Just like celebrities' dazzling made up looks, with staging homes too can be made to look stunning. It is like a cosmetic makeover where eye catching and aesthetically pleasing designs replace unwanted furniture or colour.
Of late, home staging has become an integral part of the home selling process and is a pivotal marketing tool in real estate. Ella Zetser, founder of The Last Detail Home Staging, says "staging a home can easily add between six to 14 per cent to the asking price".
According to her, decorating is for living and staging is for selling.
"When people are living in their houses they decorate things according to their comfort. But the moment the property is in the market for sale, it is a product and it needs a different treatment."
The idea is to make buyers comfortable and feel at home at your house where they can visualize how they would like their decor. It is like a job interview where, with the spotlight on us, we put our best foot forward. The same principle goes for everyone selling his or her house."The objective is to wow the prospective buyers the moment they walk in your house or even before that," Zetser says.
In order to floor the customers, Zetser continues, the first impression really matters.
"Staging your main floor appropriately can make or break the deal. This is the first thing prospective buyers notice the moment they enter the house; and if they do not instantly like what they see, the chances [of them liking] other areas of the house are slim to none,"
"The next important room is your second floor and then comes the basement. In some cases outside areas also need be staged."
First thing to do? De-clutter
Zetser believes there are different factors that influence one's staging ideas. Neighbourhood, age and size of the house are some aspects that must be kept in mind when formulating makeover designs.
"A conservative neighbourhood would require different staging from those more artistic. Bigger and older houses need more changes because they have [a] large area and also there is more wear and tear to the property."
But ultimately, she concedes, our goal is to create an inviting atmosphere for buyers "who should feel at home once they walk into the property".
According to Zetser, a seller should adhere to certain key points while staging their houses. The first and foremost is de-cluttering.
"The room should not look busy or messy; even a big room when cluttered appears small. Things important to you may not be so for the buyers. A room with minimum and well arranged contents is visually appealing."
Many home owners lay down expensive colourful rugs which might look plush in real life but in pictures on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) do not give a pleasing look at all. Home owners might fancy gaudy colours for the walls in their living room, etc., "but when it comes to selling your property, always stick to neutral colours that create a harmonious feeling", she adds.
Home owners generally have a sentimental value for their old furniture but the buyers don't."Keep them away from the buyers because it will make your house appear older than it is," cautions Zetser.
As for a budget for staging, Zetser feels a seller should keep about $3,500 for a makeover. "It is just an average and the budget might increase or decrease depending on the requirement of the house," she says.
The seller should keep in mind the return on investment and time when allocating funds for staging.
"I have staged more than 3,000 homes and 91 per cent of them have been sold in the first month itself,"
Minimize the 'to-do' list for a buyer
According to Alison Mercer, a home stager and interior decorator in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), home staging has become an important element in the marketing plan for selling a home.
"You wouldn't go to a photo shoot looking unkempt and sloppy. The same is true for a house; present it at its best to generate maximum interest. Many of my clients feel that home staging contributed to a quick and lucrative sale of their property",
Mercer says staging shows the potential of a home and makes it easier for prospective buyers to envision themselves living in it.
"Every house needs some work before being opened to [the] public. Decorating, de-cluttering, repairs and sometimes full-scale renovations can be part of the plan to prepare your house for sale."
A home stager can help you in detaching yourself from the property and make it more buyer friendly. Most homeowners want to make changes as per their liking because of their personal and sentimental connection with their house. "The last thing a homeowner wants to do is spend money on renovations that end up making the home less appealing to buyers," observes Mercer.
In terms of factors that influenced her work, Mercer feels every house is different and so are their needs. "A home in Roncesvalles Village can call for something quite different [than] a home in Rosedale. Similarly, a bigger house requires more staging because there is more square footage to work on and an older house would require more updating and repairs". Mercer says her experience tells "curb appeal" is high on the list of priorities for buyers.
"Gardening clean-up, making the porch look attractive and inviting, and getting some outdoor furniture and creating seating/dining areas all contribute to the appeal of your home".
For Mercer, it is important that sellers know that the cost to prepare a house for sale is always less than a price reduction for a house that is not inviting interest. "The goal is to eliminate or minimize the 'to-do' list for a buyer in order to make a house 'move-in ready' as much as possible," she says.
"To a buyer it can be a daunting proposition if he finds that after the sale he has to incur additional expenditure on painting the entire house, repairing the roof, renovating the kitchen, fixing the porch steps, upgrading the electrical, etc."
"A typical home staging costs between $3,500 and $5,000. Painting, repairs, renovations are in addition,"
says Mercer, about the budget for staging.
Looks matter, as beauty sells universally. Home staging helps in catering a visual feast to buyers that delights and appeals to them instantly. Staging acts like a catalyst and contributes immensely to the real estate boom; it reduces the time of sale and enhances the price of the property, too.