Understand the difference between decorating and staging
A few weeks ago, a reader wrote in with what she called a rant -- an account of the "grief" she and her husband felt after their real estate broker staged their longtime home to put it on the market. She couldn't believe buyers would rather see a house in which she and her husband were "imprisoned." Their home felt "totally strange, nonfunctional and alien."
Professional staging, of course, goes beyond the traditional cleanup that brokers have always advised for marketing (removing clutter, packing away personal items and the like). Since her rant was published, readers have responded with varying opinions on whether staging pays off.
Q. I was very interested to read the letter from the ex-Realtor who was bemoaning the staging process. We had our last home staged and thought our story might be of interest. We put our house on the market with a broker we had used 10 years prior. We did not get a single offer in six months, so we decided to change brokers and stage the home.
For $250 we staged our home over five hours. Our stager asked, "Do you understand the difference between decorating and staging?" It is important to realize that staging is not meant to show off your treasures, no matter how much you love them. We also removed a lot of our cozy chairs and ottomans that filled rooms.
At the completion of the project, our stager asked if we were comfortable, and I replied, "No, but we want to sell our house." So, sadly, there are sacrifices that owners must make. And yes, homebuyers do watch HGTV, so dry your tears and deal with the "blank slate."
Thanks to our second Realtor, who understood that just sticking a photo in the Saturday paper doesn't sell a house, and thanks to the hardworking stager, who educated us on redesigning a house to sell, we sold our house in three months for close to our asking price. A neighbor even came to visit after our staging was done and commented how he had never before noticed how pretty our fireplace was.
A. Thanks for writing. It would also have been useful to know how much you were asking for your home during those first six months, compared to the listing price with that second agent.
Q. I do agree. This has driven me crazy for many years. I have bought and sold multiple homes, and when I'm buying a home I don't look at paint color or what flowers they have on the table or whether little Suzie's dolls are on the floor. I want to see the layout and structural soundness of the home. Is there a working bathtub and shower? Is there a garage and a yard? I want to know the square footage of the rooms.
Cosmetic staging is just an absurd waste of time and money. Most people want to paint a home their own colors anyway. How in the world did we all buy homes before this ridiculous excuse for spending money began? I'm glad I'm not alone on this.
Q. In response to the reader who wrote that rant, we recently put our home on the market, and our broker also wanted to stage our home. I have a different point of view on the matter.
Since the staging, our home is cleaner, bigger, brighter, tidy and more elegant. All the countertop clutter? Gone. All the knickknacks and trinkets? Gone. All the paper, mail and magazines? Gone. All the closets? Organized. We did everything our broker suggested with the exception of removing our microwave!
I like the simple look. It's easy to keep the house clean for a showing. When we move, our new home will always be staged! We have an offer pending.
Q. I have observed two sales of the same house. The first owners stayed in the home during the sale. They moved everything out except for a cot, a small stand with a lamp on it, and maybe plates and utensils in the kitchen. It was in good shape. It sold after they came down somewhat on the price.
The next time, after five years, the owners put some pieces from their antiques collection in the living room. It was elegant, but cozy. The home could be seen online, too. They sold it for much more than they paid for it, but they may have spent a lot working on the house.
Considering these limited experiences, I would conclude that leaving the house empty definitely leaves all options open to staging or whatever the Realtor wants. But trying to live as usual in a home empty or staged would be hellish.
• Contact Edith Lank on www.askedith.com, or 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.
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