Cover story: Cleanup for sale includes storage areas

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Most homeowners realize it’s important to clean a home that’s going on the market and often do a fairly good job of cleaning and decluttering the main rooms of a house.

Unfortunately, that often comes at the expense of shoving the overflow into attics, basements, garages and closets.

Real estate experts warn that this can be a costly mistake and urge sellers to clean out and showcase those areas as well.

Patricia Ebrahimi, owner of Show Smart Home Staging in Rockville, pointed out that potential buyers often are in the market for storage.

“They’re buying square footage and a home for their own stuff,” she said. “If the closets are jampacked, and the basement, attic and garage are loaded to the gills, people come away with the impression that there’s not enough storage in the house.”

Mary Ann Ferraguto, a professional organizer and owner of SHED Organizing Services in Alexandria, agreed that storage space is a key selling point in a home.

“It’s expensive to rent a storage unit every month, so if there’s a big, clean, empty room in the basement, people will think, ‘I can save money by storing my stuff here,’” she said.

Kim Muffler, a Realtor for Long & Foster in Alexandria, said even an unfinished basement can be an asset because it can be touted as potential for future growth.

“If your family grows, you don’t have to move out because you have this large, clean room that can be turned into a family room,” she said. “It must smell nice — it can’t be moldy or mildewy because that indicates dampness and water problems.”

Boxes can be in the basement, but they must be neatly lined up against the perimeter walls, Ms. Muffler said, adding that the same rule applies to garages.

“The garage has to be empty enough to show that one car or two cars can fit in it,” she said.

To make a garage really sing, Ms. Ebrahimi advised emptying it out, painting the walls bright white and painting the floor brick red.

“It’s a clean, inviting look,” she said, adding that it’s easy to find cement paint at most hardware stores.

To tackle closets, Ms. Ebrahimi said the magic ratio is 80-20: “eighty percent empty, the remaining 20 percent beautifully displayed. Have nothing on the floor because this gives the illusion of space.”

Ms. Muffler said she tells her sellers to get rid of mismatched dry-cleaner hangers and instead invest in padded, streamlined hangers for a more uniform, organized look. “Put all the pants together, all the shirts — make sure the shoes and bags are orderly,” she said.

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