Designers tout it and builders love it, so what is all the hype with staging about? Well...there's good reason why many see staging as the perfect selling tool. On average, well staged homes sell for 6% over their non-staged competition and when you factor in that the average home in Michigan sells for around $152,000 you can see why homeowners look to staging to help them capture the extra $9,000+ that it may bring.
Staging is such a useful selling tool because it turns your home into the ultimate salesman (or saleswoman) by allowing your product to speak for itself within the buyer's internal dialogue. A well staged home provides buyers with enough of a vision to allow them to picture themselves living in the home while also still leaving room for a buyer to think of what 'it could be' and how it would fit their lifestyle. Granted, some homes sell for less and others more so a staging budget is always a concern for sellers however, by following a few key staging core concepts you can stage like a pro without breaking the bank.
The Minimalist Wins
The number one rule in staging is...declutter! Grandma's porcelain figurines and your college furniture may fit well with your décor, but it will only make your space seem cluttered to buyers (we love you grandma). If you do nothing else, a simple cleaning and storing of non-essential items from view will open up your space and allow buyers to focus on your home's features instead of your home's items. Wait I thought staging was about placing items in the home, now you're saying take items out? Effective staging not only strategically places items within your space but, also removes irrelevant items with the ultimate goal of helping buyers see the highlights of your space.
Pay attention to counter tops, cabinets, open shelving and excess furniture and aim to declutter display and work surfaces and when you think you've decluttered...declutter some more. Just a few relevant display items will go a long way to show buyers a use for the space while still highlighting the space available and property features which hold those items. Ideally, you should store irrelevant items in a storage unit however, not only may that not be possible but, it can also be a pain in the .... If you are unable to store items offsite, then look to store items together in a natural storage area i.e. basement, storage room, shed, etc. It'll free up your space making it feel light and airy and buyers will appreciate it.
Don't Make it Personal
What is life if we don't get to celebrate life's precious moments? Family pictures, achievement awards, kids' paintings, vacation photos and similar personal items all have sentimental value and allow us to relive the moment. However, when selling your home it is important for buyers to envision themselves and their families living in your... their home.
Replacing family photos and other personal items with 'neutral' photos or removing them all together will keep buyers from focusing on your personal items and will allow them to fill in the blanks with their own personal touches. Now that doesn't mean that all personal items are bad for instance, a kid's painting in a room that is dedicated as a kid's play room may work very well however, in general it's best to remove or replace your personal items for more 'buyer neutral' and 'buyer friendly' items.
Sell a Lifestyle
What do some of the most successful staged home have in common?... They sell a lifestyle and not just a home. No matter how well priced your property may be or how well it looks on a listing, the fact is that your listing will face competition whether it be through quality, price, location or all of the above. One the things you can do to ensure others can't compete is to offer not only a home but a lifestyle through staging.
Does your property have a unique feature? a pool? near a lake or river? close to a recreational park? on a lot with acreage? near attractions? offer a quiet retreat? ... you get the point. Play it up! Bring in staging items that reflect that lifestyle throughout the property and if the feature is on your property take care to further draw attention to it. Offering a vision to buyers of what 'life could be like' living in your property is a surefire way to get a 'buzz' going about your listing and buyers may look beyond your property's shortfalls for the appeal in lifestyle that it can offer.
"Effective staging not only strategically places items within your space but, also removes irrelevant items with the ultimate goal of helping buyers see the highlights of your space."
Provide a Design Solution
When viewing your property buyers have tons of questions 'What can this space be used for?, Will my furniture fit in here? , Is there enough storage?', etc., etc., etc. Staging is all about providing answers for buyers as they look through the property asking themselves these questions. The more solutions you are able to provide for your buyers, the more successful your staging will be and the more buyers it will attract.
Show buyers the way. Use staging to define awkward spaces and common in demand spaces like kitchens, living rooms and master bedrooms. Take care to use appropriately sized furniture for your space and don't overdue it, if done correctly staging can actually make a room seem 'bigger' than if the room where left completely empty.
Anchor For Effect
Have you ever looked through a listing or walked a property only to have one or two features stick out in your mind about it? That's an anchor and whether it was staged intentionally or not the fact is that anchors are effective at helping buyers remember your property after they have seen dozens of others. Some properties have natural anchors which are difficult to duplicate such as a house on a lake, located near a golf course, etc. and if your property already contains one, consider yourself lucky.
Anchors however, can be as simple as a 'pop' of color used sparingly or as involved as having an ongoing theme run throughout your staged property. Features of your property can also be used as anchors, think of a pool, a bonus room, a fireplace, storage, laundry room, etc. Essentially almost any positive feature can be used as your anchor so long as you 'dress' it up correctly to ensure it sticks out as a positive in a buyer's mind. If you don't have many noteworthy features, make your own anchor, think of chalkboard frames, accent walls and other unique design elements. The key here is to stick out in the buyers mind in a positive way so that your property will long be remembered after they have left.
Focus on Gatherings and Highlights
If you're working within a limited budget, which most of us are, it may be best to start by addressing your property's key features and places which naturally draw people to gather. Kitchens, bathrooms and master bedrooms are highlights which buyers look forward to seeing and living rooms, patios/decks, and eating areas are natural gathering places which buyers will envision themselves living in. Special attention to these key areas will maximize your staging budget and make your listing stand apart from the crowd.
If HGTV and DIY has taught us anything it's that curb appeal should never be ignored. Now of course there's not much you can do about the neighborhood your property is in, but what you can do is ensure that your property looks inviting enough from the street for buyers to want to come in. All the bells and whistles and hard work that goes into staging your property will be no good if buyers are immediately turned off by your property's outside appearance and never come in.
A simple outside clean up, mowed grass, landscape trimming and general overall attention to exterior appearance will not only make your listing pictures standout, but will also set the tone for onsite buyers by creating a sense of interest.
Putting it All Together
Staging specifics such as 'chopped pillows' and proper shelf arrangement are all important but, these staging tips aim at the core and support the reason of why you are staging in the first place - which is to sell your property faster and for the maximum dollar amount the market will support allowing you pay off your home and move on to bigger and better things.
Related: To Pay-Off the Mortgage or Not?
Have fun with the process and as you probably may have already noted some of the core staging concepts described here can overlap and achieve multiple goals simultaneously if executed correctly. Use staging to give your listing an edge and if all goes according to plan your buyer will be just around the corner.
About Ricardo Reis
Ricardo is a member of G3 Management & Investments a division of Great Lakes Real Estate and a real estate professional. He has been a successful property manager and real estate investor for over 10 years.