29 Apr 2013

Real estate | How to get your home staged to sell

blog Comments Off on Real estate | How to get your home staged to sell

Tidewater Home Staging in Virginia Beach re-staged the front room of this Aragona home. Staging involves de-cluttering, cleaning and decorating a house before it goes on the market.(David B. Hollingsworth | The Virginian-Pilot)

Buy Pilot photos

By Roberta Vowell
The Virginian-Pilot

IS “NICOTINE” a paint color?

That’s what home stager Kimberly Cash wondered about every room of her latest project.

The sturdy ranch, in an older Virginia Beach suburb, was well-kept, with an enormous sun room added sometime in the 1970s, judging by the aqua-colored indoor/outdoor carpet.

And that’s pretty much the problem, right there.

A family bought the house brand-new back in the mid-’50s and stopped updating soon after.

A wonky wrought-iron railing divided the living room, the carpet was pale blue, the kitchen floor boasted an in-your-face orange tile-look vinyl, and the furniture was a familiar and fusty beige.

Worse, the owners were heavy smokers, thus the brownish pall on walls, ceilings, upholstery and even bathroom tiles.

Cash, owner of Tidewater Home Staging in Virginia Beach, arrived with paint, scrub brushes, a truckload of furniture from her own hoard and a handful of workers.

Shall we take a peek? Past a newly glossy black front door, the living room is grounded by a sofa in a precisely clear tone of olive, joined by chairs in graphic black-and-white prints, tables of various useful sizes (all painted black), an open-work black wooden screen shielding a questionably-placed electrical outlet, and a light scattering of pillows and plates and vases in dark orange tones.

Waiting for a heft onto the wall is an abstract oil painting of olive and black and orange, to tie all these colors together.

Walls and ceiling are painted with “Patience,” a warm, sandy Sherwin Williams hue. Barely a whiff of cigarette butts remains.

Holy non-smokes! Even the retina-burning kitchen vinyl has disappeared, replaced by what looks like stone-colored tiles (actually, an easy-install sheet vinyl).

“You think I was going to leave that floor tile in the kitchen?” Cash said. “Doesn’t the kitchen look bigger and brighter? The secret is I have three go-to flooring colors and styles. That way, I don’t have to rethink every time.”

Home staging is Cash’s forte. Her 10-year-old company is known for quick turnarounds and a willingness to do the messiest jobs, like cleaning clutter left when sellers depart.

For this ranch, her goal was to transition it as economically as possible – “Paint is cheap!” could be her slogan – into a house for a young family.

“This is really modern,” she said, looking around the revamped living room, “for a younger, first-time homeowner. They can imagine themselves living here.”

Which is precisely the point of staging: clearing and cleaning and decorating a house before it goes on the market. It creates rooms that allow buyers to better imagine their furnishings, pets and children in that space.

Their belongings and family, but a slightly better version, clarified Jennifer Farlin, owner of Bella Home Staging in Chesapeake’s Great Bridge neighborhood.

“People never buy a home with the intention of a downward move,” she says. “They are always aspiring to an upgrade.”

During the economic downturn, many Realtors learned staging themselves, like Terri Haynie and June Marshall. The duo calls themselves the Hampton Roads Real Estate Team and work out of a Virginia Beach office of William E. Woods and Associates.

For all sellers and real estate pros, there are a handful of staging steps that start the process:

Curb appeal? Consider door appeal

“You’re standing at the door,” Farlin said, “and the Realtor is fumbling with the lock – it always takes a few seconds – and you are trapped there looking around.”

What you don’t want potential buyers to see are stained doorbells or, worse, a doorbell hanging by its wires. A faded door paint, a shredding door mat, cracked flower pots or weeds in the mulch bed are no-no’s, too.

“If the doorbell doesn’t ring and the curtains are frayed and the front door needs paint,” Haynie said, “they think, ‘Money, money, money.’ And that is the worst thing they can have in their head as they start looking.”

Marshall pointed out that the average price of houses on the market now is $227,000.

“The most expensive door is $500. Are you going to throw away the sale for $500?”

Turn off the smell-o-vision

Pros say that odd and awful smells are the top turn-off for potential buyers.

“Smell is huge,” Marshall said.

“Pets, cigarette smoke, garbage, body odors, even spices,” Haynie said. “They don’t smell it because it is their home, and they are used to it.”

Carpets are often the worst. Stagers often rip the carpet up, hoping for hardwood floors, but prepared to bring in rugs if the hidden layer isn’t pretty. Removing the smell is too important to worry about what you walk on. But there are other offenders.

“You cannot hide dirty clothes,” Farlin said. “You can bag them up and stuff them into a closet, but the smell is still there. It’s kind of greasy – never mind, I’m making myself sick. But I’ll tell you, I can smell it the minute I come through the door.”

And home buyers always open those closets.

“The first things a woman wants to see are the kitchen and the closets,” Haynie said. “You’re going to end up knocking off $20,000 to $30,000 just because the closets are packed with junk.”

Cash recommends removing items that even remind people of smells, including pets’ bowls, collars and beds.

Let it be light, bright – and a bit bland

We’re not advocating blah or boring here. Just nothing that sticks in the mind as “that house with the avocado-green carpet.” Or the “Miami Vice” motif, or the wall stencils gone wild, or the dim lighting.

“Vanilla,” Haynie and Marshall chimed. As long-time business partners, they do tend to finish one another’s sentences and such.

“Vanilla sells,” Haynie said. “You want it to be a little bit of a blank slate that they can envision themselves on.”

By the way, the scent of vanilla is one of the best for a house on show.

“Even men like vanilla,” Haynie said. “Sometimes, they don’t want to be in a house that smells too floral, or some candle like ‘tropical sunset.’ ”

Mostly, “vanilla” is a way of considering a house that looks ready for a new life, and with scant traces of past owners and especially decades.

What doesn’t work? “Kitchen wallpaper with flowers and jugs and grapes,” Cash said.

Billiards tables and table-tennis tables, especially in prominent places, don’t help sell a place, either.

“I had one man who was adamant about not moving the pool table out of his dining room,” Cash said. “I finally put a tablecloth over it and set it for dinner. It sold.”

People are often unaccountably attached to their window treatments.

“I had one woman, she had expensive, elaborate window coverings she’d had made in the ’80s,” Farlin said. “She was furious that I removed them, but they were all brocade and fringe, and they made the place a tomb.”

Take down the gallery

Family photos have got to go. Buyers need to imagine themselves filling those rooms.

“If the house is full of other people’s family pictures,” Marshall said, “it’s like you are an intruder in their house.”

Again, think about a blank slate.

Make your seller anonymous

Ever notice that if you ask Realtors why a family is selling the house, they always say something simple (and conversation-ending) like “relocation”?

In the same theme of creating a new house; stagers recommend removing the sellers’ personal items.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” Cash said, “but you need to realize that not everyone is Christian. You might want to take down the crucifix.”

Haynie recalled her biggest blunder.

“I was showing a house, and we got to the seller’s wall of plaques and honors and stuff, and the buyer says, ‘Hey, this guy’s a master chief!’ Especially here, people know what military ranks make. ‘He’s got the money, he’s got his retirement. He doesn’t need full offer.’ I blew that sale- big time. The less the buyers know about the sellers, the better,” she said.

Axe the “ick”

It’s must be clean, and not just clean, but surgery-on-the-kitchen-floor clean. Beyond that, even the most innocuous human refuse must to go.

“Get rid of the bathroom garbage can,” Farlin said. “Nobody wants to see your dental floss or whatever.”

This is also the “tales-from-the-trenches” category for stagers and agents.

“I did one house, with a fairly well-off gentleman seller,” Farlin said. “I went in to look, and he had his couch up on cinder blocks. He had a row of cans on the mantelpiece, with names like ‘Spunky’ on them. They were the ashes of his dead pets. He had more in the bedroom closet. Oh, and he had a ferret running loose. I cleaned off the coffee table to take it home and paint it, and I discovered his coffee table books were all about Auschwitz.”

While there’s nothing wrong with studying the Holocaust, Farlin said, a house for sale needs a happier vibe.

Show ’em the money

Concentrate on the entry and living room first.

“You need to put your money and time and energy where they are going to see it,” Farlin said.

“Most buyers decide in the first 6 seconds, from hitting the door on. If you don’t grab them emotionally at the door, living room, kitchen, you’ve lost them by the time you get to the bathroom or the room over the garage.”

Fix the easy stuff

Any readily visible item that is broken needs to be addressed, including the doorbell dangling by wires, the electrical plug with no cover, the duct-taped fridge (or anything duct-taped), must be addressed.

“The unspoken question is, ‘If that’s broken, what else haven’t they fixed?’ “Cash said.

A crack on the wall, even just a crack in the paint, looms huge in a buyers’ mind.

“Gaps between the molding, any cracks,” Marshall says, “it screams ‘settlement.’ ”

Let go

Real estate agents often must help sellers break their bond with the house.

“Selling a house is not like selling a car,” Cash said. “There’s a huge emotional attachment.”

Some sellers are upset with their home’s face-lift. “They look at the floor we’ve put down, or the tiles in the bathroom, and they say, ‘Why didn’t we do that?’ Or what I’m doing to their house is just not their style,” Cash said. “But it doesn’t really matter if they like it. ”

Once the sign hits the lawn, detachment is key.

“It’s not your home anymore,” Haynie said. “It’s your biggest economic asset. You have to do what it takes to get the most money for it.”

Complete Article: http://hamptonroads.com/2013/04/real-estate-how-get-your-home-staged-sell

Roberta Vowell, earl-bob@cox.net