Last month, we talked about the first steps of staging a home, including cleaning, painting,
and de-cluttering. This month, we’ll look at the next important steps, including de-personalization,
placement of furniture and accessories to maximize light and space, and setting the mood with scent and sound.
- Don’t take it personally when your stager or real estate agent tells you to pack away everything personal. All those photos, trinkets and treasures you’ve so artfully displayed throughout your home may be meaningful and even stylish, but to potential buyers, they are a reminder that the home has been lived in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take yourself out of the picture and help the next homeowners imagine themselves living there.
- De-personalizing is the hardest part of staging for most people because it means getting rid of things they hold dear. Actually, it doesn’t mean getting rid of them — if you don’t want to sell or donate them, you can simply box them up and rent a storage unit. (We used PODS — they’ll deliver a storage box to you, you fill it up, then they transport it to a climate controlled warehouse and deliver to your new location whenever you say so.)
- Pack up and store anything that suggests your family lives there. Paperbacks, knickknacks, extra food in the pantry — go through each room one at a time and take away anything that you wouldn’t find in a model home.
- In the kitchen, pack up all unused appliances and gadgets, and put appliances you need (even the toaster) in a cabinet. Some stagers say no more than one appliance is allowed on the counter, and only if it sparkles. Take all magnets off the fridge. Remove all other items off the counter except for a vase of flowers and/or a bowl of fruit.
- Ditto for the bathroom — open counter space gives the home a cleaner and more spacious feel. Put cosmetics, hair products, toothpaste and toothbrushes in a drawer after you use them each day.
- Pictures personalize your home more than anything else, so, as hard as it is, put those precious memories into storage while your house in on the market.
In my old house, picture frames themselves were a large part of my decorating style, so I packed away all of the smaller ones and kept out only a few large frames with bold lines and textures. Then, following the advice of a model-home designer, I replaced family, graduation, and wedding pictures with perfectly lighted, glossy magazine slicks that were neutral and cosmopolitan enough to become model-perfect decor. (My family still jokes about how much we grew to like those newly acquired relatives.)
- Don’t forget to depersonalize the front of your home; remove name plaques or other items that personalize the home.
Group and place items to maximize light and space.
- Everything you do should be geared toward creating the illusion of light and space. Think bright and airy, and look for opportunities to create vignettes so people envision themselves enjoying the space.
- Move couches and chairs away from walls and into small, intimate groupings. If you have large furniture, consider getting rid of at least one piece of it (an overstuffed chair or love seat), and then group remaining items closer together (possibly at a diagonal). Some stagers recommend removing about a third of the furniture in a home to open up space; others suggest that once everything in a room looks perfect, remove one more item.
- Remove wall clutter too, if you have it. The size of wall art should play well with the size of the room; too busy, too high, too large or too small can all spoil the look.
- Don’t neglect living areas outdoors; buyers will see them as additional space, and it’s one more chance to imagine what it would be like living there. Put up a bright new umbrella and new cushions on your patio furniture to invite buyers outside.
We even set our patio table with colorful place mats and fun plastic place settings, so our buyers could envision themselves kicking back with their friends.
- Empty homes are usually hard to sell because most people have a hard time understanding how a space is used or its actual size without furniture for scale. If you’ve moved all of your furniture out, your home sale may depend on having your home professionally staged with furniture and decor brought in. One goal of staging is to help buyers visualize the potential use for a room, which is why most stagers will ask you to move that pool table from your formal dining room.
- Arrange furniture so as not to block the natural path through a room. For example, people should see the foot of the bed from the doorway, rather than seeing the side of the bed and having to walk around it. Speaking of the bedroom, stage for romance. Remove the television; most women don’t consider a TV in the bedroom romantic, yet studies show 80% of the time it is women who make the final decision to buy a home. Add pillows and go for luxurious beddings. If you have a mirror or dresser topper, consider removing it to open up the space.
- Keep scale and balance in mind when decorating. When accessorizing, repeat shapes and lines of other items in a room. A few large, bold accessories are better than small ones, which tend to look like clutter. Take a tip from photography and graphic design: You can’t go wrong with triangular arrangements and groups of threes.
- Lighting. A good rule of thumb is to let in as much natural light as you can, then add main lights and ambient lighting in every room. Sconces can add additional ambient lighting and draw attention to walls and ceilings, making rooms appear larger. Open all window coverings, have them cleaned, and remove them completely if they are heavy or block too much light. Turn on all lights before a showing, even during the day.
Engage the rest of the senses.
Sound. Set the mood for your home with soft music playing in the main living areas. You don’t want to offend anyone if they don’t share your love of country music, but classical guitar is generally neutral and relaxing enough that it lends to, not detracts from, the ambience.
Smell. Scent is an often overlooked part of staging. The ideal scent in a home is freshly baked bread or cookies, but who wants to throw a batch in the oven every time there is a showing? A lightly scented candle (not overpowering) that smells like freshly baked sugar cookies is a good alternative. (My personal favorite: Gold Canyon’s Sugar Cookie candle. You can Google "Shop Gold Canyon" to order online.) To further freshen your staged home, run a lemon through the disposal, put out fresh flowers on the kitchen table, and place a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. Pineapple and lemons both smell amazing.
Touch. Adding or highlighting texture throughout your house can be a great way to create an interesting space where people feel comfortable and want to linger. Thick, luxurious towels in the bathroom evoke a spa feeling, and a rich, touchable comforter with extra pillows can make a bedroom feel like a posh hotel.
Hire out or do it yourself?
Should I hire a professional stager or do it myself? That depends. If you can emotionally distance yourself from your home enough to see it objectively, as a commodity, and are committed to doing everything it takes to make it stand out, and you have an eye for style but more importantly a marketing mind, you might fare well. Many real estate agents will insist that you at least consult a professional staging company, then decide whether to hire them or take on the job yourself.
Benefits to using a professional stager include their knowledge of the market and what level of staging buyers expect to see in your price range; they have vendors on hand to do any suggested repairs or updates (painters, handymen, etc.); and they have access to furniture, potted plants, and other art pieces on hand to immediately fill in spaces where you need it.
Keep in mind that paying to have your home professionally staged will usually pay off in spades. Homes that are well staged usually command 6 to 20 percent higher prices than their unstaged counterparts and sell more quickly. Less time on the market means fewer loan payments for you. Plus, if you can sell quickly and avoid one or more price reductions, professional staging could be a worthwhile investment.