There are a lot of factors that can negatively impact the sale of your home. Using the wrong paint colors, neglecting curb appeal, and overpricing the home are just some of the many reasons why your house may not be selling – or the offers are lower than anticipated.
However, can your closets also play a role in making or breaking the sale of your home?
Closets Can Seal or Sink the Deal
Yes, according to Patrick Garrett, broker/owner at H & H Realty in Trussville, AL. He tells us that closet space is a topic he hears quite often when discussing the features that are most important to homebuyers. “If a buyer opens a closet and it’s packed from wall-to-wall and all the way to the ceiling, the buyer will assume the closet is too small, and may not even consider the seller has a lot more belongings than they do.”
His view is shared by Joshua B. Garner, licensed real estate salesperson at Nestseekers in New York, NY. “If you’re selling your home and are currently lacking sufficient storage space, your closets could be scaring buyers away,” he says. “Messy, overcrowded closets are a red flag to buyers, and your situational lack of storage could be signaling that your property doesn’t have enough room for their items either – even if that may not be true.”
A closet might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things. After all, we’re talking about a few square feet in a house that, on average, is 2,014 square feet according to the American Home Size Index.
However, Nancy Almodovar, CEO and founder of Nan and Company Properties in Houston, TX, warns against viewing this space as insignificant. “Underestimate closets at your own risk! In the world of real estate, closet space is not just a storage, it’s a selling point,” she explains.
“Especially with luxury properties, potential buyers view large, organized closets as a symbol of a well-designed home.” In fact, Almodovar recommends thinking of your closets as mini showrooms. “A well-lit, spacious, and neatly organized closet could indeed make or break the sale of your home.”
Also, don’t forget that homebuying is an emotional experience. That’s why buyers often say they “fell in love” with a home. Notice, this isn’t, for example, the type of language that investors use when they pick stocks. However, there’s so much passion involved in choosing a home, and that’s why it’s important to understand the emotional cues that can elicit positive or negative reactions.
“One wouldn’t think that a sloppy closet would be able to make or break a deal, but you should consider the effect of a buyer’s subconscious,” explains Ellen Sykes, broker at Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York, NY. “They see a messy closet – perhaps overflowing with junk that looks as if it had been stuffed in there hastily, and might not only think there’s not enough space, but also think the owners are messy, and wonder what else in the house hasn’t been taken care of.”
Closets Can Be on the List of Pros or Cons
At the very least, closets can be a selling point or a drawback in a buyer’s final decision. Steven Gottlieb, agent at Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York, NY says a closet should not make or break a sale – but he says it can add to the overall impression that a potential seller is already leaning toward. “Big, neat, custom-built closets can push a buyer to fall further in love with a home they already like, and conversely, jam-packed, small, and/or disorganized closets can add to a buyer’s already negative impression of a home.”
And that’s what Mary Barbrack, an agent at the Julia Hoagland Team at Compass in New York City, tells us she often hears from their clients. “This feedback is usually tied to the space not working for them or being too small overall.” Although buyers can add more storage themselves, she says great closet space is certainly a selling point. “If they like the size, the layout, and the condition of the home, then, ‘Oh, there are five closets!’ or ‘A storage unit is included in the purchase’ is like getting a bonus.”
If your closet is less than impressive, there are steps that you can take to make it a positive (or at least a neutral) home feature. “Obviously, sellers are not reconstructing homes to offer more closet space, but there are things such as decluttering and reorganizing the existing closets that will showcase a home closets to buyers in a much better light,” Garrett says. “For example, if a seller has small closets, it is best to remove as many belongings as possible, so that the full potential and total amount of available space is clearly visible to the buyer.”
However, make sure that you’re not just moving the clutter from one area of the home to another part, since potential buyers tend to look everywhere. Garner suggests temporarily placing seasonally unused items in off-site storage. “A well-styled closet should include harmonious items (no cleaning products or kitchen supplies with clothes), uniform hangers, proper lighting, and most importantly negative space.” He recommends leaving some hangers and shelves empty, and says buyers should be able to see the floor. “Also there should be nothing within 8 feet to 10 feet of the ceiling; these changes will allow buyers to imagine their own items in the space.”
Gottlieb agrees and says closets should be 60% full or less, and there should be nothing on the floor. “Buying a home is the next, often aspirational, chapter for someone, and we want to sell them a fantasy of what their life could be.”
When possible, he also recommends removing inexpensive items from the closet, but keeping the items that look luxurious. “In model homes, you’ll often see empty boxes from luxury brands on display in the empty closets.”
Barbrack advises sellers to organize items by color, shape, and size to help present the space as welcoming and uncluttered.
Since two of our other experts advised against having anything on the floor, we wondered what homeowners would do with their shoes. She tells us that shoes in excellent condition can be displayed on shelves. “Otherwise, they should be tucked away in boxes or, to the extent possible, put in storage for the duration of the listing.”
In addition, Barbrack recommends adding a lightly-fragranced candle or reeds to help to set a luxurious tone. “It’s important to have lighting in most closets, and don’t forget to check the walls to see if they need a quick paint touch-up.”
Closets in New Builds
All of the above advice is for homeowners in existing homes. However, if you’re in the process of purchasing new construction, Jonathan Self, a licensed Compass real estate broker in Chicago, IL, says you’ll usually be able to negotiate and customize the closets.
“Know that the developer credit offered for your closet build might very well be only half of what you really need, so make sure you have an accurate idea of what you are getting.”
He recommends taking the closet credit off your purchase price and instead looking for a direct-to-consumer closet company of your own to save money. “This is exactly what your developer is doing, except they are the middleman charging you for it.” When you select a company, Self says they will come to the site, measure, and handle the installation.
“Now if you want a closet like Lenny Kravitz, that’s going to cost a lot of money, and if you want excellent quality hardwood, it’s going to cost you money.” So, you’d be better off having your carpenter/builder do the installation and negotiate that into the price.
“If you’re willing to give up the wood look, I recommend something like the Container Store’s Elfa system, which is durable and attractive without looking like a traditional closet.