If you’ve sold your home or you’re considering selling it, you’ve most likely heard of home staging. It’s a service that optimizes a home to go on the market and make the best impression on potential buyers. It costs in the range of $1,000 to $5,000, and a lot of people decide they don’t need it.
First of all, as a homebuyer and daily viewer of real estate listings, my strong opinion is that almost every home needs it. Or at least, the seller can greatly benefit from having his/her home professionally staged. Otherwise, the emptier places – even luxury condos with beautiful finishes – look institutional and washed-out in photos. Meanwhile the fully lived-in places, crowded with people’s collections and personal effects, tend to give me that “we’re getting close to Hoarders territory” discomfort. The more I swipe through photos, the more intense the feeling gets.
According to professional stager and interior decorator Darrow Samberg of Darrow Home Design, those feelings are normal. People don’t notice their own stuff, but no one can see past someone else’s years of accumulated stuff. Thinking that potential buyers will be comforted by a lived-in house is a misconception driven by personal sentiment.
“You’re asking people to forgive the mess and still pay top dollar,” she says. “If you want to sell quicker, the home should present in a way that invites people to make their own statement.“
Ms. Samberg has staged approximately 1,700 houses to date, making her very familiar with a process that’s unfamiliar and stressful to most people. If it’s got you twisted up in knots, don’t worry – she compares putting one’s home on the market to planning a wedding. It’s that emotional, with nearly as many details to think about. The end result though, will hopefully you make a tidy profit.
Here are five other myths and misconceptions about home staging:
Misconception: The home stager only touches the interior of the house.
Reality: The home stager thinks about the impression a potential buyer will receive from the moment he/she pulls up and parks the car. That means the yard and garage may also need major changes.
“The tire swing that’s broken but has so many personal memories? The worn-out treehouse that your kids loved years ago? That may need to go,” says Samberg. In fact, she has had to remove exactly such sentimental items from recent projects. If an item doesn’t add to the aesthetic beauty of the surroundings, it shouldn’t be part of the first impression.
Misconception: Home staging and home decorating are basically the same. If you’ve had your home professionally decorated, you don’t need to stage it.
Reality: While many professionals can do both home staging and home decorating, the two are very different in their process, aesthetic and desired outcome.
“When you’re staging, you’re showing the property as it is in its best light–the best showcase of its bones. A lot of times that entails removing the resident’s personal stamp of decorations.”
Misconception: Only expensive homes deserve staging.
Reality: Sure, you might not want to buy all new furniture or framed art prints to bring into a modestly priced home. But no matter what price point a house has, it can be shown to its full potential, or it can show to less than that.
“Whether you’re selling a Honda or a Maserati, nobody wants to get in and sit in that seat unless it looks clean,” says Samberg.
Misconception: All you need to do is clean the house and shove a bunch of your stuff into closets before you take the photos for the listing. Then, carry on with life as usual unless there’s an open house.
Reality: People rely on more than just their eyes when making purchasing decisions. In many cases, the nose has stronger instincts.
Samberg returns to the car analogy: “Every time you get in somebody else’s car, you’re hit with the smell, the stuff, the feel of the seat—just being in someone else’s confined personal space. It’s one thing to be a passenger, and another to want to live in it.”
Misconception: Buyers have to understand that if they want to stretch their budget, they’ll need to do some renovations, painting and cleaning to fix up the place before move-in.
Reality: Every discolored motel-style bathtub or ugly linoleum countertop earns a negative checkmark in a potential buyer’s list. For every flaw, they’re thinking whether they should adjust their offer—and whether they’re going to need to fix the flaw before or during move-in. They would much, much rather not do the fixer-upper work.
“Nobody wants to take on somebody else’s project of cleaning, painting, getting things in move-in conditions,” says Samberg. “Whatever their standard is for walking in with their toothbrush—that’s what they want.”
Author: Lena Katz, Forbes Magazine