Recently, I read a magazine article which profiled the wedding day of a particular couple and one part of their story really struck a chord with me. The bride was determined that they would spend as little money on their wedding day as possible. She got the bright idea that she would do her own hair for the wedding – from colour & highlights to cut and style. Nevermind that she’d never done it before, she’d always gone to a hairdresser and she had absolutely no idea where to start. She plunged ahead, dollar signs that she was saving in her head and dove into disaster. Her blonde hair ended up green because she chose a harsh colour with too many chemicals. The haircut she gave herself was absurd and she ended up looking like some sort of strange bird. She finally had to acknowledge defeat and went to a hairdresser to fix all her efforts. In the end it cost her twice what she would have originally paid – all in the name of saving money.
So that was only a story of hair gone wrong. What happens when its a story of home staging gone wrong? When its a case of a well meaning seller who is bound and determined to stage his/her home for sale to save some money?
As home staging becomes more widely known and accepted, the amount of people who are going to stage their own homes or have their realtors stage their homes will increase. Its an undeniable fact. Sellers want to save money, they think because they have been told they have great design style and that they watch HGTV or the new DIY network that its a piece of cake. Realtors, I have read your blog posts over and over as to why you would stage your client’s homes – for free – for them, and I know its in an effort to add home staging to your listing services and to also ensure that its at a price which is acceptable for your sellers.
The problem however is that because there are so many varied perceptions as to what home staging is, sellers and realtors alike create a strange hodgepodge of homes which would make most professional stagers cringe. In my last blog post, I talked about the essence of home staging and why it’s more than just moving furniture around and adding props. In this post I want to address why the services of a professional stager are vital to a home’s final appearance.
1) De-cluttering & Depersonalizing: Everyone knows they have to do it, I read post after post with great tips which always feature this mandate .. but did you know that nine times out of ten sellers have no idea what to put away and what to keep out? Because they have a hard time viewing their home objectively, they don’t see the home the way a trained stager does which means that the de-cluttering can end up being too much .. too little .. or simply not happen because the seller didn’t know where to start!
Professional home stagers give sellers a detailed report/plan/checklist of every little thing in every room. We see virtually everything and we give the sellers a focused plan on what should stay .. and what should go. Pro stagers know the right balance to strike so that homes appear lived in, yet are modern, bright and appealing.
2) Neutralizing Decor: Again, its on every list I see but what does that mean? What colours are too personal? What colours should be banished and which colours should take their place? Colour has a powerful effect on people’s moods, thoughts and can make the difference between a buyer falling in love and a buyer just passing through a home.
Professional home stagers see the home as a buyer would so they know what decor styles will woo buyers .. and which styles will scare them away. Sellers again, are very attached to their decorating styles and have a tough time letting go. We help them understand how colour plays a huge role in how buyers view their home.
3) Defining functional spaces: This sadly is not on many “must do” lists which are passed around to sellers and its a critical part of making a home both relevant and appealing to buyers. Basically, if you don’t show them the correct functions of a space, buyers have a hard time envisioning what to do with a room. We often see this in situations where the seller has an abundance of certain types of furniture so he has four living rooms instead of a living room, a family room, a dining room and an office. Don’t think that buyers can see beyond what’s in a space – or what’s not in the space – gambling on critical things like this means an extended stay on the market.
Professional stagers are trained to know the correct functions for different rooms – and also to be innately creative with awkward or strangely laid out spaces. We have the talent and experience to know how rooms should be laid out so that they create maximum appeal for buyers. This is a tough skill to master and its one of the biggest issues I see among homes which have been staged by DIY’ers.
4) Key Upgrades: We all know buyers want a modern home with upgrades but which upgrades get you the best return? Where should sellers focus their efforts and money? Yes, reading design magazines and paying attention to selling shows on HGTV help but when it comes to YOUR home, what is going to sell it? Many sellers don’t know.
Professional stagers keep abreast of market and design trends so they are attuned to what buyers are searching for. We look at every individual home, take in its condition and prioritize all the upgrades and changes which will garner attention. We have contacts with professional trades and can work with our clients to effect the changes. Funny thing is, the overall cost is often far less than the seller anticipated and the end result is always “wow” worthy. When it comes to your home – your biggest investment – it isn’t worth the gamble.
5) Merchandising to create that WOW Factor: This is the fun part; accentuating all the changes and upgrades so that the home stands out in the minds of buyers. This is NOT the time to bring back out all the dried flowers, figurines and “props”. This is where we stagers often see the “free” staging efforts on behalf of the realtor and most of the time – not all – the effect falls far short of the intended goal. From accessorizing with dated decor items to strange vignettes, these things do not help sell a home.
Professional stagers have access to a huge assortment of modern accessories, bedding, florals, art which will create that model home feel in any home. Rentals are a fraction of the cost of purchasing these items and once the house sells, all the accents are removed so there is no need to pack and move them. Experienced and talented stagers have the design talent to take a home from “nice” to “stunning” in a matter of hours. When you want to make an impression, opting to invest in home staging means buyers will love YOUR home and will therefore justify the asking price!
Realtors strongly advocate that sellers don’t sell privately because there is so much involved in the sale of a home. Professional stagers strongly advocate that sellers don’t attempt to stage their own homes without – at the very least – a full staging consultation. Why? Because in both cases, there is so much more involved than sellers can imagine and the money they think they are saving is very often negligable when factored against the stress and time it takes to both stage .. and sell .. your own home.
Going with a professional stager is very simply the best way to ensure that your home is remembered hours .. even days later.
Thanks for this great information from Heather Cook -
Heather Cook is Co-Owner and Principal Staging Designer of Rooms in Bloom Home Staging & Design Inc. based out of Kitchener-Waterloo, ON.