Sellers: The Benefits of Staging Your Home - FEATURED ARTICLE
Professional staggers are paid to bring out the best in your home. Don't take it personally
By: Kris Berg
Your home might be beautiful. Maybe it is immaculate, stylishly appointed to suit your tastes or highly upgraded with the finest materials and features. Perhaps it is all of these things. But, unless you are one in a thousand, it is not “staged.”
Staging a home for sale is not a new concept, but it is a practice that has gained steam with our more challenging market. I see many home sellers confuse staging with decorating and consequently resisting the process and the recommendations of the staging professional. But the reality is that the moment you commit to marketing your home for sale, you need to commit to transforming your home into a place that potential buyers can easily picture as their home. This means that you need to be prepared to emotionally detach.
Let your home speak to buyers.
Your home speaks to you, but what is it saying to your potential buyer? Most sellers we encounter tend to take the staging process personally, and this is precisely the point. Our homes are personal, yet how we live is not how we sell. Our homes represent who we are; they are life-sized memory books of our travels, they trumpet our likes, our dislikes and our beliefs. They showcase our stuff -- all that stuff we have accumulated over time that speaks to us. The goal of staging is to make the home speak to everyone else, in a compelling and positive way.
You are proud of your Hummel collection. Each piece acquired over time has a special meaning, but to your buyer, it is a collection of your things which serves only to draw his attention away from the main event. Likewise the personal photos, the too-tall centerpiece, the overstuffed china cabinet and the bookcase filled with National Geographic magazines dating back to the Paleozoic Era -- these are all treasures to be sure, but they serve only to sidetrack a buyer from the task at hand.
Buyers tend to label the homes they see, as do agents. So, you can either be the “house with the beautiful arched doorways” or the “house with the Elvis throw rug and a bunch of office furniture where the dining room should be.” Both evoke emotional reactions, but unless the buyer is one who spends his annual vacations at Graceland, you will be far better served by eliminating distractions.
Clutter may suggest your home doesn’t measure up.
Most of us, if honest, will admit that our daily lives involve a certain amount of clutter. The little stack of mail and car keys and loose change next to the telephone, the “junk drawer” which has been busy propagating the species while no one was looking, and a bathroom with enough toiletries on display to groom the entire population of Northern Ireland are all examples. OK, I’m talking about my home here, but we all have our own flavors of clutter.
True, clutter is just another perpetrator of distraction. More importantly, though, your clutter may be sending a message that you don’t have enough space. My own kitchen counter top is at this moment permanent home to a toaster, a toaster oven, a coffee pot, a butcher block of knives, a canister of utensils and a bowl of random items of fruit origin, the latter living out their golden years in a decorative bowl. This arrangement (except for the brown bananas) is functional, but to another person it might suggest I lack the cabinet space to properly store these everyday items. And, if I'm hoping that this other person will buy my home, I need to clean up my act.
Don’t shoot the stager.
The primary goal of staging is not to transform your home into the eighth wonder of the world. For most of us, this simply isn’t realistic. Rather, the best stagers will work with what you have, rearranging and reallocating all of your belongings, in order to present the property in its best light. Sometimes this means reallocating some of those belongings to the garage.
Too often the tendency is take the process personally, but you shouldn’t. Staging is not a do-it-yourself sport, and only a third party specialist can bring the neutrality and objectivity needed to accomplish the goal. You may interpret the message that your favorite painting would look much better above the fireplace -- in your neighbor’s house -- as an indictment on your style and tastes. OK, maybe it is, but most likely it is not. Rather, it is probably the stager’s attempt to ensure that your appointments don’t upstage the home itself. That’s his/her job.
Make no mistake -- professional staging is an inconvenience. Your daily routine will be turned, at least temporarily, on its head. And it can be unsettling as you watch your life rearranged to suit the tastes of others. But if selling your home in the shortest amount of time and for the most money is your goal, it is precisely those "others” who should be your focus.
Your house’s furnishings suit you fine, but your beloved rooster wallpaper might not suit the masses. Look at your house from a buyer’s perspective, and make minor enhancements to put its best foot forward. Here are ten quick, inexpensive fixes that will spruce up your home:
Make the front door inviting. Potential buyers often drive by before deciding they want to see the inside of a house, so make sure the front-door area looks nice.
Clear away clutter. Put away personal photos, knickknacks, boxes -- anything that will distract the buyer from concentrating on the house. People won't buy a house if they can't see the square footage, so clear it out and clean it up.
"Clutter gives the perception that there's not enough storage in the house," says real estate expert Shannon Freeman of the L.A. team. A basic rule of thumb to decide whether or not something is clutter is "if you can't sit on it, it's not decoration, and you can't eat it, it's clutter," says designer Lisa LaPorta, also of the L.A. team.
Clean the house thoroughly. Take time to make bathrooms sparkle, wash the windows, and clean kitchen appliances. Don't forget under the sinks!
Freshen up your rooms. A little paint can go a long way in making your home sellable: repaint much-used rooms in neutral colors to make them look clean and fresh.
Arrange furniture to showcase your space. Remove extra, unwanted furniture and arrange remaining pieces in a way that creates smooth traffic flow. Good furniture placement can help show off a room and makes a huge impact as a buyer walks through, says real estate expert Terry Haas from the Washington, D.C., team. "If you want to make a room look bigger, pull the furniture off the wall because people are allowed to see the perimeter of the room, and it creates the illusion of a larger space," adds designer Lisa LaPorta from the L.A. team.
Do all you can to reduce odors. People never forget smells when they walk in the door. Try your best to remove odors caused by pets, smoking and cooking. Nothing is worse than a smelly home, so make it fresh!
"Before an open house, open up all of the windows and air the house out. Boil cinnamon, bake cookies, bake bread -- do anything you can to have the air smelling fresh and clean,” advises designer Lisa LaPorta. Carpenter Chad Lopez offers another idea for bringing in some pleasant scents: "You can actually buy, from the paint store, scent packets, which you add to the paint before you paint the walls. As time goes by, they will gradually release a scent."
Perform any necessary repairs. Take a hard look around your home and see it from a buyer's perspective: oil door and window hinges, fix loose handrails, etc.
"Deferred maintenance -- for example, large cracks in your sidewalks on the way up to the door -- send red flags to buyers," says designer Monica Pedersen. "It costs you less to fix it than buyers might deduct from their asking price. So do the math, and fix it yourself," adds designer Lisa LaPorta.
Replace outdated light fixtures. Wall sconces, recessed lighting or pendant lights are good alternatives to that single old-fashioned overhead fixture.
Clean the carpeting. Unless it's extremely worn, you may be able to avoid replacing carpet before you sell. Buyers often prefer to choose their own new carpet or opt for hardwood floors.
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