Everything is different these days thanks to the global health crisis that is the coronavirus pandemic—including what buyers are looking for in a home.

Despite the health and economic ills posed by the virus, most areas currently have hot home markets. Homes are selling relatively quickly. If you want to get top dollar for your property, you’ll want to stage it properly to make it as appealing as possible to prospective buyers.

Here are seven ways to stage your home to sell during a pandemic.

1. Prioritize Safety

This will be the No. 1 expectation for the foreseeable future. Let buyers know you have their health in mind by putting sanitation front and center. Offer disposable masks, hand sanitizers and wipes for all visitors.

Clear clutter so counters are clean; of course, you should do this anyway but now it has a bonus benefit. You want buyers to think “clean,” with clear surfaces and floor space, so declutter and move excess appliances, lamps, pillows and other accessories and unnecessary furniture to a storage unit.

Then make sure doors to essential items and features are left open, suggests Justin Syens, a real estate agenet with TeamTOTL.

“For example, if your washer/dryer is behind closed doors, have them propped open during the showing,” he says. “Use a doorstop if needed for other doors, as buyers are instructed not to touch anything in the house.”

That means you also should flip lights on, and even open closets and cupboards so buyers don’t have to touch handles. Then leave wipes visible in case they do have to touch something, such as turning on a ceiling fan.

2. Stage a Bedroom as Flex Space

We are all looking for more space, whether it’s for a workout gym or a home office. Even if you don’t have excess spaces devoted specifically to those uses, a bedroom can stand in as double duty, says Dustin Singer, who owns and operates Pittsburgh-based Dustin Buys Houses.

“With more people working from home, it is imperative for buyers making new home purchases to see a dedicated office or work space, on top of their standard bedroom requirements.”

You could also stage it as a work office or a kids’ “school room,” with a smaller table and chair, white boards and project space.

3. Highlight Alternative Uses For Different Spaces

While open concept living previously was all the rage, families now need to see how they can have more private areas. Consider showing how big rooms could be screened off to make additional workspaces.

With major construction probably not possible at this point, that’s where creative staging comes in, says Melissa Terzis, real estate agent with DC-based with RLAH Real Estate.

“Taking a space like a formal dining room or utilizing nooks once kept for storage and staging them as an office area helps the prospective buyer see the possibilities in the home.”

Syens even recommends taking advantage of areas like the landing at the top of the stairs, which can become a “reading nook” when staged properly.

4.  Dress Up Outdoor Areas

More families than ever are wanting outdoor space, even if you don’t have time or funds for a major upgrade.

“Staging a home with an outside fire pit and enough seating for the entire family is another feature that entices house hunters,” says Terzis.

Or go a step further, suggests Syens, and create an al fresco dining area.

“Adding umbrellas, bistro lights and plants makes a trendy restaurant-like patio,” Syens said.

Even as communities re-open, homeowners will still prioritize the safety of dining and entertaining at home.

And think of the kids: Children’s play areas are in high demand and adding a play structure or fort can be done with little effort.

5. Emphasize Lighting

As the owner of a real estate investment company, Shayla Dempsey of Four 19 Properties says one big change they have made in their staging is adding more lighting.

“Since the pandemic has people in their homes more than before, we are focusing on additional window lighting, accent lighting and brighter, lighter colors.”

Open curtains, turn on lights and make sure buyers know which areas would be particularly flattering for video calls.

6. Rethink Your Mud Room

While Insta-worthy mud rooms and laundry rooms have been a thing for a while, they are gaining even more prominence as a hot commodity, says Tomas Satas of Windy City Home Buyer.

That’s because mudrooms have become “decontamination zones” in the age of coronavirus. It’s the perfect place to drop off exposed clothing and masks, as well as dousing yourself in hand sanitizer or washing your hands before entering the main house.

“If you already have a mudroom, make sure it has plenty of organized storage,” he says.

If you don’t have a designated space, establish one in an attached garage by adding a bench, coat hooks and a nook to organize shoes. No one wants to bring “outside items,” like shoes, jackets and gloves into their sanitary indoor space.

7. Declutter Your Quarantine Hoard

Yes, we talked about clearing counters and whisking away unnecessary furniture, but think about all the extra items you might have with everyone spending more time at home, points out Syens.

“Kids aren’t using lockers at school, so instruments and sports gear are now staying home, and you probably moved your office printer and desktop to your living space,” he said.”

“Even if you are bursting at the seams, buyers don’t want to feel this when they walk in,” he says, recommending that sellers invest in a storage unit close by to make it easy to transfer items as appropriate.  “Staging can definitely present as slightly aspirational.”

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Cathie Ericson