Unlike decorating, staging your home isn’t about personal style — it’s about creating ambiance and appeal for buyers
By Kristie Barnett
Selling your home means selling a lifestyle, but not necessarily your own. In home staging, you’re striving for a look that is fresh and welcoming yet not really taste specific. People with varying tastes need to feel that they can make the home their own if they purchase it.
This is the distinction between decorating your home and staging it to sell. It can be hard to understand at first, but if you don’t know the difference, you might not sell your house as quickly as you like.
Although everyone has different tastes in decor and furnishings, most people want a home that is welcoming, functional, peaceful and organized. Tailor your house so that buyers will describe it in those terms rather than by your style of decorating. Getting rid of clutter and having fewer but larger accessories is a great place to start.
Making sure your home isn’t taste specific doesn’t mean your rooms should be devoid of color. Instead, keep color schemes simple and dose them with an on-trend neutral, like a clean tan, a soft gray or a warm white.
If you have a distinctive decorating style — whether it’s Tuscan, shabby chic or modern — you’re going to need to scale it back a bit. If you don’t, your home will appeal to the small percentage of potential
buyers who love your chosen style. Staging is about strategic editing and depersonalizing, rather than decorating and personalizing.
Dated is dreary. Strive to stage your space with a current and fresh feel. Use updated neutrals on the walls and furnishings that are clean-lined and simple. Punches of color are great; just use them sparingly. A room arranged symmetrically and centered on the architecture reads as peaceful — one of those important aesthetics every buyer is drawn to.
This guest bedroom is full of great staging ideas. It has lots of on-trend design details, but it’s sparse on accessories and other distractions. The color palette is simple, easy on the eyes and would be attractive to both men and women. Most potential buyers would remember this appealing room long after leaving the house.
This clever arrangement draws attention to the unique architecture in the space and illustrates a smart use for the area under the stairs: an office nook. This area is nicely decorated, not staged.
If I were staging this area, I would keep the desk, chair and lamp, remove overly personal items such as family photos, and leave a few pieces of art and an attractive notebook and pen. Simple accessories can help draw attention to a functional space.
If you are updating a kitchen or bath before putting your home on the market, keep the finishes neutral and classic. This is not the time to show off your personal style. You want to broaden your buying audience by appealing to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. This bathroom would definitely appeal to buyers with either traditional or contemporary taste, and could later be personalized with the new homeowner’s preferences for color and accessories.
The bottom line is that you have to get outside your head and inside the mind of a potential home buyer. It’s very difficult to be objective about your own home, but it’s crucial if you want to sell it.
Tell us:Do you believe there’s a difference between staging and decorating? Let us know in the Comments!
Originally published: March 14, 2012 4:22 PM
Updated: March 15, 2012 1:27 PM
By KRISTIN TAVEIRA Special to Newsday
Denial is like a shiny, seductive bubble — it offers psychological shelter from unpleasant realities until you’re ready to come to grips with them. But, if you are selling your home, it can be your worst enemy, and you could be in for a long stay on the market. But someone else’s wishful thinking can work to your advantage — if you can wake up and face the facts before your competition does, and do what it takes to sell your home in the real world.
“The delusion is that the market is getting better,” says Linda Bonarelli Lugo of Realty Executives North Shore in Huntington. That’s only partly true, she says. “We are having more sales, but the pricing has not increased.”
That is true in Nassau County, where in February the median home sales price of $380,000 represented a 3.8 percent decrease from the prior year. Suffolk County reported a slight increase for February — the median home sales price was $304,250 compared to $300,000 the prior year, representing a 1.4 percent uptick.
Sellers want to believe their homes will be the exception; experts say good luck with that. “There’s a certain kind of schizophrenia,” says Diane Saatchi, senior vice president with Saunders & Associates Real Estate. “Why is it the house you no longer want is worth more than market value, while the house you’re dying to have should be had at a discount? It’s not that I want to be rude, it’s just that it’s not going to happen.”
With the coming of the spring market, it’s time to burst your own bubble. Here are five things shrewd homeowners should do if they want to sell their homes this year:
1. BREAK UP WITH YOUR HOUSE
Delusion: Everyone will love my home as much as I do.
Reality: “The buyer sees all the other houses in the same neighborhood with the same amenity list — the seller only sees one,” says Saatchi. Tame your emotions and your ego. Feeling attached, ambivalent, proud or defensive about your home will cloud your judgment. “You want the buyer to be emotional, not you,” she says.
So before you list, break up — including the part where you take your stuff back.
Removing personal items will clear the way for buyers to picture themselves there, and it will also help you make the mental transition from owner to seller. The home should remain decorated enough to look inviting, but devoid of personal items such as family photos. That detachment is key — it will give you the distance and perspective to make good decisions. While other sellers are still struggling to accept the realities of the market — and making time-consuming mistakes — you’ll be able to make an accurate comparison and make yours the most attractive deal on the first try.
2. BE THE BOSS OF YOUR LISTING
Delusion: I can leave everything up to my broker.
Reality: It’s tempting to seek out a professional who will tell you what you want to hear — or one who promises to take over the process and wake you when it’s over. You’ll have to be more proactive than that if you want good results, says Saatchi. “You have to realize you’re making a business transaction,” says Saatchi. “You don’t want the broker who says your house is wonderful and gives you a high price. You want the one who has sold houses and can be businesslike.”
Listening to professional advice is key, but “the seller has to be participating in the discussion,” says Bonarelli Lugo. Speak up, do your homework and work with your agent to make informed decisions.
3. DITCH THE DEDUCTIONS
Delusion: I don’t have to do the work — buyers will see the potential.
Reality: House hunters will mentally chip away at your asking price for each flaw they spot — so declare war on the warts. Not everything has to be brand-new, but any big-ticket items that still have life left in them should be restored to their best possible condition so they don’t falsely announce themselves as needing immediate replacement or repair. Why let buyers argue that they’ll need a $3,000 discount to install new carpets if a professional cleaning could make yours look great for $300?
“Fix it if it’s fixable,” says Saatchi. But no faking it — if there’s a problem you won’t be repairing, disclose it, she says. Use attention and elbow grease to create an overall impression of cleanliness and care. But don’t go crazy; a major kitchen remodel isn’t necessarily worth it because you can’t predict buyers’ tastes, says Saatchi.
4. CASH IN ON OTHERS’ MISTAKES
Delusion: My home is worth my asking price, and my price is worth waiting for.
Reality: A house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Sellers are notorious for overestimating their homes’ values — then finding out the hard way that they’ve misjudged. Skip the long learning curve. Look at the prices of homes similar to yours that are languishing on the market and then at the prices of those that have sold. Ask yourself which group you want to be in — then price it that way.
“Sold properties in the area represent the reality of what’s going on,” says Don Scanlon, Long Island Board of Realtors president. “Not what people are asking, but sold properties. Those are the facts.”
There’s more at stake here than just taking a while to sell. While you’re waiting, a low sale or foreclosure in the neighborhood could strike a major blow to your home’s value.
5. MAKE THEM SWOON
Delusion: It will either feel like home to a buyer or it won’t, and it’s out of my hands.
Reality: Certain homes meet all the criteria but only make the “maybe” list. Others have that special something that give buyers the butterflies — that warm, fuzzy and slightly panicky sensation that walking out the door without making an offer could be the biggest mistake of their lives. It feels magical, but it’s not — it’s physical, and you can copy it.
The best way to understand the effect is to visit competing open houses, or pay attention during your own house hunt. When you find a home that makes your heart sing, dissect your feelings and impressions step by step — then try to identify the physical things that evoked them. “All our senses kick in,” says Bonarelli Lugo. “Buying a house is an emotional purchase, and you have to appeal to the purchasers’ emotions.”
The source of that “homey” feeling might be carefully constructed curb appeal that can be broken down into parts — a freshly painted front door, neatly trimmed shrubs, a clean-swept walk. The “cheery” kitchen may boil down to squeaky-clean windows that let the sun shine in and a bouquet of yellow flowers. If you can put your finger on the details that really pushed your buttons and try to replicate them, you just might be able to elicit the type of emotional response in a buyer that can translate into an offer.