By TIM McKEOUGH
Published: April 18, 2012
Q. What’s the best way to declutter my home before I show it to potential buyers? Can I leave packed boxes in a corner or do I need to move things into storage?
Market Ready is a series of articles on strategic home repairs and redecorating that can be done to prepare a home for sale.
A. Even if your house hasn’t been featured on “Hoarders,” making an effort to clear out clutter and to ensure that your home is as neat and tidy as possible before opening your door to buyers is common advice in real estate circles. And for good reason, said Jeffrey Stockwell, a senior vice president with Stribling & Associates in Manhattan.
“It’s vital, because most real estate is aspirational, and buyers want to see themselves someplace better and more beautiful,” he said. “They want the feeling that if they move in there, it will be organized, clean and attractive. If they walk into a cluttered, messy space, there’s none of that feeling that life will be better.”
Even if your home is in good condition, Mr. Stockwell said, “if it’s cluttered, people will think it needs a renovation, and that lowers the value.”
But cleaning up isn’t always easy. “You’re parting with things that have emotional value, and that’s very difficult for people,” he said. “They understand the need to do it. It doesn’t cost much, if anything, and yet it’s really hard to get clients to do it.”
Packing personal belongings into boxes that remain in the apartment isn’t much of a solution. “If I go into an apartment and see a lot of boxes, even if they’re attractive boxes,” he said, “I immediately think there’s not enough storage space.”
Jeffrey Phillip, a professional organizer in New York, agreed that the boxes need to go.
“In Manhattan, you’re working with a very limited amount of space, and any space is prime real estate,” Mr. Phillip said. “Even if you shove boxes into a closet thinking you’ll make the living space look good, you’re detracting from the storage space, which is another valuable asset.”
You could move those things into a storage unit, he said, but “better yet, take that time to get organized.”
Gearing up for a move is a “perfect time to really edit yourself down,” he said. There are a number of advantages to doing so: “You’re going to spend less money for someone to move you, and you’re also going to spend less money on storage.”
Just “don’t expect to do it all in one weekend,” Mr. Phillip said. Give yourself a few weeks — or even months — to complete the task.
“It’s all about doing small projects, one at a time,” he said, rather than trying to tackle the entire home in one shot, which could be overwhelming.
Some areas where you can get quick results include wardrobes, kitchen pantries and drawers, and collections of CDs and DVDs. For the latter, even adding the discs to a binder and doing away with the cases can clear a substantial amount of shelving.
As Mr. Stockwell put it: “The rule of thumb is, be ruthless.” If you’re unsure about something, he added, “Get rid of it.”
Questions about repairs or redecorating in preparation for putting a home on the market may be sent to email@example.com.