Forty years ago, home staging didn't exist -- but neither did the Internet, Pinterest, or design blogs. In today's fast-moving, information-filled world, home staging is a critical piece of the process to selling a home. Whether you turn to a professional or incorporate some home staging elements yourself, these tips will help.
Ask yourself: Who is my ideal new owner? The target market determines a lot when it comes to how to stage a house. The potential buyers for a downtown loft may be very different than those of a century-old stone mansion. "The purchase of a home is really one of the most aspirational purchases people make. It defines them and what they stand for," says Starr Osborne, a home stager and author of Home Staging That Works. "You need to give aesthetic visual cues when staging a home as to how the house could be if they lived there."
That leads to the crucial difference between interior design and home staging. "If I'm designing a house, I want to please the homeowner," says Osborne, who owns Tailored Transitions, a home staging, moving management, and interior design firm. "In home staging, I want to please the buying demographic."
Create a whole package. As Internet use has expanded, so too has the pulled-together feel that people have begun to demand when looking for and buying a home. Home staging can help, by creating a finished environment that translates well onto websites, flyers, and more. "We're more visually sophisticated than we've ever been," Osborne says. "If the potential buyers are younger, it's even more important. You're giving them the set stage of how they could live there."
That also means evaluating how your decor will look online. Ceiling fans with big lights are one of the first things to go, Osborne says. "They look like octopuses online, and taking them out makes a room look bigger, better, and updated," she says. "No one is going to come to a house unless the photos are fabulous. The online listing is the first drive-by."
Paint, declutter, and clean. Repeat. Some of the simplest ways to stage a home actually involve very little output of money. Fresh paint is critical, Osborne says, as is cleaning and decluttering. Other easy fixes include clearing the counters and getting rid of a TV that's taking up lots of space in a family room. "Think of it like this: You're not selling a piece of artwork, you're selling the frame, and you don't want to detract from that," Osborne says. "Plus, painting, decluttering, and cleaning are things you can do that cost very little money proportionally."
Neutralize the decor. Often one of the first things that Osborne does is pull out really distinctive pieces in a home -- a patterned sofa, an Oriental rug -- and replace them with classic neutrals. "You can really change the whole tenor of a room," she says.
Bring in the light. "Light sells," says Osborne. Unless you have a really bad view, let your windows breathe, Osborne says. Get rid of the curtains and drapes, and open the sheers. In addition to natural light, make sure that every room has three sources of artificial light, not including overhead fixtures, says Osborne; you'll help cast out shadows and accentuate welcomed attributes.
Consider the "blink" factor. In his bestselling book, author Malcolm Gladwell discussed how quickly people form opinions and come to snap judgments. That's why the front entry and curbside yard are an essential part of a well-staged home. Osborne suggests updating your front door knob and house numbers. "Front doors are like feet: They take a lot of beating," Osborne says. "Doing those two things are an easy way to modernize."
In addition, trim the bushes and put down a fresh layer of mulch. Clean out the entry way light and sweep out bugs and cobwebs. "What happens outside gives people opinions on how you take care of the inside," she says.
Take emotion out of the equation. If your home is going on the market, make yourself say goodbye to the house before you list it. That means packing up all the meaningful things and collections. "Be prepared to do whatever it takes to get it sold," Osborne says.
Evaluate the payoff. If you're too busy to figure out how to stage a home yourself, consider hiring a home stager. The investment is often minimal compared to the payoff; Osborne has seen houses climb six figures in listing price just because they're well-staged. If you don't know any home stagers, ask a Realtor you trust for referrals -- then ask for examples of houses that have been staged, Osborne says. "Being on the market is no fun, and if you can afford to stage, it can make it a more painless procedure, with a higher price, and a faster sale," she says. "This is a one time cost, and a means to an end."