Would Staging Help to Sell Your Home?
Like many baby boom empty-nesters, I'm starting to think about downsizing. My two oldest children are now living far from the nest and my youngest is a college freshman who, no doubt, will spend less time at home as she progresses through her college career. I love my house, but the Boston Snowmageddon of 2015 sparked the notion of heading south for the winter. Or at least moving to a condominium where snow removal and ice-dam damaged roofs would be managed by a maintenance staff that doesn't include me. What should someone like me do to prepare their home for the real estate market?
I recently talked to Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group in Brooklyn, New York. Aleksandra's firm sells premier brownstone properties in sought-after Brooklyn neighborhoods. (As an aside, when I lived in New York City in the 1980s and early 90s, there was only one Brooklyn neighborhood where brownstones were sought-after!) Aleksandra explained how real estate staging is empirically proven to sell a property at a higher price and in less time than an unstaged property. She also detailed the ins and outs of successfully staging a home for sale.
The property below -- a landmark 1901 Brooklyn brownstone -- was on the market for 277 days before Aleksandra's company staged it. After staging, the home sold at the first showing at the seller's asking price; the contract was signed eight days later.
The most interesting takeaway from my conversation with Aleksandra was this: buyers will form an opinion on a property within four seconds of entering. So first impressions are important. As is hiring the right stager.
The right stager will research the micro-area within a tenth to a quarter-of-a-mile radius of your property to determine who the potential buyers may be and their style preferences. Knowing the audience is critical to staging a property successfully. The objective for the stager is to make the property appealing to the demographic group who would be attracted to that specific location and type of home.
Does that mean you have to repaint every room in your house in a neutral color? Actually, no. Stagers may recommend a calm palette to neutralize spaces and help buyers respond to the functionality of a home. But today, many buyers, especially millennials, expect more decorated homes. Their tastes have been cultivated by exposure to high fashion and pop culture. Aleksandra pointed out that there are areas in New York where "plain vanilla" just won't do -- like the very high end of the market.
For Aleksandra, a property must not be inhabited to be successfully staged. Leaving the home may be hard and not possible for some sellers. Emotionally, it's the final realization that an abode with strong sentimental attachments will be turned over to someone else. But it also means the property will not be disturbed. And it gives the stager latitude to do his or her job.
When staging a property, the first step is a thorough cleaning and deodorizing. (Note to self: kitties and kitty litters be gone!) The stager will then focus on the underutilized and awkward spaces in a home to make them appealing. Every inch of the property may be rearranged. The stager will envision the property from the perspective of the buyer and his or her path of travel when viewing the home. At each step, the property should tell a story. A good stager (like a good interior designer) will create vistas with focal points. Furniture is positioned to tell a story and to detract from aspects of the property that do not further the story. Even in a 400 square foot condominium that Aleksandra had staged, she created four significant focal points.
Who pays for the staging? That depends on the agreement between the listing agency and the seller. In many instances, the listing agency can absorb some or all of the cost as part of its marketing expense. Staging isn't cheap. Most stagers rely on furniture rental companies to supply, at a minimum, the larger pieces, and these companies often impose minimum order quantities and rental periods. It's not unusual for staging to run anywhere from $7,500 to $25,000 depending on the size and market for the property.
So maybe you're wondering why I digress from design to write on a topic pertaining to real estate. Because some of the principles applied to staging equally apply to interior design. Notably:
- First impressions count. That's why I encourage clients to amp up their foyers and entryways.
- Have the space tell a story. It's important to infuse my clients' personalities into their spaces. Spaces curated with collections provide a glimpse into my clients' travels, backgrounds and interests.
- Create vistas. In commercial spaces, they're important for wayfinding. But in residential spaces, they add focus and interest. And detract from the spaces you may want to de-emphasize or hide.