Home Staging

by Marcus Pickett

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Home staging is the process where you present your house in a way that makes it sell faster while maximizing its selling price. In this ultimate buyer's market, anything you can do to set your house apart is critical to getting the property sold. Emphasizing any freshly remodeled areas of your home is great, but first and foremost staging can serve a very different purpose in this housing market. Highlighting the fact that your home isn't in an advanced state of foreclosure can be a huge advantage—in fact, with crashing prices, one of the only advantages.

House Staging in Today's Market
When you're trying to sell your house on your own, good house staging is at least as important as how you put your house on the market. Whether or not you're trying to complete a "distressed" sale, you want your home to stand in stark contrast from the fire-sale auctions of banks. Along with location and school districts, selling a home in today's market is closer to selling a car. You want to convey to the prospective buyer that you've cared for your home since day one. There are no surprises for the buyer, here. To get the best value, you should present your home to attract buyers who are looking for their dream home, not a trendy investment property.

You should try to look at your house as though you were a prospective buyer. If you're in the market to buy a new home, pay attention to how the homes you look at are staged. What grabbed your attention? What worked? What didn't? At the same time, you need to remember that living in your home is different from presenting it to a potential buyer. What you like for your house may not necessarily be what the new homeowner likes. You'll need to set up your home to create a canvass of decorating opportunities.

Interior Preparation
Obviously, you'll want to clean everything top-to-bottom. Focus on the bathrooms and kitchens. These are the two key areas that tend to most directly enhance your home staging. In particular, make sure all counters are free of small items and all magnets and mementos are removed from your refrigerator. Take down as many wall hangings as is practical. If you have a lot of furniture in rooms, remove these pieces and keep only the essentials. Even if you've already moved out, you don't really need to remove everything from your house, but you'll want a potential buyer to be able to easily imagine what their furniture and items will look like in the house.

Exterior Preparation
Keep your yard neatly mowed. Weed and mulch any applicable yard areas. Keep your garbage out of view or, better, start dumping it off somewhere daily or especially before an open house. Get your gutters cleaned and swept. Treat your decks, patios, and porches like you would an interior room. Remove all clutter and any extra furniture. A small table and a few chairs are plenty for a patio. A completely clear patio or deck isn't necessarily a bad thing. Finally walk out to the curb and take a good look at your house. If the house can't be seen, it's going to be harder to sell. If you need to, trim any shrubs, bushes, trees, etc. that inhibit your ability to see the features of the house.

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Open Houses
Just before you hold your open house, you should consider adding any subtle warming touches. Finding a way to create pleasant aromas is one easy way to do this. Potpourri is a good bet but, you should avoid anything overpowering like strong incense. This may be distracting and may create the impression you're trying to cover up an existing, suspicious smell. Providing food is another good way of creating a pleasant atmosphere. Cookies can be a good choice. If you have the time to bake and clean up, making a pie can provide the perfect aroma for your home. You might want to give your prospective home buyers the pie on the way out, though—blueberry stains are the last thing you want.

Home Stagers and Real Estate Agents
That said, home staging doesn't need to be a DIY project by any means. You can hire a professional home stager to take care of most, or all, of this process for you. Home stagers and real estate agents can be separate entities or a bundled service. You can hire only a real estate agent to put the house on the market for you, while you take care of your own house staging. Alternately, you can hire a home stager and attempt to put your house on the market on your own. Many real estate agencies offer home staging services. Some may include a fee or higher commission, as home staging can be outsourced or staffed within a real estate agency. However you want to play it, you're sure to find the right company/professional for your level of services. Just be sure to discuss what is included in the commission price before you sign any contracts.

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.