Don’t Be a Staging Stooge

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Products sell faster and for more money when they are properly showcased, or as those of us in the real estate business like to call it, “staged.”

Auto dealers wax and polish a car and detail the interior before parking it on the lot. Department stores meticulously dress their manikins to flaunt the latest fashions. Yet, when some Realtors and homeowners put a $100K+ home up for sale, they completely overlook the staging process, cheating themselves out of potentially thousands of dollars.

As a Realtor, you can’t force your way into your client’s house and start rearranging the furniture and decluttering the kitchen. You have to sell them on the value of staging and then teach them the techniques and tips they need to do it right.

First, convince your clients of the need to stage their home. A brief visit to any of the top staging company websites can provide you with the facts and figures you need. In about ten minutes of searching the Web for “staging a home,” I learned that a professionally staged home sells in half the time for seven to ten percent more than a comparable unstaged home.

Given those numbers, a home that would normally take two months to sell at a price of $500,000 would sell in a month for $535,000 to $550,000 with professional staging! With the housing bubble quickly deflating and competition to sell homes heating up, those numbers are enough to drag even the most unenthusiastic homeowners out of their recliners to start cleaning house.

Once you have a motivated homeowner on your team, the next step is to educate that homeowner on how to properly stage the property. Hiring a professional stager is one option, but most homeowners are quite capable of staging their own homes for a fraction of the cost. Staging is not about spending a lot of money. It’s about clearing the clutter and creatively rearranging the stage. Here’s a guide to help homeowners cover the basics:

Landscaping: Mow and edge the lawn, pull weeds, fix any cracks in the pavement, and sweep up after yourself. Lay fresh mulch and plant fresh flowers (if in season).

Entryways: Sweep the porch and stairs, lay down an attractive new doormat, fix the screens, wash the windows, polish the doorknobs, and clear the clutter out of the entryways. Make sure the doors open and close with ease.

Interior: Scrub and shine the house throughout. Hide family photos, religious icons, or political paraphernalia. Prospective buyers need to envision themselves living in the house, and this stuff clutters their minds.

Kitchen: Clean and polish everything and clear off the counters, especially knife racks, dish drainers, towels, and soap. Clear out and clean the inside of the refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher; people do look inside.

Living room or den: Clear the clutter and dust everything. Rearrange the furniture and place excess items in storage. If your furniture is an eye sore, you may want to rent something that’s more attractive and tasteful and that makes the room look larger.

Bathrooms: Empty the trash, scrub down the tub or shower (especially any mildewy areas), keep the toilet seat down and covered, and get those toothbrushes off the vanity.

Bedrooms: The master bedroom should have a good-sized bed and a small dresser. The other bedrooms should follow suit or be empty.

Just before showing: Do a final walkthrough to tidy up the place, turn on all the lights, and open the windows to let the fresh air in. Most stagers recommend against using heavy air fresheners, scented candles, and potpourri. Instead, set out a bouquet of fresh cut flowers to bring the outside in.

The best way to get a first-hand look at a properly staged home is to visit a builder’s model home. You will quickly notice that the model is impeccably clean, sparsely furnished (though not completely empty), and tastefully decorated. That’s your goal. With a modest investment of time and effort and very little money, you significantly boost your chances of selling the house fast and for top dollar. Don’t be a staging stooge.

Written by Ralph Roberts

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