In many parts of the country, the red-hot housing market is, predictably, cooling off a bit. So, if you're looking to sell your house as quickly as possible and for top dollar -- two of the most common home-seller motivations -- some experts believe that "staging" the property is more important than ever before. The idea behind staging is to spruce up your house to make it look less like your home -- that is, less specific to you -- and more like what a prospective buyer probably wants to see.
"Staging is not decorating," said Barb Schwartz, founder of Associated Staging Professionals and author of "Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money." "Decorating is personalizing a property to your taste, putting your unique stamp on it. Staging, on the other hand, is de-personalizing it, making it, for lack of a better word, more generic."
In the hope of selling in a reasonably short period of time and getting the most money possible for their modest two-story, three-bedroom home in Watertown, a middle-class Boston suburb, Melissa and Will Skinner have decided to hire Thomas Holmes-LaFever and Kate Stenson-Lunt who own a staging business in the Boston area called "Nuances." The Skinners have owned their home for a little more than three years now and have put it on the market for $474,000.
The Nuances team has big plans for the Skinner home. They want to take away the area rug in the living room in order to showcase the beautiful hardwood floors below. They plan to remove the personal photos from the fireplace mantle and add some topiaries. The home office is currently crammed with books and clutter, and the bed needs to be made hotel-style.
"Would I have cleaned up the house before a potential buyer came in? Yes, of course," said Melissa Skinner. "But would I have paid the same attention to detail and the overall sort of 'wow factor?' No, probably not."
The staging is considered so valuable to the eventual successful sale of properties that the Skinners' Realtor pays the $250 evaluation fee for every home they sell. The owners then decide if they want to pay the full fee, which typically runs between $500 and $3,000. But, the investment can be well worth it, said Anita Shishmanian, a real estate agent for Century 21.
"They seem to get a bit of a payback on it," Shishmanian said. "For probably every $100 they spend, they make -- that is, gain in value -- $1,000." That sounds like a worthwhile investment, indeed.
The Skinners decide to go for the full treatment, so they check into a hotel for the night to let Nuances do their thing. The following day, the Skinners are very pleased with the results. The guest bedroom no longer looks like a playroom. And, with the treadmill gone and fewer books jamming the shelves, the office actually looks like an office. Meanwhile, the master bedroom looks like it belongs in a luxury hotel.
"It makes such an incredible difference," Melissa Skinner said. "I mean, I honestly didn't expect it to be this much of a difference. It's really shocking."
The home now has that "wow factor," and that, Holmes-LaFever says, is the key to staging success.
"When you buy a home it is emotional, not intellectual. It's not ‘oh, I guess we could live here if we have to.' We want them to open the door and feel," he said, sucking in his breath to demonstrate the excitement, "'I've got to live here. This is mine.'"
After all, you only have a few seconds to grab the buyer, Holmes-LaFever said. "You have to grab them when they open the front door," he said.By: www.abcnews.go.com