3-Part Series on Maximizing Your Home Sale
Part Two: Staging
If you’re starting to read this article and you haven’t read (and addressed the objections raised in) Part One: Deferred Maintenance, you’re doing it all wrong.
This is part two of a three-part series that will help you maximize the sale of your property. In the first part, we talked about shoring up the material defects of the home. Now that those kinks and quirks have been remedied, let’s talk about the presentation of the home.
In essence, we are preparing the home to be a product on the market.
Types of Staging
The first type of staging is probably what comes to mind when you hear the word. In this case, the home is vacant and feels empty, so you hire a company to move in some mock furniture (plastic plants, air mattresses) and trendy trinkets to help the home feel fresh.
This can be an invaluable strategy to help with the home’s online presence, and I especially recommend it when a home’s open floor plan would benefit from just a little definition.
If you plan to live in the home while it’s being shown, then I unequivocally recommend you invoke the help of a home stager.
In this circumstance, you can think of home staging more like editing. The stager will walk through each room of the house and advise you on how to showcase each space. This will mean rearranging furniture, removing objects from shelves and counters, and sometimes even painting.
In either case, the goal is to present a fresh, clean look that will allow the buyers to envision themselves enjoying the home. Notice that in neither instance did we use the words interior design. Home staging and interior design are not one and the same.
The 24/7 Open House
Today’s home buyer starts online. In fact, the house a buyer eventually purchases is found directly by the buyer on the internet over half of the time . We call it the 24/7 open house.
Buyers scan websites and decide whether they want to see a house (much less buy it!) based on the photos they see. I cannot overstate how important it is to have your home staged by a professional prior to having it photographed.
There are two main concerns with online presentation: scale and distractions. While a real estate agent may be able to tell you some of the major concepts (patterns distract and overwhelm, bigger is better, keep it bright, keep it light), you really need a professional stager to accomplish these concepts successfully. Here are a few photos that can better explain:
It just doesn’t feel right. For starters, the bed is off-center. That may be difficult to perceive consciously, but it’s definitely there and hard to be unseen once you notice. The two frames on the left wall divert your eyes and attention. Overall, the room feels empty and just off. In person, you would probably get past those things and see the humongous guest bedroom for what it is. Let’s take another look at the same room, post staging:
Isn’t that a much better photo? The focal point is the dresser, which is centered along the back wall. This is great for the homeowner because it pulls the viewer’s eye to the back of the room, letting them imagine how big it is. In the first photo, the bed and dresser seemed very small, but in the second picture, you could almost mistake the bed for a king size.
By addressing the issues of scale and mitigating distractions, this room now feels better.
Both photos are otherwise tidy and neat, but it took a stager to identify what was wrong with the first setup and how to optimize the online presentation. Here’s an example of the same room with the same furniture being optimized for presence.
The room feels cramped. Is anyone going to use that tea party table? Do they even have room? Are those closet doors going to open? Aren’t they sitting a little close to the tv?!
Now the kids have plenty of room for a tea party! Look how inviting the rocking horse became! How much bigger did this room just become? And how much easier is it to imagine your family enjoying the space?
These are the same rooms being shot by the same photographer with the same camera and the same lens. The point is: you can be as creative as you want with your angles and lenses, but unless the home has been staged by a professional, the online presence will always suffer.
Home Becoming a House
How a home lives and how a home sells are two different things.
It’s one of the main struggles we see with homeowners when it comes time to stage the house. There are two aspects of this we need to consider: personality and function.
A lot of things that make a house feel like home are the personalizations we put in them. It can be difficult to take down pictures of loved ones and remove things of cultural significance. When you do this, you’re not abandoning your heritage, you’re simply depersonalizing your home so the buyer can imagine it becoming theirs.
You want a buyer to walk through your house and see the home’s personality, not yours.
The other struggle is functionality. In the previous example of the bonus room, most people are going to want the couch in front of the TV. However, that’s not what highlights that space most effectively.
When you rearrange the furniture to what might not make sense to you functionally, you allow the buyer to see the bones of the house. And that’s what matters.
You’ll find yourself removing the Keurig machine and thinking, “What a pain! I’m going to have to pull this thing out every morning just to start my day!” But when a buyer walks into the kitchen, they’ll be thinking, “Man, look at all this counterspace! I’m in love!”
One last point about function is that it’s important not to over-define spaces. I’ll give an example:
The recliner is great for defining the hearth room, but for someone who wants that open concept with the kitchen, you’ve just made it harder to envision. The recliner in photo one effectively puts a wall between the kitchen and hearth room.
Let’s remove it and, again, allow the buyer to see how the space works for them.
Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
If that feels a little challenging, just hear me out on where it’s coming from. We do it. We get professional staging advice on every home we list - at our expense. It’s part of the listing package you get when you sign with The Porter Group. That’s how strongly we believe in the concept.
We find that it helps put sellers in the right mindset and drive home the idea of the home becoming a product. The goal is to sell the house. So while it may be an uncomfortable thing, it is a necessary thing, and it’s vital to the home selling process.