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Home Staging 101: How to sell your home efficiently

Posted at 07/26/2017 10:13 AM by Pat O'Connor

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You’ve loved, cared for and made your home into a special place over the years. Now you’re selling your home and your real estate agent suggests bringing a home stager into the works.

What? But it’s perfect for you! For many people, parting with a home is a difficult process. But the countless ‘special touches’ you’ve added may not be ideal for the next owner.

In other words, it’s time to change your residence into a ‘model home.’

Susan Weiss, a professional home staging specialist, loves transforming homes for people getting getting to sell. Here are some home staging tips and insights into the process.

How long has home staging been around?

As I recall the term itself gained popularity in the 1980’s. However I think savvy sellers have informally been refreshing their homes for market readiness for as long as I can remember.

How did this terminology evolve?

That’s an interesting question. From what I understand, it was trademarked in 1990.  I believe, Barb Schwartz, who was an interior designer with a background in theatre, first used it. As noted in the Centre Staging Blog – the not-so-secret history of home staging, “..She saw the need for sellers to begin to “set the scene for potential buyers.” Later it evolved into “Staging a home for sale”.

What prompted people to start engaging in this practice?

Like most things in life, the basic drivers are time and money. Agents and sellers are interested in selling properties as quickly as possible for the top price point the market will bear.  Competition in the market and the housing sales slump both contributed to the growth of the staging industry. It has now become the norm to have some level of professional input on getting a property ready for the market.

Is this something only owners of high-end homes should consider?

Absolutely not!  Similar to selling any product, including yourself, you want to do as much as you can to be competitive, and cast a wide net in your market but differentiate your product. Buying a home is a huge decision for people, regardless of the price of the property. Buyers need to be convinced that they feel they could see themselves living in a property, that they connect to the lifestyle image given off by the home and, of course, that the home has the required features and functions, no different than other product sales.  Although staging is extremely important to the selling of a home, understanding the market and correct pricing are critical to a successful outcome. From my experience, it’s best to work as a team with the seller, real-estate agent and design professional to put together the best product in that price point, neighborhood, etc.

What is involved in staging a home?

Staging can include whatever is necessary to ready a home for the market. It can be anything from a short consultation with the seller that entails developing a list of recommendations to be performed by the seller or an extensive remodel to update features or spaces of a home that are objectionable and therefore limit sales at the desired price point.

In order, what are the priorities in a solid improvement project?

  • Develop a team when possible including the seller, real-estate broker and designer.
  • Understand the market and goals.
  • Have the designer develop a staging plan based on what the property needs to meet the selling goals within the allotted budget. Focus on priorities and address a plan to mitigate any objectionable aspects of the home that could limit the buyer pool.
  • Plan ahead and ready yourself for buying seasons in the market.  Perform the work necessary to be ready and early to market!
  • Get feedback from all showings, if possible, and address any issues quickly.

What kind of a budget do you recommend?

I don’t recommend budgets until I’ve had a chance to look at the property and speak with the homeowners and their agent to understand the pricing strategy, market inventory/competition and timeframe. A homeowner can spend as little as $200 for a consultation to over $20K for more major edits.

If you could only afford to do three things to get a home ready for sale, what would you recommend?

Deep clean everything, which includes inside cabinets, appliances, window washing, power washing of exteriors, cobwebs in between those beams you can’t reach, etc. A house that is dirty sends a message that it has not been maintained well. If walls and carpet/flooring are still showing signs of dirt or age, paint the walls, replace the carpet and/or refinish the floors. Start with a clean canvas.

Edit, Edit, Edit. Remove clutter, eliminate small objects that don’t do anything, use larger furniture when you have the choice to make spaces look bigger (mirrors are always good), etc. Start, if possible with a clean eye, in each room to determine the best way to market the space. If you have the budget, get a professional to do a walk through, take notes and capture their recommendations. Be thorough, down to the closets, and throw away the junk, especially the terrible metal hangers from the dry cleaners. Organize your closets by color. Don’t skip bookshelves; they are valuable space that can be a positive or negative depending on how they are staged. Remember, some potential buyers might drive by and cross your property off the list because of a bad first impression. Go outside and look at your yard, front door and landscaping. Pull the weeds and bring your lawn back to life.

Remove and add where necessary. I would rather see an empty, clean guest room than one with every piece of furniture that you have collected even if they are important family heirlooms.  Put them all in storage and provide a clean canvas that others can imagine as their own. Assess the areas that need additions. Clean fluffy white towels from a discount store make a huge impact in bathrooms as do clean crisp white sheets with a couple of attractive throw pillows.  Keep the towels you are using everyday in a cabinet and switch them out for showings.

What are you trying to accomplish in a successful home portrayal? What is the impact?

To ready a property for the market by offering a product that is superior to others in support of top dollar pricing and a quick sales transaction. It’s important to eliminate the potential objections when possible or design well around them. The goal is to create an emotional connection with a potential buyer without them knowing why. They can imagine themselves living in the home and living the lifestyle the home projects. It just feels right; it doesn’t feel contrived or staged. The spaces are easy to understand and flexible for usage. The best compliment I get is when the buyer doesn’t think a home has been staged; they love the house and the homeowner’s style to the point that they ask if they can buy the furnishings. Or, they measure the furniture and diagram the space planning so they can replicate every detail.  Buying a home is such an important decision. If you can make it easier for a buyer to want your home without questioning its “look,” it helps keep the transaction a win win for both parties!

Why should people invest in this practice?

To maximize the selling price and minimize the time on the market. The statistics support the claims that staging in all markets and at all price ranges makes a difference. In my experience, if a buyer perceives that the home has been well maintained and is in good condition because of successful market readiness/staging, then the home inspection process is a bit less painful as well.

What are some of the latest trends?

The trends follow those of Interior design, fashion, culture, etc.  Buyers have a higher IQ and they are exposed to more properties through online tours, home design shows, and viewing professionally designed homes in magazines. They expect more and can see through contrived and cookie cutter staging. Although neutral is still key, clients are seeing the value in accessorizing with unique elements and objects to create a space that has warmth, character and sophistication. Although I never agreed with the idea of removing all personal items, it has lessened to some degree with stagers.  My belief has always been that it isn’t so much of a staging formula or do’s and don’ts; rather, it is taking in each project and understanding how to bring out the best of the spaces and create an environment which a buyer can connect emotionally with the property.  I go for the “I have to have it” reaction with my work.

Talk about an unusual or memorable story from a project in which you were involved.

Staging when done well can be transforming which, as silly as it may sound, is very rewarding for those of us in the business!  We are making things more beautiful regardless of what we are given to work with and that is exciting. Often times, if possible, I encourage my clients to schedule a weekend away and drive up to the mountains or take a holiday of sorts. It enables me to spend a couple of uninterrupted days focusing on my vision for the finishing touches on a property. I ask about stored items that are available for use, regardless of how insignificant those items may be. The best part of the job is watching the reaction of the homeowner upon return. In most cases, the emotion is of complete and utter amazement and includes lots of hugging and sometimes a bit of civilized jumping up and down. The comment, “Why didn’t we do this sooner or while we were living here,” is common.  But, this year I completed the final editing on a house in Cherry Hills Village and the homeowner loved the results so much that they no longer wanted to sell the home.  Typical comments include, “I didn’t know I owned those beautiful copper urns, where did you find them?” “Wow the basement looks so cozy, I want to start using it now.”  “I feel so at home, I wish I had finished the house sooner.”

Any words of advice to people getting ready to embark on this journey?

Do your homework like anything else.  Staging of a home, if done poorly, can downgrade a property and will be a waste of money. I’ve seen homes that are on the market for two to four months with low-end furniture and accessories used in staging that have a negative effect.  Get recommendations from your real estate agent, look at other projects they have staged, call past clients for input and have a clear goal to ensure your staging budget is allocated in the most beneficial way.

Contact Susan for more home staging ideas at Bailey Interiors, 720-291-0707

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Topics: Home Selling