Utility room staging is one of the least often considered strategies employed during real estate marketing. Most sellers do not even consider the condition or appeal of their utility room, since after all, it is meant for utility, not aesthetic beauty! However, this location is certainly an area of the residence that should never be neglected during home staging. In fact, problems here might be deal-breakers in the long run, so real estate sellers should actually concentrate on making sure that their utility rooms are perfect before listing the property for sale.
Not every house has a utility room and those that do each have different definitions of what the room actually does and what it contains. It is vital that property sellers understand all of the liabilities that might exist in their utility areas, so that interventions can be implemented to solve these concerns before they become major deterrents to a successful sale.
This tutorial focuses on explaining how to prepare a utility room to receive buyers and home inspectors during the real estate sale process.
Utility Room Staging Definitions
For the purposes of this guide, utilities are defined as the service connections that come into and out of a home, including the water service, the sewer or cesspool service, the gas service, the electrical service and all the equipment that runs or regulates these services.
Typical features in a utility room include the furnace or heating system, HVAC components, central vacuum systems, water mains, whole-house water filtration systems and water meters, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, gas lines and gas meters, as well as electrical connections, supply lines and electrical panels, such as circuit breakers.
Many people also keep their laundry machines, such as a washer and dryer, in the utility room, especially in older homes.
In some homes, utilities are separated and scattered throughout the home. In others, most or all of these services might enter in a singular location and be confined to one or more rooms located together or close to one another. The basement is one of the most common areas for a utility room to exist. However, utility areas can exist on the main floor of a house, in the garage or in various smaller areas where a singular utility is found alone, such as a dedicated laundry room or furnace room.
In essence, utility areas house the equipment and connections that run the residential infrastructure and are therefore major concerns to buyers, even though they might not be rated on aesthetic appeal.
Utility Room Staging Concerns
Below are listed many of the possible utility room problems which I see often in my own staging business. Remember, all of these concerns can become major hurdles in closing a sale, so each should be taken seriously and evaluated carefully by a trained expert:
Water service issues can include broken water mains, inaccurate meters, tree root infiltration into water lines, tainted piping or leaking valves.
Electrical service problems can include a complete lack of service entering the residence, an inadequate supply or wattage rating on the service, wiring that is not done to code, wiring using hazardous and fire-prone materials, old equipment that is due for updating and amateur repairs and splicing performed by unqualified personnel.
Gas service concerns might include leaks in buried or exposed lines or valves, a complete lack of gas service or a blocked line.
Heating system concerns include old equipment that needs updating, inefficient equipment, dangerous equipment that requires repair or incorrectly installed equipment that might not meet present code standards.
If the laundry is located in the utility room, the most commonly associated troublesome issues include leaking hoses, old machines, poor location of the equipment or threat of water damage to nearby important utility components, such as the heating system.
Utility Room Staging Strategies
It is vital to thoroughly inspect the utility room prior to placing the home on the competitive real estate market. Once the home is listed and word gets out that the utility area has a major problem, the damage may have already been done to the home’s reputation and this can be difficult to fix, even once potentially expensive interventions correct the utility concern in full.
Instead, be proactive as a seller, or a home stager, and check the utility area before listing the property. If needed, consider hiring a contractor or home inspector to give the utility room a complete evaluation to prevent any nasty surprises from showing up once a prospective buyer brings in their own inspection professional.
Easy fixes for utility problems include fixing leaking hoses, pipes and valves.
Always be sure that any filters on heating or HVAC systems are new and ultra-clean.
Be sure that all utility equipment and supply lines are up to code and will not present any problems in the future that might bar the sale of your home. This is particularly true when a new certificate of occupancy may be needed to legalize any renovations or additions to the home.
Consider major renovations carefully and ask for advice from a real estate professional before addressing costly fixes, such as replacing a furnace or upgrading an electrical panel. The value of these renovations is certainly case-specific and in some circumstances is warranted; while in others may be a losing proposition. Always do be sure that all equipment and service connections are clean and in operable condition. If the unit does not work, it must generally be replaced in order to get the home sold.
Broken water mains, sewer lines and gas lines must be attended to immediately and should never be left for potential buyers to discover on their own. These can certainly be deal-breakers.
Although the utility room does not have to sparkle like the rest of the home, it should always be safe, clean, organized and free from major deterrent that will have buyers looking elsewhere, even if they truly adore the remainder of your house. Remember, service and utility problems can be costly and no one wants to inherit an issue that will prevent them from occupying the house safely or at all!