By Marilyn Pribus –
Shopping for a new home has certainly evolved in the last few years. Home-buyers trawl the internet for months looking at potential properties. So if you’re selling, excellent pictures are essential to make your offering stand out and you can’t have great photos unless the property is in really good shape. Here’s where staging can make a big difference.
What is Staging
Staging invites potential buyers to visualize their furniture in the home and their pictures on the walls. Often it’s hard for homeowners to really see their own dwelling because they are emotionally and financially invested in it. It’s difficult to view it as a “product” competing with other homes for sale. Fortunately, most REALTORS® can provide guidance and many people—especially those with high-end properties—hire staging specialists.
Become a Stage Manager
Since first impressions are crucial, maximize curb appeal with neatly trimmed bushes, a nice green lawn, and fresh mulch on the flower beds. Power wash the house if necessary and have a bright, clean front door. Professional window cleaning does wonders to freshen a property.
Once inside, staging comes into play. When a property is on the market, it’s time to provide a fresh canvas for someone else to see how they can make the place their own.
First, people shopping for a home don’t want one that needs lots of work. Too much “stuff” makes any house feel small. Be ruthless in disposing of items, or at least storing them off the premises. Get rid of clutter.
Think spacious. One family, for example, stored their king-sized bed and replaced it with a standard double bed. They also removed the leaves from the dining room table and stored them along with six of the chairs.
Next, “de-personalize.” Remember, you want potential buyers to see themselves in the house, not your family. Store away weaponry, religious or political items, and family photo arrays. Get the children’s artwork off the fridge, and their sports trophies off the mantel. Still, you don’t have to take down every single personal item because you want buyers to see that a real family has enjoyed this house.
The entire home should be clean smelling without overpowering air freshener scents. Be especially aware of pet odors, since animals can be a big turn-off for some people. Hide pet items (especially cat trees and litter boxes) and when potential buyers are expected, remove pets from the premises if at all possible.
Staging is probably most important in a vacant home because empty rooms are perceived as being smaller than they really are. Arranging minimal furniture—for example a couple of comfortable chairs with an attractive table between them—shows that the living room is inviting. Sellers can’t help but think their sofa would fit right here and their rocking chair over there.
Be bright. The lighter a room, the more spacious it appears, so open the blinds and turn on lamps. Painting is an economical investment in optimizing the interior of any house. The best strategy is to use a neutral color throughout. There are hundreds of shades of white, and these days pale blues and greens are also deemed neutral.
Be tidy. The entire house should be orderly and, since the kitchen is a key selling point it’s especially important there. Too many things on the counters imply there isn’t ample storage. Still, it’s a good idea to display a few items such as a set of up-to-date canisters, a bowl of fresh fruit, and some colorful dishtowels to show the kitchen is usable. Floors, counters, sinks, and cabinets (including interiors) should be spotless.
Be basic. It’s best to present rooms as having a single purpose. For instance, make the guest room a guest room rather than a combination bedroom/office. If possible, make children’s rooms gender neutral and keep them neat with covered storage tubs while still showing there’s a “kid zone” with plenty of space to play.
Think hotel. Bathrooms are very personal spaces so take particular care. Get bathrobes off the back of the door and make the entire room sparkle. Keeping toiletries (especially toothbrushes and razors) in baskets makes it easy to stash them out of sight when lookers are expected.
Potential buyers don’t hesitate to inspect closets, so be sure they are orderly and clean with nary a trace of musty odors. Demonstrate adequate storage by minimizing items so there is empty space on shelves and clothes aren’t jammed together on the rods.
Non-living areas. Although staging isn’t so important in garages or cellars, they contribute to the overall impression of a property. Keep things ship-shape. Minimize mildewy smells. If garage walls are scarred, time for a quick coat of paint. People understand that when you move you’ll have packing boxes around, but keep them orderly or spring for a short-term storage unit. Remember, you always want to present a picture of generous storage capacity.
What’s the bottom line? Studies show that staging may not increase the ultimate selling price of a property, but it can definitely reduce its time on the market. So whether you hire a professional staging company or do it yourself, clear out clutter, go neutral, and keep things bright and tidy.
When Marilyn Pribus and her husband prepared to move to Albemarle County more than ten years ago, they staged their California house with neutral paint, putting nearly half their furniture in storage, and keeping fresh flowers everywhere.