By: Joanne O’Donnell
Today’s market requires a more sophisticated approach to preparing a home to sell. Staging broadens the appeal of a home by accentuating selling features, promoting flow, maximizing space, and neutralizing color and decor. All of these staging efforts should be done with the goal of quickly securing favorable offers from a greater pool of buyers.
A big difference
Don’t confuse staging with decorating or interior design. There are similarities, of course: all of these specialties use color, design, scale, and other elements. However, where interior design caters to likes and dislikes, life choices, and personal style, staging is about neutralizing a home and accentuating the selling features so a wide variety of would be owners can emotionally connect with it.
In other words, staging is essentially a marketing tool for selling a house.
Style that is too personal or specific to a particular homeowner or type of homeowner can limit the pool of potential buyers. When the home remains too personal, buyers often can feel like they are intruding. They may even have difficulty separating the property from the personality of the owners or decor of the property.
Here are some practical staging tips to consider.
Cool statements – make them safe, not boring
Neutral colors come to mind, and rightly so. But, remember, you can go too far with beige. Sophisticated taupes, rich tans, soft moss greens, and warm creamy yellows can create a welcoming ambiance without making a strong design statement that may eliminate prospective buyers.
Gender neutral – aim for the middle of the road
Homes and rooms should not be so gender-specific as to make half the population uncomfortable. For instance, if it’s obvious your seller loves pink, recommend she minimize it; combine it with charcoal grey or black and limit to a bathroom or a child’s room. Relegate lace to the baby’s or little girl’s room, and replace flowery fabric with leaves or geometric or abstract patterns.
And it’s not just the feminine touches that need to be addressed. This works both ways. Re-purpose trophy rooms, take down the motorcycle and car calendars from the garage, and turn that poker palace back into the wholesome family room the builder intended (and most buyers want.)
Religion – this isn’t the time to display faith
Religion is very personal and, for that reason, should remain out of a home on the market. This can be a touchy subject, so handle with care; you don’t want to offend. It can be especially awkward if you don’t share the same belief system as the homeowners.
Encourage your sellers to remove anything that strongly conveys their specific beliefs. Remember, it is about selling the home, and the decor needs to be something of a blank slate on which the buyer can superimpose his own life.
Culture and ethnicity – play it down, but not out
Given the multicultural, muti-ethnic nature of our society, styles from around the world have been incorporated into home decor. Diverse elements don’t have to be eliminated, but they should be used sparingly so that the home doesn’t feel specific to any one ethnicity or culture.
Politics – keep away
Remove anything that projects political convictions. Buyers who have different beliefs may find themselves thinking about the owners and their politics instead of the features of the house. They may also wonder if the rest of the neighborhood is of the same political persuasion as the homeowners and whether they would fit in.
Generational Style – avoid extremes, stereotypes
Stage for the targeted buyer while remembering that style spans generations, cultures, geography, etc. Someone over 50 doesn’t necessarily want heavy, ornate furniture any more than everyone under 30 wants glass and chrome. They rule of thumb is to bring it to the middle with contemporary style; that way, a few accessory changes could satisfy the modern as well as the classic.
There are types of properties where it’s OK to go more in one direction than the other- an urban loft, for instance- but in general, move generational the toward the center.
Collections – pick it up, pack it away
Ah, the bane of stagers’ existences. People love their collections and want to display them. To many homeowners, these collections are status symbols and elicit strong emotions. The classic example is a doll collection that covers every surface of a formal living room; note that this type of collection also holds an esteemed place in the gender-specific category hall of fame.
Regardless of what the collection is, even if it is the most valuable, beautiful collection imaginable, it will take the buyer’s attention from the selling features of the home. Combine that with the possibility of theft and breakage, and you should have your sellers getting out the bubble wrap in no time flat.
Here’s an industry truism: Almost every home, regardless of piece or location, can benefit from from some professional staging. Effective staging is a marketing tool and a learned skill-one well-worth having in your arsenal.