On Stage – Home Staging Overview
The concept of staging a home for sale has been solidified in countless television shows that follow the process from start to finish. With the warm weather selling season about to hit full stride, it might be helpful to know just a bit more about home staging in case you are thinking about entering the real estate market and selling your house either this year or in the near future.
This is a process that most homeowners can DIY or you can, if you have the budget, hire one of the many professional staging organizations to come into your home and do the work. The staging process involves three main steps which are decluttering, repairing and organizing, and then redesigning the spaces in your home.
Staging helps a home seller in two ways. It starts a transition that accentuates the positive attributes of a home and de-emphasizes any perceived negatives that a home might have in a buyer’s eyes. These two tips and tricks can translate into a higher sales price for the home.
Also remember that staging starts at the curb. Real estate agents will tell you that curb appeal is important to get people through your front door. The steps outlined below can be applied to your front and backyard. Your exterior home and outdoor rooms need the same level of attention as your master bedroom does to maximize your curb appeal.
Half the staging battle is getting folks to imagine themselves in your home. To do that you need to remove all the superficial objections that distract the potential buyer from what they are actually buying which is space.
STEP ONE: DECLUTTERING
Of all the staging tips that are out there, this one may be the most important. The first step, decluttering, is where you should start to begin the staging process.
Home buyers are buying space. Household clutter is not only unsightly, but it consumes space both physically and visually.
Yes, you still have to live in your home and yes, your “things” are near and dear to your heart and make your house your home. But your collection of medieval weaponry might be off-putting to a potential buyer. So the best thing to do is pack your swords away (you will have to do it eventually when you move) and anything else on your walls, tables, curios and bookshelves that distracts from the space in your rooms. You can rent a temporary storage space for the items you clear out of your rooms, closets, garage and basement so that each space in your home looks airy and clutter-free.
Home sellers generally have the most difficulty in temporarily parting with their family photos. Most professional home stagers will tell you that family photos are too personal and inhibit a buyer from picturing themselves in your rooms. You can get a head’s start on your move by packing up photos before you list your home for sale.
The best way to visualize the effect of decluttering is to recall the last time you were in a professionally decorated model home. These spaces are designed to sell homes and because no one lives there, model homes are not cluttered with stuff. But they are well designed with items that appeal to a wide variety of decorating tastes. Not too many items, just enough to add warmth and a broadly-appealing personality.
This doesn’t mean go out and buy generic things; you probably have something appropriate already. Just be selective when it comes to accessories, fewer is better and you want to appeal to the widest audience possible. For example, your rooms will need lamps for staging and brightening up dark spaces. Select the lamps with simpler designs and put the highest wattage bulbs that the fixture will allow.
STEP TWO: REPAIRING, CLEANING AND ORGANIZING
Most homeowners have learned to live with the little imperfections around their homes. A small crack in the tile here, peeling caulk there…probably more little issues than we would all like to admit. With a decluttered home, all the little imperfections (and big problems) are no longer obscured by stuff – which is actually a good thing.
The next home staging tip is to address repairs. Once you have identified the areas in your home that need repair, you can fix them before listing your home. Buyers will see an impeccably maintained home and have the peace of mind that they aren’t missing something they can’t live with. And, you won’t be faced with significant repairs that an inspector will no doubt find that may affect your deal price or worse, kill your deal entirely.
After all the little repairs are taken care of, you can begin to start deep cleaning and organizing your spaces. Make sure your closets aren’t overstuffed and that clothing is hung neatly. Try to keep shoes, etc. off the closet floor to make the space look bigger. One trick for organizing closets is to hang similar items together, and group like items by color. So, all white dress shirts should be hung together, all slacks together and then by color. It really does make your closets look more organized.
Take a look at your kitchen drawers and cabinets. (Buyers will look in both!) If possible, pack away all the seldom used items and group other items together so that the space makes sense. All cereals together, all spatulas in one place, etc. Showing you can keep an organized space tells buyers that there is plenty of space for their things to remain orderly as well.
Basements, garages, and any other storage areas of your home should be similarly organized. Boxes you have packed in advance of your move can be placed in your basement or garage, neatly stacked, or in a temporary storage facility. Remember, the goal is to have buyers remember the space, not your things when you are selling your home.
STEP THREE: STAGING
Staging is the finishing touch to getting your property ready for market. It is more than just picking light fixtures, accent walls and selecting neutral color paint. It is very much like theater. You are telling a story within your walls.
The trick to staging a room is to have it look spacious, welcoming and warm. You have already eliminated the clutter, so now you will just need to arrange your furnishings so that they highlight the spaciousness of each room when you stage your home.
Make sure your furniture does not block the natural traffic flow into and through your rooms. Center furniture on the room’s focal point. For example, if you have a living room fireplace, that’s the place to arrange your sofa and a chair or two. Again, less is more (and that includes throw pillows) so edit your furniture if you can’t achieve a good traffic flow with everything in there now.
If your furniture is looking tired and worn, your rooms will also look tired and worn no matter how much cleaning and painting you have done. Consider renting furniture for a few days – at least enough to get your listing photos taken. Professional stagers will have their own inventory of furniture to replace or supplement yours.
Tables, bookcases, nightstands, and the like should be emptied. A few books on each shelf (so the buyers can see the shelves and bookcase back) and an item or two on a coffee table is all that should be there.
Nightstands should have just a clock and a lamp and really nothing else. Bathroom vanities and tub surrounds should also have perhaps one or two items – a rolled towel perhaps – and nothing else. Again, think back to the last model home you went through. Clean, nicely arranged and a few well-chosen items. Nothing more.
In the end, it is all about the buyer. You want to highlight all the good points of your home and the buyer needs to see these to appreciate them. Any negatives, such as small rooms, can be made to look a bit more spacious in staged homes by removing both furniture and clutter. The added benefit to comprehensive staging is that you are now at least partially packed for moving day – a luxury anyone can appreciate.
Keep in mind:
- The National Association of Realtors recommends staging to sell your home faster and for more money. Their research upholds the facts that staged homes sell faster and for more money.
- In some areas of the country where there is a shortage of homes, and a seller’s market, you might be tempted to skip staging. This is understandable and may work. However, you can never know if that’s a good strategy until the home is listed for sale. At the very least, people will see the pictures of your home first, or your virtual tours, online and you want those photos to be appealing. You want people to see themselves in the space.
- You will have to evaluate the staging cost against the cost of having a home on the market too long and the resulting price reductions which top producing agents encourage when a listing gets stale.
- With more people working from home, a staged home office could mean the difference between a quick sale and a lengthy listing period. Your home value is directly influenced by the number and size of usable space you have.
- When it is time to sell, before your home is listed, the first people you need to impress are the sellers agents you interview for your listing. They will form an opinion which is hard to change about the value of your home and whether they will recommend it to their buyers.