Here, from interior decorator and home staging expert Gabriele Campbell, are 10 common mistakes sellers make when preparing their house for sale.
1: Just because you love it does not mean everyone else will. Ensure your property appeals to the broadest buying public, which means neutralize. If the colour palette or decorating style is too far out, people will be put off by the "personality" of the home, and it will be difficult for them to visualize themselves and their own belongings in the house.
2: Closets and pantries are crowded and cluttered. Edit each storage space of excess or seasonal items to make sure the viewers can see the space. Crammed spaces give viewers the perception that there is not enough storage space and that the house is bursting at the seams.
3: The furnishings are too big or there are too many for the space. Edit, edit, edit. The corners of the room need to be seen, so remove extra or oversized plants, fans, gym equipment, chairs and tables. During one staging job, the homeowner wanted to leave an excessively large coffee table in a living room, and demonstrated how cool this table was by folding it out into a dining table. So we asked him, "What's for sale? The house or the table?" He substituted the table for a smaller one.
4: "Clean" means different things to different people. It may be common sense to some, but the best way to maintain the value of your single largest investment is to follow a regular cleaning schedule. When your house is on the market, it has to be clean and ready for showing every minute of the day.
5: You love your pet so everyone else will, right? Wrong. Some potential buyers are really averse to animals of any kind, and that means that any evidence of pets will deter them from the property. If you have pets, vacuum daily to keep the hair under control and crate them or remove them from the property while it is being shown.
6: Don't hide damage to flooring, countertops, walls or other permanent fixtures. Reveal, never conceal, problem areas, and be sure to reflect any deficiencies and necessary repairs in the list price.
7: Don't forget about safety and security. Strangers are coming into your house. Gun collections and the kitchen knife block present a major safety hazard. Pack away these and precious items like jewelry while the house is on the market.
8: Don't designate a space above grade as a storage room. Potential buyers want to know exactly how many bedrooms are available, and using a room above grade for storage will affect their perception of
the house. Use the basement for storage.
9: Don't leave dated or worn fixtures for the next owner to replace. The best way to increase equity in your house is to implement periodic upgrades. The simplest and least costly upgrades include light fixtures, taps and faucets, door and cabinet hardware, and drapery and window treatments.
10: Don't rush to put the house on the market before it's presentable. Selling a property requires strategic thinking. First, identify the competition, then make your house look better than others on the market. Care and attention to the details will impress potential buyers and, if the house is "move-in ready," that means less work for them and possibly a better offer for you.
The Art of Home Staging
By TIM McKEOUGH for NEW YORK TIMES
Like many sellers, Fran Sarro and David Waite were initially reluctant to stage their apartment.
Their agent, Anna Kahn, an associate broker at Halstead Property, had already helped them declutter and identify home improvements for their two-bedroom ground-floor co-op at 134 West 82nd Street.
Following Ms. Kahn’s advice, the couple had spent about $45,000 tearing out carpets, installing hardwood flooring and new light fixtures, painting, repointing brick and replacing siding on a wall in the rear garden.
But they stopped short of hiring a professional stager to swap out their furniture and art. “I was extremely skeptical,” Ms. Sarro said. “I couldn’t see why things that I had collected over my life, sparsely placed, would be a problem.”
They listed the apartment for $1.85 million in June 2014. Then they watched, dismayed, as it sat on the market for six months, while they gradually cut the asking price to $1.65 million. “I had over a hundred showings, and could not sell it,” Ms. Kahn said. “Not one offer.”
The couple took the place off the market that December, and at Ms. Kahn’s behest, sent for the home stager Nahila Chianale, the owner of NCC Luxe in New York.
To Ms. Chianale, the home’s décor was too eclectic, “like Victoriana meets ’80s meets Ikea,” she said.
She instructed the couple to empty the apartment, except for one small bench that she deemed attractive. Then, for about $26,000, she had the kitchen cabinets, shelving, doors and door frames painted white, and moved in an entire home’s worth of contemporary furniture, including shapely clear acrylic dining chairs and a white pedestal table, an Italian linen sofa and a chrome-and-glass coffee table placed atop a cowhide rug.
When Ms. Kahn relisted the staged property last April for $1.495 million, “the place was mobbed,” at the first open house, Ms. Sarro said.
A bidding war ensued, and the apartment soon went into contract for $1.8 million, before closing in July.
“I can’t believe how it worked out,” Ms. Sarro said. “I still shake my head.”
The practice of home staging has long elicited strong reactions. Agents and professional stagers point to examples like the Sarro-Waite apartment, and say staging can usually help a home sell faster, and for a higher price, offering a larger return on the investment.
Homeowners, reluctant to spend the money or admit that their decorating choices might not be catnip to buyers, are often loath to pay strangers to impose their tastes on their premises.
But as staging has evolved over the past decade, many real estate professionals say it has become more important — and more sophisticated — than ever.
“It always makes a difference, and is essential in this market,” said Richard Balzano, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate who frequently refers his clients to stagers and even pays for the preliminary consultations.
In the past, many stagers focused on decluttering and implementing minor tweaks in furnished homes. Or they appointed vacant apartments with basic rental furniture to prove that rooms were large enough for regular sofas and queen-size mattresses.
Today, they are increasingly tackling all-out transformations that aim to present compelling contemporary design, while projecting a complete aspirational package.
“It’s not just about solving a problem now, but much more about presenting a lifestyle to prospective buyers,” said Jane Saidenberg, the design director of Studio D, a staging company with offices in New York and San Francisco. “People want it to look like a shelter magazine, or like something they’ve seen on TV. It’s more elevated than it has been in the past.”
“The bar has definitely been raised. The glamour apartment is really what sells,” Mr. Balzano said. “People will walk out if it looks ugly, or they think it’s dark, claustrophobic or has other warts they don’t want to deal with.”
The reason, said Frederick Peters, the president of Warburg Realty, is simple: “In New York, in recent years, there have been so many opportunities in newly constructed buildings where you don’t have to do anything, that buyers have lost both the appetite and ability to see through years of debris.”
Robby Browne, an associate broker at Corcoran Group Real Estate, shares this opinion. “Things have changed, in terms of people’s expectations — they expect apartments to be bright and fresh,” he said. “That’s a result of all the new developments coming on the market, where they have beautiful sales offices and staged apartments where everything is done.”
That’s why Mr. Browne recommended a complete home staging for a co-op his team is selling at 170 East 78th Street. This was even thoughArchitectural Digest magazine had featured the place in 2011, describing “an ethereal dining room modeled on a czarist winter garden” and one of the two bedrooms as “such a perfect Empire bijou, with striped silk on the walls, an exotic nude over the mantel, and a steel campaign bed, that you half expect to meet Napoleon’s ghost.”
Ghosts, even Napoleonic ones, don’t play all that well in today’s market.“Ten years ago, I would have never suggested it,” Mr. Browne said. But in the age of the television series “Million Dollar Listing” and online real estate porn, more buyers expect up-to-the-minute style.
After being convinced that ornate furniture and heavy fabrics are now turnoffs for most buyers, the apartment’s owner, Jean-Paul Beaujard, an antiques dealer and decorator, moved out, sent his things to Lockson, a moving and storage company, and paid Meridith Baer Home about $20,000 to do away with the First Empire.
“Today’s buyer doesn’t want that look,” said Ms. Baer, a Los Angeles stager whose company has expanded into other cities, including New York. “They want sheer or linen curtains, and they don’t want the home packed. They want a cleaner, simpler lifestyle. And more flair and fun.”
Ms. Baer’s team carted in white sofas and chairs with clean lines, laid down textured sisal rugs, installed a wood slab coffee table, transformed a formal dining room into a casual family room, removed the offending drapery and painted cream walls white.
Ms. Baer, who has a long list of celebrity clients, added that her firm used a similar approach to stage a Greenwich Village penthouse owned by the actress Julia Roberts, which sold for $5.35 million, $850,000 over its asking price, this past October.
“It’s the complete opposite of what I like,” Mr. Beaujard said of his overhauled space. But, “now, you see the proportions of the apartment better. Even I was surprised.”
In mid-January, after it had been on the market for one and a half months, Mr. Beaujard accepted an offer for his apartment, which had been listed most recently for $2.695 million.
Many sellers have heard the staging edicts to paint all their walls off-white, and to remove all personal photos. Perhaps they have even heard that they should set the dining table with plates and glasses, or bake cookies before showings for a pleasing scent.
That advice does not hold much water today, said Sid Pinkerton, the owner of Manhattan Staging. “I’m doing more accent walls than I’ve ever done,” he said, including individual walls covered in dark brown lacquer, bursts of coral or aqua paint and patterned wallpaper with a rainbow of color.
“People are looking for more personality,” he said. “It used to be more innocuous, where you didn’t really want to convey a sense of style. Now, it’s gotten a lot more modern.”
Although few stagers would recommend leaving an entire wall of baby photos in an apartment, a handful of attractive photos in handsome frames might actually help create the right environment.
“If a photo shows the family on vacation, maybe someplace warm and nice, that ties into a lifestyle a buyer might want to emulate,” said Donna Dazzo, the president of Designed to Appeal, a staging company that operates in New York and the Hamptons.
Meanwhile, setting dining tables and baking cookies now seems contrived.
“When I see a tray on a bed, with a coffee cup, I think, ‘Oh, come on,’ ” said Anne Kenney, the president of the New York staging company Anne Kenney Associates. “Does anybody really live that way? Today’s buyer is more sophisticated, so they don’t want to see phony.”
David C. Salvatore, the creative director of Edge Mid-Century Designs, a staging and vintage furniture company in Clifton, N.J., and a salesman at Warburg, noted that a good staging job shouldn’t look like a stage set.
“The biggest compliment I can get,” he said, “is when someone walks in and asks if it’s staged, because they can’t tell.”
Mr. Salvatore recently staged a three-bedroom prewar co-op at 975 Park Avenue for an estate sale listed by his colleague Dorothy Schrager, an associate broker at Warburg.
It was a respectable apartment, with lots of dark wood and built-in shelving, that just wasn’t moving after being listed in June 2015 for $5.999 million.
Before putting it on the market the first time, “We removed some items, but didn’t have the heart to get rid of a lot of things that were meaningful to us,” Laurie Goldberg, a daughter of the late owners, wrote in an email.
That turned out to be a problem. “People loved the layout, but couldn’t envision the apartment’s potential,” she noted. “They thought it was tired looking and needed too much work. They couldn’t get past the dated look of the furnishings.”
After the apartment sat on the market for six months, Ms. Goldberg hired Mr. Salvatore to stage it in December for about $20,000.
He had the majority of furniture and accessories removed, carpets and many of the built-ins torn out, wood floors buffed and two bedrooms that had been converted to offices returned to their original function.
Then he brought in distinctive contemporary furniture with a light and airy appearance, including leggy living room chairs upholstered in a zebra-print fabric and twiggy side tables with glass tops, along with sculptural ceramic vases and figurines for a little charm.
Earlier this month, Ms. Schrager relisted the staged apartment, now priced at $5.3 million. She said the number of prospective buyers touring the property had increased.
One downside of such comprehensive interventions is that staging is now generally more expensive than it used to be.
Since Mr. Pinkerton started staging New York homes 13 years ago, “staging has almost doubled in cost,” he said. “A small staging for me used to be $4,000 or $5,000. Now, the smallest ones will run about $10,000.”
Staging a two- or three-bedroom apartment can cost about $20,000 to $30,000, not including the cost of moving and storing existing furniture. Staging a much larger apartment, or a townhouse, can cost $100,000 or more.
For sellers who aren’t ready to make such an investment, but are willing to do work themselves, some stagers also offer consultations and provide written recommendations for a much smaller fee.
Barbara Brock, the president of the New York staging company Sold With Style, offers home evaluations for $250 that assess market readiness and detail suggested improvements.
When Jeffrey Davis and Betty Wang were preparing to list their three-bedroom co-op at 181 East 73rd Street for sale, their agent, Mr. Balzano, hired Ms. Brock to evaluate the place.
Her suggestions included repainting baseboards to freshen them, cleaning bathroom grout, replacing some furniture, hanging art on bare walls and reducing clutter.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Mr. Davis said. “She pointed out a lot of very interesting things that a buyer might see.”
Mr. Davis hired a building handyman to do much of the work, and rented some replacement furniture from Churchill Furniture Rental for three months, for a total of about $4,000, before listing the apartment for $2.695 million earlier this month.
There was just one suggestion from Ms. Brock that he refused to accept. The bedrooms occupied by his two sons are painted spring green and turquoise, and Ms. Brock wanted them painted more neutral hues.
“She was adamant about painting my kids’ bedrooms, which I totally disagreed with,” Mr. Davis said. “If people can’t see through a paint color to buy an apartment ... ” he added, stopping midsentence in disbelief that such a seemingly minor thing could derail a sale.
“My wife and I decided not to do that,” he said. “These are kids’ rooms and they’re happy colors.”
STAGING IS REAL ESTATE MARKETING AND THE BEST WAY TO ATTRACT FULL PRICED OFFERS, QUICKLY
Thank you for inviting me to your house. Polka Dot Interiors will professionally prepare your home for sale, so it will appeal to the most amount of buyers and generate the highest price in the least amount of time on market. In today's market conditions, Staging sells homes.
Home Staging is NOT decorating, fluffing, interior design or redesign! Home Staging IS detailing, decluttering, depersonalizing and preparing a seller's home to give it a "model home" appearance so that the potential buyer can "see" themselves living in the home.
7 Reasons why your decision is wise one:
- Selling or buying a property is possibly one of the biggest investments anyone could make. How the property is presented and perceived should be given as much importance and consideration as any consumer product on the market.
- When you want to sell your home, there are two simple rules to follow to assure a quick sale: price it well, and make it look amazing. Whatever the asking price, its appearance needs to be flawless.
- 94 percent of staged homes sold on average in one month or less and spent 80 percent less time on the market than those that were not staged. The Return on Investment of home staging is to average a sales price that is 7-15% more than a non-staged home. Also, staged properties sell 50-80% faster than non-staged homes eliminating several potential months of carrying costs.
- Staging uses design and conceptualization techniques. The objective is to have potential buyers walk in and envision the property as their home. They can see themselves living and entertaining there. It’s all about creating a space that makes buyers connect emotionally to it. They should feel as if they were the owner, not a guest. As a seller, In order to do this effectively, you need to make your house as impersonal and attractive as possible to stimulate the buyer’s visual acuity and that’s why you hire me.
- The truth is that a room always looks larger with furniture in it, furniture to scale. It also gives a buyer a perspective of how their furniture will fit and look and how to arrange the space. Visual psychology involved in gaining a buyer’s immediate attention.
- Home staging is effective because it emphasizes a property’s strengths and minimizes its weak points. It allows your home to be shown at its maximum potential. Presenting a well-cared for home and creating a property that gives a positive first impression. It attracts the attention and admiration of prospective buyers, and encourages them to consider how your property fits their requirements.
- Today’s buyer is much more sophisticated as compared to in the past. With all the access to information on shows and DIY classes, the internet, design ideas, etc. buyers are just expecting more than in the past and if a seller isn’t willing to make changes, a buyer will quickly move to the next property that may be more move in ready.
Happy Selling and Thank you for letting me to be part of it!
SO YOU WANT TO BE A HOME STAGER: TOP 10 THINGS TO CONSIDER
It’s really easy to become a home stager – easier than wanting to start in real estate – because unlike becoming a realtor, you don’t even have to take any courses. You can just wake up one morning and decide“hey, today is the day I start staging houses!” Presto! Now you’re a home stager! Do you know what you’re signing up for? Many don’t; they think it’s this glam job where TV cameras follow us around all the time and we get to tell people their stuff is ugly and they should throw it out and buy all new. Ummm .. it’s not quite the same thing and it takes a lot of time, perserverence and talent to make a staging business a success.
So here are the top things to consider if you want to become a home stager:
1) Realtors aren’t immediately your friends and most of them won’t want to work with you right away. Often home stagers when they first start out think that if they go to the different real estate offices and introduce themselves, bring some business cards, their portfolio and some treats that the realtors will flock to talk to them. This is a common misconception. Because there are SO many home stagers, especially in larger cities, realtors often feel overwhelmed by all the home stagers who drop by their offices. Many are still figuring home staging out and will say ‘no’ without even considering what is being offered to them. It takes time, perseverance and creating a good reputation to change that. Even then, rejection is a normal occurrence even for seasoned professionals.
2) It costs money to start a home staging business – sometimes a lot of money especially if a stager is investing in building an inventory right from the start. From business registration, liability insurance, staging training & education, branding, marketing materials, gas, storage fees, website, cellphone, laptop, camera … and the list goes on. These are all essential business building items however if you didn’t budget for them they can have you wondering what you got yourself into.
3) Its hard prospecting for clients and if realtors aren’t interested in your services then its even more difficult to get actual staging jobs. If you live in an area where staging just isn’t taking off then it can be very hard to make a living staging homes. I know of many stagers who want to work but are frustrated because the people in their area ‘just don’t get it’.
4) Many aspiring stagers contact experienced home staging professionals looking for guidance, advice and mentoring. As our industry has evolved over the past five years, there are now larger home staging companies that can and do provide all of these things. Our advice is to do your research and seek out the ones which you want to be trained by. When you ask for help and they respond – even if they can’t mentor you or hire you – thank them! We reply to each and every inquiry we get however it is staggering the number of new stagers that do not respond after we have sent them information, advice and/or guidance. For those that do thank us, we remember and are far more likely to hire or mentor them in the future.
5) Home owners and realtors will get upset with you; you WILL offend some of them no matter what you do. Staging by its very nature is intrusive for most home owners and you touch on some very sensitive topics so its only natural that at some point you will offend some of them. Additionally because we tend to work on very tight timelines so that homes can get listed for sale, there is a high level of stress that is felt in both the sellers and realtors and can make for some tearful and angry blowups.
6) Other stagers in your area may not be your friends right away. As much as we want to all get along, the reality is that stagers are fiercely competitive and some may just not play nice at all. The Real Estate Staging Association and local Chapters has come a long way to helping stagers get over their fears so that they can work collaboratively together. If you aren’t a member of RESA, the official trade organization for home stagers and redesigners, we recommend checking them out! RESA is a phenomenal industry resource and provides everything new stagers need to get their business started.
7) The road to becoming a successful home stager is time-consuming.From consults to staging jobs to social media to presentations … and more .. its easy for the job to take over your life. This is one of the areas we constantly struggle with which is creating boundaries between work and my family life. It’s very easy, especially when we are incredibly busy, to be working 10 – 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Investing in business coaching and prioritizing tasks will help new stagers balance both a work and social life so that they don’t burn out too quickly. Additionally, creating a solid business plan and charging appropriately for your services – not giving away services for free – will ensure you work effectively and earn a steady income.
Staging is real estate marketing and the best way to attract full priced offers, quickly.
8) Bad things can and will happen on the job. From scratching a seller’s brand new cherry floors to dropping their antique birdcage that their husband’s mother bought for them for their wedding, these things will happen. Ensuring you are insured, have contracts with your clients to cover you for when of surprises goes a long way in this business. You can’t protect against everything however and there will be jobs where because something unexpected happened, you make no money or you lose money. C’est la vie.
9) That you need to have a solid business plan – and stick to it – to make your staging dreams a reality. Some stagers never do this but the really successful stagers that I know of have business plans not only for the short-term, but also for over the next 5 – 10 years. They are extremely detail oriented, organized and focused. As we said above, charge appropriately, value yourself and the services you offer so that others do too. We have seen too many stagers over the years offer their services for next to nothing only to end up folding their business in under a year because they made no money. If you offer it for free once, people remember and expect you to do that again. Know what your services are worth and don’t be afraid to charge appropriately.
10) You’ll need to become a social media expert to some degree to ensure that you are hitting all your target markets. From interactive websites to Facebook Fan Pages to Tweeting to Blogging .. all of these play vital roles in creating a viable staging business. Building brand and name recognition happens slowly however if you aren’t online then the odds are high your target clients will never find you.
11) I know, I said top 10, but I had to add one more! PORTFOLIO! Get one. Make it all your own work and even if its your house and your sister’s house – make it showcase your talent. You can do all the other things here but if you don’t have actual staging talent then nothing else really matters. If you do have talent but don’t have a portfolio then no one will know what you can do. So show them. And don’t pass off stock photos or other people’s work as your own. People find that stuff out and then your credibility is shot so don’t do that.
The True Porfolio logo ensures that all the pictures on a website represent the stager’s work.
Staging as a career can be incredibly rewarding – especially if it is your passion! Taking the time to create a solid business plan and invest in your staging training will ensure that your passion is also profitable. And if you don’t want to run a staging business, invest in training and then look for a position with a larger staging company. There are lots of ways to be a part of this dynamic industry – you just need to find your niche.
Home Stagers Job Description
A home stager makes sure the house is inviting at first glance.
A house looks much more attractive to potential buyers when it’s decorated, furnished and free of clutter. Empty houses can be difficult to show because prospective buyers can’t always imagine what the house will look like once they move in and furnished it. A house that’s “staged” appropriately is more inviting and can increase the odds that it will sell. Realtors and homeowners often call on stagers to help. They can use the homeowners’ current furnishings or bring in their own to set up the home and get it ready to show to potential buyers.
The first job of a home stager is to assess the needs of the homeowner. Many times, furnishings need to be rearranged and the house decluttered. Stagers use the homeowners own décor and advise the owners what to pack up and put in storage. To show well, a home must be easy to navigate and free of personal mementos and pictures. Potential owners must be able to imagine themselves in the house and personal items can cloud that picture. To that end, stagers take over and move furniture around, remove the clutter that homeowners have trouble parting with and create a pleasant environment to show prospective buyers.
Oftentimes, stagers are called in after the homeowners have already moved, leaving a cold and empty home for sale. Prospective buyers have difficulty looking past the emptiness to imagine themselves living in the space. At the same time, flaws are more noticeable when rooms are void of furniture and decorations. Home stagers either rent furniture and accessories to place in the rooms or bring in their own items. As they build their business, many home stagers collect pieces and keep them in storage until they’re needed for a client.
A home stager may suggest more extensive work than just rearranging the furniture to make the house more attractive to would-be buyers. Home stagers often recommend painting or adding shutters or other window treatments to rooms saturated with too much natural light. They either bring in employees to provide such services or contract out with local providers. Home stagers keep a list of trusted contractors, including painters, carpenters, plumbers, landscapers and other home-service providers.
Home stagers often stick with the property until it’s sold, making regular visits to clean or refreshen the décor. The exterior also falls under the purview of the home stager in many cases, which means regular yard maintenance and cleaning as well. Home stagers may be called on prior to an open house to make adjustments to the décor to accommodate larger groups of lookers. Home stagers also participate in creating an online presence for sellers, taking pictures to place in online advertisements and creating virtual tours of the newly staged and decorated home.