When Mark Goldey and his wife Lisa decided to lease out their three-bedroom apartment, they rearranged it to entice renters. They de-kidified it, warehousing their two toddlers’ toys in a side TV room, and pushed the TV room couches out to the living room—it may seem counterintuitive, but furniture can actually make a room feel larger.
Their agent, Jason Saft of Citi Habitats, encouraged the Goldeys to display their glass artwork in prominent places that would reflect light around the room and draw attention to the high ceilings. He color-coded the books on the shelves, arranging larger, darker books lower and lighter-hued and smaller books on higher shelves. “The apartment looked bigger, like something out of a magazine, and as a result the shortcomings of our apartment became immaterial,” says Goldey. They rented it out less than two weeks after it was listed.
With millions of homes up for grabs across the U.S., there’s a lot for buyers and renters to choose from. Finding ways to maximize a property’s spaciousness while downplaying its shortcomings can make a huge difference in enticing prospective bidders. Proper staging could also boost your property’s appraisal value.
Basic principles always apply: paint and decorate interiors in light, neutral colors, de-clutter rooms and yards, and clean every surface until it sparkles. To go further, we consulted real estate agents, home-stagers, successful home sellers and a lighting expert to come up with 12 more fast, easy and inexpensive ways to make your home look bigger.
“One of the most important things is smells,” asserts Saft, who’s walked into homes overpowered by the olfactory evidence of pets, last-night’s dinner or mustiness from a lack of ventilation. “Air the space out at least 24 hours before a showing because it makes the space feel fresher, airier and feel lighter.” Try adding a few drops of a neutral smelling essential oil like lavender or eucalyptus to your humidifier or to a spray bottle filled with water that can be sprayed throughout the home.
Saft has discovered many tricks to make a home look bigger. He stresses the importance of orderly looking closets. It may be fine to cram your closets full when company comes over, but unlike your house guests, buyers and renters will look in them, hoping to find lots of room for their stuff.
Since many are configured to up run the length of a wall, Saft and other experts we consulted suggest building shelves above the clothing racks to store accessories and off-season clothes that are clogging up the space.
Another trick realtors use is fresh-cut flowers. Yes, they add some color and fragrance but the biggest benefit is the attention they draw to a room’s layout. For example, tall branches can push the eye upward, accentuating a room’s high ceilings. Other objects can have a similar effect, much like the Goldeys’ glass artwork.
Lighting is critical to imparting a sense of space. Standard open house protocol is to open blinds to let the sunshine in and have every light in the house ablaze. Realtors do this because light adds dimension and a feeling of airiness. Bentley Meeker, founder of Bentley Meeker Lighting and Staging, stresses symmetry: Put lamps in all corners of a room rather than one, and make sure all of your bulbs are working and are the same make and brightness. Meeker recommends incandescent bulbs rather than compact fluorescent or LED, since they exude a warmth and brightness yet to be rivaled by newer technologies.
Meeker, whose work includes lighting President Obama’s recent dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also suggests up-lighting key points inside and outside the home. Run lights upward along the window drapes from both sides to add height, making sure not to place them close enough to start a fire. Outside, position flood lights to wash up the sides of the house and shine some light up the most attractive landscape features around the property as well. “Any kind of lighting outside to make the house have some curb appeal will go a long way and will give it flare and dimension,” explains Meeker.
Other tricks of the trade: Place mirrors where they will reflect light or a beautiful outside view (rather than another wall or dark corner); allow the walls to peak through between objects on shelves or racks; and switch out wood tables for glass ones, which reflect light and open up the furniture layout.