The concept of home staging isn't new. It's a marketing tool to sell your home faster and for a higher price. There are lots of home staging tips online. The challenge for homeowners who've never sold a house is learning what's involved in staging a house. It's also important to understand the benefits of home staging before making that investment. While you can handle many staging tasks yourself, a professional home stager can guide you to get the best results.
Having sold multiple houses, I've learned to involve a home stager from the beginning. That's because we all get attached to our homes and how we've decorated. What we think is beautiful might turn off your ideal buyer. Home stagers don't have the same emotional attachment. They can do a better job making your home look it's best to prospective buyers. Experienced home stagers bring their knowledge of your buyers and the competition in your marketplace.
Give yourself enough time to prepare your house for sale. Get a home inspection and make repairs. Start staging before you pick your real estate agent. Realtors™ will give you a better market assessment and listing price recommendation when they know exactly what prospective buyers will see.
We've completed steps one through five and have an estimate for step #6, furnishing the house. As our home is vacant, we don't have to worry about step seven.
- Create a home staging plan with help from a home stager.
- Prepare by cleaning, decluttering and depersonalizing your home.
- Evaluate your home's condition. Repair and replace items that will affect your home's sale price.
- Schedule larger projects you can't complete yourself, because you'll likely run out of time.
- Freshen up rooms with a fresh coat of paint that shows off the room, not the paint.
- Rearrange furnishings and accessories to show your home's best features. Borrow, buy or rent furniture for a house that isn't furnished.
- Clean out and organize storage space. Make sure closets, basement and attic are neat and never full. You don't want buyers worrying about not having enough storage space.
So let's walk through my home staging activities so far …
#1 Staging a House: Build a Plan
Maybe you were wondering why I needed to work with a home stager? I'm a quilter and love bright, bold colors! When you see photos of colorful rooms on this website, they're probably from one of my houses. So I needed my home stager, Jennifer Myers, to tell me the blue walls have to go and it's non-negotiable (sigh, sad and happens to me every time, as my red kitchen didn't survive either).
While Jennifer was familiar with my home, she needed to see the space with no furniture. We walked through the rooms and talked about a strategy for staging the house to compete with new condos on the market in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. We agreed that the main floor (living room, dining room, kitchen and the deck) needed to be staged. The master bedroom and bath could be staged but this was optional depending on the big ticket items. So we decided on these priorities for staging this house:
- Paint the blue walls in the living room and kitchen.
- Replace the carpeting on the master bedroom floor.
- Decorate the main living level (this is a 4-story, townhouse style home).
- Decorate the master bedroom and bathroom.
#2 Staging: Clean, Declutter & Depersonalize
We rented our home for the last two years (that's why there's no more furniture). This meant we didn't have to worry about decluttering or depersonalizing. Cleaning was a different story. Our lease called for the house to be professionally cleaned but that didn't happen. Our tenants seemed to think they were professional cleaners but even the countertops in the kitchen were covered with dust.
Thankfully my old cleaning company, CEO Cleaning Services out of Exeter, New Hampshire, was able to get me on her schedule quickly. Here's a quick summary of what they accomplished in a few hours (hint: they work as a team).
- Cleaned interior doors and closet shelving (missing my custom closets).
- Cleaned floors and baseboards which get dusty.
- Cleaned stairs, including vertical kickboards that seem to always be painted white so they show scuff marks easily.
- Cleaned bathroom cabinets, tubs and toilets.
- Cleaned kitchen cabinets, appliances and countertops.
- Cleaned plantation shutters throughout the house, and windows where needed.
- Cleaned exterior railings on decks and entryway.
#3 Staging a House: Repair & Replace
Fortunately we've always maintained our houses on a timely basis. It's pretty easy to do when you own a handyman business, and if your guys can't do something, you've got a network of resources to call on. So the house only needed three repairs and here's the secret:
- Wierd marks in the kitchen sink were surprising because it's an integrated Corian sink. I've never had a problem over the last twenty years. So I called Middleton Lumber in Rochester, New Hampshire where I ordered my cabinets and countertops. My approach is to get advice and repairs from people already familiar with your home. Middleton gave me Solid Creation's phone number (they're a wholesale company, selling through local building supply businesses like Middleton). They were able to send a technician to my house the next day, yeah! That's Jason sanding burn marks out of the Corian sink. It took him more than an hour with more than a dozen burns.
- Repair outdoor shower because the tenants replaced the shower hose? Plumbing is something you always want to take seriously, so I've asked our licensed plumber who installed the shower to check everything out and make the necessary repairs.
- Replace the missing shingles on the roof because our neighbor across the street came over to let me know a few came off in a storm last month. This is one of the hazards of living at the beach and every few years, we've got to make repairs. The good thing is I know who to call and will be sure to pass this information along to the buyers.
Who's on your home maintenance team? My secret is something I write about all the time because I know that home repairs done quickly will save you money. Notice that I needed my plumber and roofer for these last minute repairs. And there's no problem because I've got a team of home contractors who know my house, know I pay my bills on time, so they're happy to help me out!
#4 Staging a House: Call Pros for Larger Projects
After my home stager and I walked through the house, we had three big projects to complete as quickly as possible. I learned the hard way, that you shouldn't list your home until it's ready for sale. While living in Tokyo, I allowed my realtor to list the house while repairs were being made. This was a bad decision as your best prospects will visit your home in the first two weeks, and my house wasn't ready for them.
- Staging the house was already committed by my stager, Jennifer Myers. We agreed to stage the kitchen, dining room and living room. We said we'd decide on the master bedroom based on the carpet estimate. You can see the staging details below.
- Painting to cover the blue in the living room and kitchen was a high priority. I sent a text message to Julie King, owner of Samarra Painting Company out of Newburyport, MA. You can learn what happened below …
- New carpeting on the master bedroom floor due to red stains left by the tenant and general wear and tear. We agreed to use B & C Floor Store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That's because we've both worked with them for years, as former members of 4 Walls 1 Roof. So Jen picked up samples at the store and we looked at them together, in the master bedroom.
#5 Staging a House: Paint is a Marketing Tool
Here's Bob cutting in the edges of the kitchen walls. Many homeowners like doing their own painting but trust me, there are some painting projects where it really pays to call in the professionals. That's especially true when painting means working from a ladder because you don't do it every day. Bob's on a ladder every day so it's second nature for him, and he's learned where to place is paint for maximum efficiency.
Guess what? I never called Julie King, owner of Samarra Painting Company. She's always on the road doing painting estimates or painting herself. Knowing this I sent her a text message, along with photos of the living room and kitchen that needed to be painted. Our entire conversation was done via text messages and her office emailed me to confirm a date when Bob could come. Knowing how home contractors work, and using their communication method is always appreciated, and a win-win for everyone!
So here's a recap of my living room, from bold and beautiful blue (that's me) to boring white which will attract the most buyers. This is what home staging is all about, and for me it's one step in the process of letting go of my homes.
#6 Staging a House: Furniture & Accessories
You might be wondering why it's important to add furnishings to an empty house you're trying to sell. It's because many people have a hard time imagining how a room will look without seeing furniture. You want to show them how comfortably their couch and chairs will fit in your space. It's especially important in smaller rooms like bedrooms, where they want to know if their king/queen bed and furniture will fit.
Here's an overview of Jen's staging estimate for furniture and accessories. She asked that I let you know that you have several choices when staging a house. You need furniture and accessories, so:
- When you're living in the house you're staging, you'll want to use your own furniture but don't be shy when your home stager wants to add accessories.
- When staging a house that's vacant, you can rent furniture. That's what we did when selling my Victorian in Portsmouth, NH in 2006. We didn't realize the housing bubble had burst when we started, so we payed much more to rent the living room furniture than if we'd bought it outright.
- Alternatively you (or your home stager) can buy furniture and that's what we're doing for this house. There's a good chance buyers will buy the furniture as we're at the beach so many prospective buyers will be looking for a second home.
I've been working with Jennifer Myers Interiors for more than 10 years and I'm comfortable leaving the decisions to Jennifer. She'll buy a few key pieces of furniture as I decided I didn't want to move furniture to Florida (that's where my granddaughter lives).
Jennifer wanted me to be comfortable with this decision, so she gave me several choices:
- Budget conscious estimate for the the main living floor (it's a 4-story townhouse). That includes the kitchen, dining room, family room, powder room and decks.
- Upscale budget based on buying furniture, from the Crate and Barrel Outlet in Kittery, Maine. While I found some pieces there, when we considered delivery, I decided not to go with this option which was about 50% higher that the budget conscious estimate.
- Optional rooms added to the “must have” rooms. This included the master bedroom, the master bathroom and one more bathroom on the fourth floor where my office used to be.
- Additional home stager services – include shopping for you, installation and assembly of everything and color consultation on paint colors, replacement flooring and more. As I travel extensively, Jen is managing all the interaction with B&C Floor Store who will be replacing the carpet on the master bedroom floor.
#7 Staging a House: Closets & More
It's time to write a new article about custom closets. Here's my downstairs closet just a few steps from the front door and the garage door. I took time to design all my closets to maximize storage. It's one of the things I miss most in the Arizona house. But I'm not worried as it's not our last house. There will be lots more opportunities to design and build more custom closets!
PS Just learned about the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) organization. If you're interested in staging a house and don't know a home stager, check their directory.