Stacy has worked as a staging consultant for about a year and a half, helping sellers with home interiors and landscaping to attract potential buyers.
How to Stage a Home for Potential Buyers
people found Stacy's experience helpful.
My experience with real estate had an unconventional beginning. My daughter, a college student, rented a small three-bed, one-bathroom house near campus. As you might imagine, with renters coming and going frequently in a neighborhood close to the college, the house was not in very good shape. I could tell, though, that it was structurally sound and with hardwood floors and original 1950’s tile in the bath, it had loads of potential. So over the next two semesters, I would make a point of updating or improving at least one thing on her rental property during my visit. “You should do this for a living,” she and her roommates would always say. That planted a seed in my imagination and I went with it. Now, eighteen months later, I do “do this for a living!”
In March 2013 I founded my own consultation firm called “Great Curb Appeal;” my title is Owner/Staging Consultant. My job as a staging consultant is to meet the homeowners (the sellers) and/or the seller’s agent, and assess the property before we list it. There is always a repair that needs to be done, or carpeting replaced, things homeowners really don’t enjoy hearing. But to sell a residential property, it must be appealing to potential buyers. I clean the entire house from top to bottom and spruce up any landscaping they may have such as trimming shrubs or replacing old mulch. Then I can photograph the property while it is pristine to use in the listings.
Some homeowners find the staging process intrusive, and can even get defensive about how they have furniture arranged or how outdated their paint colors are. For instance, one seller, a mom of three, had kids’ papers and artwork all over the refrigerator and family photos in every room. I had to ask her to remove most of it, as too much personalization is distracting for buyers. You want them to imagine themselves living there, and if you leave out constant reminders that it isn’t their house, it can turn people’s focus away from the number one goal: to sell that house! So after bruising her ego, we rearranged all of her furniture and put a lot of it in storage. By moving toys and other personal items we were able to bring out and highlight a fabulous fireplace, windows, a beautiful light fixture, and marble countertops. I was then able to take great photos of the property and list it that day. The house had been listed previously without any staging and sat on the market for six months. After the restaging, traffic of potential buyers picked up and by the end of the month, the house was sold for the asking price. The lesson here is: if you are selling your home, make everything as neutral, clean, and clutter free as possible.
Another problem I run into is cleanliness. It is understandable when you move out of a place that one might not think to clean it well before they leave so that the agents listing the house can do their jobs most efficiently. Ninety percent of what I do as a staging consultant is cleaning. Either indoors (like scrubbing a tiled shower) or outdoors (such as raking out dead leaves from the flower beds and filling them with fresh mulch).
I also propagate hearty, low maintenance plants to use at listed properties, like Spider plants and succulents. I’ll add arrangements where previously there was just a random blank gardening space in the yard with nothing in it, and often add plants in the front of the house in nice, glazed pots. I take these ones home with me once the house has sold, but for staging, they are perfect for adding life to the outside of the home. This is very important, as the front of your house is going to be the first thing potential buyers see.
To make a great first impression, I first wipe down the front door, repainting it if necessary. I then choose a couple of containers that complement the colors of the house and set them on either side of the front door. You can also arrange containers inside or near the freshly mulched beds and a well-groomed lawn. I strongly suggest at least re-mulching if you are listing your home, and make a point of keeping the front and back yards mowed and edged. A strong first impression gives buyers the feeling that everything has been well maintained even before they see the inside. That great first impression will give them a feeling of confidence when looking through the rest of the house (which is very good for sales). This is curb appeal at its finest.
Another seller I was working with had two kids’ bedrooms painted bright pink and lime green, with zebra print accents along the crown molding and throughout the rooms. I gave her my advice, that to sell the house quickly she needed to paint over the pink and green with a nice neutral color and take down the zebra stripes. She didn’t do it, and the feedback we got from people looking at the house was always about those two rooms. “If only those two rooms…” and “did you see that ZEBRA PRINT??” The house stayed on the market for months. Eventually the seller hired another agent and the house eventually sold, probably for much less than the asking price because the over-personalization was a turn off to too many buyers. I think if she had to do it over, she would have taken my advice.
If there is one thing I have learned during my career as a staging consultant, it is that people don’t always take pride in where they live, and it shows when it comes time to try and sell that house. It is my job to try and reverse some of that with cleaning and restaging, which I find very personally rewarding. My grandmother used to say, “Always leave a space better than you found it.” It was good advice and it leads me every day in my real estate career.