There's a method to staging your home for sale

Think like a prospective buyer

Yahoo Contributor Network

Does the prospect of readying your home for sale have you quaking with fear? Is the concept of home staging, despite all the DIY articles and TV shows, still a mystery?

Staging is not decorating -- it is "packaging." As you are considering where to start, try this: View your home as a prospective buyer would. Begin by looking at your property from the street. Open the front door and consider the sight lines. As you move from room to room in your home, make notes or take pictures so that you can address specific concerns. Then, get to work. Concentrate on the big picture, but don't neglect the details.

Most of us seek comfort rather than glamor. We tend to concentrate more on what feels right than on what looks dramatic. Staging, properly executed, lets prospective buyers experience both by introducing a "wow" factor that will have them eager to return and help them visualize what life could be like in a particular space. Remember that people experience homes with all their senses.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Let the light shine in. Remove heavy window coverings. Open blinds. Furniture arrangements can emphasize great views or minimize so-so vistas, but the light is vital.
  • Make sure the quality of light is warm and sufficient. Place lamps near chairs. Get warm white bulbs. Make certain all bulbs match. Immediately replace them if they burn out. Turn all lights on prior to a showing.
  • Don't overdo the scents. A different flavor room freshener in each room makes visitors wonder what odors you are trying to hide. Pick one scent (I like vanilla candles) and use it throughout. Open doors and windows periodically to air out. Use kitchen and bath fans. Clean constantly.
  • Confirm that pictures and mirrors are hung properly. A good rule of thumb if you're uncertain is that the center of the piece should be approximately 65 inches above the floor. Mirrors should reflect something interesting; or, if used by a door, hung at a height to allow for hair and makeup checks. Consider the scale of the art. Not every wall needs decoration.

View my Flickr slideshow illustrating some well-staged rooms.

  • Accessorize with a sense of humor and remember that big is better. If it's a choice between one large ceramic purple cow on a counter and a line-up of chrome canisters, go with the cow. Visitors will remember your kitchen. Also remember that decluttering does not always mean totally bare.
  • Don't try to fill every space. There is an architectural concept of negative space, which lends a sense of tranquility to a room and allows buyers to mentally place a special furniture piece.
  • Try to achieve balance in your home. Balance between function and illusion, between too much and too little, between "love it here" and "need to move on." Don't go for the hotel lobby sterile look. But also avoid a well-worn and comfy jeans overly casual appeal.

Pay attention to details. It's OK if you keep a couple of photos of your kids on your desk. It's also okay if you leave your current paperback on the lamp table with your reading glasses. That's humanizing. It's not OK to leave laundry in the bathroom or dirty dishes in the sink! That's slovenly. Pay attention to the details.

If it's still overwhelming, consider calling a professional stager. Look for home stagers who hold membership in local and national professional organizations such as RESA, the Real Estate Staging Association. The money you spend will most likely be returned to you in full in terms of a faster sale and a higher price. Good luck!

Adrienne and her husband, David, currently operate HomeCheckDallas, specializing in vacant home staging. Both licensed contractors, with experience designing, building, and selling luxury homes in both Santa Fe and Dallas, they focus on highlighting the architecture and always aim to provide a bit of whimsy in a project.

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