Michael Alexander Smith – Real Estate Broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Staging your home for sale can make a difference in how quickly your home sells and for how much. If you want to get your list price or above in some cases, it’s important to either hire a professional stager or at least take staging advice from your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional.
What is home staging? There’s no simple answer as each home is as unique as its owner. Staging is a personalized process designed to show your home to its best advantage. Staging can be as simple as decluttering and cleaning the house, storing away personal items, rearranging some furniture, and putting a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table. It can also mean a full-scale removal and replacement of all furnishings, wall art and accessories to modernize a dated home.
Staging can also include vignettes that show the pleasures of using a room in a certain way. For showings, you can set a dining room table with attractive placemats, dishes and glassware with a beautiful soup tureen as the centerpiece. In the winter, you may light a fire in the fireplace, pull up an easy chair, set out a book with a bookmark and a hot drink adorned by a cinnamon stick on the side table, and throw a comfy throw or lap quilt over the arm of the chair. A stager will choose the perfect book, perhaps a classic or the latest thriller, and the right color and pattern of throw or quilt to complement the décor in the rest of the room.
It’s all about the impact you want your home to have on homebuyers. While making the house clean and neat is good, it’s not enough. It’s like doing the minimum and expecting maximum results. With home staging, you will get maximum results.
Staging a small home
The number one reason homebuyers purchase a home is to get more space, so it’s important to use staging to make small spaces appear bigger. One way to do that is to replace large pieces of furniture with something more size-appropriate, such as club chairs instead of wing-backed chairs.
Another way to stage a small home is to be true to its roots but in an updated fashion. For example, mid-century modern décor centered around several new innovations in the 1950s – suburban commuting, central air conditioning, wall-to-wall carpet, televisions and hi-fis, and eight-foot ceilings. The furniture of the day was low to the ground which made the ceiling seem taller; it was sleek and skinny, to make the rooms appear larger. Built-ins like bookcases held collectables and precious volumes, eliminating clutter in the rest of the room. So, if you’re saddled with hand-me-downs and flea market treasures that don’t suit the home or your evolving personal style, pack them up, store them or sell them and your stager will find you something better.
You can also bring in additional light. Reflective surfaces like mirrors or polished wood floors can bounce more light into any room and make it brighter. Glass-topped tables look light and show off rugs and flooring, which can make any room look bigger. Get rid of heavy drapes. Move curtain rods up to the ceiling and replace them with lighter-weight fabric, blinds, or shutters. Don’t let drapes puddle across the floor. You want every inch of floor space to show.
The floor is valuable real estate, so move as much lighting as you can to the walls and ceilings. Instead of floor lamps, try wall sconces. Reduce the number of pieces of furniture in the house, especially bulky pieces, oversized pillows and furniture with skirts. Replace pieces with those sporting simple lines. Get rid of the wall-to-wall carpet as it adds too much heaviness. Your home will look on trend and appealing.
Reducing clutter makes it easier for the stager, you and your potential buyer to see the bones of the home. Pack up out-of-season clothes, knick-knacks, collectibles and magazines. Organize closets and drawers so it appears the home has room for all the family’s needs.
With a small home, less is more. An organized home that appears to have sufficient storage will appeal strongly to the right buyer.
Kitchens and baths
Older homes can be terrific buys, but often they have dated features. And the one that bothers homebuyers the most is a small kitchen. As a seller, you may not have the will or the budget to remodel, but what you can do is look at where you can increase countertop and storage space.
Can you push the kitchen out into another room like the den? Perhaps you can bridge the two spaces with a seating area. A banquette is an excellent use of space as you can have one back against the wall or the kitchen island. It’s easy to build – a bench with lids for storage. Add a narrow breakfast table and chairs. Cover the bench and chairs with colorful fabric.
Do you need more counter space? Appliances such as coffee makers and microwaves can be easily built into the wall. Open shelving on unused wall space in the kitchen or bath can be both decorative and functional. If you do happen to replace countertops in a kitchen, make the island taller so you can add more drawers. Extend the countertop beyond the cabinetry about 12 to 16 inches to accommodate barstools.
Beyond moving furniture
A study performed at Duke University addressed which staging principles were most effective by watching the reactions of real people while they viewed homes for sale. The study found the following:
Depersonalizing to most sellers means taking family photos off the wall because they’re a distraction and make it hard for buyers to imagine the home as theirs. But there are many other things that sellers may overlook.
Sellers should remove personal items from the bathroom such as “used bars of soap, razors, toothbrushes, etc.” The reasons cited in the study suggest these items are too intimate for buyers and that they’re “disgusting, distracting.” As a seller, you don’t want to remind buyers that the house is used, even if they already know it, but personal items can prevent buyers from imagining the home as theirs.
The study even goes so far as to recommend removing art or accessories that are “attention-grabbing or personal because buyers “evaluate (and remember) art” rather than the home. A negative reaction to art can translate to a negative evaluation of the home.
There’s also a caution about trashcans. They’re smelly, unattractive, and take up space. Trashcans also suggest there’s not enough storage to put them out of sight. And speaking of smells, the survey mentions removing all signs of pets, such as food bowls and litter boxes. Why? Buyers could worry about “lingering odors /contaminants / allergens / damage,” and may even cause buyers to imagine odors or allergic reactions whether they exist or not.
Don’t forget to stage your outdoor spaces, too. Curb appeal is essential – the first impression the buyer has of your home. Trim trees, shrubs, keep the grass cut, and pick up toys, tools or any trash. Make sure your porch has inviting container plants or flowers, a new welcome mat, and fresh pillows on the swing. Paint your front door a fresh new hue. Your buyers will be well-primed to like what they see inside, too!