Monday, March 12, 2007

introduction to home staging

My sister and her husband are building a new house, and they'll soon be putting their current home on the market.

I want to help her out (being a good sister and a professional organizer and all), so I recently sent her a home-staging checklist.

If you're unfamiliar with home staging, it's a marketing strategy created by American real estate agent Barb Schwarz in the 1970s. Schwarz was tired of selling cluttered, unkempt houses for less than top dollar, so she convinced her sellers to invest time and energy (and occasionally money) in presenting their products - their homes - in the best possible light.

Here's a definition from Wikipedia:

Home staging is the act of preparing a private residence prior to its going up for sale in the real estate marketplace. The goal of staging is to sell a home quickly, and for the most money possible. Staging focuses on improving a property to make it welcoming, appealing, and attractive to the largest generic audience of potential homebuyers. Staging often raises the value of a property by way of repairs, re-decorating, renovations, and landscaping. For vacant homes, rental furniture will accent very nicely. Properly executed staging leads the eye to attractive features while minimizing flaws.

Home staging involves seeing your house through the eyes of the buyer. Schwarz emphasizes that once you put the home on the market, it is not really yours anymore. You are trying to convince potential buyers that it is their home.

If you are interested in the subject of home staging, check out Schwarz's book, Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House For More Money.

Here's the checklist I sent to my sister:

  1. This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure the house is clean. And not just a quick vacuuming - make sure there are no marks/smudges on the walls, doors, and door frames; address any stains on carpets or furniture, and make sure that everything is in good repair (i.e. replace burnt-out light bulbs, patch walls, etc.).
  2. De-cluttering is the big thing. Reduce knick-knacks everywhere to a minimum. A few well-placed things are much better than a jumble. Pack and store everything else.
  3. In the kitchen, make sure the counters are as clear as possible. Put away any appliances you normally keep on the counter (toaster, coffee maker). Clean out all the cupboards (including pantry), and keep only the necessities. This is the place to start packing; people will look through cupboards and closets to see how much room there is, and you want things to look spacious. Make the buyer believe that there is more storage space than anyone could ever need.
  4. In the laundry area, keep the machines clear and clean, and have only the bare minimum of detergents/fabric softeners on the shelves. Everything else should be out of there.
  5. In the bathrooms, keep the counters absolutely clear (as in the kitchen). A soap dispenser and a towel or two are okay, but everything else should be out of sight (even in the kids' bathroom - and BTW, hide the bath toys, and keep the shampoo to one or two bottles, max). If there are things in the cupboards that you don't often use, pack them up and store them elsewhere.
  6. In the family room, make sure the kids' toys are out of sight, and don't clutter the mantel.
  7. In the living room, be careful about cluttering the tables with knick-knacks, candles or photographs. In fact, put away all family photographs (everywhere in the house) that aren't hung on the walls. It's important that people viewing the house be able to imagine themselves in the space, and family photos detract from this.
  8. Purge the front hall closet and/or mud room. Keep only the coats and shoes or boots that you are using right now. You could have a basket or two on shelves for hats, gloves, and scarves, but that's it.
  9. The dining room will probably be one of your nightmares (only because I know you depend on it to hide all the overflow). Clear it out, leaving only the table, chairs, and hutch. Clear off the top of the hutch, leave only a few items (like a candle or two). Make sure that the things behind glass doors are neatly arranged. Pack up anything else that's clutter inside the hutch.
  10. I don't know what to suggest about the basement, but basically have it as tidy and as clear as possible. If it's unfinished you can't hide that fact, but you can make it look warm and appealing.
  11. In the kids' rooms, empty their closets of any clothes they're not wearing right now, and then use the extra space to put their toys neatly. In the rooms themselves, there should be NO clutter (especially on the dressers and floor). This may be tough for the kids, but tell them it's only temporary.
  12. In your room, try to purge your closet, or at least pack up a lot of your stuff and store it elsewhere. Again, people will be looking in the closets, and you want to give the impression of abundant space. If you can, have all the hangers the same, or grouped by type. And hang your clothes neatly, by type or by colour (so that they look appealing). In the room itself, get rid of all knick-knacks and photos. Have only a few well-chosen things on the dressers and bedside tables. If you can find inexpensive, bright/pretty throw cushions to match the bedding, do it.
  13. It might get costly if your house is on the market very long, but try to have fresh flowers strategically placed in the family room, kitchen, and master bedroom.

The big thing is, the place shouldn't look like your home anymore. And that will be tough, because you still have to live there until it sells. But pretend it's a really beautiful holiday rental - everything impersonal, clean, and simple. You want buyers to forget that anyone else has ever owned this house.

I visited my sister this past weekend, and she did pretty well. Her house is usually uncluttered, so it wasn't a nightmare to purge; the weakest areas are the children's rooms and the basement, where there are still too many toys scattered everywhere. And she still has too many family photos on the dressers in her bedroom. Her walk-in master bedroom closet also needs tweaking.

They're calling a realtor this morning. May they sell well!

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

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