Lights, Camera, Buyers! Set the Stage for Your Home’s Sale
There are some obvious things most people do before they sell their home: paint, clean up the yard and of course, hold the obligatory garage sale. But doing those few things may not be enough in today’s saturated real estate market.
“I always say if you put your house on the market without doing anything, it’s like sending a beautiful girl to prom in a gunny sack,” says Patty Bonnell, Accredited Staging Professional (ASP) of SetTheStageWA.com. “If you don’t take time to stage the room, you’re going to fail to make an impact.”
In the past six years, home staging has become one of the best tricks in the real estate trade. Rather than decorate a room, the goal of staging is to enhance the space and market the property to everyone as a model home. Developed by Barb Schwarz thirty years ago, the staging industry has boomed in the last six years. Schwarz, CEO of StagedHomes.com and the creator of the Accredited Staging Professionals program, says staging has grown in part due to the housing market’s downturn as well as an increasing familiarity of staging and design for sellers.
“It has become really seller-driven where more sellers have become more knowledgeable through watching TV and reading [articles]. Now they’re saying to the Realtors, ‘have you heard about staging? Should we stage our home?’ ” Schwarz said.
According to Schwarz’s staging accreditation program, StagedHomes.com, staged homes sell for 6.9 percent more and spend less time on the market than homes that weren’t staged.
Different levels of staging
The first step of staging is a consultation. A stager will come through and for $150 and $300, depending on the market, will suggest what should be done to the home before it sells. At this point the seller has the option to tackle the projects on their own, or hire the stager to do the work, which depending on the projects listed, can run from $500 and up.
Staging isn’t just for empty homes, said Bonnell. Most stagers work with occupied homes and use the home owners’ possessions to create a transformation by re-purposing accessories or moving furniture into a different room.
Both Schwarz and Bonnell have several tips for agents and homeowners to stage a home:
1. Clean. “Q-tip clean,” says Schwarz. Inside, outside, the driveway, walkway — everything.
2. Declutter. “I always tell people that when I walk through the front door I should not know your hobbies, where you went to college, and how many kids you have. As a buyer I want to envision myself living in the home, not you living in the home,” said Bonell. Remove magnets from the fridge, personal photos or any collections. “Clutter eats equity — takes up space and makes it feel smaller,” said Schwarz. “Most sellers have too many things.”
3. Remove smells. While any pet scents, smoke or mildew turn buyers away, it also isn’t helpful to cover the home’s smell with perfumed spray — that often turns people off even more.
4. Use the right colors. When it comes to color, a neutral backdrop on the walls and floor work best so that the buyer doesn’t think they have to paint once they move in. To keep it interesting, add movable color: bathroom towels, area rugs, bedspreads, or art.
It’s important to note that staging isn’t supposed to cover up blemishes in the home, but to create a space that’s more open and shows the home’s true square footage.
Ultimately, said Schwarz, it’s an investment.
“People call their home their greatest investment and if they want the best return, they’ll need to invest time, energy and sometimes a little bit of money.”
Real estate agent Jeff Menday of RE/MAX Northwest Realtors said he always suggests staging to his clients.
“If it’s vacant,” he said, “I tell them we have to stage it. It definitely brings a higher selling price and it sells quicker.” Even when the home is occupied, Menday tells the sellers the basic tips of staging:
“I suggest they at least clean and clear the home. Less is more,” he said.
Schwarz recounts sending a show idea about staging to HGTV over ten years ago and getting a rejection letter.
“They told me that no one would watch a show about staging and selling a home!” she said, laughing. Now, shows about staging and design fill time slots on several networks.
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