6 Tips From a Professional Stager on Getting Your Home Ready for Sale

According to the National Association of Realtors, "Sixty-two percent of sellers' agents say staging a home decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market." This means any effort to stage your home effectively can get sellers the price they're looking for, quickly. And that's where the experts come in.

Real estate agents and professional stagers are key in terms of readying a home for sale, often providing valuable services and advice for those looking to streamline the look of their house and increase its overall appeal to potential buyers. Alison Mercer is a Certified Interior Decorator from Stage 73 Design and in her seven years in the business, she has staged over 500 homes and designed kitchens, bathrooms, livings rooms, and many other projects for clients in the GTA.

Staging your home isn't just a fad, in fact, it's become standard practice for most listings. Alison says:

Hiring a Home Stager is very common these days. I would say that my Realtor Partners Home Stage 90% of their listings. It is very common to store excess items and getting more appropriately styled/sized furniture items for a Home Staging Project. We bring in "replacement" furniture in 85% of our jobs.

We asked Alison to offer up some of her best advice and here are the 6 Pro Tips on Getting Your Home Ready for Sale.

1. Declutter as Much as You Can

Not only does getting rid of things that you don't need or want anymore make your place more desirable to potential buyers, but it also means that you have fewer things to move, and therefore fewer costs associated with your move itself. Alison says:

Cleaning and de-cluttering will offer a blank canvas for buyers to assess. Ensure closets are not overloaded. Clear your kitchen countertops and make sure bathrooms are as tidy as possible. Good lighting throughout the house is a top priority.

People need to remember that clutter and finding storage for items isn't just about furniture and knickknacks, it's also finding a suitable space for offseason clothes, your kid's hockey equipment, or that ping pong table that takes up valuable real estate in your rec room.

Quick Tip:

  • Items that you don’t need should be taken out of the closet to make them more spacious - get an early start and pack items in boxes and store them out of the house.

2. Help Potential Buyers to Feel at Home

Everyone has a different preference on how their home is going to look, and part of that means a neutral space that leaves room for the imagination - let the buyers see their lives in your house, not yours. Store excess family photos, the "wall of fame" and anything that is too much a reflection of your life. You don't want buyers to get caught up in the museum of your life, but focus on what their life would be like in their new home. Alison says:

A successfully staged house looks uncluttered, clean, appropriately furnished and stylish. Most importantly, a successfully staged home feels welcoming and warm, somewhere buyers could envisage themselves living.

Quick Tip:

  • Have your DVD collection, CDs and video games out of sight.

3. Good Photography Is Key

Think about how great you look when you've put in the effort to look your best, like when you've prepared for a formal event where you've had your hair done and are wearing your nicest clothes. This effort paired with the skill of a professional photographer who uses the right lighting, angles, and filters makes you look your best. The way you stage and sell your home is no different, and it comes hand in hand with good photography:

I work in partnership with Real Estate Agents, and the referral for my services comes from the Agent 99.9% of the time. My advice to home sellers is to partner with a Realtor who automatically makes Home Staging and professional photography a part of their marketing strategy.

Quick Tip:

  • Open the drapes and blinds. Nothing is more depressing than walking into a home where shades, curtains and drapes are closed.

4. You Can Do Some of the Work Yourself

For those on a budget of time or finances, it helps to focus your staging efforts on the rooms of the house that buyers deem to be most important. According to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, the rooms that are critical to buyers are the living room, master bedroom, and kitchen. This means focusing energy on these rooms will be the most effective way to stage your home. While other rooms, guest bedrooms, bathrooms, or offices are still important, they don't need the same "wow" factor as the big three.

Alison says she begins every Home Staging project with an in-home consultation during which she create a Homeowner To-Do List, a customized room-by-room list of tasks that the homeowner needs to complete to get ready for Home Staging:

This usually involves removing items such as excess or inappropriately sized furniture, de-cluttering and possibly light improvements, such as painting or minor repairs. Once the house is ready for Home Staging, my team comes in and brings new furniture (if needed), carpets, portable lighting, bedding and accessories. We usually spend a good 4-5 hours getting a house ready for photos and showings.

5. Using Your Agent's Connections

Because of Alison and other professional stagers' expertise in interior design as well as staging, she's able to offer her clients services beyond a simple staging:

If a home would benefit from new lighting, I can select new fixtures for the home, or provide paint colours if painting is recommended. I also offer a "Renovate To Sell" package where I will design a kitchen or bathroom so it can be renovated for the sale. I make on-trend, great looking choices that fit within a lean budget. These rooms, once updated, can add enormous value to a home.

Quick Tip:

  • If your entryway is small, brighten it up with a bright light bulb and a light coloured coat of paint.

6. Make Your Home Shine

Once you've moved personal items and furniture that won't be used while the house is on the market it's time to clean like you’ve never cleaned before. Clean like it's Spring Cleaning multiplied by a thousand. While no one is going to be checking shelves for dust with a pair of white cotton gloves, every nick, smudge or fingerprint on the window is going to be noticed. Baseboards need to beam, skylights need to shine, and toilet bowls must sparkle. There are cleaning services that offer special packages that will provide that extra deep clean needed for showing your home.

Quick Tip:

  • Many buyers will look inside your cabinets, so make sure the inside is organized and clean, also store non-essential items elsewhere to make the cabinet look spacious.

In addition to cleaning, if you have pets, it might be time to give them a trip to a friend or family member's house, as pet fur or any evidence of pets could be a huge turn-off for some buyers. Speak to your real estate agent or stager to get a solid recommendation for the best services possible for all your staging needs and budget.


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