Every Home’s a Stage

Home Staging

Photo: madisonsquareselfstorage.com

You stripped the woodwork, replaced the windows, and brought the kitchen from the dark ages into the light. You poured your heart into your house. And now it’s time to sell it.

Rehabbers have a harder time emotionally separating from the houses that reflect so much blood, sweat, and tears, says Barb Schwarz, the grand dame of home staging and president of Staged Homes. (She also founded the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, a resource for locating qualified stagers in your area.)

The transition that DIYers find most problematic is realizing that selling the house is not the same as showcasing their work. “It’s not a home. It’s a product,” says Schwarz. “You have to cut the strings of attachment.” If attracting buyers isn’t enough of a reason, she advises bearing in mind that hard-to-show houses rarely attract offers. “Clutter eats equity,” she says.

She’s not the only one who thinks so. A recently survey conducted for real estate brokerage Coldwell Banker found that:

• 94 percent of sellers prepare their houses for sale by removing clutter, making minor repairs, and painting

• 76 percent of U.S. sellers “depersonalize” their homes for showing

• 59 percent of sellers actually import new decorations or furniture to spiff up the place

Schwarz’s websites include lots of before-and-after shots that illustrate staging techniques that work. Here are her best tips for staging the house you brought back to life:

• Commit to staging the whole property. If you stage just the kitchen, living room, and master bedroom, the rest of the rooms will look unkempt by comparison.

• Because 90% of all househunters start by trawling online listings, look at your house through a camera lens to see what online browsers will see.  Details that you don’t notice—such as a kitchen towel hanging from the oven handle—will become glaring eyesores in photos.

• Take several photos of the exterior of your house from across the street and from the back, facing the rear entry. Buyers make snap judgments from the curb, so start by tidying the landscaping, painting the front door, replacing burned-out entryway lightbulbs, and touching up the porch.

• Walk through your house with a digital camera and take five photos for each room: one from the doorway and then one standing in each corner. Your first priority, says Schwarz, is to stage the view from the doorway; that’s where people decide if the room is worth further exploration or not. Then tidy, declutter, and touch-up from each major angle within the room.

• Have no more than three major pieces of furniture in each room and three small pieces of furniture, such as side tables. “You’re selling a house, not having a garage sale,” says Schwarz.

• Cover strong colors with muted shades in the same family, e.g., bright red dining room walls with a muted brick color. Accessorize with pillows and pictures to bring in pops of color. “You don’t want the whole house to be beige,” says Schwarz.

• Your renovation war stories are now part of the house’s history. Buyers are interested, but only as a backdrop to how they would live in the house. Create a scrapbook of your projects, showing the before-and-afters, and have it available for buyers to review and for the new owner to keep.

For more on staging and resale, consider:

How To: Stage a Home
Fee for All: How to Keep More Equity
Quick Tip: Why Home Staging Pays