4 Things Buyers Look for in a Home

By: Annie Pinsker-Brown – Owner/Principal Designer of Stage to Sell | Los Angeles Home Staging
Contributor’s website: Stage to Sell  
If you’re at all interested in design and like looking at gorgeous pictures of homes, you must check out Houzz. In addition to a lot of amazing eye candy, Houzz has some great articles as well. I recently came across a one about the difference between staging and decorating.

I have a lot of thoughts on that distinction, but that is a topic for another article. The thing that struck me about this particular article by blogger Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist, was her statement that regardless of their personal design style, most buyers want a home that meets four standards:

It must be:

1) Welcoming
2) Functional
3) Peaceful
4) Organized

Let’s take a look at some ways that staging can help in these four areas.

Make it welcoming!
One of the easiest ways to make a home more welcoming is by rearranging the furniture to create a layout that invites buyers in. Here’s an example of a living room that was not very welcoming.


By reconfiguring the way this room was laid out, we created more room for additional seating AND opened up the room so it felt more inviting.

TIP: Try to avoid having the back of a sofa be the first thing you see as you enter a space. It may mean the couch is not directly across from the television, but I assure you it will make buyers feel more welcomed into the space.

Make it functional!
Though anyone with a good sense of style can make a house look pretty, that alone will not sell a home. It is crucial that the home appeal to its target demographic (whether it’s young couples, families with kids, or retirees). To push buyers over the edge from simply liking what they see to making an offer, the home must make sense for that buyer’s lifestyle, i.e. it has to be functional.

Case in point: I have staged two separate “family homes” in the last few months that had four total bedrooms, but only two on the top floor. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but to a parent with more than one child, it could be a game changer. No one wants to have to go down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night to comfort a crying baby or change a diaper. The simple answer was to make the second upstairs bedroom a child’s room, but I took it a step further. I staged that second bedroom with not one, but two twin beds. In this way, a parent with two or more kids would see that there’s sufficient room to have all the young ones close at hand.

TIP: Think about who the target buyer is and make sure you are appealing to that type of buyer. Also try to fit in a home office somewhere in the house. Especially in homes with only 2-3 bedrooms, buyers are looking for an area to either work from home or at least check email and pay the bills. If one of the bedrooms doesn’t have to be taken up by a desk, you will appeal to more buyers.

Make it peaceful!
Repeat after me… “The way we live in our home and the way we sell our house are two completely different things!”

 As a professional stager, I see a lot of homes. And many of them are lived in…I mean REALLY lived in. Oftentimes the rooms that are supposed to be the most peaceful and relaxing are actually the most chaotic: the bedrooms. We clutter up the tops of our dressers and nightstands with books, laundry, and purses. We shove a desk into the corner of our master because we don’t have room anywhere else for a home office. We paint an accent wall our favorite shade of fire engine red. And the result is a room that is anything but peaceful.
The key to making a bedroom (and any room for that matter) more peaceful is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Yes, it may not be “real life” but which of these bedrooms would make you feel more like cozying up with a good book and taking a nap?

TIPS: Walls should be a painted in soothing tones. If not a neutral, go with soft blues and greens which help to encourage restfulness. Clear off surfaces and make the bed with a solid color comforter. Add color and pattern in small doses through art and accessories, but keep it simple.  

Make it organized!
One thing all buyers are looking for is storage space. Some homes have more than others, but we can all agree storage is something you can never have too much of. One of the reasons many buyers are selling is because they’ve outgrown their current home, and often it’s due to the age old problem: too much stuff and nowhere to put it.

The only way to help a buyer envision their own mass of stuff fitting into your limited cabinets, closets or bookshelves, is by making the most of what you have. Organization is key!

Kitchens can make or break the sale of a home. Even a decently sized kitchen can look cramped when the counters and cabinets are full to bursting. Though it won’t be easy, staying organized is the key. Clear off the counters of everything you don’t use daily. Take magnets and photos off the front of your fridge. Keep out only essential or decorative items. There should be something in each corner of the counters and perhaps something near the stove, but no more.
If you have any glass-front kitchen cabinets, they must appear neat, organized and sparsely filled. Take out anything other than your nicest matching sets of dishes. Each open shelf should be no more than 1/2 full (the same goes for any built-in cabinetry throughout your home). Try putting one nice decorative platter on a plate stand on one shelf and a matching set of mugs on another. Remember this is not real life, it’s staging!
Bathrooms are another area where most sellers need help. Most bathrooms in occupied homes look a little something like this.
That is a warning sign to buyers that there is not enough storage space in the bathroom for all their toiletries. Clearing off the countertops is a must.
TIP: For kitchens and bathrooms, the easiest way to keep them looking organized is to place all the items you use on a daily basis in a box or bin that can be easily put into a closet or the garage prior to a showing. Putting away one large box or bin is a lot simpler than trying to find a space for 50 different items.

Built-in cabinetry should also appear sparse and neatly organized. Start by removing 1/2 to 3/4 of the books on your shelves and keeping out only the nicest looking books and decorative items.

Buyers inevitably think they have more stuff than you do, so make sure your cabinets look as if you have room to grow!
TIP: Try alternating the orientation of the books. Have a grouping of 2-3 books standing up vertically on one side, with another small grouping horizontally next to it. You can also stand up your nicest hard-cover books on one side of a shelf. Intersperse a couple of simple decorative items for a punch of color and visual interest.
By making sure your listings are welcoming, functional, peaceful, and organized, you will end up with a property that appeals to even the most discerning buyer!

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Contributor’s website: Stage to Sell  

(credit images: annie pinsker-brown, photos 11 and 12: michael mcreary)

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