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Staging Your Home For Sale - Dressing a House for Success

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By Elizabeth Weintraub, About.com Guide

Home staging is about illusions. It's beyond decorating and cleaning. It's about perfecting the art of creating moods. Staging makes your house look bigger, brighter, cleaner, warmer, more loving and, best of all it makes home buyers want to buy it.

Contrary to what you might think, it's about more than preparing the house for sale. Staging is what you do after you've cleaned, decluttered, painted, made minor repairs; it's all about dressing the house for sale.

It's about adding the small details: the lipstick, mascara and, for simplicity, a stunning, single strand of Tahitian pearls.

 

 

What is a Professional Home Stager?

Professional stagers are highly skilled artists. They can take a blank canvas and paint a sensuous portrait without ever lifting a paint brush. Stagers possess the skills of a top-level designer and they create dramatic scenery that appeals to all five senses. Here are some of their secrets:

  • Arrange sparse pieces of furniture in an appealing grouping known as a vignette
  • Showcase a generous usage of soft fabrics such as silk, lambswool, satin
  • Display unusual knickknacks in units of 1, 3 or 5
  • Drape window coverings with simple lines
  • Add unique elements to shelving, bookcases and fireplace mantels, which draw attention to predetermined areas

 

What Accessories Does a Stager Use?
Stagers bring in a vast array of items to spruce up the house. Here is a small sampling of items professional stagers often use to dress each room. How they are utilized is limited only by the creativity and vision of the stager.

  • Mirrors
  • Plants
  • Silk Flowers
  • Floor & Table Lamps,
  • Area and Throw Rugs
  • Small Love Seats
  • Ottomans
  • Afghans
  • Pillows
  • Inflatable Queen-Size Beds
  • Baskets
  • Plastic Tables & Chairs

 

 

Professional Staging Tricks & Tips

An artist for 35 years, Dawna Johnson, is an Accredited Staging Professional Master (ASP) and owner of Sacramento Staging Solutions. She says the idea behind staging is to allow rooms to show themselves. "If your home is vacant, it's soulless," Dawna warns. "Without staging, it will probably remain on the market for many months." She calls the kitchen the "heart of the home," and offers this practical advice for making that space sparkle:

  • Apply orange oil to cabinets that appear dry, which will renew their original luster
  • Put out large bowls of fruit such as polished apples, bright oranges, luscious grapes
  • Arrange colorful and fun cookbooks on the counters

Dawna believes in bringing the outdoors inside through the use of greenery and plants; in creating clean, crisp spaces and arranging furniture with plenty of room to walk around. She says bathrooms are essential to dress well. "Bathrooms should look open, airy and delightful," says Dawna. One of her favorite tricks is to add baskets filled with spa treatments such as:

  • Towels, tied with ribbons
  • Scented soaps
  • Creamy lotions
  • Moisturizing & Facial jars

The back yard needs staging, too. For patios and decks, Dawna brings in plants and potted flowers, and adds additional color by setting the picnic table with bright, plastic dinner plates.

 

 

The importance of curb appeal.

Barb Schwarz, the CEO of StagedHomes.com, was a pioneer in home staging back in the early 1970s and has used the techniques to sell properties ever since. The goal [of home staging] is for the buyer to mentally move in," Schwarz says. "If they cannot mentally feel and see themselves living here, you've lost them." Schwarz offers six simple tips to help home sellers better position themselves in a sluggish market.

Get them inside. The first thing a prospective buyer notices about a home is not the living room but the front yard. "A lot of people think staging is the inside only," Schwarz says. "[But] we've got to stage the outside to get them inside."   We need them to say "Honey, stop the car!". So cut the grass, trim the hedges, rake those leaves, sweep the sidewalks, and power-wash the driveway. And make sure you don't have too many potted plants scattered around the property. "Nothing dead," Schwarz says. "You'd be amazed how many people have dead plants in their yards."  Actually drive by your home and take a hard look at what people see when they drive by for the first time.

Pretend you're camping. Schwarz says a cluttered room will appear too small to buyers. "Clutter eats equity," she says. Schwarz tells homeowners to go through each room of the house and divide their belongings into two piles: "keep" and "give up." Items in the "keep" pile will be used to stage the room, while those in the "give up" pile should be stored elsewhere. "Pretend you are camping," she says. "When you go camping, you are not taking all those books, right?" The decluttered rooms may appear bare to the seller, but the buyer won't think so. "We are not selling your things.... We are selling the space," Schwarz says. "And buyers cannot visualize when there is too much [stuff] in the room." Decluttering a home's outdoor spaces is important, too, she says.

Balance hard and soft surfaces. When staging a particular room, it's essential to have a good balance of hard surfaces, such as a coffee-table top, and soft surfaces, like a carpet, Schwarz says. For example, a room with a cushy, 7-foot-long sofa, a love seat, and four La-Z-Boy recliners has too many soft surfaces and not enough hard surfaces. "The room is sinking," she says. "It's all too heavy." Instead, consider getting rid of the La-Z-Boys and the love seat, replacing them with two wingback chairs. "If you have hardwood floors but no rugs, it's too hard," Schwarz says. "So you want to add a rug."

Work in ones or threes. Schwarz recommends arranging items on top of hard surfaces in ones or threes.You would place three items—say, a lamp, a plant, and a book—on top of a larger hard surface, like an end table. "You take away the plant and the book, it's too bare," she says. "[But if] you put 10 things on it, it's overdone." The three items should be closely grouped together in a triangle shape. "I draw a triangle for my clients," Schwarz says. "I say, 'Here is the end table—let's superimpose a triangle on top of it.' " For hard surfaces with less area, however, a single item will do.

Decide from the doorway. Since would-be buyers will get their first impression of each room from the doorway, homeowners should use that perspective to judge their staging work. "Do your work, go back to the doorway. Do some more, go back to the doorway," Schwarz says. That way, you'll be better able to ensure that each room appeals to buyers.

Make your place "Q-Tip clean." A properly staged home should be immaculate—"Q-Tip clean," as Schwarz puts it. "I mean Q-Tips getting dead flies out of your windowsill [and] going around the bottom of your toilet on the floor," she says. The purpose of ensuring the house is spotless is more than simply making it presentable. If a home is unkempt, a buyer will wonder what other, less visible problems may come with the property, Schwarz says. "They'll say, 'Gosh, if they live like this, what don't they take care of that I can't see?'"

Sound daunting? Take it one room at a time. It's worth it! It will make a huge difference in the appeal of your home.

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