On Real Estate: The benefits of home staging

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Selling homes often takes more work than it did a few years ago. Since the Internet has now become part of the game, agents are able to offer virtual tools not available 15 or 20 years ago. Three-dimensional photos and video tours are commonplace in the industry.

In spite of technological tools, agents still must present homes in a positive light to make them appealing from the curb, web and to potential buyers seeking to see firsthand what is grandly displayed online.

The most successful agents understand that “staging” a home can result in a sale for an asking price versus a deal littered with counter offers, concessions and rebates. Understanding that first impressions often mean a great deal in the real estate game, agents know that some potential buyers can visualize a home’s potential at a single glance, while others cannot.

In some markets, home staging is rare but available. In other areas, the service is widely used. Home staging professionals point out vital improvements needed to make homes move and be more appealing to qualified buyers. The staging process also allows a home’s bright spots to shine and not be hidden in a sea of clutter, poor photography and bare floors and walls.

While some agents are truly skilled at staging their own listings, time constraints can work against the busy Realtor driven to keep their business active and profitable.

In areas where home staging is a common professional service, properties often sell faster and for more money. The process of staging can be as complicated as remodeling a front porch or as simple as re-coordinating a color scheme in a family room to make a property more appealing when photographed. The goal is to assist agents to present listings in a way potential buyers will imagine themselves living in the homes, raising families and entertaining guests. Listings should be a blank canvas where shoppers can visualize relaxing, taking baths, preparing holiday meals and realizing dreams.

To champion the appeal, home stagers will work with what a seller already has—rearranging furniture, painting and landscaping.

For new construction or vacant properties, it’s rarely possible for agents to haul in their own furniture, hang art or create anything more than a few blank rooms. A professional stager specializes in obtaining furnishings to complement each property. Some have warehouses, others have networking agreements with retailers where products are displayed and available for sale.

What makes a home stager

Like any artist or decorator, a home stager’s most valuable tool comes in the form of creativity and vision. Most are also professionally trained. Some have ASP (Accredited Staging Professional) or ASPM (Accredited Staging Professional Master) accreditation. The process of working with a staging consultant is rather straightforward and commonly involves a listing agent and the seller.

Interior and exterior tours are given to allow the stager to arrive at a list of positives and negatives about the property. Sellers are then given the option of making improvements, re-arranging the property to draw on improvements before a home goes on the market.

Depending on the market, stagers can be hired for $250 to $650.

From the Aug. 4-10, 2010 issue

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