To Carol Harriston, preparing a home for sale is an art.

As many sellers know who have found their homes on the real estate market for months with no prospects of a sale in sight, sprucing up your home and property can turn a lengthy process into a speedy one, she said.

Harriston, of Long and Foster Real Estate’s White Oak/Silver Spring office, a member of the National Association of Realtors and the Maryland Association of Realtors, said she advises her clients to concentrate on curb appeal on the outside and a cheery and uncluttered kitchen and bright bathrooms for a quick sale.

Kitchens should be spotless and uncluttered—no rugs on the floor or dish cloths hanging, not even very pretty ones. Decorations should be kept to a minimum, with sunlight and a bowl of fresh fruit or flowers the only thing left out on a counter or island, Harriston said.

“And in the bathroom, I advise that there are only four things out—toilet paper on the roll, a piece of art on the wall, a plant to bring a living thing into the room and clean towels—I like them rolled in a nice basket,” she said. “There shouldn’t be a lot hanging, or clutter.”

Harriston said her “passion” is helping her clients to maximize the appearance of their homes. She believes that sunlight is the best asset a homeowner can play up. She makes suggestions on everything from paint color to additions of pieces of furniture like small, decorative tables to improve the home’s look.

A tip that may surprise many, she said, is the significance of light in selling a home.

“If you have beautiful windows and your home brings in a lot of natural light, you want to spotlight that,” she said. “People are attracted to light and the ones who are concerned about energy conservation consider it a benefit.”

Then there are her three D’s—depersonalize, de-clutter and decorate.

Depersonalize: Harriston said when possible, home sellers should remove as many personal items as possible. “When perspective purchasers look for a new home, they are envisioning themselves living in your home, so the more they see of you, the more they are distracted from the image of them living there,” she said.

“It is important to take away a lot of the personal effects—pictures, religious icons, etc. You want the focus to be on the improvements you have made and the fact that your home is showcasing itself as being in move-in ready condition.”

De-clutter: Harriston said the key to successful home selling is accentuating the home’s value and that equates to space. “By de-cluttering, removing unnecessary items from counters, floors and walkways, you create an illusion of more usable living space,” she said.

Decorate: Even though the right decorations are essential for improving the look of a home, more than a few key, strategically placed items may make a home look smaller and junky. “You want to create an illusion of the best living space,” Harriston said. “By adding just a few key items, you can provide appealing accents to your home, like a bowl of colorful fruit, like red or green apples, something seasonal. I like apples because they live longer, or fresh-cut flowers.

Go into your garden. That really is all you need.”

In bedrooms and bathrooms, she advises using plants to decorate. Each room, of course, should be freshly painted, uncluttered and furnished in the best way to make the room look larger. Neutral colors are always best because they don’t take away light, she said. A pop of color on a wall won’t necessarily turn a buyer off, as long as the trim—crown moulding, chair rails and baseboards—is painted white or very light, she said.

“If something is too dark, be it the paint, the furniture or the window treatments, those things can affect the sale,” she said.

She also advises replacing outdated appliances with modern, energy-saving devices. Appliances should be clean and uncluttered, as well—no crumbs in the microwave or rotting food in the bottom drawer of the frig.

Lighting should also be updated. And homeowners should remember to check to see that their light bulbs work.

“Use beautiful lighting,” Harriston said. “You want bring the outdoors in.”

Next week: Sprucing up the outside of your home


Zachary Lester

AFRO Staff Writer