January 2014 Article

Simple Staging for Quicker Sales

Some people have a natural talent for staging a home for sale, but staging expert Ruth Tice says it is a skill you can learn. She offers the following suggestions for spotting little opportunities that can enhance the big picture.
Trust your instincts
As a real estate professional, you have developed valuable insights to share with your sellers. Those insights come to light at times when you walk into a particular home or see a certain MLS photo, and know it will make your buyer swoon. Even lower price range homes can stand out, not just because they are clean and in good repair, but because they somehow create a feeling of harmony and comfort.
What makes this room inviting?
Notice the elements in well-prepared homes, and apply them to your current listings. An effective touch might be as simple as a vase of flowers on a dining room table, or a basket of fruit on a kitchen counter. You can do some research by looking at home improvement or decorating magazines for ideas, and noting details that catch your attention.
In most cases, of course, your staging results will not look like magazine photos because you’ll have to work with furnishings the seller has available. But using sound design principles can often help you suggest rearrangements of existing furnishings to make the home appear much more attractive than it currently does. When that happens, you will be helping your client achieve their goal of selling in the shortest amount of time, for the most amount of money.
Where should you start?
Don’t hit the seller with too many ideas at once. It’s best to recommend staging tasks one at a time and see how far the seller is willing to cooperate. Ask your sellers at the outset whether they are willing to consider staging ideas in order to increase the marketability of their home. If their answer is an unequivocal no, then there’s no need to pursue staging ideas. But if the answer is yes, explore how far the seller is willing to go in terms of their own effort and cost. You can then customize your suggestions accordingly.
Here are some staging starting points, in order of priority: 
  • Begin with cleaning and maintenance. This includes repairs such as leaky faucets, cracked windows, torn screens, and so on. These are the basics of preparing the home for sale.
  • Next, de-clutter and de-personalize. Ask the sellers if they would be willing to remove some of the excess furniture and personal items from an over-crowded room, or if they would re-arrange pieces, moving them from one room into another for a better distribution and traffic flow.
  • Touch up interior and exterior paint, or re-paint with neutral colors if the color is too bold, and remove dated or worn wallpaper.
  • Shop for a few new accessories such as candles, art, or replacement shower curtains or towels. (Decide on a budget ahead of time with the sellers.)
  • Replace window coverings and bedding, if those items are dated.
  • Replace outdated or tarnished light fixtures.
  • Polish, or even refinish, hardwood flooring. Clean carpeting, or cover worn flooring with a new surface material.
Knowing when to get help
If the staging project seems too much for your skills, the seller might be better off with a professional stager. Ask your colleagues for references, and find out what various stagers charge, and what their fee includes. If your sellers are willing to pay for professional staging, you can help them by being a good matchmaker.

By Jim Luger, CDEI
Certified Distance Education Instructor
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