Last week Robin Cook and Meagan Carmichael of Cook and Carmichael Redesign guided us through the initial steps of staging a house. Begin by knowing your audience, decluttering, cleaning, painting, and patching. Neutralize your home so you can start the next part of the process. Cook and Carmichael provide further insight into staging a house on a budget:
Your goal is to make the house move-in ready
When staging a house, your primary goal is to make the buyer feel like she can move right in. As Carmichael puts it, “Buyers are going through one of the most stressful things…moving. If they see a house that’s almost move-in ready, they’re like, ‘Oh, what a relief. This place is ready.’” Take away some of the buyer’s stress and give them the neutral slate so they can envision making your house their home.
Staging a house is about neutralizing, not decorating
The difference between interior design and staging, Carmichael explains, is that “interior design is personal. It’s all about personalization. It’s all about your tastes and everything you love. Our job [as stagers] is to neutralize everything. Neutralized tones sell faster. Your taste is beautiful, but if you neutralize it, then the potential buyer can see their stuff in there.”
Look for obstacles in your home and remove them
Cook and Carmichael use the friendly term “obstacles” to describe unsightly pieces of furniture in your home. If you have a huge TV armoire that’s overtaking your living room or a hanging rack next to your bed filled with all the clothes that don’t fit in your closet, place these items in storage. This is where an honest friend can help you out by doing a walk-through of your home. She can tell you what things may not appeal to your audience. Buyers want to see the beauty of your home, so remove all obstacles so they don’t miss it.
Each room should have one – and only one -purpose
Keep the house looking clean and simple by giving each room one purpose. Carmichael says, “If it’s an office, just a desk.” You don’t need to add in details to give home buyers a taste of how the room could be used. Cook agrees, “I would say for the most part, we eliminate more than we add.” Keep it simple.
Focus on the rooms that matter most
According to the National Association of Realtors, both buyers and sellers report that the rooms that matter most (in order) are: living room, kitchen, master bedroom, dining room, bathroom, children’s bedroom, and guest bedroom. For the living room and dining room, use neutral colors and add in accessories in groups of three. “It’s always tall, medium, and short,” Carmichael explains. “Your eye can rest. It’s not being distracted by 700 candles.” For the kitchen, when you’re on a tight budget, it’s all about doing that deep cleaning and putting out some pretty flowers. For the master bedroom and bath, neutralize and lighten up those spaces with white bedspreads and white towels.
When working on a budget, it’s difficult to stage the entire house. Cook explains why we should focus on the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom and bath, “By the time buyers get to that third bedroom, if it’s the same size, they’ve already made up their mind.” In attics and basements, the priority should be organizing and not staging.
Brighten and lighten up your space
There are easy and cost effective ways to brighten and lighten up your home. A fresh coat of paint does wonders. Purchase some inexpensive white linens and white towels to stage your home. It’s okay to use a cute bedspread in a kid’s bedroom but, if your audience is an empty nester, you want to go with white bedspreads everywhere. Remove your big, black grate from your fireplace and add in a few candles instead. Change light bulbs to brighter bulbs of 800-1000 lumens. Cook notes that these are brighter bulbs than you would use for daily use, but it transforms the room for staging purposes. If you have an oriental rug, take it out if the floors are in good shape. This will brighten up the floor. If you can afford to purchase a white rug, that’s your best option.
Highlight the architectural details of your home
You want to arrange the furniture to draw your eye to that beautiful fireplace or picture window. By neutralizing the home, you start with a clean palate to highlight the architectural details. Moving around furniture is a cost-effective way to show the beauty of your home. Carmichael explains, “We’re always looking for conversation seating or trying to set up little vignettes so that there’s the emotional warmth connection.” Set up your furniture in a way that highlights your house and makes the buyer feel comfortable in your home.
When shopping for realtors, ask about their marketing budget
The National Association of Realtors states that 62% of sellers’ agents offer the home staging services to their sellers. So, when you’re shopping around for a realtor, ask whether staging is included. A report from a professional staging company will give you a thorough checklist of everything you need to do to stage your home. Although this report typically costs between $300-$500, it may be covered by your real estate agent.
Here’s how it works: The staging company does a walk-through of your home. They take pictures and give advice on each room. They highlight the architectural details, tell you what the staging company would do and how to get it ready. You get a personalized plan so you can do the staging on your own. You may decide to use the staging company’s services at that point or you may take your checklist and become a DIY stager.
Remember this key advice from Cook and Carmichael: “You don’t always need a stager, but you need to stage.”
Robin Cook and Meagan Carmichael are former corporate marketers with 30 years of experience and a passion for HGTV. They have parlayed their creative and project management skills into a staging and redesign business serving Chicago’s North Shore. Both are HSR certified and members of the Real Estate Staging Association.