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Home Staging - Can You Leave Home Without It?

Originally Posted: April 08, 2011

Cindy Lee Bergersen

  |   3 Comments · Print Article

Being camera ready is a crucial step to selling your home. (iStockphoto.com/M. Eric Honeycutt)

Southampton - What Were You Thinking? Do you remember the rumor that the real estate price bubble burst as painfully as a blister? Have you heard rumblings of "it's a buyer's market?" Do you believe listing your property, as is, with a broker will have it sold quickly? Do you still believe in magic, too?

Buyer's Market or not, it's very competitive out there. You need all the edge you can muster. You can't just put a "For Sale" sign in the front yard and keep your fingers crossed. You need to show your home to best advantage. This is where Home Staging comes to the rescue.

Are You Camera Ready?
Did you know that 84 percent of prospective buyers go on-line to pre-shop for properties before setting out to view them in person? The most beautifully photographed properties are obviously going to be more attractive to everyone. The home that is staged will look best of all.

As far as your prospective buyer is concerned, that first viewing won't be about "getting to know you" but rather "first impressions are everything" and you only have one shot. It has to be "love at first sight" or else.

The same effect is true for home appraisals. Stage it first, and your appraiser will more likely view your home as "better quality" than would have been the case if seen before you "spiffed it up."

What Do You Mean By "Staging"?
The official definition of Real Estate Staging is the process of prepping and showcasing properties for sale. The methodology required is knowledge of the real estate market, appropriate renovation as required and creative design principles to attract a buyer in the most timely and cost effective way. The application, wherever necessary, is to edit, clear out, clean deeply, update and repair. The "Stage" is now ready to be set by arranging furniture, accessories, lighting and art to showcase the rooms to best advantage and illustrate how one might live well in each room.

Staging is not the same as interior design. Though both practices rely on the discipline of the same design principals, the choices are more personalized for the interior design client, while the viewpoint and goal with staging, is to think "beautifully anonymous."

The Pros Know
A professional home stager has "designer vision," and can recognize improvements that could work wonders with little effort, time or money. A professional knows where to shop for small upgrades and also has access to furniture and accessories for lease to stage an empty house if that's your case.

Initial Impressions is a staging company that caters to clients who are looking for an edge in selling their property to discerning buyers. Jay Hart, President and CEO says," It's our belief that people don't simply purchase real estate - they purchase a lifestyle. We pay particular attention to the messages our designs send, both conscious and subconscious, and their influence on buyer decisions."

Does It Work?
According to several studies conducted in 2009 and published on the National Real Estate Staging Association website, homes that are staged are on the market for 78 percent less time than homes that are not, whether they are occupied or vacant. Another interesting study involved tracking the history of 126 vacant and occupied homes that had not be previously staged. They had all been on the market for 263 days on average. Those same homes were then staged and they all sold within an average of 60 days. This is verifiable cost effective effort in action.

Sellers sometimes take a fairly laissez-faire attitude about the length of time their property remains on the market. They feel that eventually the right buyer will materialize one day and offer the current asking price envisioned by the optimistic homeowner. A major consideration however, are the monthly carrying costs of the mortgage plus the utilities for the length of time it takes for the property to sell. Long on-the-market time equals several thousand dollars evaporating from your pocket because of a property you no longer want to keep.

What Is This Going To Cost?
You can work with no budget or any budget, but the bottom line is that you want to do as little as possible to get the best results. Weigh costs against benefits. Repair whatever is broken, upgrade what is old or worn, but the resale value of major renovations such as putting in a swimming pool, is questionable.

Since kitchens and bathrooms are on the top of list of most important rooms, it's worth it to replace counter tops and/or the floors if they are well past their prime. Can the floor tiles be repaired or should they be replaced? Can the carpet be shampooed to bring it up to snuff, or is it beyond salvation and must be replaced? However, don't think in terms of leaving the purchase of a new water heater, for example, to the next owner. You'll be asked to reduce the selling price significantly more to accommodate their purchase. In truth, it will be cheaper for you replace it yourself than give a reduction on price.

No budget to stage an entire house? Address the most important rooms and views. How does your house look from the outside? Is the entryway/foyer inviting? Kitchens and bathrooms are very important to everyone. What do yours look like? The living room and master bedroom are key rooms as well.

Present your home as "good to go." No buyer wants to be faced with necessary repairs and upgrades that have to be done the minute after they move in. Whatever needs repair, do it now.

If your budget isn't large enough for full service staging, a consultation will give you the kind of practical advice you need for details that you might otherwise overlook.

The Bottom Line
Prepare for success. Though there will be some time, money and labor involved whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you have nothing to lose but time and money the longer your house remains on the market. Take charge with Home Staging and take advantage the best marketing tools available.

Guest (Kathy Strader) from Houston, TX says::
Cindy, I hope sellers take the time to read your article. So many believe Staging is a fad or just another way the take a seller's money. I've see it over and over, STAGING WORKS! It truly is an equity investment.
Apr 10, 2011 11:13 am

Donna Dazz...

Donna Dazzo says::
Cindy, great article. Accurate and clear. As a home stager like Jay Hart, and Allegra Dioguardi of Styled and Sold (both of whom I know personally and are excellent stagers), we are constantly trying to get the message out there that home staging works! And it is absolutely necessary. I do staging both in the Hamptons and NYC, but about 99.9% of my business is in the city, because real estate agents and homeowners out here still don't get it. Hopefully your excellent article will make them stop and think about making their homes that are on the market, whether for sale or for rent, more presentable to buyers. Thank you for this article.
Apr 9, 2011 9:56 am

Styled and...

Styled and Sold from Sag Harbor says::
Very nice article. Due to the fact that home staging is an unregulated industry, there is still so much confusion about what it is and how it works...and it DOES work! I have been successfully merchandising Real Estate property for 28 years. I urge anyone thinking about or trying to sell their home to consult with a stager. Think of your home for sale as a product and merchandising it is business. Hire a pro.
Apr 9, 2011 8:59 am


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