The Spring market is starting early this year and it’s looking to be a strong market. The inventory is low at the moment, there’s pent up demand and there are plenty of buyers out there looking. It’s still a buyer’s market, but it’s starting to shift now. Soon, more and more homes will be on the market and those trying to sell will need to stay ahead of the competition. One of the best ways to do so is to make your home look its very best. A home staging expert can be a home seller’s greatest ally as they can best tell you how to best maximize your assets.

What is a home stager?

“A home stager is someone who comes in to show your home in its best light. It’s a process of making your home look better for the buyers who are looking at it,” explains Stephanie Barnes a Realtor with  Fingelly Real Estate, Southport, Connecticut. “It became popular to hire a stager when the market started its downturn and homes were having a hard time selling. People were looking for ways to compete in the marketplace.” Barnes continues to tell us that home staging is still very popular and is a model that should be continued to be followed whether in an up or down-market. Your real estate company can help you locate a stager or you can do so on your own. A few agencies will provide one for you for an additional fee.

What can I expect when a home stager comes to my house?

A home stager will come to your home for a consult, take an inventory of your home and everything in it. Some charge for that consult and some don’t. With the information gathered the home stager will meet with you, the home owner, and go over the findings. The home owner can then hire the stager to make all the necessary changes, or do so on his own. In this market many people would like to, but do not have the luxury of hiring a home stager. The following suggestions from Barnes will help you, the seller, stage your own home so that you can best represent all the wonderful characteristics of your own home.

Staging our living areas.

According to Barnes, there’s one general rule you should apply to each room. “You want to show it’s mainstream functionality. If you have an awkward or small space and want to show more functionality than what’s there, you may want to consider turning a dining room into an office.” Something like that, Barnes states, shows really well.  In a living room you want to show off the size. “People think more is more when it comes to living rooms,” says Barnes. ” You also want to bring in the most light, you want to pull couches and drapes from windows and you want to show flow in a room.

Artwork should be displayed in a way that is tasteful but not too revealing of your life and lifestyle.” Again, she stresses the idea is to appeal to the masses. You want to create an almost generic, clean and appealing Pottery Barn-like appearance. You do not want buyers glued to your Picasso or family pictures. This is distracting and when the tour is over, the potential buyer ends up fixated on the Picasso or the family photos and remembers nothing about your home. “Whether your home is formal or casual it needs to be able to be set up in a way where people can imagine themselves, their family, their friends, clients, bosses… You want to picture where people will be sitting and entertaining.”

People have moved away from wanting to fix up houses. More and more want homes that are turn key and ready to move in. This is why the Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware-like decor works so well. They’re very neural and they appeal to the masses. What’s more is that they can always be added upon and enhanced.

Staging our dining rooms.

“Dining rooms are great as they offer one place for people to sit and eat, yet they are often not a highly utilized room in a house so to show it you need to get in the mindset of what the masses are looking for,” says Barnes. It’s a lifestyle choice and decision. “Generally for each room, you want to stay as mainstream as possible because most people have a very hard time visualizing.” We need to think about those who cannot see past the clutter to appreciate the wide expanse of windows, the particularly nice crown moulding and the little details that might go unnoticed. Barnes best compares it to a retail shop.

“Whoever puts out the best displays moves their inventory fastest. It’s no different when it comes to selling your home.” When you stage your home for selling, you are, to a certain extent, undecorating from the way you live. When you live in your home, you want your home to best represent you, but when you’re looking to sell your home, you need to re-dcorate, or un-decorate, to allow someone else to envision living in your space. This is where stagers come in handy, explains Barnes. “They have the ability to represent your home and to know what will work and won’t work for show.”

Other ideas for showing dining rooms include converting them into offices, playrooms, or “a quiet living area off of the noisiness of the room that’s being utilized with the big couch and the TV.” Barnes suggests to “think outside the box a little bit with the dining space –  depending on how you’re marketing it,” she reaffirms how important it is to “know your crowd.” A young couple looking for their starter home might welcome the dining room for entertaining purposes while a family with young children may welcome a playroom or second living space.

Staging our master bedrooms.

According to Barnes “a master bedroom with a bathroom, with both a tub and shower is what everybody wants,” but decor absolutely comes into play here. Barnes suggests removing anything loud and jazzy and going with white. “White is clean and simple and what’s what buyers are looking for.” She reitterates that “it’s not about your tastes and your style. The idea of staging your bedroom is to do it in such a way that others can imagine themselves in that space too, a highly private and personal space.”

She then suggests to “white it out. Realtors will tell you this constantly.” She suggests switching to white duvets and white towels and to make the space seem more hotel-like than private. If the bedroom has carpeting, Barnes strongly advises getting it steam cleaned. Cleanliness is most important. Remove heavy curtains and drapes. If you have no privacy issues, leave the windows empty, otherwise Barnes suggests hanging some bamboo shades.

Staging our guest rooms.

Guest rooms can be touted as guest rooms and can even be combined with an office. If you use your guest room and are planning on using the guest room as one of the features of your home, you can showcase it much in the same way you would the master bedroom. Barnes mentions the throw pillows and white bedding once more. By showing the room as a combined office/bedroom, you are then maximizing the space in your home. Barnes states that “once again this depends on the house and the size of the house, and as with the other rooms you need to scale it to your demographic. You need to create the space for people in your price-range.”

Staging our children’s rooms.

Children’s bedrooms should be staged much like the rest of the house. The rooms should be as clean and as clutter-free as possible. This may mean tucking some dolls, stuffed animals or toys into some neat bins or other storage area. Barnes believes that like the other rooms in the home, children’s rooms too should be neutral, “Colors are subjective,” she adds, “and should really be repainted if they are very bright.” She adds that “these may be the rooms to paint first, should a home need repainting, noting that smaller rooms are easier and less expensive to paint.”

Staging bathrooms.

The bathrooms should all be as clean and tidy as possible. All personal products such as hair brushes, razors, toothbrushes should be put away and out of sight. Pretty soaps can be placed by the sink and the linens, suggests Barnes, “should all be white.” Barnes also likes the idea of creating a “spa-like environment.”

Don’t forget to stage the outside of your home too!

“The outside of your home and curb appeal is staging” says Barnes. “It’s the first impression someone gets when they are coming to your house. They take in whatever is on the curb and they start looking very carefully once they come through the front door.” Make sure hedges are trimmed and tidy.

Make sure leaves have been swept up and put away. Make sure you’ve done your fall clean up or your spring clean up. “You want your house to show the best it possibly can and if you can’t hire a home stager, your realtors, at this point, have heard enough feedback to know how to help you,” but Barnes believes that stagers are a “great idea because you’re bringing in a third party who is objective. Often realtors won’t want to say anything you may find insulting.We’re not trying to tell you that you’re doing it wrong or that your taste is bad. No one is trying to criticize you. Realtors know what you need to do, but want to keep their relationship with you.”

Once you’ve heard your stager’s advice it needs to be implemented. A staged home is a home that wants to be sold. It’s sending a message that the sellers are ready and eager to do business, whereas a home that has not been properly staged suggests that the sellers are not ready and could by chance be very difficult. “A staged home sends a very loud message,” concludes Barnes.

A special thank you to Stephanie Barnes of Fingelly Real Estate, Southport CT, for her expertise and wisdom.