Staging in Today’s Real Estate Market

south shore realtor alice pierce
No room to dream about buying a new house

What is staging?

Staging your home in the real estate market is more specifically called “Home Staging.” In Great Britain they call it “property presentation,” or “property styling, and in Sweden the term is “homestyling.” It is serious business these days, and even commands the need for an International Association of Home Staging Professionals which has 66 chapters throughout the United States. Home stagers sometimes call themselves “Decorologists,” a word that defines the merging of space planning and the psychological needs of potential home buyers.

Home staging is preparing a residential house, inside and out, to be listed for sale on the real estate market. The idea is to give your house a wider appeal by neutralizing it so that more buyers will take notice resulting in a higher sale price and a faster deal. Think of it in part like detailing your vehicle before you sell it.

The depersonalization of living space cuts right to cloud watching; we can imagine more with less information. And when you are a home owner wanting to sell your house, you want the buyer to start dreaming their own dreams sooner rather than later. If a buyer feels unconsciously intrusive while in a stranger’s private space, the dreaming shuts down immediately. This is precisely why model homes in developing condominium communities were built decades ago; so that potential buyers felt free to imagine themselves living there.

Staging is a verb you hear a lot more frequently these days, and this is because it is an accepted part of the home selling process. Maybe you have noticed large trucks sporting the logo of a staging business. That is because it is not unusual to have your furniture swapped out for simpler styles, if you engage the services of a home stager.

It wasn’t that many years ago when we staged our own homes when we were listing them with a realtor to sell. Things like making sure the grass was cut, stashing the kid’s dirty sneakers, and getting those dirty dishes out of the sink seemed like common sense to some. It seemed that a tidy house got more positive real estate agent buzz, and therefore more showings.

There was also a time when repainting a home’s interior was left for the next buyer, unless the walls and paint were in bad shape. The common wisdom at that time was to let the buyer pick the colors they wanted in their new home instead of choosing for them.

In the late 2000’s there was a huge increase in home storage units that sat in the driveway. These portable pods signaled the beginning of the home staging process. When the real estate market became more competitive, the tasks of tidying were in the spotlight for one reason; sales. Sellers were looking for any advantage they could find to make the home selling process a bit easier, or faster. Belongings were carted out to these pods, within easy enough reach, but out of the prospective buyers view.

This opened up the home space more quickly and sellers felt that their belongings had a rightful place close by. Most moving container services these days have tips on home staging and encourage prospective customers to make the “wise move” by home staging. As consumers, we might be too easily convinced by the cheery philosophies bolstering the home staging movement.

Some say that staged homes sell faster, on average 70% faster, than house listed without staging. The wisdom is to keep in mind that many of those providing the statistics are likely to be professional home stagers. A professional home stager can make a six figure income running their services and the costs to home sellers range from several hundred to thousands of dollars.

Can I do my own home staging?

The good news is that you can do certain tried and true home staging procedures yourself. You can also apply the patchwork approach and hire people to tackle certain areas like the bathrooms and kitchen. Some home stagers will come to your home as your consultant for a fee. For many people, hiring a professional home stager conquers not only the work involved, but the psychological hurdles of looking at your home with absolute detachment.

The best way to get home staging started without a a good deal of disruption is to enhance certain small things in your home that you would not ordinarily see, and to clean like a super sleuth. For those who might take this personally, take heart and remember that this is about marketing a large product for sale.

Start in your bathrooms and kitchen and take an honest, craning, knee bending look around your faucets, toilet bowls and light switches. If you can remove the accumulated grime, you are one step into the home staging process.

Continuing on a similar path, look into the corners of your ceilings, near your baseboards and under that kitchen counter overhang on the floor for any cobwebs, built up pet hair or lint balls.

Take an honest look at your living space. Really try to notice the clutter that has become part of your background and remove it. A good rule is to take things away that are smaller than a shoebox. As for your books, take at least half of them away. Clearing space on shelves gives the illusion of space.

Notice what you have hanging vertically and determine if your beautiful clutter adorns your walls. When you take things down, be sure to patch the holes, and yes, repaint the spot once dry. Personal things like family portraits should also come off those walls so that people can project their own lives into your space.

Make a visual inventory of house plants and see about mushing them into one corner after removing the dust from all their shiny green leaves. Otherwise, consider a plant sitter for the time being.

What is going on in the bedroom? Many sleeping areas are stuffed with furniture, exercise equipment and bracelet hangers. The goal here is to open the room up and make it as breathable as possible. Experiment by removing most of the furnishings from one room and add things one at a time.

Try your best to think like a buyer who will be imagining all of his or her things in your house, room by room. It is very hard to do this if there is little free space to work with.

Outside home staging

If you don’t own a pressure washer, rent one and take to your driveway to clean out small accumulations of road grit. Get yourself a battery charged blower for quick walkway detailing before showings. They work great but battery life is only about 20 minutes.

If you have bald spots in your otherwise lush, spongy lawn, make your life easier and patch it with some sod. A thin layer of new mulch or turning over the old mulch in flower beds and landscaped areas will give your yard a fresh look, as will some healthy, flowering potted plants near your front entrance. Make your plantings neat by giving them a trim, and clean off the grime from the outside of your first floor windows and doors.

Should I paint the house interior before listing it for sale?

The repainting of your home’s interior is a larger prospect than cleaning or removing furniture. If your walls are a neutral tone, and are not stained or smudged, just wipe away any small fingerprints and leave it at that. Otherwise, hope that you saved the color formula for some new paint and give it just one coat. For those of you with more enthusiastic taste in wall color, you are in for the whole treatment; prime and two to three coats of paint. Neutral colors also add the illusion of space.

As for trim, it is almost always chewed up just from everyday living. If sanding is required, and this is not something you feel comfortable doing yourself, then it is time to hire a professional. Always opt for semi-gloss or high gloss trim paint to make the rooms sparkle.

Right before showings, rather than using scented items which many people find irritating, let your clean home be the scent. You can even mix a small amount of Murphy’s Oil Soap with some water to a small spray bottle. Give your sink drains a few sprays before showings. Most people find that the natural and gentle smell is not overpowering.

These are just a few ideas on home staging for listing your home for sale with your real estate agent. Look for future posts that will include home staging details, or deep home staging, and useful checklists.


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