Home Staging Tips for a Quick Home Sale
Kate Morgenstern, AOL Real Estate Feb 13th 2008
What does it take to sell a home quickly in the current buyer's market? You might need something called "home staging." Here's how rookie home stager Linda, who asked that we not use her real name, explains it: "You wouldn't go to a job interview looking like you were ready to scrub the kitchen floor. You would dress up and get your hair done. That's what staging is to houses. It's taking the seller's best asset economically and making the most of it."
Linda says the top two priorities when staging a home for a quick sale are fresh paint and like-new cleanliness. "We staged a townhouse where the walls were grubby, and it was not inviting. When people are moving out, they don't want to paint the place, but they should if they want to sell it. People are going to see other houses with pet odors and dust or dingy bathtubs, so your place will outshine the others."
Outshining the other houses is the ultimate goal for stagers, oftentimes hired by desperate sellers in the current market. Linda swaps out rugs, bedding and furniture that are dark or dingy, and she clears away clutter. "We do a lot with wall art because it creates depth in a room without taking up floor space. Even though you couldn't live without a garbage can, for home staging, you want to move that out," she says. The outcome should be a home that looks brighter, bigger and more inviting to buyers on a grand scale.
Make the Space Feel Bigger: The objective of home staging is to leave potential buyers with the impression that a home is spacious. Strategic furnishing is the key to that highly coveted roomy feeling. Linda avoids coffee tables, because they make living rooms feel cramped. "And it's why we try to use smaller sofas, in this case a love seat, because the takeaway is going to be, 'There was a sofa in the room.' You may not notice that it was love seat sized."
Minimize the Flaws: Another advantage to home staging is "it keeps the buyer from looking at things that are flaws, such as a crack in the plaster," Linda says. "If you're living there, it wouldn't bother you unless it's a huge crack. But if you don't stage, potential buyers will focus on those flaws."
To distract from scuffed up hardwood floors, for example, she might lay down some area rugs and hang some pictures. "You don't want to look at the floor when there's art on the walls," she explains. "It's not really trickery. In terms of the buyer noticing what's really important, they are going to do a home inspection. And they should be aware of things that are obvious. If a room is overly furnished, you might not notice there's a pane of glass missing from one of the windows."
Highlight the Positives: "A lot of times people come in with their real estate agent, and there's no one here," Linda says. "They would miss stuff, so we'll put up a little sign." In one instance, owners had built wine storage into a closet. Another example was a room that was wired for stereo speakers. Had she not posted those signs, even the best staging would not have called attention to those hidden features.
Don't Be Discouraged: Linda tells the story of one home that was nearly unsaleable before home staging. "The house had been sitting on the market for months. When we walked inside, it smelled like cigarette smoke and the walls were dingy. It turns out the place hadn't been painted in 25 years. The furnishings were old and mismatched, worn out and ready to be discarded."
She spent more than a week working on home staging, getting rid of furniture, buying slipcovers, adding art, and dressing up the bathrooms with accessories. The upshot of the home staging? "The house sold in a couple of weeks after that."
What Does Home Staging Cost?
Linda works as a stager on the East Coast, where the trade is just beginning to pick up speed in this buyer's market. Pricing varies by the stager. Linda charges a $65 per hour design fee, plus up to $100 per furnishing for a three-month rental. She says, "I would rather negotiate than lose a contract, so it's all about a seller's budget and what he can afford. I try to be flexible for each situation and provide the work that would be consistent with the budget."
It's money well spent. "With homes, too often, I think, people want buyers to love the home just they way they've lived in it -- perhaps as a way of getting personal affirmation for their own taste," Linda says. "That's not the way selling works. As stagers, we aim to create homes that look like pictures in magazines. That's more the standard that the mass buying public appreciates."