You’ve decided to sell, hired a realtor, settled on list price, and now your realtor says “let’s call in a professional stager!” Immediately your blood pressure spikes! Selling can be stressful enough; who needs or wants a professional decorator coming in and critiquing your design style, judging you on the number of kids’ trophies you have displayed, turning up a nose at your overstuffed closets, and suggesting you pay an exorbitant amount of money on stuff you will never need again that only looks good in a house you are trying to ditch, right?
WRONG! The truth is a good stager can be your best friend and actually make your life easier as you prepare to sell. A good stager can help clients make livable choices that will get the most bang for their buck. For example, gorgeous ceramic candlesticks may look beautiful staged on a coffee table sitting on a hardwood floor. But if three children under 10 and two huge dogs live in the home while it is on the market, this will not be a practical staging decision unless you are looking for an excuse to rid yourself of the candlesticks.
So how can you get the most out of your 1-2 hour visit with the stager, make your home show like a model while still living there, and not have to double up on Xanax to live through it?
Here are five steps you should take BEFORE your visit with the stager. (Insert panic because the stager comes tomorrow … relax, if you can at least think through these things in each room, you and your “new best friend” can have a much more productive visit.) He/she will outline steps you should take AFTER. With the initial prep work out of the way, those steps will help you focus on how to update each space so it stands out in photos to draw buyers in, improve overall room flow, use furniture and décor to optimize focus on the architectural elements of your home, and create emotional connection points that speak to a buyer’s heart instead of just their checkbooks.
STEP 1 – Mentally divorce yourself from your home. Realize someone else is going to live there so when buyers walk through the door, instead of seeing immediate evidence of where you went to college, how happy you all looked at Disney World, and that your daughter’s favorite color is obviously pink, let them see potential. THEIR family’s potential. That means neutralizing your entire home by removing all the personal … photos, trophies, monograms, religious symbols, hunting trophy mounts, political references, and anything that tells your story. Go ahead and pack this up. Having this out of the way will save you and your stager a step. The two of you can then work together to fine-tune your efforts to the best possible presentation.
STEP 2 – While you are packing the personal, do some additional decluterring. The majority of us could stand to remove about 50% of what we have shoved on shelves, crammed in the corners on the floor of the closet, and spilling out of the laundry room. (If you are in the small percentage of people reading this who are successful at keeping these areas neat and clean, my hat’s off to you. You and I should probably talk. I may “have a friend” who needs a little help!)
STEP 3 – Focus on the floor level and use the grapefruit rule when working to declutter and decorate. In closets, buyers want to see that your home has ample storage. One way to give this impression is to clear off the floor level and the top shelves so viewers can see all the way to the back walls. This gives the allusion of LOTS of extra space, a must-have on most buyers’ lists. The “grapefruit rule” will help you when cleaning off bookcases and visible shelving. If something is smaller than a grapefruit, it will just increase “visual clutter” in a photograph. So add those small collections and extra pieces on shelves to your packing list. Leave just 1-3 larger things per display shelf. (This is not necessary for closet shelves so don’t freak out about how you can only live with three pairs of shoes instead of the 25 currently stacked precariously.)
STEP 4 – Rent a storage unit. You have plenty you can put in there … extra furniture, boxes of kids’ schoolwork, winter clothes (do you even really need those in Texas?!), the treadmill (do you honestly use it every day?!) … basically all the stuff you cleaned out in steps 1-3. Your stager will also let you know if there are furniture pieces, rugs, extra chairs, or other larger items in your home you should consider storing.
STEP 5 – Repair and refresh. If you have a toilet seat that is broken, a hole in the sheetrock from your door knob, scuffed paint, missing or broken tile, etc., etc., etc., get all of those things repaired! Your stager is going to tell you to anyway. Left undone, those are definitely things a buyer will notice. Their very next thought will be “well if this homeowner didn’t take better care of the xxxx, what else did he/she neglect?” That mentality will not be your friend when it comes to negotiating your best possible price. Refresh by focusing on the front door – a coat of paint will help it pop and make buyers excited to come in and see what lies ahead – and the front patio (fresh flowers, no empty pots, get rid of cobwebs in light fixtures, etc.). Also look at landscaping that would improve the look of your front yard and have your windows, home interior, and carpets professionally cleaned so they all sparkle.
In short go watch some HGTV and do your best to “stage” it yourself before the professional ever comes through the front door. You know a lot more than you think you do in terms of what will make your home sell. After all, you fell in love with it! If you can incorporate all you know first, then when your professional stager gets there, they can leave you with a list of special touches that won’t break the bank but will help you earn top dollar and help your home really stand out against competition.
If you are looking for a certified home-staging professional to help you through the process, give us a call. Again, “I have a friend!”
Happy home staging!