Real estate agent Elizabeth Ferguson finds it difficult to show a client a home that is cluttered and dated. “You want your clients to immediately be able to see themselves and their things in a house,” she says. “That’s almost impossible if the house isn’t inviting.”
Empty homes, where the sellers have already relocated, are another problem, since there isn’t any furniture to show how the home’s potential quirks, like an oddly-shaped room or a funky layout, could be turned into assets.
And so, while watching a real estate program on television, Elizabeth had an idea: What if she could go into a home and get it ready to sell before it went on the market? Would sellers pay for that service?
She discussed the idea with two friends, Lynsey Jordan and Erin Croft, and the trio got to work researching the possibility. It turned out that “home staging,” as it’s called, is an emerging industry that’s growing rapidly throughout the country. Stagers evaluate a house then do what it takes to make it more appealing to buyers. In some cases, that means just a bit of decluttering and the addition of scene-setting lifestyle elements, such as candles and bath salts surrounding a deep soaking tub or a pretty serving tray set with china and a flower vase on a guest room bed. In others, stagers will literally bring in furniture and accessories to fill empty rooms or replace dated items to create a clean, modern look.
Like many new business sectors, home staging is driven by the internet. “Potential buyers look at every room of a house online before they do anything,” explains Elizabeth. “A well-staged house draws more visitors and sells faster.” There’s even research to back up her claims.
According to a recent survey by the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that had been on the market for nearly a year sold in about two months once they’d been staged.
The more they learned, the more the three friends were convinced that the Columbia area needed a home staging company. In May 2010, they launched Staging Style.
The Staging Process
The staging process is surprisingly formulaic. “It’s all about highlighting the good points, minimizing the things that are less attractive and creating possibilities that potential buyers can see,” notes Lynsey. “When we remove family photos, we’re helping people see themselves in your house. A table and chairs shaded by a big sun umbrella on your patio brings that space alive.”
And if you don’t have the furnishings, Staging Style will provide them. “We’ve got a 2,000-square-foot warehouse filled with furniture, lamps, rugs and other accessories,” says Erin. “We bought everything new so that the houses can all look fresh and on trend. We even have a few fake big-screen televisions so we can answer the question of where the tv goes before it even comes up.”
Staging Style can also help you depersonalize your home. “If you really want to sell your house, you have to be ready to give it up so that potential buyers can, in their minds, move in,” says Lynsey. “It’s hard, but it means taking down your children’s artwork, painting the walls a neutral color, getting rid of random furniture, cleaning out the pantry and getting all the appliances you don’t use every day off the kitchen counter.”
Pricing for the service varies, but Erin says that a full staging, which generally includes a consultation, decluttering program, the addition of furniture and accessories and upkeep like keeping flowers fresh and replacing light bulbs, usually costs about the same as a single mortgage payment.
Agent Amanda Payne was one of Staging Style’s first clients. Skeptical at first, she now recommends the service to her clients. “I’d had a home on the market for 60 days when I decided to have it staged,” she says. “Within a month, I had two contracts. It really helps give people vision if they can walk into a house and see how terrific it can look.”
Staging also works in occupied homes. “The first thing they did was remove a lot of little things that were cluttering up our house,” recalls client Kelly Daves. “They put everything in boxes, labeled them and put them in the garage. Then they rearranged the furniture. The house had an open floor plan that we’d separated into rooms. They explained that while that might work for living, the house would show better if we highlighted the openness. They also added details, like fresh flowers and lots of pretty throw pillows.” Kelly’s house sold in less than a month.
Staging is visual. To help you see the impact that just a few changes can have on a room, take a look at these before and after photos.
It’s hard to even begin to get excited about a large, empty room. Worse, details that furnishings would hide, like the large air intake, become negative points.
Strategic placement of the furniture in this room showcased the open floor plan; drew attention to the focal point of the room – the fireplace and the built-in bookshelves – which is very important … it’s like the main character in the play; and created walkways to the outside and the kitchen. Details count, too. The mirror was placed behind the sofa to reflect the gorgeous fireplace and built-in bookshelves. The team also took the room’s scale and traffic flow into account: no tiny shades on big lamps, no huge accessories on tiny tables and no one piece of furniture dominating the scene.