bears Home Staging in Katy, TX at (832) 377-0785 to set up a consultation.

Title photo credit:  “Dishwashing gloves and sponge” by www.yourbestdigs.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bathrooms: Easy DIY Staging Tips

blog-bathroom-staging-tipsFirst impressions are especially important when it comes to bathrooms, an area where potential home buyers don’t typically spend a lot of time. We’ve outlined a few of our favorite tips for staging your bathroom (and some easy updates even if you’re not trying to sell your home).

  1. Keep it sparkling clean. Remove all traces of dirt and mold from shower doors and tiles. Get rid of rugs and fuzzy toilet seat covers, wipe down baseboards, sweep and mop floors. Dirt, hair, mildew and soap scum are major turn-offs for buyers.
  2. Remove clutter–even if it’s functional. Buyers don’t want to see your combs, toothbrushes, hair dryers, and toiletries stacked on the counter. Keep these personal items in a caddy to easily store out of sight in a cupboard when not in use.
  3. Add spa-like accessories. A few candles, decorative soaps and a beautiful plant (we like orchids) can help any bathroom feel a bit more luxurious. Avoid the temptation to use heavy deodorizers.
  4. Replace old bathroom fixtures with new ones. Sleek, modern fixtures can give your bathroom an instant facelift at a fraction of the cost of a complete renovation. Shop your local home improvement store for inexpensive cabinet hardware, faucets, shower heads, towel bars, toilet paper bars and lights.
  5. Add some high-quality plush towels that coordinate with the rest of the bathroom’s color scheme. Hide your “real” everyday use towels (just toss them in the in the dryer out of sight) when buyers are coming through and put out fresh clean ones — neutral colors typically work best for photos. To get a “spa-like” look, we recommend rolling up a few white hand towels to place on the counter or next to the tub.
  6. Keep counter wipes, glass cleaner, and paper towels handy in every bathroom for quick clean-ups. You never know when that call will come from a potential buyer who wants to tour your house!

Making a few budget-friendly changes can get your bathroom looking great for any target market. Need more staging tips for your Katy, Cypress or Houston area home? Three Bears Home Staging can help! Contact us here to schedule a Walk & Talk Consultation or call (832) 377-0785.

4 Tips for Avoiding Contractor Fraud

blog-avoid-contractor-fraudIn the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our Houston and Katy, TX communities will sadly see an uptick in the number of contractors attempting to take advantage of frustrated, anxious families who were displaced by the storm. Reputable contractors are often booked for weeks or months. Families overwhelmed by a natural disaster may not do their due diligence when it comes to vetting contractors, and sadly, fraudulent contractors and scam artists will step in to take advantage of this, whether it’s the use of defective materials, unkept promises, or price gouging.

blog-me_Steph_muck

Me with my friend and photographer Stephanie Cheney, mucking out her Katy, TX house after it flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

The disaster relief non-profit organization SBP has identified recommendations to safeguard families from contractor theft. They also offer a free contractor fraud checklist online. We’ve summarized their suggestions here:

  1. Get for recommendations from neighbors, family, friends, or co-workers who’ve had similar work done. Avoid using contractors who “just happen to be in the neighborhood” knocking on doors or “have material leftover from another job,” as these are often red flags for fraudulent activity.
  2. Ask for references and CHECK references. Call former clients. Check their Better Business Bureau rating for any complaints. Honest contractors will have a verifiable track record. Also make sure to use contractors who are licensed and bonded or insured. We highly recommend using SBP’s Free Contractor Checklist as a guide when interviewing contractors.
  3. Get more than one estimate and get it in writing. Verbal estimates don’t hold up in court if the contractor ends up charging your double or damages part of your home. It’s also a good idea to have a knowledgable friend or an attorney review the document. Both you and the contractor should sign the estimate prior to beginning any work.
  4. Avoid paying cash upfront. According to SBP, “Document all payments, via check or credit card, so there is a paper trail. Clients who pay with cash are likely to never see the contractor again. Reputable contractors ask for down payments or deposits (1/3 of the total price is standard procedure), almost never request full payment upfront. In fact, most legitimate contractors bill at predetermined progress points in the project and when the work is complete to the client’s satisfaction. If a contractor asks for or demands total payment upfront, do not use that contractor.”

If you suspect a repair rip-off, call the consumer division of your state Attorney General (800-351-4889). If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance programs, report it to FEMA’s Inspector General’s Office (800-323-8603).

As home stagers, we’ve heard too many tragic tales from frustrated homeowners who were taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors. Disaster-struck communities are a magnet for this type of theft. Taking the necessary precautions to hire a reputable homebuilder will ultimately help you get back into your home faster. And if Three Bears Home Staging can help, don’t hesitate to contact us at (832) 377-0785.

Title photo credit:  “N view” by Sean Gillies is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The 5 Dirtiest Places You May Not Be Cleaning

blog-Dirtiest-PlacesTime for spring cleaning has begun! While conspicuously gross places like toilet bowls and garbage cans are clear targets for disinfection, there are other less obvious, more nefarious dirty spots that we touch on a daily basis. To keep your household healthy and happy, take a look at these 5 germy spots you may missing and how to clean them.

  • Drip Coffee Maker. Most home coffee makers don’t stay hot enough for a long enough period of time to kill bacteria that may be growing in the dark, wet interior of the machine.

Solution: Pour equal parts white vinegar and water into the reservoir, then switch on the brew cycle. Halfway through, turn off the coffeemaker and let the solution sit for about an hour. Turn it on again to complete the cycle, then run several cycles with clean water.

  • Remote Controls. As one of the most frequently used and handled devices in the home, it’s no surprise that remote controls are full of germs.

Solution: Use disinfectant cleaner to wipe down remotes regularly, especially if you’ve got a sick person in the home.

  • Bags and purses. Women’s handbags and purses are one of the dirtiest items in an office setting, according to a study by the University of Arizona (and since those purses and bags go home with us, guess where the germs go?).

Solution: Don’t set your purse on the floor of restrooms or public places. Launder washable bags weekly, and wipe down leather purses with a disinfectant wipe every few days.

  • Bath Mats. They lie on the floor of one of the dirtiest rooms in the home, collecting moisture, hair, and dead skin cells. The damp, dark environment of a bath mat makes it a haven for growing germs, and thus one that needs regular attention.

Solution: Launder bath mats weekly in the hottest water and hottest dryer setting recommended by the mat’s care label. Of course, remember to clean and disinfect the floor also to avoid contaminating a newly cleaned mat.

  • Shoes. Not only do shoes track dirt and mud onto floors, they also spread a significant amount of bacteria, including E. coli and other nasty fecal-based bacteria (typically picked up from floors in public restrooms and outside from animal excrement).

Solution: Avoid wearing shoes in the house at all when possible.

Take the opportunity this spring to tackle a few of these quiet little germ spots and help improve the health of your household. And remember, a good thorough cleaning is an important step in getting your home ready to go on the market! If you need more help getting your home market ready, give Three Bears Home Staging and Redesign a call at (832) 377-0785 or contact us here to set up an appointment for a consultation!

Photo credit: The All-Nite Images via Flickr

How to Clean Granite Countertops Naturally (and Cheaply!)

blog-DIYgranitecleanerGranite countertops are a huge selling point in many homes, so if you’ve got them, make sure they’re extra shiny and streak-free while your house is on the market!

Granite is a natural stone, and to keep it beautiful, you should avoid putting certain cleaners on it. Ammonia, bleach, vinegar, lemon or other citrus should never be used because they have a low pH, and their acidic properties will weaken the seal and etch the stone over time.

Unfortunately, at around $7 per bottle, the cost of professional granite cleaning products can add up quickly. If, like me, you prefer to save your money and still enjoy all the shiny beauty of your granite countertops, you can make your own (neutral pH) granite cleaner for pennies!

Recipe for Homemade Granite Cleaner

  • 2 c. water
  • 1/4 c. rubbing alcohol (This is what eliminates the streaks)
  • 3 to 4 drops dish soap (This helps keep the mixture suspended.)

To Use:

Mix all the ingredients in a 16 oz plastic spray bottle (available at Target, Wal-Mart, and most dollar stores). Shake it up! Wipe all crumbs and spills from counters first. Then spray on granite cleaner and wipe with a soft cloth or paper towel!

Remember, to get top dollar when selling your home, make sure it looks its best–from countertops to windows to floors! Need help? Give the experts at Three Bears Home Staging a call at (832) 377-0785 or use our contact form!

Do you have granite countertops in your kitchen? If so, how do you clean them?