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Kiplinger’s On Line “Stage Your Home For Under $1,000”

Authored by: Anne Kates Smith  -  Published in: http://www.kiplinger.com
Created on:

6 Ways to Stage Your Home for Less Than $1,000
Use these six staging strategies to get the best price in the shortest time without spending a fortune.
By Anne Kates Smith, Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
October 2009

Website: Click Here

Staging a home for sale is all about making it inviting to the largest number of potential buyers. If a home is vacant, a stager will haul in furniture and décor so buyers can imagine themselves living there. If it’s occupied, the stager will declutter, neutralize and decorate for the masses. (See the related slide show: Real-World Examples of Home Staging for Less Than $1,000.)

Staging won’t make a home sell for more than it’s worth. But it can set your home apart and boost the selling price to the top of the range for comparable homes. It can also cut the time on the market. Because nearly 90% of home buyers start their search on the Internet, staging is a good way to make sure online photos pop.

Home sellers spend an average of $1,800 to stage a home, but costs can range from a couple of hundred dollars to $5,000 or more. Here are six ways to stage your home for less than $1,000.

Virtually stage your vacant property. Virtual staging is aimed at online shoppers who may quickly lose interest in a slide show full of floors, ceilings and bare walls. Sellers or their real estate agents send pictures of the empty rooms — a 2- or 3-megapixel camera is all you need — to a virtual stager, who sends back images of the same rooms, tastefully furnished, for use online and in marketing materials.

Ethical stagers won’t alter the color of floors or walls, improve the view, change light fixtures or fix imperfections. Nor will they work from photos of furnished rooms because they don’t know what lurks under the existing rug or behind the real-life sofa. Still, for buyers, it goes without saying that there’s no substitute for an in-person tour.

Virtually Staging Properties, in Atlanta, charges $225 for three virtually staged photos, $280 for four and $325 for five. Send in a high-quality photo (at least 5 megapixels) and for $50 you can get an 8-by-11-inch paper enlargement to mount on the wall so that open-house visitors can see an empty room’s potential.

Virtual Staging Solutions, in Cranford, N.J., recently offered three virtually staged photos for $197.

Pay for a plan, do the labor yourself. Many stagers work as consultants, touring your house and offering suggestions on how best to present it. Barb Schwarz, a longtime home stager and founder of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, says the average fee for a consultation is $350 and often involves a tour of the property that lasts two hours or longer, photos and a 30- to 50-page report.

No Vacancy in Atlanta, Virtually Staging Properties’ sister company, charges $250 for a three- to four-hour consultation split over two days — the first to give you ideas and the second a couple of weeks later to suggest finishing touches. In Minneapolis, Lori Matzke, founder of Center Stage Home, charges $250 for a 90-minute walk-through. Customers are in charge of taking notes, so she encourages them to follow along with a video camera.

When working with a consultant, you do the cleaning, the decluttering and the trips to the dump, or rental of storage space. Load up an 8-by-8-by-12-foot or 8-by-8-by-16-foot portable storage unit from PODs, which will deliver the unit to your driveway for $75, transport it to a secure storage facility for another $75 and charge you a monthly storage fee of around $150, depending on where you live, the time of year and other factors.

Among the accoutrements of home you’ll need to jettison or stow: family photos, magazines, toys, cosmetics and other grooming supplies in the bathroom, and countertop appliances and cutting boards in the kitchen. “Pretend you’re camping,” says Schwarz. Leave only necessities, and store them in cabinets.

Paint rooms in light, neutral colors, which are widely appealing and make your rooms look bigger. “Different-colored bedrooms are like Ginsu knives that chop up space,” says Schwarz. Put a touch of greenery in every room — preferably harvested from the backyard.

Negotiate a vignette. A staged home calls for scenery—for example, a ficus tree, a beautiful chair and a side table with accessories. If you don’t need furniture brought into an otherwise empty space, you may be able to negotiate for décor only — call it a pizazz package. No Vacancy will bring in wall art, area rugs, lamps and other accessories to neutralize and update a customer’s existing furnishings. The service runs roughly $250 per month, with a three-month minimum, plus one month’s fee for setup and breakdown. Center Stage Home charges just $600 for three months; adding heavy pieces, such as a sofa, tacks another $300 to the tab.

Focus on just a few rooms. Spend your budget on the entryway, main living area, kitchen and master bedroom. Many stagers charge an hourly rate -- $75 to $125 is typical. Ignoring secondary rooms, or doing them yourself once you’ve seen how the pro works, can save hundreds of dollars.

Do tackle particularly challenging areas — say, an attic bedroom with odd angles and crannies or a pink-tiled bathroom in an older home. You needn’t go overboard. A soft, creamy paint color, such as a pale gold, on the attic walls and ceiling will downplay angles and make the ceiling seem higher. Tone down a Pepto-Bismol look in the bathroom with white and black — tie a white shower curtain on the rod with black-and-white ribbons, and hang black bath towels.

Shop at home. Scour the house, yard, garden shed and garage to carry out your home’s transformation. Schwarz recalls facing a challenging boy’s bedroom once, which had a broken curtain rod, torn drapes and a collection of disturbing posters. A tour of the shed, yard and garage yielded a trove of fishing equipment and—voilà—a new theme. A fishing pole replaced the broken curtain rod, and a sheet from the linen closet, tied back with rope, became the curtain. Atop the dresser: a tackle box, some fishing books and a lamp placed inside a cleaned-up fishing boot. The other boot became a planter for some alder branches from the backyard. The headboard was draped in a fishing net adorned with lures. Cost: virtually zero. And when the house sold, the buyers asked that the décor convey.

In the main living areas, though, themes are best avoided. “The whole idea is to appeal to as many buyers as possible,” says Matzke. “Themes can be distracting.” Think flexibly as you rearrange furniture: a nightstand can be an end table, a bureau can be a buffet, and a hutch can double as a bookcase. Cardboard moving boxes can stand in for a bed in an unfurnished bedroom. Cover with a gorgeous spread and pillows and no one will know. Still missing something? Shop Craigslist.org, or ask family and friends for a loan.

Step outside. Clean up debris and pull dead plants or shrubs. Trim remaining greenery, especially anything blocking a window. Banish planters, barbecue grills and toys from the deck. You can’t paint your home’s entire exterior for less than a grand, but you can refresh the front and garage doors with a coat or two; ditto for the shutters and trim, especially window ledges, and the mailbox. Clean up rust spots or streaks on downspouts while you’re at it, and repaint or restain the fence. Typical cost for exterior touch-up, including repairs to chimney, gutters, roof and porch: $660 to $940, according to HomeGain.com, a home-marketing Web site. 

Homes often reflect the people that have lived there, not those who will. But you can stage your home yourself, or for a small fee, professional home stagers can work wonders, allowing prospective buyers to envision the residence as their own. Small touch-ups can make a big difference in how quickly a home moves off the market.

These six before-and-after examples were all staged for a grand or less, and all sold in a matter of weeks. Take a look to see how simple changes such as decluttering, repainting and moving furniture can help sell your home—fast.

By Amy Pollak


Carolyn Chambers, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

From White….

Yes, it's vacant. Let's just say free of clutter. Trouble was, the small living spaces and sterile white walls made it difficult for buyers to imagine themselves living here. Compounding the issue was a very limited budget for the home sellers to stage their home.


Carolyn Chambers, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

...To Bright

"When staging a home, keep the walls neutral and bring in ‘moveable color,’" says Barb Schwarz, founder of International Association of Home Staging Professionals. Vibrant, colorful furniture warmed up this room instantly. Because the living room was short on size and had awkward angles, smaller furniture maximized open space and gave it an airy feel.

* Cost: $650
* Result:
The buyers loved the furniture so much they wanted it to be included in the sale of the house.



Kelly Lee McFredrick, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

From Cluttered…

Talk about messy. This dark kitchen was in disarray, but it had a great start in the form of maple cabinets and stainless/black appliances hidden by all the clutter. “Most people have too much clutter to begin with,” Schwarz says, “and bottom line, clutter eats equity.”


Kelly Lee McFredrick, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

...To Clean

What a difference color can make. This kitchen was organized and painted a lighter neutral tan color. The room looks much bigger and more inviting. The vaulted ceilings--barely noticeable before--now accentuate the height of the room.

* Cost: $900
* Result:
The house sold to the first person who saw the house after it was staged.



Jennie Norris, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

From Ugly…

Outdated bedding and clutter stood in the way of any buyer appreciating the size of this room--and the chair rail molding. The wallpaper didn’t help much, either.


Jennie Norris, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

...To Lovely

Here the homeowners removed the wallpaper and lightened up the room themselves with a taupe color palette. Two neutral tones on the wall adds visual interest and showcases the molding throughout. In removing most of the furniture, the hardwood floors and the additional bathroom became clearly visible—and a strong selling point.

* Cost: $1,000 including a second room (see From Indifferent to Inviting)
* Result: It took just three days after staging for someone to snatch this house up—for more than the asking price.



Jennie Norris, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

From Indifferent…

At first glance, this large family room seems just fine: lots of seating, neutral tones, high ceilings and a fireplace. But the back of the couch faces the entrance of the room, blocking the view of the fireplace and making the space seem smaller. Are there too many pieces of artwork on the walls?


Jennie Norris, Courtesy StagedHomes.com

...To Inviting

By moving the furniture around, the room looks much bigger, and the fireplace becomes a focal point and selling point. Streamlining the artwork also improves the look. Successful staging operates on a “less is more approach,” Schwarz says. “No one will buy a house until they can mentally move themselves in. Staging is the vehicle for buyers to envision it for themselves.”

* Cost: $1,000 including another room (see From Ugly to Lovely)
* Result: This house sold only three days after staging.


Article entered in the Staged Homes System: 2009-10-14



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