When selling a house, the decision about what needs fixing and what is best left for the next buyer is determined in large part by the appraiser and home inspector.
But getting potential buyers to walk through the door at all may depend on how well the house is staged both inside and out.
Curb appeal how well a property looks as people pass by on the road is still important even in these days of internet searches. If the first glance doesnt appeal, it is oh so easy to click on the next property.
Landscape designers are the first step in providing curb appeal. Next are the lawn and garden workers who keep trees and shrubs from becoming overgrown distractions from the beauty of the house itself.
Then comes the stager, who looks at the house and works to draw the eye to the front door through placement of colorful potted plants in summer, welcoming wreaths in winter and/or outdoor lighting.
The seduction doesnt stop there, but continues from the time the front door is opened until potential buyers walk onto the back deck or patio.
We want to help potential buyers imagine what they could do, Joyce Galaverna, owner of The Staging Studio, said. We walk into a home and decide what areas are the focal points and where we can highlight and help potential buyers see, Thats a beautiful fireplace or This could be a great space for entertaining or I could really enjoy having my morning coffee here.
Kara Pittman Hart, broker/owner of Terra Nova Global Properties, learned the value of staging a home using art when she first started in the business about 10 years ago. When Pittman Hart started working with Terra Nova founder Marianna Fiorentino they had an art and rug show in a vacant house. The rugs and art were placed throughout the house, as they would be if someone were living there. The works of local artists, including Murray Handler, were used.
It worked so well for us, Pittman Hart said. The art sold well and the house got a lot of attention, which helped it sell, too.
Local artist Vincent Daddiego and his wife, Gloria Roberts, have supplied paintings and sculptures for open house showings. Their works are wide and varied, ranging from traditional art to cutting-edge contemporary.
When you are arranging a house, a residence or a corporate space, keep in mind that art plays a very important role, Daddiego said.
Pittman Hart said that her firms use of stagers and local artwork has evolved from that first rug and art show. Sometimes there are issues of liability connected to leaving things in a vacant house, so she says they try to use artwork that is not super valuable. Another option is to work with artists and local galleries that can help co-insure the works. Terra Nova has partnered with Branching Out to rent artwork and knick-knacks. Agents also use some of their own artwork when staging a house.
If we have feedback that a vacant room feels too small, we stage it with furniture and art and it appears and feels bigger because it defines the room and the use of the space and gives buyers an idea how a room could be set up, Pittman Hart said.
Tom Wiltberger an agent at Terra Nova had the value of staging a house brought home to him this spring. A house in southwest Durham had been on the market for a couple of months and the feedback from potential buyers and other real estate agents was that people couldnt envision how to furnish certain rooms, didnt like the floorplan and felt there wasnt a foyer when they entered the house, Wiltberger said.
All of those comments point to We need to show people how to furnish this house, Wiltberger said.
They got a proposal to stage the house from Galaverna in March. The staging was completed on May 2. New photos were taken of the home, an announcement about the new staging was sent to real estate agents and posted on the Web along with a slightly lower price.
The feedback post staging was no longer negative.
The foyer comes to life when furniture is correctly placed, Wiltberger said.
Wiltberger had 20 showings prior to staging and nine showings in 30 days after staging. The house was under contract within a month.
Several years ago Pittman Hart attended several national programs about staging and learned that accredited stagers say homes will sell 45 percent faster when staged.
Just in general, we find that many buyers dont visualize well and you have to help them, Pittman said. If you can make a house more inviting and friendly, the client comes away with a better feeling about the house.
Pittman Hart says she doesnt always stage an entire house, but she often vignette stages a kitchen and bath. When staging an entire house or the main living spaces of a house, she and her agents hire a professional stager who has access to larger furniture pieces to use.
Galaverna says that with artwork, she always tries to keep it suitable for the room neutral, something that will highlight particular features in a home. It should work with overall color scheme of the home and placement should be at the most visible spot -- hung near enough furniture so it appears visually attached to furniture.
We see where our eye lands first upon entering a home and place art there, Galaverna said.
As to what type of art, Galaverna determines a theme for each home based upon its architecture and its relation to the outside grounds. To achieve a Zen feel , Galaverna uses art home décor with earth tones, soft blues and greens. She says paintings of the beach or ocean work well to achieve that feeling. She says that urban contemporary begs for black and white photography for example, a photograph of a bridge or of someone canoeing.
We get more compliments on black and white photographs than almost any other artwork we place in a contemporary home, Galaverna said.
Staging can be particularly important for homeowners trying sell low-end homes.
I think it is a crime to put a house on the market without staging it, especially a home in the lower price range, Kathy Underhill an agent with Allen Tate Realty, said. A vacant home especially in the lower price range doesnt show well if it isnt staged. It is hard for potential buyers to see how furniture would fit in a small space.
Galaverna has worked with owners of homes in the lower price ranges. Often a consultation that lasts around an hour-and-a-half at a cost of $125 is all it takes to make a big difference in a home, Galaverna said.
We guide them about how to remove furniture that is distracting or overwhelming, buy some small things, like new towels instead of everyday towels, to perk up a kitchen or bath, Galaverna said. We look at their yard and tell them to make sure to keep plants watered and in bloom. We work with any budget, depending on what people want and what they are hoping to achieve.
Every home owners involvement at every different price range of home is different, according to Galaverna, who says she enjoys the challenge either waytotally involved or totally detached. Galaverna often calls on stager Laura Rodriguez to help when the homeowner cannot help or when she has many homes on the market at one time.
The cost of renting furniture and accessories is on top of a stagers time as a consultant. Galaverna looks at the total job and tells the client her best estimate of how long it will take and what it will cost to stage a home.
There is an art to staging a home, and formal training to acquire those skills can be had through companies such as Six Elements, QC Design and Staged Homes, to name a few. There are also local companies that rent furniture and accessories to stagers, home owners and real estate agents.
The three rules of real estate may be defined by the word location, but the fourth rule may well be summed up by the word staging.
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