Making a case for home staging

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The 7,000 square foot home in Sherborn felt positively cavernous when we first walked into it. Our voices echoed as we walked through the huge empty spaces. The home was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen, with hand carved woodwork and exquisite architectural details, yet the owners told us potential home buyers just didn’t quite know what to make of it. Several buyers had said they felt the house was “too much for them” or “needed too much work”.

In reality, all the property needed was a few inexpensive updates and some staging to freshen it up and provide much needed warmth. The homeowners brought in a home stager, who recommended that they make selective updates, including swapping out a handful of fixtures and toning down some of the room colors. Additionally, she carefully selected luxurious furnishings that were in keeping with the home’s style. These little changes made quite a difference, helping buyers to see the true potential of the home. The owners accepting an offer on their home shortly thereafter.

It was one of the most striking examples I’ve seen where staging transformed the way buyers perceived a home. If you had asked me years ago whether the investment was worth the trouble I might not have agreed. Before I got into real estate, I used to think the whole concept of home staging was a big waste. After all, wouldn’t a home buyer prefer to envision his or her own things in a house? Can’t they see past bright wall colors and dated decor?

Oftentimes the answer is a resounding no. The vast majority of home buyers want to walk in the door and settle in. They don’t want to have to worry about making changes, even minor ones. And if they can’t see how they’ll use the space, that’s a big hurdle to overcome.

To that end, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing two expert stagers about home selling challenges and the latest staging techniques.

Photo courtesy of Interim Furnishings

What do you see as the primary value of home staging?

“Professional home staging creates warmth and emotional connection points that subconsciously make the buyer feel at home,” says Linda Shepherd of Buyers Desire Home Staging, Inc.Case in point: Home buyers stay in a vacant home for an average of five minutes, but linger in a furnished home for an average of 40 minutes, according to the HomeGain 2011 Home Improvement National Survey. Additionally, a beautifully staged home is likely to garner more showings because the online photos look more appealing to buyers.

“Staging a home will define the space appropriately, letting a buyer know what each room has been designed for,” says Kelli Webber of Interim Furnishings, and president elect of the state’s Real Estate Staging Association. “For example, if you have smaller bedrooms, you definitely want to stage them. Show a buyer that they can fit a queen-sized bed in that bedroom for when their parents come to visit, for example. Then make it look gorgeous with fabulous bedding and accessories.”

Do stagers have special techniques for dealing with small spaces?

“The idea of staging is to show a property in its biggest, cleanest, and best light possible,” says Webber. “A professional stager will ensure the furnishings they place in a property are at the right proportion to show off all the possibilities of the home.”

What are some of the latest trends you’re seeing in home staging?

“Home staging designs operate alongside current decorating and design trends, with a twist,” says Webber. “If lime green sofas are all the rage, you won’t necessarily see them used to stage. What you may see is the stager’s version of the trend, by incorporating pops of that hot color in pillows, artwork, or accessories. Using pieces of what’s in style gets the property looking fresh and new.”

What are some common mistakes you see in home staging?

“People often know the basics of home staging, such as decluttering, depersonalizing, and using neutral paint colors,” says Shepherd. “However, some people take this too far. Painting the walls white and removing too much furniture and accessories from the home makes it feel sterile.”

Can you share a few lesser-known tricks of the trade?

* Replace old lighting fixtures throughout the home. This will make a huge impact by giving the home an updated, well maintained appearance.

* Get rid of vertical blinds and replace then with panel curtains.

* If you use a dish drying rack, put it away. Don’t advertise the fact that you don’t have a dishwasher.

* Stage bookcases with books both vertically and horizontally. Add accessories to bookcases to create interest.

Is there anything else you’d like homeowners to know about home staging?

“It’s really important for the realtor, homeowner, and stager to work together as a team,” said Webber. “Each one’s role in staging a home is important to the implementation and outward success of the staging and sale.”

Do you have a real estate question? Contact our real estate blogger Leslie Mann, c/o Hopkinton Crier, 33 New York Ave, Framingham, MA 01701 or She’d be glad to answer your confidential questions. Follow her at

About the author: Leslie Mann is a realtor with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Weston.

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