When I help my clients prepare their home for sale, one of the topics I discuss is staging. Not every home needs staging, but over the years, I have found most homes photograph and show better with a little professional editing. I work with an experienced interior decorator with a knack for making little changes that create a dramatic impact. It’s surprising how simply turning a sofa or moving a rug or a lamp can make a huge difference in a room, and my clients often remark that they wish they had thought to make the changes years earlier.
Helping buyers fall in love with a property takes more than making the beds and running the vacuum. It requires decluttering, depersonalizing and styling. So what common mistakes do stagers see and address with my clients? These top offenders seem to come up most often:
Mistake: Decluttering into Closets. Most clients have momentos, collections, extra clothing and furniture that will need to be removed. But cramming all of that clutter into every corner of every closet is a major problem. Storage is an important consideration for most buyers, and overstuffed closets give the wrong impression. Sellers can streamline the moving process by donating or throwing out unwanted items, and consider renting a storage unit or using a corner in a friend’s garage for the excess.
Mistake: Lawn and Patio Neglect. Withering plants give buyers pause; if a seller doesn’t take care of the landscape, what else aren’t they maintaining? Trim the bushes, keep the lawn mowed and edged, and add new blooming plants in large pots near the door or on the patio. Get rid of rotted or rusty furniture, and power wash patios and walkways.
Mistake: Misused Space. Bedrooms should be bedrooms, not closets. Dining rooms should contain a table and chairs, not the children’s video game equipment and a sofa. Although a non-traditional arrangement of space might have worked wonderfully for the seller, to appeal to the greatest number of buyers, each room should have a clear, traditional function. An easy rearrangement of furniture is usually all that is needed to give buyers a clearer picture.
Mistake: Hunting Trophies. Although many sellers and buyers are avid hunters, especially here in Texas, a wall full of deer heads is a turnoff for some. Now is the time to remove the trophies and put them in storage, then patch and paint walls.
Mistake: Getting Personal. Buyers have trouble picturing themselves in a home if the seller’s interests and opinions are represented in every corner. Ditch the kitsch, remove university affiliations (this means you Aggies and Longhorns), take down political signs, and store family photos, awards and collections.
Mistake: Forgetting about Fido. Pets are like family members, but even buyers who adore animals don’t want to smell them in their potential new home. Sellers should ask a trusted friend to give their home the sniff test. Cleaning carpets, repairing any damage pets have done to moulding or door frames, and moving kennels and extra-loved doggie toys to the garage can go a long way towards easing buyers’ concerns over lingering pet problems.
So what can my sellers expect when working with a stager? Most staging appointments last between 1 to 2 hours. The stager will walk through the house with the seller, and make most of the necessary changes right on the spot. Most of my sellers have a notebook handy, and make notes about any staging tasks, such as taking boxes to storage or rehanging artwork, that will need to be completed as “homework” after the stager leaves. Once the staging is complete, we schedule our photographer, and then my sellers can relax—their home is ready to impress at its first showing!