Sold on home staging

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Sold on home staging

A few weeks back I was chatting with my Mom about one of our new home listings. As we talked over a cup of tea, I offhandedly mentioned that there was a lot of work to do before our photographer could take pictures of the house. Furniture needed to be rearranged, wallpaper needed to be stripped, and the décor needed updating. A few weeks later my Mom asked me out of the blue: When we sell our house, do you think we really need to get rid of the wallpaper?

Which brings me to the main challenge of proposing home staging. People fall in love with a home, move in, and decorate it to their personal taste. They form lifelong memories there. And then years later when they go to sell it, someone like me comes in and gives them a list of things they need to do before selling the home.

It’s not an easy task. Even after years in real estate, I still cringe at making these suggestions. But I’d like to think that homeowners would rather have me diplomatically suggest getting rid of heavy drapes or unusual colors than have dozens of potential buyers walk through the house and wrinkle their noses. Or worse yet, not even come to see the house at all because the pictures are uninspiring.

In all honestly, I used to think home staging was a crock. Why, I would ask, should someone invest money in a home that they’re going to sell it? But home staging has become so important in a competitive real estate market. Staging a home is much different than decorating a home. It’s preparing the home to appeal to the widest number of potential buyers.

home staging examples

Staging can include rearranging furniture to create inviting living spaces, decluttering rooms to emphasize the expansive space, and often freshening up the look of the home with small changes, such as changing window treatments or painting in neutral colors.

Here are three reasons I’ve become a huge proponent of home staging.

1. Exquisite home staging captures the imagination of home buyers. I’ve shown homes of all shapes, sizes, and conditions, and found that people rarely ooh and ah over empty homes. But they (and I) often swoon over beautifully decorated homes. It’s that emotional connection we strive for when selling a home. It’s what gets them in the door and gets them to the closing table.

2. Staging creates a vision for buyers. It can be tough for home buyers to envision how to make the home look its best if the home’s furnishings are unusual or aren’t arranged in an ideal fashion. Sometimes the space just feels “off” and they’re not sure why. Gorgeous décor and furnishings show the buyer the full promise of the home.

This is especially important when selling vacant homes. It’s hard for buyers to visualize how to turn an empty space into a home. The most common reaction I hear from buyers when they see vacant homes are: A) I’m not sure what to do with this space. B) The house seems a little depressing. C) Oh, I see the owners have already moved out. Are they getting really desperate for an offer?

This isn’t exactly the reaction the homeowner is striving for!

3. Today’s home buyers don’t want to do any work. The vast majority of home buyers want homes that are in move-in condition. Even small things like wallpaper or outdated lighting can turn buyers off. Their first reaction is “I’ll have to do work” instead of “I can’t wait to move in here!” Sometimes investing in minor updates (adding new lighting or changing kitchen hardware) can change a buyer’s perception of the home.

A real-world case study
After seeing home buyers’ response to staged vs. non-staged homes, I can confidently say that well-done staging really pays off. Case in point: Last year, a lovely home came on the market in Southborough. It had a terrific lot and great layout, but would have benefited from a bit of freshening up to the interior. However, the homeowners thought spending money on the home was a waste. They figured that if buyers wanted to make updates they’d simply offer a little less for the property. Instead, the house languished on the market for months, even after several price drops.

A few months later, a neighbor with a home of similar age and style decided to sell. Before they listed the house for sale, they consulted with a home stager, who advised them to invest in some minor updates (new paint, carpet, and appliances). The stager then freshened up the look of the home with newer window treatments, bedding, and other little touches. The neighbor invested a little more than $10,000 on updates, and wondered if it would be worth it.
They quickly had an answer. Within days of listing the house, they received multiple offers.

Have a real estate question? Contact Leslie Mann and she'd be glad to answer your confidential questions. Mann is a realtor with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty in Weston, MA.