Staging Your Home for Sale


 The three most important words in real estate.

”A good eye is more important than great financial resources.”

Wallace E. Cunningham

Staging your house to sell is like entering a beauty contest.  You want to look good and win the contest.  It’s the same with making your house match. You wouldn't go to the prom with tennis shoes on.  It all needs to work together.

Home stagers know what motivates potential buyers. Getting a house ready to live in and getting a house ready to sell are two totally different things. Decorating is about making a home comfortable for you and your family; staging a home is about merchandising a property. Done well, it helps your home sell faster and for more money.

How much more? Joy Valentine of Coldwell Banker Realty tracked 2,772 properties, ranging in price from $229,000 (U.S.) to $4.8 million, in eight major U.S. cities. She found that while the average home was on the market for nearly 31 days, the typical staged home sold in just less than 14 days. And while the average home sold for a mere 1.6% over the seller's asking price, the staged homes went for a hefty 6.3% more.

The 2005 House Staging Poll (conducted by Maritz Research) reports that 54% of Canadians think that $2,000 or more is the appropriate amount to spend in preparing a house for sale, with a surprising 25% willing to pay over $5,000. The poll also shows that 75% of Canadians would classify the style of their house as “current” or “somewhat current.” These findings are counter to house staging specialists, who maintain that although the majority of homes in Canada are in need of updating prior to sale, a significant difference can be made with as little as or less than $1,500.

Even though it's your home and you still live there for awhile, it's a good idea to get used to the fact that your house is now a product. It has pluses and minuses, as well a competition. To be competitive, your house should be priced right and look better than the others.

Home stagers perform their magic by playing up the best features of your house and minimizing the less desirable.

1. You can’t sell them the house if you can’t get them out of the car.

Prospective buyers make up their minds about your house even before they get out of the car. To ensure they have the desire to enter the home, clean up your yard, rake the leaves, shovel the snow, remove the clutter, and sweep driveways and porches. Get out the rags and scour your front door, porch, railings and steps.

Your home's curb appeal can be enhanced tremendously by removing the storm door, and replacing dated hardware, house numbers and lighting.

Minor changes may mean the difference between a prospective buyer crossing your threshold or passing your home entirely without so much as a second look.

2. Purging instead of splurging.

Clutter eats equity. So purge your closets and cupboards. Rent a storage locker to keep what you want, then toss the rest. Edit, edit, edit.  My motto – be ruthless. 

Do you actually want to take that stuff with you to your next home?

3. Impersonal sells

You want buyers to imagine themselves living in your home, not to feel like a guest in it. So stash anything that is personal. Pack trophies, store family photos and mementos, and remove traces of pets. If someone goes into the bathroom and the rim of the tub is covered with shampoo bottles and toothbrushes are lying around the sink, it's hard for that person to imagine that this could be his or her bathroom. The buyer becomes very conscious of being in someone else's environment. That won't get you a good offer. It's replacing "me" decorating with something more universally appealing.

4. Made to Odor

A disturbing number of home sellers don't realize that their home … um, smells.  A smell can either make or break an impression. The same poll conducted by Maritz Research for Royal Lepage, says that while appearance and cleanliness are important, 53% of buyers said strong odors such as pet and cigarette smells had a stronger impact on their impression of a home than overall tidiness and cleanliness.  So make sure family members leave stinky shoes and sports equipment in the garage. Don't let smokers smoke in the house and be sure that no trash builds up under sinks.

5.  A clean slate is better than a cluttered state.

Cleanliness helps put a buyer's mind at ease since it suggests that you've probably taken good care of your home in other ways as well. So clean everything well: walls, door handles, light fixtures and pantry cupboards. Pay special attention to the furnace room, since most buyers will wonder what shape the furnace is in. 

If the furnace looks clean, it looks well cared for.  I find that a lot of home sellers don't even want to see any of the stuff they've put into storage because they discover they've never missed it. They want to live fresh, clean and clutter-free. It's a wonderful thing. Because staging is, above all, a cleansing experience.

6.   Room for repair

Dripping faucets, cracked tiles and moldy caulking around the bathtub can knock thousands of dollars off the price of your home.  I have sellers who say, “Well, that's a little problem, the buyer can deal with it.”  But I submit that if it's such a little thing, then we should deal with it.  If you do the work, potential buyers won't be distracted by the little repair areas.  Fixing worn out items in a home, such as replacing carpet, can be costly, but repairing them before trying to sell a house will bring back more money in return and make for a faster sale. 

7.   From Drab to Fab – Home Renovations that pay for themselves!

The three BEST renovations (in terms of highest return on investment):

Kitchen: Kitchens have replaced the family & living room as the “heart of the home”. Kitchen remodeling can be a small scale improvement or a complete tear-down and rebuild. Either way, a kitchen that shows it has been recently remodeled is proven to be a guaranteed pay-off.

Bathroom remodeling or adding a bathroom: Today’s homebuyer prefers bathrooms that have spa-style tubs and modern faucets. Granite and marble tiles are now readily available and can be purchased at relatively affordable prices. A bathroom situated on the main floor is increasingly seen by homebuyers as an essential fixture in their next purchase.

Painting: The single best investment is a fresh coat of paint in a warm neutral color. Adding a new coat of paint can freshen up a house and make the interior look like new – not to mention more spacious. New paint on the outside of your home provides an instant facelift.

8. Reduce and rearrange

Beyond small clutter items, many homes have too much furniture for the size of the rooms. So it's important to take a look at how else the furniture can be arranged in a room.  Often people will say, 'Oh, it never occurred to me to put that there.'  Moving end tables and chairs into storage can give a small room some much-needed breathing space and create proper traffic paths. Be clear on the room's exact purpose. Is the space a quiet reading spot or a busy home office area?   Furniture should be arranged so that the pieces talk to each other.   If your furniture dates back to the Trudeau era, consider packing it away and renting a few modern, stylish pieces or borrowing a couple of well-chosen pieces. Keep it clean and simple, like a show home.

9.  Lighten up

The brighter and sunnier a space, the easier it is to sell. Start by giving your windows a good cleaning. Clean windows let in as much as 30% more light than grimy ones. Then thoroughly clean the shades on your light fixtures, changing light bulbs and adding floor lamps if an area seems dim. Finally, when it comes time to show off your home, control your lighting, adding dimmers if necessary.  Turn on table and floor lamps to create an inviting and pleasing ambiance, instead of just the harsh glare of all overhead lights, which can feel like a over lit warehouse. Light hallways.  When those are dark, it gets depressing for buyers going from room to room.

10. Dramatize

A couple of urns at your front entry, a large potted plant, a vase of fresh flowers, even a simple tropical leaf in a vase can warm up a room. You want to have rooms feel like they are living, not dull and sterile. Apply these tips and the final results will be stunning.

Staging tips complements of Karen Elliot of CRAZY HOUSE Home Staging - The Art of Professionally Preparing A House for Sale    403.287.1774      www.

Karyn Elliott is the owner of Albertine Design, an interior design firm that specializes in “making the most of what you already have” by organizing, rearranging and transforming your spaces resulting in enhanced and harmonious living.  Karyn’s greatest gift is the passion she has for her work and the understanding of the symbiosis between the beauty and function that and accounting for their tastes, budgets, and needs.

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