Saturday, 06 June 2020

Staging homes for sale without spending a fortune

Written by Posted On Monday, 23 April 2018 14:10

Most professionals in the business understand that Realtors whose goal is to sell a house usually fail. Realtors whose goal is to sell a home, however, are more likely to close the deal every time.

The difference between those two strategies often lies in staging an open house – simple tactics for making that house look comfortable, giving potential buyers a glimpse of what it might look like once they've moved in. It can be something as simple as putting in some attractive furniture, paintings on the wall and photographs on the coffee table, and the ever-present plate of freshly-baked cookies on the counter.

Staging is extremely common, with the National Association of Realtors reporting that 38 percent of sellers' agents said they stage homes prior to listing, and it can have a serious bottom-line impact. Twenty-nine percent of sellers' agents said that the dollar value offered by buyers increased between one and five percent for staged homes, and 39 percent said that staging decreases the amount of time the home stays on the market before selling.

The cookie phenomenon

Every Realtor knows this trick and most still use it: Place a tray of fresh-baked cookies on the counter for guests at an open house. Stagers claim that the presence of cookies are more than snacks, they create a sensory experience with a pleasant scent, and create a welcoming effect.

But when the cookies are an afterthought, their impact may be lost. Packaged grocery store cookies are just a snack, and nothing more. Cookies you've just baked in the oven are better (although you face the downside of a hurried clean-up process before the first guest shows up). Even better is to serve cookies which reflect the neighborhood and are sourced from a local favorite shop that your guests are likely to already be familiar with.

Greenwich, Connecticut, one of the most desirable real estate destinations in the country with a median home value of $1,327,600, serves as a wonderful example of the importance of staging. There's a lot at stake with prices that high, and Realtors in this area go out of their way to make sure every detail is perfect. Cookies aren't just cookies. They are an emotional connection, according to Molly Hirschel, co-founder of Something Natural, a popular and well-known sandwich and bakery shop in Greenwich. The iconic shop has been a Nantucket legend for decades, and a source of pleasant memories for anyone visiting the island. Those looking to buy a home in Greenwich have more than likely visited Nantucket more than a few times, and chances are, they have visited the Nantucket store.

Serving cookies from a destination shop like Something Natural goes beyond simply setting out delicious cookies – it brings up those pleasant memories of summer vacations on Nantucket Island, childhood delights, and family gatherings. That's the cookie phenomenon at its best. "Public open house guests need to feel welcomed, and real estate agents understand the need to make a house feel like a home from the very moment those guests walk in the door," said Molly, who says the Greenwich Something Natural provides their famous oversized cookie platters for Greenwich area realtors conducting public open houses. Molly says Something Natural’s sandwich and cookie platters are most popular with the realtor-only open houses.

Staging on a budget

While Realtors specializing in high-end, multi-million dollar homes often spare no expense in staging, the practice can still benefit ordinary, middle-class homes without having to spend too much on the process. Even the basics can improve the sales process, and the most common staging practices are fairly ordinary – decluttering the home, cleaning it from top to bottom, and cleaning the carpets.

A few more exciting staging tricks – which again don't have to cost too much – include approaching the open house as a party rather than simply a showing, a tactic more often used for Realtor-only open houses. Background music (not too loud), catering, and maybe even a little Chardonnay will make it seem more festive. Of course, there's a balance if you go with the party approach. Think more sophisticated cocktail party and less college dorm room kegger.

Don't forget the outside of the house – you don't have to bring in a professional landscaper, but a little attention to the flower garden and lawn will go a long way.

For the windows, the good news here is that you don't have to invest in draperies and curtains. They may not match with the potential buyer's taste, and they block out the sun. It's better to have plain (cleaned) windows without curtains, to let in the maximum amount of sunlight.

What about pets? Keeping them out of the house during showings is essential, no matter how cute they are. Be aware that your house may retain some pet scents which you are immune to and don't notice. You can get rid of these scents with a quick cleaning, sprinkling some pet carpet freshener on the carpet before sweeping, or something as simple as boiling a few cut lemons in a pot of water before the showing. Stay away from heavy scented candles or incense.

For homes that may have smaller rooms, you can make them look bigger easily. The kitchen is especially important, and if you have a smaller kitchen, be sure to remove appliances from the counter to make it look less cluttered. And you can buy an inexpensive kitchen island on wheels with a nice wood countertop for a couple hundred dollars, for an instant upgrade in counter space.

Even a beautiful, million-dollar home can be made to look better with something as simple as clean windows, a well-lit living room and a tray of recognizable treats from a neighborhood shop. It doesn't just make the sale easier – it may just increase the selling price. That plate of cookies may be the best investment you've ever made!

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