Over the past few weekends, I have been travelling down to my hometown of Burlington to help my mom recover from major surgery. Amidst all the things I’m doing to help her, I have found time to go to a number of open houses – hey, its a passion of mine – and see what’s available. I’ve seen some great properties and been tempted by a few, but that isn’t the point of my blog post today.
Today I want to talk about the essence of home staging. The reason I want to do this is because I think people get caught up in the glamour of staging and go for a finished product when they haven’t even begun to address what’s underneath all the “props” to make a house sellable. Case in point, some of the properties I have viewed in recent weeks were being listed by a realtor partnership which openly advertised that staging was part of their package – they did it themselves as they were certified stagers – and they did it for free.
After viewing their first property, I looked them up and their website is very heavily pro staging. That’s great. I strongly believe that home staging is one of the most powerful tools realtors and sellers have in their arsenal and not using it means they are giving other staged homes a big advantage. What was not great was when I viewed listing after listing with pictures of rooms with pink wall colours, dated carpets, furniture arranged in strange formations and in the midst of all that .. little vignettes arranged with “props” around them. Sorry folks, hate to tell you this, but these vignettes do not mean your home has been staged. The realtors who are leading you to believe this are doing you a real disservice.
So, what is the essence of home staging? Well, for such a commonly used term, it encompasses a lot of different things. Staging isn’t just about props, it’s about furniture layout – most definitely – but if that furniture is in bad condition, really dated or not room appropriate then it doesn’t matter what way its laid out, buyers just aren’t going to get it.
Staging really, is about peeling back the layers in a home, it’s about going back to its roots and making the basic shell look really good – and then – adding some great accessories so that the whole package is merchandised attractively to buyers. When I talk about peeling back layers, I’m referring to all those layers home owners add to make the house “theirs”. This includes paint colours, room functions and the normal everyday clutter and documentation of the lives lived within that home. It’s normal to have these layers when you live in a home but when it comes time to sell the family home, all the things which make it “your” home need to be packed away so that buyers can appreciate the house itself – because that’s what they are buying.
It’s hard to be objective when it comes to getting your house ready for sale; when the time comes for me to sell our current home, even though I am a pro stager I’m still going to consult with someone who isn’t emotionally tied to my home. Why? Because even though sellers are told over and over to view their own home objectively so that they can start the process of getting it ready for sale, in reality that’s a tough thing to do. In fact, it’s almost impossible. Sellers need an outside and objective viewpoint from someone trained to look at all aspects of their home, someone who doesn’t have that emotional attachment and can make decisions about what should stay – and what should go.
And this doesn’t mean just de-cluttering, this means removing the pink or green rugs which inevitably date a home, removing wallpaper and painting, freshening up the cabinets in the kitchen and adding new hardware, replacing dated light fixtures with new modern ones, cleaning up gardens and taking care of repairs which have been on the “to do” list forever. Then – when all the layers have been freshened up and the house looks new – that’s when those great accents are important because this is the all important step of merchandising your product (your house) to sell.
By taking all of these steps, the value of your home is now clearly apparent to potential buyers. This sets the stage for buyers to fall in love with your property and because you have addressed all the different items which might have meant some sort of price reduction, buyers are now justifying your price point and are afraid of losing out on owning your house. This means a fast sale with fantastic potential for multiple offers.
Now I should take the time to mention that getting a professional stager in to do a consultation or help stage your home is not free. Nor should it be free. I always question “free” things because either there are lots of strings attached or there is little – or no – value in the item I am getting for free. Experienced and design savvy home stagers charge for their time, for consultations and for any accessories they bring in to merchandise your home. We provide hundreds of recommendations which, when followed, garner sellers additional equity in their homes and a faster overall selling process. Rooms in Bloom’s latest success story involves an older home where the seller took all our suggestions, had us in to do the final staging once all the updates and repairs were done. The home sold in less than a week for substantially over asking price. This success story illustrates how by investing in staging services, sellers can make the most of their biggest investment – their home.
Before I end this blog post, I do want to say that my goal here is not to downplay the efforts of realtors who have taken the time to take staging training so they can better serve their clients. Not at all. However, as a professional stager, I don’t want the public to get the wrong idea about what the essence of staging is and how multi-layered a process it is. Buyers are more design savvy than ever, and sellers who want their homes to stand out should be prepared to invest a little in staging services in order to reap the benefits of a successful sale. If the house has been accessorized with some modern art, accent pillows and a cute little bistro vignette in the eat-in kitchen it doesn’t mean buyers aren’t going to see the dated wallpaper and green carpets or notice that the awkwardly arranged furniture highlights the fact that the family room is tiny and won’t fit their furniture. Buyers notice and they cringe at the time and money involved in fixing all these items. They also make deductions off what price they will offer a seller, and that’s lost equity which is hard to recoup.
I’m all for glam – in fact I think maybe we need a new HGTV show on staging – maybe one where all the stagers have to be dressed in ballgowns and stillettos .. or not dressed at all .. lol .. but the “glam” shouldn’t be trying to hide things or fool buyers when it comes to your home. Home staging is about more than props and moving furniture around and when it comes to selling your home, good home staging is worth the investment.