If you're getting ready to put your house on the market, it's good to remember the golden rule of professional home stagers: Sell the house, not the stuff in it. • Getting sellers to abide by this is the hardest part of the job for Jane Wallace of Haverhill Home Staging in New Port Richey. "Some people are like, 'I can't take all my grandchildren's pictures down!' and I'm like, 'Do you want to sell the house or don't you?' " • Even those without a practiced eye can see at a glance that small changes can make a big difference in a room. The fireplace that was part of the background pops when new colors are added to the room. A teen's cramped and cluttered bedroom feels far larger when shelves and storage corral the mess. • "It's so fabulous when you do it," Wallace says. "It makes such a big difference." • Home staging has become big business as real estate agents and homeowners seek out any advantage in a slow market. Different organizations offer seminars and certification in staging, but there are no federal or state licensing or certification programs. If you're going to seek the help of a professional, ask for references and photos of past jobs. Also make sure the stager has knowledge about real estate and homes in your price range.
Make your house look its best to buyers
Jan Whitlow began Selling Edge, a staging and redesign firm, in Largo in 2006. She stages both occupied and vacant homes and, though not a Realtor, she has built and sold homes as well. She offers these tips to would-be sellers:
First, she says, clean your home top to bottom, in and out. "A clean home presents itself as a well-maintained property."
Put away family photos, mementos and personal collections. These item distract from the home, preventing potential buyers from focusing on its features.
Less is more. For example, remove half to two-thirds of what is in bookshelves, china hutches, etc. Your room will have a lighter, less cluttered look.
Before listing your property, start packing your things for a move. Store these boxes off-site if possible, or stack them neatly in the garage.
Make sure your home smells nice. Ask a friend to come in and honestly tell you what they smell when they enter your home. If you need to, open the windows for a few hours to add fresh air and/or use air fresheners or candles. Stick with scents that won't overpower, such as vanilla or fresh rain.
Invest in updates such as carpet, lighting, cabinet hardware and paint to bring the decor up to date. Buyers who want fixer-uppers are few and far between in 2010. If it is too much work for sellers to replace these elements, buyers will feel it is too much work as well.
Define every room. The purpose of the room should be obvious from the threshold. If you turned your formal dining room into a workout room, return it to its original purpose before you list the property.
Be prepared to move your pooch and its belongings off property during open houses and showings. Not everyone is an animal lover.
Add a pop of color near the front door with annuals, window shutters or a fresh coat of paint on the door. Buyers will linger in this area as the front door is unlocked. The front stoop needs to be inviting, clean and interesting.
Hire a home staging professional. There is a lot to be said for someone who does this every day in your market. The money you pay for a professional stager may be tax deductible. Prices will vary, so interview at least three stagers before you hire one. Some will offer consulting services; some will not only give advice, they'll do the work as well. Jane Wallace, for example, offers a $100, two-hour consultation visit. She'll tell you what needs to be done, but it's up to you to do it.
"People always think their home is beautiful. It's not that it's not beautiful. You just need that second eye.
"There's a difference between a decorated home and a staged one."
B Buckberry Joyce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8113.