Recently, my partner Alana and I were asked to do a consultation for a gentleman with an investment property he wanted to sell. When we arrived at the home, it was obvious from the curb that the house needed a lot of work. After going through the home, our opinion was even further re-enforced by the obvious water damage, broken or missing cabinets in the kitchen, scarred and stained flooring … and much more. The seller didn’t want to invest money in fixing up the home, he wanted us to hide all the problems and sell the property in its current condition. This sparked the conversation about what home staging is – and what it’s not – in terms of getting a house ready for sale.
Home staging is a process of preparing a home for sale. That is the basic definition however staging itself is a multi-layered process. A professional home stager, when going through a property, is going to address all the cosmetic and esthetic elements of a home as the overall goal is to make the home inviting, well laid out and neutral for buyers to imprint themselves on. As staging designers we address color, room function, furniture layout, de-cluttering, accessorizing and merchandising, curb appeal and the overall design of a home. As we cover so many categories, the costs can incorporate more than just a simple staging fee as there is a lot that goes into getting a home ready for the market.
Home staging is not meant to disguise obvious structural flaws or mislead buyers about the condition of the home. We cannot in good conscience as professional designers, hide issues which would cost a buyer thousands of dollars to fix once they had bought the property. It’s just not ethical. Rooms in Bloom’s contracts specifically state that our staging services cover only a home’s esthetics and we always recommend fixing the problems before the house goes on the market – it might be money out of pocket but those kinds of repairs instill buyer confidence and often make the difference in what kind of offer – if any – a home gets.
Home staging is a powerful tool which has been proven to make homes memorable, sell faster and for high price points – regardless of the market. In a slow market, staging is invaluable when it comes to getting homes sold. In a hot market, staging makes sellers unbelievably happy as it often results in multiple offers for significantly over the asking price.
Here are some of the top home staging misconceptions which we come across on a regular basis:
1. Staging is expensive
As you read above, this an argument we hear often about home staging. However, to be clear, as there are many facets to getting a house ready for sale, the costs can range from $199 for a consultation up to a few thousand dollars for some painting and furniture/accessory rentals. Consider this – when you are shopping for an expensive item if you are making comparisons between shops, it’s very likely that you’re going to choose the one which is in good condition, has an appealing appearance and fits with the vision you have for it – in fact most people upon finding such a treasure rarely haggle over its price. The same can be said about buying homes. Buyers who view a staged home will remember it longer, go back for more visits and be more inclined to pay the asking price because they feel the home’s appearance justifies the asking price. So, by making a small investment in your home you ensure that buyers will be romanced by your property and will do everything they can to purchase it.
4. My home draws compliments all the time so it doesn’t require staging
Unless your friends and family are buying your home, you still need to ensure your home appeals to all the buyers walking through it. Personalized décor schemes with wallpaper, border, specialized paint finishes are tough sells for buyers. Not everyone appreciates these décor styles and buyers label these types of homes as “needing work”. Buyers are looking for homes with neutral décor styles they can live with for a few years before they have to think of doing any kind of re-decorating. By keeping the home strictly to your tastes, you risk losing many of your buyers and tuck yourself into the category of waiting for the perfect buyer. Rooms in Bloom’s designers consistently tell sellers that how they live in their home is radically different from how they sell it.
5. The house down the road sold without staging
That is wonderful however those sellers have missed out on knowing if their home could have sold faster and for more money. Staging makes houses stand out from the competition and generates more viewings, more offers and a higher selling point.
6. If I’m happy with it, someone else will be as well
Really? We hear this comment a lot and have to wonder if suddenly we’re living in a world of clones. Seriously however, buyers are increasingly design savvy due to the overwhelming popularity of HGTV and design magazines. Their expectations have risen and in order to capture their attention, a home really has to stand out from the crowd. Not only does staging make the online photos better, but because so many buyers shop online first, staged homes generate much more interest, visits and exposure than homes which are featured “as is”. If a home looks as if it might need lots of TLC then the sellers have to realize that buyers will only make an offer if the listing price is low.
7. I already de-cluttered so I don’t need staging
While de-cluttering is a huge part of getting your home ready for sale, it isn’t the only part of staging. A lot of the home owners we do consultations for choose to do the de-cluttering themselves and then opt to hire Rooms in Bloom to add the final polish and “wow” factor to their homes. Professional stagers see things that home owners don’t and they offer a neutral, third party opinion on what needs editing in the home. From adding or removing furniture, maximizing a room’s layout is an integral part of the staging process. Too much furniture makes spaces appear small and cramped while too little furniture can make rooms seem awkward, cold and uninteresting. The right balance of furniture and accessories, arranged to highlight focal areas and minimize weaknesses in a room is an art.
8. Home Staging is just a trend – it won’t affect how my home sells
Years ago before home inspections became the norm, they too were considered services which people opted to use only in extreme cases. Now, every realtor will tell you to never buy a home unless you have had a home inspection done. The same can be said about home staging services. Twenty years ago, home staging didn’t even really have a name; it was just something that savvy people did to help homes look better during the selling process. Today, home staging is one of the hottest topics in the media and instead of being a service reserved only for the most desperate of homes, market savvy sellers are utilizing home staging to shorten their selling period and make the most of their primary investment – their home. Home staging isn’t a trend. Real estate has changed over the last twenty years and we can tell you that ten years ago when you bought or sold a home is radically different than buying or selling today. Why? Because buyers are incredibly design savvy; they watch HGTV and read all the design magazines. This means their expectations have grown apace with their design knowledge. The results? They want upgraded, professionally styled homes and they are willing to pay more money to buy them. So, sellers who want to attract the most buyers need to use all the tools available to them, the most powerful tool being that of home staging.
9. The Buyers can handle the repairs once the home is sold
One of the biggest mistakes sellers can make is choosing not to address any unfinished repairs or obvious problems before putting the home on the market. Buyers today have little time for repairs and many opt for a “move in ready” home in good repair as opposed to a home which needs TLC. Homes which are put on the market in poor condition often scare away buyers and attract property flippers who will always offer significantly less than the listing price because they know what kind of profit they can make by ensuring those repairs are taken care of. Professional stagers will always advocate handling these repairs in order that the home appeals to all types of buyers and so that the home justifies its asking price.
10. Anyone can stage a home
This is a serious misconception. Great home staging requires much more than a design sense and ability. Professional home stagers, while they might have a background in design & decorating, are market savvy and their services are real estate based, not decorating based. Professional stagers are objective and savvy about what type of buyers each home should be targeted to appeal to. It’s also important to know that there are differences between home stagers themselves. When sellers are doing their research, it’s vital to see the stager’s work both through their website and portfolio. Established and experienced stagers will have a range of portfolio pictures which clearly show not only a tangible difference between the before and after pictures, but also a flair for design and obvious creativity. Grooming a property to help it stand apart from the competition requires knowledge of a home’s traffic flow patterns and an ability to use existing furniture & accessories to make spaces look larger, more modern and appealing to buyers. Home staging is in itself a science and produces dramatic and tangible results.
Don’t be afraid to check references or call past clients. An experienced home stager should have at least three references which they can provide for sellers to follow up on. Check and see that the stagers have the training and continuing education in the home staging industry as well. Knowledge, experience and a flair for design are the key points for setting professional stagers apart from the competition.
Regardless of whether it is the Realtor or seller who brings in the services of a professional home stager, it is important that a property show to its fullest potential in those first critical weeks on the market. Rooms in Bloom designers always tell their clients to forget showing their home “as is” and instead opt to present their property as “the best it can be”.