LAKES REGION PROFILES by Mary O'Neill, Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group
In the movie "Funny Farm," Chevy Chase plays an ex-New York City sports writer trying to sell his home in a small New England town to an urban couple who have dreams of relocating to the country. Chevy sets up his property to imitate pages right out of Norman Rockwell's illustrations with everything from freshly baked muffins on the kitchen table to a deer running across the backyard on cue. The result was the buyers could envision their dream home and made an offer over full price for the house, furniture, and even the old dog. If you want to sell your home, you do not have to go to these extremes. But Chevy had it right – staging your home so potential buyers can picture themselves living there is worth the effort.
A survey by Stagedhome.com found that 94 percent of homes that were staged sold on average in one month or less, spent 80 percent less time on the market, and sold in an average of 35 days compared to 175 days for non-staged homes. This is an important consideration since the longer a home is on the market, the lower the price will be. According to the National Association of Realtors, homes that sold after four weeks on the market sold for 6 percent less than those that sold in the first four weeks (Resource Realty Services). If a house has not sold, most sellers reduce the price after about a month on the market. The first price reduction is usually around 10 percent. So for a $250,000 house, the price reduction is $25,000. The average cost of professional staging ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 (Smith, Kiplinger.com). Had the homeowners staged their $250,000 house at a cost of $3,000 and sold within the first month on the market, they would have been $22,000 ahead.
Whether you have your house staged professionally or tackle it yourself, here are some tips commonly given for doing the job:
1. Thin out and reorganize furniture to maximize space and light. Too much furniture or furniture too big for a space makes a room feel smaller. Furnishings should not obscure a buyer's view of focal points such as scenic vistas, fireplaces or built-ins. Numerous or disparate pictures on walls can make a room feel cluttered. In an article by Michael Estrin for Bankrate.com, one recent buyer was quoted as saying that if the house "was cluttered and messy, my brain just shut off." It might be tempting to only thin out and organize what is immediately visible, especially if you are still living in the house you are trying to sell. But it is helpful to have areas behind closed doors tidy as well. Most buyers are looking for space and storage. If they open cupboards or closets and find them jammed with stuff, it gives the impression there is not enough space. On the other hand, buyers can find it challenging to envision a room's function when it is completely devoid of furnishings. Staging can show how a house could function for the potential buyer and gives each room a clearly defined purpose.
2. Neutralize. Most buyers respond to neutral colors, and a fresh coat of white or cream-colored paint is one of the easiest and most rewarding improvements. At the same time, it can be detrimental to "over-neutralize." Every room painted white can be bland. Within every color family there are neutrals – such as soft blues, greens and grays – and these colors can be employed to create a calming designer atmosphere. From there the décor can be upped a notch by incorporating pops of color in artwork, rugs, pillows, and other accessories.
3. Focus on the most important areas. For almost all buyers, this means the kitchen and bathrooms. If cabinets are dated, a coat of paint goes a long way toward making the space new and inviting. Other inexpensive updates include replacing cabinet doors and switching out lighting fixtures and window treatments.
4. Clean. One thing buyers definitely notice is dirt and grime. Elbow grease can add more value to a home than almost anything else. It might seem obvious, but dusting cobwebs in corners, scrubbing floors and washing windows go a long way toward making a home more appealing. Unkempt rooms can make buyers wonder if there are problems behind the walls that have not been addressed as well.
5. Depersonalize the space. This usually involves removing family pictures, excess books, clothing, cosmetics, toys and other personal items. Depersonalization might also extend to painting – the bright red walls in your bedroom might not make the best first impression.
6. Do not forget the details. While cleanliness and order is the goal, the house should not look sterile. Strategic accessories create a cozy atmosphere. Place a few books on the coffee table, add an accent piece along with neatly arranged books on a shelf, and hang a few pieces of attractive art on the wall. Professionals also recommend having a plant or two (providing the plants are real) so the home gives the impression that someone actually lives there.
7. Amplify your curb appeal. Professional stager Kelly Gardner says, "Buyers make up their mind in the first 30 seconds as they approach the front door" (Gaskill, 2013, Houzz). Simple updates can include painting the front door, changing a weathered light fixture, cutting back shrubbery, laying mulch, adding potted plants, replacing the mailbox, power-washing the siding and defining a front walkway. Increasing curb appeal is especially important since many potential buyers do a drive-by before they ask to see a property.
8. Help buyers visualize. Buyers can have a hard time visualizing a space. This is true whether the house is completely empty or full of furniture and accessories. A survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 81 percent of real estate agents believe staging helps buyers visualize the property as their future home. Forty-six percent of agents said it makes buyers much more willing to walk through a home they saw online (Kasperski, 2015, realtor.org). And since more than 90 percent of potential buyers look at homes online first, staging can significantly increase the number of buyers coming to view a property.
Whether purchasing a first home, second home, or vacation getaway, buyers are investing in a dream. Staging allows them to imagine themselves and their things in a home. For more suggestions on staging, contact your local professional stager or real estate agent – or watch Funny Farm and try a few of Chevy Chase's novel ideas.
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a Realtor at Roche Realty Group in Meredith & Laconia, and can be reached at (603) 366-6306, rocherealty.com
- Category: Columns
- Hits: 473