As some of our readers know, earlier this year I made a big career transition, leaving behind the field of non-profit marketing to enter the fun and exciting world of real estate. It's been a big change, but one that I've welcomed with open arms. As a licensed Realtor with McEnearney Associates, the number one firm in Alexandria, I'm so fortunate to have such talented and professional colleagues and to have such an amazing area in which I work. There's so much I've learned about the industry that I didn't know as a member of the "public," one key item being the amount of work involved in getting a house ready to go on the market.

Outside of my own home projects, my friends and family know that I love to decorate...and well, let's be honest, rearrange their homes. Luckily my mother in law is a good sport and tolerates me rearranging her vast Spode Christmas china collection, dining room hutch, and even furniture and art placements. I've even been known to dig through my friend Kelly's basement to search for new accessories and items to display in her living room. My friend Chrissy smiles knowing that every time I come to visit her in Chicago, I'll be rearranging her photo ledges in her foyer. While this has been a hobby of mine for years, now I get to put this skill to work for me in my day job.

The one thing we, as agents, repeatedly stress to sellers is that the way you sell your home is very different from the way you live in your home. Most of us have areas that aren't scrubbed clean, closets that serve as hiding spots for clutter when guests arrive, and excess furniture or personal effects that we live with. When you're preparing your home for sale, every nook and cranny needs to be clean, organized, and ready for the discerning eyes of buyers. I recently worked with a colleague to prepare a row house for its online photo shoot, and wanted to share a few before and afters with you to demonstrate the difference in how we live vs. how we sell.

Old Town is known for its historic properties, which in most cases, means they're also modestly sized for today's standards. This home was no different, coming in at a whopping eleven feet wide. So, in order to put the home's best face forward, part of our job as agents is to paint it in the best light, making sure it's clean, landscaped, and presented in a way that's appealing to the masses.

While we primped the entire house, rehung artwork, and brought in a few small pieces of furniture and accessories, there were two areas I really honed in on and spent most of my time reworking.

Here's a look at the "mudroom" area set up behind the front door. Without a true coat closet on the first floor (just like our home), the owners created an area to hang coats, store shoes, and drop and store items such as keys, sun glasses, and kid paraphernalia.

I got to work on this small space in an attempt to organize it in a way that was tidy, attractive, and showcased the usability of this corner. When I was done primping and futzing, here's what it ended up looking like.

Another selling feature of this home was a unique two story high built in shelving unit. It's great to have this amount of built in space, especially in a small home, but it's also a place where papers, electronic components, and the like can accumulate when you're living there and using it on a daily basis.

To clean up the space I started by pulling off the books, giving the shelves a good dusting, and then placed select books back in a more pleasing arrangement. I also did my best to hide the electronics cords, remove some of the ancillary cords and papers, and finally added a plant to soften the hard edges of the other items on the shelf.

The after is a more streamlined area devoid of clutter, that should enhance the home's selling feature, not serve as a distraction. 

I'm so happy to say the house was off the market in under a week thanks to many factors including pricing it right, dedicated marketing, a strong local housing market, and, of course, showing this charming home in the best light with proper staging.

While these are just a few no cost changes I was able to make to this home to get it ready for showing, it's not something that's reserved only for readying a house to go on the market. Using these same methods, you can streamline your home to ready it for guests, a party, or simply as a way to change things up and freshen your surroundings. While grand renovations and laborious projects are truly fulfilling when complete, sometimes little changes can be almost as welcome when attempting to breathe a bit of fresh air into your space.

If you know someone who's looking to buy or sell, whether it be in Northern Virginia or anywhere globally, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Even if it's far from my home base, I'd be happy to introduce you to a colleague in your area that can help. If you're looking to see more behind the scenes photos and fun house tips, take a look at my real estate Facebook page.
Comments 4


9/20/2013 at 6:08 PM
You're an amazing realtor. Judging from the pics on there aren't many realtors who are taking the time to stage the house before a photo shoot. Well done!
9/20/2013 at 11:14 PM
I agree with Monique, time and time again I see absolutely horrendous real estate photos. Counters full of dishes, clothes hampers and dirty laundry in plain sight, papers and junk, the list is endless.

Sometimes it's also hard to convince homeowners to clean/reorganize, or even repaint rooms in their homes, but sometimes the small investment can make a huge difference in selling a house.
9/21/2013 at 3:01 PM
This is great, but I did not comment after I read this blog post the first time. Ironically, immediately after reading, I clicked on this link that a friend of mine posted on Facebook. It is a series of bad real estate photos. I had to come back and post it on here because I thought you would enjoy it. :)
9/22/2013 at 3:33 AM
I'm a home stager in Richmond and it's the best job ever. Getting paid to rearrange furniture and pretty things up is basically a dream come true for someone like me, and it's really so fulfilling to help families sell fast so they can move on. It's definitely not as glamorous as it seems on HGTV etc though! I'm like "how are they not a hot sweaty mess?!?" when they do the reveal. Thank you for fixing up that bookshelf ;)
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