Thursday, December 27, 2007

Staging a Home

Anyone who has been house hunting has stories to tell. I remember some years ago, looking for a new home, when we went into a house that was full of ducks. Giant duck on the front porch, wearing a seasonal outfit. Ducks in the kitchen. Ducks on the shower curtain. Ducks on the wall. Ducks. I joked to the real estate agent that we might consider the house, if there were a reduckerating allowance!

There was another house that wasn't too bad, until we got to the room with the walls painted black, and a velvet Elvis adorning the wall.

In retrospect, either of those houses may have been perfectly fine, ideal layout and meeting all criteria. We just couldn't get past the ducks.

A growing trend in the real estate market is home "staging". The idea behind staging is to depersonalize a house so that a potential buyer can imagine themselves living in it. Professional stagers can be hired to help a homeowner remove clutter, rearrange furniture to make rooms appear larger, and neutralize decor.

Sometimes a home is so beautifully decorated, reflecting the style of the current owner, that potential buyers are either intimidated or so distracted by the decor that they can't picture the house with their own things inside. When a seller puts his house on the market, he needs to refocus attention on the house, rather than the contents. This may mean removing prized collectibles, hiding pictures of the grandchildren, and putting eye-catching artwork in storage for a bit.

Professional stagers work with all types of homes, including new construction. Sometimes a few pieces of furniture are rented and positioned, plants are added for warmth, and a few pieces of artwork are placed so that buyers can get past the stark apperance of some empty houses.

Many homeowners choose to handle the staging themselves. Following a few basic guidelines is best, followed by obtaining a third party's honest opinion (your realtor is a good one to ask!):

  • Outside: Look at curb appeal. Trim overgrown shrubbery, make sure grass is cut. Add some fresh mulch in natural areas. Make sure shutters are nicely painted. Remove any outdoor clutter such as garden hoses, toys, and that clay pot of dead azaleas that has been next to the house for four years.
  • Add some flowers or color to the front porch, along with a new, clean welcome mat.
  • Inside: Neutral colors work best on the walls. When you're trying to sell your house, it is just not the time to display your quirky, creative touches in the decor.
  • Replace any carpet that is stained or torn. You may rationalize that the new owners will want to "pick out their own carpet," but worn carpet is a negative. A similar home with new carpet, priced comparably, will sell before the one with the "carpet allowance." Remove all "negatives" that you can!
  • Remove clutter. Then remove some more. In the kitchen, store away all of those appliances that generally sit out in open view: coffee makers, toaster ovens, juicers, blenders, etc. Put them away in cabinets or closets.
  • Remove pieces of furniture, if possible. Minimize, so that perceived space is maximized!

If you need professional help, there are quite a few home stagers in the Lake Wylie/Charlotte area. Your realtor will be able to recommend a few. Full service home staging will include a written plan, selection of furniture and accessories, delivery, and set up. Depending on the items added and the work involved, the cost may be up to 1.5% of your home's listing price. More limited services are available as well, including consultations with written suggestions for improvement. Expect fees of $200 or so, depending on size of home and level of service.

Keep in mind that you only have one chance for a first impression! Don't rush into getting your home listed before you are ready. Don't be afraid to spend a few hundred dollars to get the job done right. It will save you much more than that as your house sells faster, and closer to your asking price!

Visit my website Lake Wylie Waterfront Real Estate for information on all Lake Wylie area real estate, community and school information, activities and events in Lake Wylie, helpful tips for buying and selling real estate.

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