Of all the things you can do to help sell your home, staging might be the most important of all.  Of course price and location are very important, too.  We don’t want to diminish the importance of either of these selling points. It is also true, however, that the media has changed the rules.

As with so many things in our culture, omnipresent television has once again turned another industry on its head.  This time, it is the real estate industry.  No longer can you clean your house and expect prospective buyers to imagine their furnishings in your spaces.  No, now you have to decorate your home as if it were a theater stage, placing furniture pieces to show off a room’s size.  Having worn or dirty furnishings is also a no-no as its makes a home look tired and worn out.

Color?  Another faux pas.  Everything must be neutral so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities.  That lovely turquoise tile that reminds you of the Caribbean better be gone before the first open house or else you will find you are getting feedback of the “it needs a total makeover” variety from other agents and buyers.

The fact is that many people have no imagination or no vision.  They can’t see themselves in your home unless you depersonalize it so that there is no imagination or vision necessary.  It is the same tactic that new home builders use in their model homes.   Have you ever noticed when visiting model homes that each model is decorated to conform to a different lifestyle?  Each of those lifestyles has an income level associated with it too.

Television has taken this concept to an extreme with makeover shows that plaster the airwaves twenty four hours a day.  When TV spokespeople tell homeowners that their home is cluttered, ugly, out of date and requires an extensive overhaul before it can be put on the market, what do you think the average buyer is going to expect from every home he or she visits?  Exactly.  A perfect home, decorated to the nines, with space galore and no clutter.  Anything less is not worth their time or their interest.

TV has set the bar very high for the average homeowner.  Staging can cost thousands of dollars.  And don’t just take the numbers you see on shows as the true cost of staging.  That $3500 staging cost is just for a day or two, long enough to have one open house and to take pictures.  Most stagers rent their furnishings by the month so $3500 won’t cut it.

The affordable answer?  Stage your home yourself.  Declutter by packing away things you will have to move eventually and put them in a storage locker.  If you are buying furniture for your new home, use that furniture to stage your home instead of your favorite, well-broken in sofa.  Paint your walls neutral colors and use white linens wherever you can.  Keep everything off your kitchen counters and encourage your kids to keep their toys out of site in their very clean and organized closet.

Stagers and real estate agents like to site the statistic that staged homes sell quicker and for more money.  In this market, anything that sells a home at all is worth your time and effort.

– Susan Olson