Seen on home tour: cereal as wall art


I’ve been helping people buy and sell homes across the Washington DC metro area for ten years. Just when I think I’ve seen it all on a home tour, a home seller knocks the record-holder out of first place. I’ve seen bloody hand prints on walls, to oceans growing in a basement (seriously, an ocean), to room after room filled with an extensive monkey and gorilla collection, to smells that nearly cause me pass out, to windows that start at ankle-level and end at knee-level, and everything in between. It cannot be overstated that home-staging (or lack thereof) has an immediate impact on a buyer’s perception of a property. A clean, decluttered home that looks and smells fresh will give buyers a positive response to the home the minute they walk thru the door. Conversely, a messy, cluttered home that smells of last night’s dinner or recent party will leave a potential buyer refusing to go past the foyer.

The minute you put your home on the market it becomes a product. You’ll have to start thinking like a home buyer and see your place through their eyes. Staging is the first important step in subtly telling a buyer this should be their new home. Here are some steps to get you started:

  • Remove any indication that the home is the local party hangout. This photo was taken on a recent home tour. In no instance should a seller be displaying a box of cereal, including a commemorative college box, along with a sign reading “Good Times.” Swap these out for scenic wall art or something similar.
  • Unusual or strong odors discourage buyers. Last night’s fish dinner tasted great but the residual smell…not so much. People are also sensitive to litter box smells and other pet smells. The same goes for cigarette and cigar smoke. Nix smells immediately.
  • Remove personal photos and mementos. When selling your home there’s no need to tell strangers your wedding was fabulous, your children are amazing, and your granny makes the best cookies ever.
  • Pack away all the knickknacks. When you sell the home you’re going to have to pack-up your keepsakes anyway, so it makes sense to box them up long before the first potential buyer walks thru the front door.
  • Fingerprints, yuck. Nothing tells a buyer you don’t like to clean more than dirty fingerprints on light switches, doors, cabinets, and handrails. (This is one of my biggest pet-peeves and I point it out every time I see it.)  A damp sponge, some Windex and a couple minutes is all it takes to nix the prints and leave a good impression.
  • Keep the place clean. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a home where there have been dishes in the sink, dirty floors, clothes thrown across furniture, stained carpeting, unmade beds and general clutter everywhere. If your home is messy and/or dirty you might as well have a lighted-blinking sign out front reading “I don’t take care of my home!” Its been my experience that the same person who has a messy home doesn’t change the HVAC air filters, neglects to have regularly scheduled maintenance on systems, and simply doesn’t have time to care for a house (aka a potential hornets nest of problems for a buyer).
  • A fresh coat of paint does wonders. Painting is the single least expensive update you can do to a home that has the biggest cost benefit. Steer clear of bold colors like orange and red. Choose neutral colors that appeal to a wider audience.
  • If you have a fireplace, clean it. Better yet, clean it and have it professionally inspected before you put your home on the market.
  • In terms of furnishings, less is more. Remove large, bulky pieces that make rooms appear smaller. Opt for a few key pieces that help a buyer “see” their belongings in the rooms.
  • Add some fresh yellow flowers. They’re bright, cheery, pleasant, and give buyers a positive feeling as they go thru the property.

Home staging includes maintaining your home’s exterior curb appeal.

  • Cut the lawn, pull the weeds, and mulch. Also cut-back trees and shrubs encroaching on doors and windows. Pitiful is the house that looks like it has been abandoned.
  • Your front door is the welcoming point of the home. Ensure the door opens and closes properly, has a functioning lock and is free of chipped paint, missing hardware or cracked glass.
  • Clean your gutters. Nobody wants to see weeds sprouting from the gutters. Full gutters signal potential interior water problems. The water has to go somewhere and if the gutters are filled with debris chances are it’s going into the house.

My clients expect me to counsel them through the home-buying process, which includes pointing out the pros and cons of a property. Help me sell your home by doing a few minor and inexpensive changes to make a great first impression. A well-staged and clean home will sell quickly and for the best price. After all, that’s the whole point of putting your home on the market, right?

If you’d like some home staging tips specific to your property, please call me at 703-963-0142 or send an email to I’m happy to help.

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