Putting a bow around your bath towels can help sell your house.
Although most home sellers know to clean, declutter, make beds and keep dishes out of the sink, here are my top 10 staging tricks that will raise your staging game to pro status:
- •The one-third rule. When styling a book case or built-in shelving unit, think thirds. One third of the shelving area should have books – hardcover only please – distributed evenly. One third should have attractive accessories, and one third should be open.
- •Pull an accent color through. Pick a strong color and feature it throughout the house. I chose turquoise in DC’s home, because it is a good Florida color, he had plenty of turquoise items on hand, and the color tied the indoors to the blue outdoor pool.
- •What’s cooking? Get a handsome book stand, and place a nice cookbook on it open to a recipe with a picture of something delicious looking, as if that’s what’s for dinner.
- •Clear the closets. You’re moving anyway, so box up and bag off-season clothing items, and linens, so clothing and linen closets look airy. People will open these, and you want to show them there is room to spare. Stuffed cupboards telegraph limited storage space. You want buyers to think, when they open your cupboards and closets, “Gee, if I lived here, my life would fall into place too.”
- •Project affluence. On a shelf in your closet, in which you now have room to spare, set a shopping bag from a high-end store with tissue poking out. It telegraphs to buyers that if they lived here, they would be able to afford the finer things in life.
- •Project luxury. Splurge on fresh flowers. I bought a live orchid for the great room, a flowering plant for the kitchen table, and assorted bright flowering plants for outdoor pots. Fresh flowers convey that the buyer would enjoy the finer things in life.
- •Project a modern lifestyle. Get rid of anything that smacks of old technology, including land lines, wires coming out of the walls, and intercom systems.
- •Project good times. Set the outdoor and or dining room table so it looks as if company’s coming.
- •Project happy kids. Hang a prom dress in the teen girl’s room, and park a baseball bat, glove, cap and ball in the corner of the boy’s room.
- •Project romance. Put a silky nightgown on the bed, or hang one on the closet door. Put two flutes of champagne and a bottle of bubbly and some chocolates on a tray beside the bed.
I know it sounds goofy, but trust me. It works.
Wen the idea of staging his house to sell came up, DC knew better than to question me. An HGTV devotee, he was tuned in to the power of www. He had also watched me, in the 14 months he’d known me, stage three very different houses. But, he admittedly didn’t have the faintest idea how to take his four-bedroom, Florida home, where he had lived for 18 years — the last two as a widower — from lived-in domesticity to gotta-have-it desirable. So he agreed to stand back and let me have my way with the place. “Can you work with what I have?” He asked, sounding dubious. “Absolutely!” I said, though I was dubious, too. I’d always staged with my own furnishings. Using someone else’s was going to take more, uh, creativity. We would soon see if my four-year stint as a live-in home stager, during which time I’d staged six houses to help them sell faster for more money, was going to pay off.
On top of the sheer challenge, I was motivated. DC wanted to sell his home so I could help him find a new one to buy, which, if all went well, we would. Together. Take a deep breath, because I am. So, in one weekend of heavy lifting, I worked my mad skills and transformed – and I don’t use that word lightly — the ordinary single-family pool home on a shady, tree-lined street, into a Florida oasis. That Sunday night, DC hosted a party and confessed, “I have never seen my house look better.” Monday the listing agent came by and took pictures. Tuesday the house went on the market. Wednesday it sold to the first buyer who walked in for the price DC wanted. BOOM! DONE! SOLD in under 24 hours. “Wow!” came the text the next day to me from the agent. “No doubt in my mind the reason we got such a fast offer is because of all the work you did getting it ready to show. He owes you a nice dinner out.” “Nah. I’m pretty sure I’m the big winner here,” I text back. We’ll get to that later, but for now, folks, the point is this: Staging works.
No matter how corny or contrived you might think it is to put a bow around your bath towels or set the dining room table all fancy though no one is coming to dinner, staging can make the difference between a home that turns fast for a great price, and one that sits. That’s because buyers decide based on the feeling they get. It’s emotional.
Plus, staging is practically free. I used the furniture and accessories on hand, and spent $200 total on fresh flowers, new patio seat cushions and a new doormat. Period.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, and the forthcoming "Downsizing the Family Home: What to Keep, What to Let Go" (Sterling Press). Contact her through http://www.marnijameson.com.