Photo: Our clients, Susan and Scot, did an excellent job staging their home, even while they were still living there. The result: A sale $10,000 above their asking price.

A harsh truth: just because we’re in the midst of a seller’s market doesn’t mean sellers get a pass on paying attention to details. Home buyers, especially in Chicago, want to see a property that’s clean, bright, upgraded and free of extraneous clutter. In other words, a home that looks like nobody actually lives there.

Homes that are staged well sell fast, and for more money. We’re here to make sure you don’t miss a single detail. Here are five simple ways to get your property ready for the Chicago market.

Step 1: De-clutter

This is job number one, and it’s an ongoing one. Get a storage locker, get a bunch of plastic bins and some trash bags. Go through your home, and if you haven’t used something in the last month, put it in the bin. More than 6 months – trash. That means clothes, toys, dishes, magazines, and the three waffle irons you got from your wedding registry. This should free up space for anything sitting on your counter tops – move anything extra out of sight. The big upside to de-cluttering (aside from helping you sell your home quicker!) is that you’ll have less to pack and haul when you move to your new home.

Still living in your home? Develop a showing drill that you execute before each showing, and when you leave for work in the morning. Getting in the habit of moving everything – yes, everything – off the counters and put where it belongs in under 5 minutes will keep your home in ready-to-sell shape at the drop of a hat.

Step 2: Paint

This is the most affordable and effective change you can make to your home. Choose neutral colors that work well with your current furniture, and use the same color on most walls to make the space appear bigger. At the very least, touch up areas where the existing paint has chipped. If you need an affordable, professional painter, get in touch with us and we’ll set you up.

Step 3: Add light

Nothing creeps a buyer out more than walking through a stranger’s home in the dark. When showing your home, you need to make sure potential buyers can actually see what they’re looking at. Start by replacing any burnt-out bulbs with soft white energy-efficient bulbs (make sure they’re not the kind that are slow to light up). Next, identify any areas of your house that are getting less than ample light. You want at least 100w for every 50sf in your home.

If you still live in the property and will be leaving for showings, turn on all the lights before you leave. This will save buyers and their agents from awkwardly fumbling around for a light switch at the moment they should be taking in your home.

Step 4: Pack up picture Frames

The showing is a buyer’s time to get comfortable in your home and begin to see themselves living there. What they shouldn’t see are a million pictures of your friends and family. Gather all your picture frames and store them out of sight. Better yet, pack them up so you have one less box to pack up when it’s time to move.

Step 5: Hire a Professional Photographer

Thinking of saving a few bucks by snapping your own pics with your new Nikon? Don’t even. Dim lighting, narrow lenses and bad composition all plague the amateur photos we’ve seen. These days, your first showing is online. Your property is going to look like a haunted house compared to those with professional photos.

Need help staging your home for a quick sale? Drop us a line.