How staging your home can help it sell faster

 Posted by Chrissy Marsh-Redd on April 8, 2018 at 4:27 PM

This article originally appeared on Lancaster Online on April 5, 2018

If you’ve watched even 10 minutes of HGTV, you know all about staging.

It’s the process of envisioning what your house might look like without the personal touches that make it home.

And for real estate agents and sellers, it’s become a powerful marketing tool — one that is expected to be part of almost any real estate transaction.

According to a 2017 National Association of Realtors report, 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.

Around 38 percent of sellers’ agents said they stage all sellers’ homes prior to listing.

In practice, staging can include a range of practices from decluttering to repurposing pieces to moving out the owners’ real furniture and renting more neutral, contemporary pieces.

“Usually, it just has to do with editing,” says Kristen Patterson, owner of Sorted & Staged Home Enhancement Services. “I’ll see a three- or five-piece living room set, and then an extra chaise or another chair. People add, but they never take away.”

With an objective set of eyes, Patterson can suggest ways to freshen a home while also making it appear more spacious. To make a room pop, she likes to shop within the seller’s own home, asking them to bring out pieces like planters or serving bowls they typically save for special occasions and trading them for worn everyday versions.

Based in Elizabethtown, she works with clients to declutter, rearrange and showcase the space their homes can offer. She’s often referred to clients by their real estate agent. Her services typically range from $225 for a detailed decluttering to-do list to $495 for a half-day of having her do the decluttering and rearranging.

Topping her to-do list: painting in neutral colors, rearranging furniture (possibly storing some) to emphasize spaciousness and comfort, and trimming what’s contained in closets and other storage spaces to make them look bigger.

“Every surface space should be clean, and storage spaces should not be overflowing,” Patterson said.

Once it’s clean, show it off.

Jennifer King, associate broker and Lancaster specialist for Re/Max of Reading, recommends opening up all blinds and leaving all lights on for showings. Brightness sells, she says, and soft music and understated scents (or fresh-baked cookies) can also set the mood.

The staging process, though potentially painful with the boxing up of cherished mementos and family photographs, can be worthwhile.

Nearly two-thirds of sellers’ agents said staging a home decreases the amount of time the home spends on the market.

Mary Ellen Mahoney works largely with seniors as owner of Caring Transitions of Lancaster. She’s often called upon to help seniors decide what to take to a new living space, using 3-D tools to help them visualize life with less stuff. But for those who still need to sell, it’s also important she helps them leave less stuff on display for potential buyers.

“Some seniors get kind of locked into a look,” Mahoney said. “We don’t need the country clutter or knickknacky look.”

For those having a hard time parting with treasured pieces, Mahoney suggests starting with storage. Leaving things in out-of-sight boxes for a month might provide new perspective for both seller and potential buyers.

Another plus: Mahoney notes that fewer belongings means less accumulating dust and less to clean before each showing.

Mahoney also says staging can be a good exercise for those moving because it forces homeowners to re-evaluate their attachment to things. While those photos of grandchildren will almost certainly go back on display in a new house, 30 unused cookbooks might not need to.

And sellers are often more receptive to a hired organizer or stager than family members when it comes to cleanup tips.

“We have the knowledge and expertise to set up a system of getting rid of things,” Mahoney says.

Even if you don’t need to permanently remove things, Patterson says it’s best to show buyers less of what you have. She says those who have owned a current home for at least 15 years are probably in need of some help because they are most likely to have the same old furniture, too much accumulated wall art and the other happy detritus of home life.

They might also be willing to live with the kinds of imperfections — dinged baseboards, a messy kitchen — that buyers want to be perfect.

“Simply put: Who would want to buy a dirty car?” Patterson says. “When homeowners are looking to make an expensive investment, they are less willing to see past those flaws.”