What is Staging?

Staging is the art of transforming your home in a way that will attract the majority of buyers.   Depending upon the condition of your property, the staging process may entail no more than cleaning and de-cluttering.  But in some situations it may require painting, re-carpeting, re-arranging, and/or buying new accessories.  Think of your home as a theatre . . . every showing a play.  The object is to turn each room into a stage, allowing buyers to imagine pleasant, enjoyable, intimate times for themselves in those areas.  A good play draws people back again and again, and causes positive word-of-mouth advertising.  A well-staged home has the same effect. 

Why are neutrals so appealing?

Color can be polarizing.  It can stop people dead in their tracks.  When you are selling a home, it needs to appeal to the majority of buyers.  That does not mean your pink or blue or lavender room is not beautiful.  It just means that a buyer will not be attracted to those rooms, and ultimately to your house unless they, too, like the color pink, blue, or lavender.  Your home may actually be perfect for them, but the first time through, they cannot see beyond your color choice.  They find it difficult to envision how the room would look painted in their favorite color.   Neutrals are non-committal.  They allow buyers to focus on the room's positives rather than be sidetracked by an owner's decorating choices.  That doesn't mean you can't have splashes of color.  In fact, you need some color, but it needs to be secondary, not primary.

What makes you qualified?  Did you go to school for this?

You can Google staging and come up with dozens of books and seminars to buy and attend.  Staging has become the "buzz" word.  Very popular.  Very accessible.  We received our training from a successful, certified interior designer, which included book learning as well as actual hands on experience in home makeover and staging for home sales.  It is a learnable trade; however, like any other job, there are those who have an innate bent toward a certain vocation.  An experienced stager is not just someone who can pick a new color for the wall or re-arrange the furniture, but someone who can see beyond the material, hands-on stuff to the emotion that lies beneath.  It's more than arranging two chairs next to each other.  It's all about telling a story of conversation, peaceful moments, and intimacy by accessories and their placement.  A good stager is able to fulfill needs and desires of buyers.  For us, that comes from an artistic bent as well as personal experience in buying, remodeling, and selling.  Most importantly, our years of showing homes to buyers has given us an understanding of the "dreams" each new house evokes.

Can't I just do this myself?

As we stated before, staging is a learnable trade.  However, staging is comprised of making unprejudiced decisions, and that is a difficult task for home owners.  And rightly so.  Your home is your home.  Within the four walls of each room, a multitude of personal experiences reside.  Family dinners, celebrations, reunions, good times, stressful times, times of regeneration.  It is often impossible for a home owner to imagine using a certain room differently than how they have always used it, or that a buyer would even want to use it differently.   Some books and articles tell you to ask a friend or family member to give you their honest opinion of how your house looks.   That may not be the best advice because, like you, they see your home as it has always been, or they will make a decision based on their personal choice of color or window treatment, rather than what the majority of buyers would appreciate.   Stagers have no history in your house.  They can view your house with unbiased eyes.  Their comments may not be pleasant to hear, but they are given as an answer to a quick sale, not as a judgment of your lifestyle.  

What do you look at when you prepare to stage a home?

Practically everything involved in staging falls into three areas.  The first is condition:  if the staircase railing is wobbly, the baseboards are scratched, and the plaster is cracking, it doesn't matter how expensive the window treatments or how posh the furnishings are.  Clutter and cleanliness fall into this category as well.  A home's condition will either encourage or discourage potential buyers.  The next is focus:  it is rare that a property doesn't have a focal point, whether it be the fireplace, the view, the arched doorways, the crown molding, etc.  Once you identify it, you work to emphasize it, whether it be with paint, seating arrangement, or lighting.  And the last is space:   it doesn't make any difference whether a room is small or large.  Space can be manipulated.  Color choices and placement of furniture can make any area inviting, intimate, or entertaining. 

We've moved out, painted the walls and put new carpet in.  Isn't that enough?

If we assume you've painted the walls neutral and put in the perfect shade of carpet, then the major problem is that the house is empty.  Houses are usually bought on emotion, and an empty house evokes no positive emotion.  It's also a general misconception that empty rooms look larger than ones filled with furniture.  The fact is, most people see a vacant room and think they couldn't fit their king-sized bed as well as their dresser in it.  And if the room is obviously spacious, most people can't imagine how their furniture could be arranged in such a large area.  Most houses are bought to be lived in.  Staging them so that buyers can picture life going on in each room is an irreplaceable asset.  It doesn't have to be a lot of furniture, or a lot of accessories.  A few books, a picture or vase in an empty bookcase changes the whole room.  A lit lamp on a table next to a chair with an open magazine inspires a buyer to think "relaxation", "time-for-self".  Another advantage of a furnished house is that there is something to look at besides the crack in the wall, or the old switch plates.  Staging isn't meant to hide a property's problems, only to allow buyers to realize that a comfortable life can be had here while they tackle a few updates. 

Are you saying I have no taste?

Absolutely Not!  Taste is subjective.  What appeals to one person doesn't always appeal to another.  You might prefer heavy drapes on your bedroom windows while someone else likes mini-blinds.  That doesn't mean you are wrong and they are right.  It's a personal thing.  But personal is for living, not for selling.  When it comes to selling, the right choice is any choice that will broaden the scope of buyer appeal.  Keep your unique style of design for when you settle into your next home, but for now, make your choices appeal to the vast majority of people.  If only 1 in 100 buyers share your style or décor, then a lot of folks will be traipsing through your home.  That will only accomplish wearing out the carpet and extending your time on the market. 

Why do I have to take down family portraits?   I'm proud of my family.

The answer is:  Living in a house is completely different than selling a house.  As real estate agents, we take hundreds of buyers through hundreds of houses, and one of the main things that kills the flow of the show is family pictures.  We address this in the story of Mr. & Mrs. Weidemeiser on our staging page.  We have never shown a house filled with family pictures where the buyer just walked by and ignored them.  Instead, every time, they stop, they gape, they pick their brains to figure out who these people are and where they have seen them before.  And once they've figured it out, they have stories to tell.  Each room provides them with new distractions, and unfortunately when they leave the house, faces in frames are remembered more than the home's architectural qualities.   Take them down . . . polish the frames . . . get them ready to put in a prominent place in your new home.

I understand about family pictures, but what about my collections?  All my friends love them.

Unless your friends are going to buy your house, the same is true for collectibles as for family pictures.  Collectibles are very personal.  They set the tone for a house; they speak volumes about the occupants.  Unless the buyer shares your enthusiasm for salt and pepper shakers, dolls, antique kitchen implements, etc., they will look at what brings you pleasure as nothing more than dust collectors and clutter.  The thing you do not want to happen will happen.  The buyer will move on to another house they feel more comfortable in.  If you remove the majority of your collections, leaving shelves, mantles, and tables free; a buyer who is a collector will be able to imagine their treasures there, and the buyer who is not a collector will be pleased with all the available space.   Another very important thing to remember is that we live in a world where not every one is able to resist temptation.   Many of your things may be valuable, and easy to slip in one's pocket.   We say this from personal experience.  At an open house in our home, an irreplaceable family antique was stolen and never recovered.

Is it expensive?

It can be very costly.  Staging can run anywhere from $95 to $150 an hour.  Depending upon the number and size of rooms being staged and the use of accessories and furniture other than the homeowner's, it could cost $500 to $1,000 a room.  Staging is part of Sally & Terry's listing package.  The only time it costs the seller is if painting or remodeling is needed to substantially add value to the house.  In that case, a budget is set and approved by the seller, and the work is overseen by Sally & Terry.

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