Sold! Staging your home

The secret to selling YOUR HOME in a down market

Author: By Meridith M. Ferber
Posted: Friday, September 04, 2009

In the past, if you were selling your home, homebuyers would ignore your clutter, peeling paint and dust-covered fans. Today, potential buyers want their dream home to be in turn-key, or move-in, condition. A fresh coat of paint, storing your clutter and strategic furniture placement may just be the key to getting your home sold. 

“When you’re selling a house, you’re marketing a product, and when you market a product you want your packaging to be alluring,” says Adele George, principal broker and owner of Northern Dutchess Realty in Rhinebeck. 

Some homes present well, but the majority of homes needs tweaking and about 40% need staging. George explains that staging is an integral and important part of the presentation. Staging can range from a simple de-cluttering to hiring a professional stager. 

“When someone walks into a house they have to see themselves living in that house,” she says.
George explains that when a buyer comes into any room of your home, their eye needs to travel.
You want it to travel in the way that benefits the house. “For example, if you have small rooms, you want the buyer’s eye to travel down the wall and out the window,” she says. “If you have an open floor plan, you don’t want large objects to block that flow.

It’s about more paint colors and de-cluttering.” If you are considering selling your home or it is currently on the market and you haven’t had many showings, step back and view your home with a fresh eye. Your goal should be to showcase the reasons you love your home so potential buyers can love it too!

Start at your driveway
Approach your home with a discerning eye. Write down anything that stands out, both positive and negative. Is the paint peeling? Are garden gnomes invading your yard? What is your first impression when you enter the front door? Is it the smell of fresh flowers and baking cookies, or pet odors and cigarette smoke?

Staging isn’t only about appearance, but it’s about the smell of the home. A bad smell can distract a potential buyer from the positives of the home. In an article in The Financial Times, psychologist Dr. David Lewis is quoted as saying, “Bad smells get up your nose literally. They have a negative effect on your brain. Quite often you cannot smell your own home because you are so used to it.”

Sharon Soons, owner of StreamlineU, a home staging company in Beacon, suggests asking a trusted friend to tell you how your house truly smells. “When your house is on the market, refrain from cooking foods with strong odors and don’t burn incense,” she suggests. Have drapes, furniture and carpets professionally cleaned and purchase or rent an air purifier. Enjoy your Cuban cigar on the patio.

Check around the house
Look at your kitchen as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Are the countertops clean or cluttered with gadgets, mail and dishes? Potential buyers will open cabinets and drawers, so thin out what’s inside. Store appliances you don’t use. 

In the living room, remove photos of your children or artwork and replace them with a few, well-chosen pieces that have mass appeal. You want potential buyers to picture them living in your home.
Replace loud bedroom linens with soft, neutral patterns.  Reduce the contents of the closets to just the seasonal items that you’ll need.

In the bathroom, think spa! Pack away bath toys and purchase an organizer to hold necessities. Replace the shower curtain with a simple fabric liner or scrub down shower doors. Re-caulk the grout and tile if they are mildewed or aging. Hang fresh towels, lay out a matching bath mat and place a few decorative candles in a bowl filled with bath salts. 

“If your bathroom has crazy colored tiles, use neutral towels,” she says. “If you have neutral colors – use vibrant towels. Put away your personal products and plungers. Make it seem as if the home takes care of itself. And no plastic shower curtain rings. Invest in the metal rings and you’ll immediately see a difference!” 

The colors that you use in the home should be neutral and complement the architecture of the home. You want buyers to see the bones of the home, not the bright red wall in the dining room.
Make sure to dust off the cobwebs and open the curtains to bring in the outdoors.

Where does the sofa go?
One of the most daunting aspects of staging is furniture placement and Soons states that most homeowners have too much furniture. A space should be warm and inviting and allow room to walk. 
“Two people should be able to walk side by side in any area of your home,” Soons adds. “Create little nooks that make people want to spend time there. Make them think, ‘Hey, I want to have a cup of coffee and read a book there.’”

Remove large, obtrusive pieces. Your widescreen television should not be the focal point of your room. Instead highlight key architectural details like a beautiful fireplace or stunning bay windows. 

Finding a stager
If you don’t have an eye for what really works in a room, call a professional. Visit staging websites such as, which has tips and suggestions for maximizing your home’s potential and lists Accredited Staging Profes-sionals by area. Costs for the services of a home stager range. Soons will come for a one-time consultation for a small fee and then, if requested, will provide an hourly rate for furniture placement and follow-up.

“Stage before you hire a realtor,” says Soons. “Realtors are influenced by how your house looks when they come to give you a market price. Your realtor will market and sell your home based on their impression – so do everything you can to make a good first impression!”

A success story
When my husband and I were preparing our Brooklyn co-op for sale, we applied the staging rules to highlight the positive aspects of the space. We repainted the hallways and living room a neutral color, removed personal photos and knick-knacks and had our floors professionally sanded and carpets cleaned. We removed extra clothing, furniture and toys and placed them in our storage unit in the building’s basement. 

We spent $150 and added French doors to the bedroom for a dramatic effect and transformed the bathroom into an inviting spa with candles. I added greenery and contour to the space. These small improvements removed our personal style from the apartment and made it a fresh, inviting space for potential buyers. Within one week, we had five offers on the apartment and accepted the highest offer, closing 45 days later. With a little thought and an open mind you can maximize your home’s key details as well!

Meridith Ferber lives in Rhinebeck with her husband and three children. 


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