Davis Sellers: Staging Works
Spend 1-3% of your asking price on staging, reap 8-10% more in net proceeds
One crucial bit of advice I offer when helping my clients to prepare their home for market is to spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on "curb appeal", beautifying the front exterior and front landscaping. If a potential buyer drives by your property unimpressed with the presentation, or views a less-than-desirable front exterior online, then based on your offer price, why would they want to schedule an appointment with their agent to tour the interior?
Interior staging is a boon, as well, with impressive financial rewards. At minimum, I help stage the kitchen, dining area, and bathrooms. For a vacant property in the Davis area, we can select from a number of experienced, professional stagers, or for less cost, we can contract directly with CORT furniture in Sacramento to rent full sets of furniture, room by room. Even in today's slower market many agents fail to stage vacant properties, much to the detriment of their sellers.
The following helpful suggestions appeared in a recent MSN article:
Staging takes some effort and some money — but it works. According to a study of 2,772 properties sold in eight California cities in 1999 that was done by real-estate broker Joy Valentine, staged homes remained on the market less than half the time that unstaged homes did — about 14 days versus 31 days. The average difference in sale price over list price for staged homes was 6.3%, versus 1.6% for unstaged homes. You stand to gain $9,000 on a $200,000 house, Dana and co-author Marcia Layton Turner point out in their book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Staging your Home to Sell.”
This mantra also applies to furniture. A good rule of thumb is that a staged living room should have half of its furniture removed, to give a better sense of spaciousness and movement, says Van Cott Speight. What to do with it? You’re moving, so pull a storage pod into the driveway and pack it up.
And when you do rearrange, make sure you highlight the focal point of the room, such as arranging chairs around a fireplace in an inviting, approachable scene, experts say.
Streamline the kitchen counters, too, says Sally Ann Possidente-Ruiz, a real-estate agent and staging professional who works mostly in New York’s Westchester and Putnam counties. “I’ll give you a coffeepot. But put away the toaster and the toaster oven. You don’t need it. You want sleek, clean lines. And you want them to say, ‘Wow, look at the counter space.’ ”
2. Be a neat freak. This may go without saying, but the only thing as important as decluttering is having an immaculate house. That means steam-cleaning the carpets. Walls should be painted if needed. Pressure-washing outdoor decks and aluminum siding can do wonders for a home’s first impression and boost a home’s value, Dana says. One place homeowners can never clean enough is the bathroom, stagers say. Toss out that bath mat; it’s probably a wreck. Declutter it ruthlessly, add a few candles, and hide all but one or two of the shampoo bottles, says Possidente-Ruiz.
3. Hide the sword collection. Another name sometimes used for staging is “blanding,” and there’s a reason for it: Now’s the time to sell your space, not your personal tastes, because you never know what may turn off would-be buyers. “It’s got to appeal to everyone,” says Peggy Selinger-Eaton, one of the founders of professional staging and author of “Staging your Home for Profit,” as well as founder the Web site “Peggy’s Corner.”
Remove family photos and religious items. Possidente-Ruiz remembers one Jewish home buyer who visited a condo and came away with little impression except of the crucifixes and pictures of the owner’s First Communion that were inside. He bought a condo in the same complex that needed more work, she says.
Van Cott Speight recalls a different challenge with a house: “They had themed bedrooms – one room was all clowns, another was superheroes.” Were there kids? “Actually, there weren’t,” she says. That superhero-themed room was the master bedroom. She helped them pack up all that and repainted the master bedroom with “grown-up” colors to appeal to a broader audience. “In order to appeal to a broad audience, you’ve got to take that away, or it will not sell,” she says.
4. Search and destroy odors. A popular saying coined by Schwarz of StagedHomes.com is, “If you can smell it, we can’t sell it.” A house that smells odd to a prospective homeowner — whether because of a cat’s litter box, or dogs, or exotic food — can easily be a deal breaker. Ask someone you trust to give you an honest answer whether your home has a distinct odor. Then tackle the problem, by steam-cleaning the carpets and furniture, moving litter boxes elsewhere, scrubbing the kitchen, etc. Finally, don’t try to mask anything with potpourri, or by baking cookies. Just open windows a few minutes before a showing to let in fresh air.
5. Spend the money where it matters: out front. Use your time and money wisely. Studies show that the front porch is where prospective home buyers spend the most time, as they wait for the door to be unlocked. “A lot of times I’ll suggest painting the front door,” says Selinger-Eaton. She also often suggests replacing the brass light fixtures on the front porch if they’re too badly tarnished, or at least painting them. “Right now I’m doing a lot of black,” she says. Certified master stager Barie Pinnell, president of WRE Interiors in Dallas, recommends placing planters on each side of the door, as well, with flowers in vibrant colors that excite the eye. (She often recommends fuchsia and white.)
And to make sure all this work isn’t for naught, be sure your real-estate agent’s lockbox is on your front door. Some agents will put it on a side door or back door. But your front door and entryway usually make the best impression. Make home buyers experience your house the way you want them to.
Once inside, the foyer or entryway — if you have one — is where people will linger the longest in the house, say the pros. “Wow them now!” writes Dana. Make sure the paint is a creamy neutral and fresh, and the flooring looks great. All you need for décor is a thin table, a lamp, a vase of fresh flowers. “If you have a limited budget and can only afford to replace the entryway flooring or the guest bedroom carpeting, choose the foyer. It is the first impression,” write Dana and Turner.
6. Use fresh flowers. Throughout the house. Always fresh. Only fresh.
7. Make it current. As much as possible, you want your home to give off a feeling of being up-to-date, trendy even — regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve bought furniture. But how do you do that? Sometimes professional stagers bring in rented furniture and lamps to impart a better vibe; the staging of multimillion-dollar homes can even involve bringing in “rental” artwork from museums. You can get some of the same effect, though, just by paring down your belongings and looking at what’s current these days.
Pick up magazines such as Domino, InStyle and Better Homes and Gardens to get ideas, advise Dana and Turner. Then pick and choose your furniture, and camouflage accordingly, if necessary. For example, what’s in today is a more streamlined, clean look; the so-called “lumpy/bumpy” look is out. What to do with that puffy loveseat? Toss a slipcover over it to give it a sleeker appearance. Got a particularly ugly couch? A few big, well-placed cushions from Target can distract the eye and hide it in a pinch, says Selinger-Eaton.
9. Think vignettes. Vignettes are groupings of accessories, usually in threes. “It could be three pieces of art on the wall; it also could be candlesticks, something tall, medium and short,” says Pinnell. “It’s about shapes and color,” she says of the vignettes, which help draw the visitor through the room and make the room visually interesting. “I call them eye candy.”
10. Lighten up. “You want as much light to come in as possible,” says Possidente-Ruiz. Remove unneeded blinds. “If there’s drapery, I try to make it as sheer as possible, or pull it to the side,” she says. “You want people to come in and say, ‘I could live here. It’s nice and bright.’ “
Should you hire a pro – and how much should you spend?
Now that you know some of the work and thought that goes into staging, perhaps you’re considering hiring a professional stager instead. Professionals can offer a variety of levels of service, from consultations to full-service stagings in which contractors are arranged to make home repairs and rental furniture is brought in.
There’s no industrywide accreditation process. However, several organizations — including the International Association of Home Staging Professionals and the Interior Arrangement and Design Association — offer staging certifications.
Costs can vary depending on services and the part of the country. Buffalo-based Dana charges $130 for a walk-through consultation on a house. For hands-on work thereafter, she charges $69 per hour. To rent furniture and accessories that she provides costs roughly $700 per month per house. Dallas-based Pinnell, who will visit a home, take photos, then return with a 35- to 55-page report, charges $350 to $550 for that consultation. Staging is extra. To stage an empty home, Pinnell usually charges 1% to 1.5% of the list price, including three months of furniture and accessories rental.
A general rule of thumb: According to the National Association of Realtors, the best return on a homeowner’s investment for staging is when between 1% and 3% of the home’s asking price is spent on staging, which typically gets a return of 8% to 10%.
When you select me as your real estate agent to help you sell your home, I provide you with a free staging consultation by Cozy Chic Design & Home Staging, far and away, the area's most expert stagers.
So, call Joe and start your decluttering. And be ruthless.