How to Set the Stage for Results and See Them – FAST!

Home staging is the act of preparing a residence for sale in the real estate marketplace. The goal of staging is to make a home appealing to the highest number of potential buyers, thereby selling a property more swiftly and for more money.

According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400, and a staged home will sell for 17% more on average than a non-staged home. 95% of staged homes sell in 11 days or less. That is statistically 87% faster than non-staged homes. 

“The key is to create a blank canvas for potential buyers
 to imagine themselves living there.” 

advises home stager, Leslie Story, a thirty-year real estate veteran and a McGraw REALTORS agent of four years.

Get the Edge on Your Competitors 

Leslie explains, “If there are two identical homes for sale on the same street, one staged and one not, the staged one will have the edge. It will likely have more showings which can result in a faster sale.”

When to Hire a Stager

The best time to hire a home stager is prior to listing your property. 
Waiting until your property has been lagging on the market is usually too late. Most real estate agents will suggest bringing in a stager anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months before they list your home, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. Buyers decide whether they like the home or not in the first few minutes after entering. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so don’t be the seller who skipped out on staging, especially if there are several houses on the market in your area. 

Let the Stager Do the Hard Stuff 

“What do I need to do to get ready for the stager?” NOTHING!
Your agent will suggest updates that need to be done prior to listing such as painting, cleaning or replacing carpet or flooring, lighting and fixtures. That is when the decision should be made whether to bring in a professional stager. “Being an interior designer, I can oversee all updates, choosing neutral paint colors, appropriate carpets and amenities,” Leslie says. She works with your agent, contracting painters, carpet installers or cleaners, electricians and plumbers. She will also do a room-by-room walk-through, creating a checklist for you of what needs to be done prior to listing. 

Can You Be Objective?

Let’s face it, we all love our stuff…but it is important to be able to see the “bones” of the house. Homeowners often have too many memories and attachments to belongings that can cloud seeing the whole picture. A home stager is a fresh pair of eyes with no emotional ties to the house or its contents. Leslie states, “The homeowner should remove all photos and other personal items. I suggest that when they are ready to list they take a picture of each room. Look at the picture and if you can see your stuff, then you still need to get rid of more.” Sometimes there needs to be a tough conversation and Leslie may have to say, “We need to take you out of the equation.” She explains that the goal is to try to keep lookers from starting a checklist of what they will need to do, for as long as possible. 

Start Packing NOW!

Leslie calls her process “editing” and says, “I try to work using the homeowner’s furniture. We may thin it out; we may edit a room – putting some in storage or moving a piece to another room. I tell them, ‘You are moving anyway, so start the packing process now.’”  Leslie believes there is no time like the present to begin the editing process. Some homeowners rent a storage space, some use their garage for storage.
A few days before the listing photos are to be made Leslie may bring in accessories and artwork if she feels it is necessary, providing an inventory list for insurance purposes. 

Which Rooms Should You Stage?

In a 2-story home, focus on the first floor. The most important rooms are the rooms that you see when you walk in the front door. The rule-of-thumb is to stage the living room, kitchen, bathrooms and the master bedroom. Leslie will bring in bright shower curtains for the bathrooms because they photograph well. “The photos are what gets people into the house. I add plants and colorful towels in bathrooms – an easy way to add life to a sometimes less-exciting space.” In the kitchen Leslie will edit what is on the countertops, allowing potential buyers to see the space available. “I bring in fruit and greenery to add color for the photos and showings. I remove all throw rugs, but I add a cute doormat outside the front door, something happy and cheerful.” Leslie says, “I often add plants beside the front door. It needs to be welcoming since this is the first impression of the home.”

Remove 50% From Closets

Go through your closets. Donate what you can and remove most of the rest. Bookcases and glass-front display cabinets should show negative space. If they are jam-packed it will give the impression that the house doesn’t have enough storage space.

Pets in the home

Pets need to leave the home temporarily during showings or at least be contained. Also, consideration needs to be given to lookers with pet allergies. An ozone machine may be brought in to neutralize the air. Leslie will remove all dog toys, beds, pictures, books – anything that suggests “a pet lives here.” Possible buyers need to create their own ideas about integrating a pet or having no pet at all. 

Don’t Stop at the Door!

Your stager may bring in a landscaper. They may suggest removing or cutting back shrubbery so that the house is more visible or bring in new plants to freshen up curb appeal. On the patio, they may put in some potted flowers and nice patio furniture. Many times, the existing patio furniture needs to be thinned out.

Not Just for Million Dollar Homes Anymore

Leslie started staging homes in LA about 12 years ago when it was just becoming popular in million-dollar homes. “When I first moved to OK no one staged their homes. Four or five years ago it started here, but mostly in the bigger homes. About three years ago it became popular with all price points.” 

Why Stage a Small Home?

In a bungalow or smaller home, you need to show that furniture will fit. People have a hard time visualizing how to use a small space. You need to show that a sofa will fit in a small living room. If there is an unidentified room you need to define that room. A formal dining room might be shown as a multi-purpose room. All rooms need to be given a suggested purpose. A professional stager knows exactly how to best display your small rooms.

Good Advice 

Go to open houses in your neighborhood to see how they are prepared. Listen to what your agent tells you because they see all the listings. In this competitive market more homes than not are staged. If you want to do the staging yourself, at least get a staging consult from a professional stager. Leslie says, “Not doing anything, is NOT the way to sell your house. Remember that the final goal is to sell your home and sell it quickly. It has been your home and served you well, but now it will be someone else’s home.” 

By Rosie Gorrell

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