A July report from the Dayton Area Board of Realtors said home sales are up 8 percent this year, which is good new for potential sellers.
But actually selling a property is still no easy task.
One key to improving a residence’s chances on the market is home staging.
“It makes a huge difference to have (a home stager) come in,” said Isabel Kocon, a realtor and accredited buyer’s representative for Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors in Centerville. “The homes do sell quicker and sell for more, so a small investment in a home stager could save you a mortgage payment or two.”
Staging a home means creating an environment that highlights the property’s best features and allows potential buyers to see themselves in it. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mean emptying the house of all possessions.
“I find that a lot of times, buyers have a difficult time imagining what a space could be if it’s vacant,” Kocon said. “Home stagers help you decide what to keep and how to arrange it to maximize space. (A staged home) is very crisp, very clean, there’s no clutter, and there seems to be a flow created by how things are positioned.”
Home staging takes a residence through three steps.
First, the homeowners should get rid of clutter and worn-out furnishings.
“A lot of people think if they just get their house spic and span like they’re getting ready for party, that’s all they need to do,” said Amy Zumberger, an accredited home staging professional whose Ask Amy Staging business is located in Botkins and serves the Miami Valley. “But for company, you can just put things in cabinets. When your house is on the market, people are going to look in those cabinets. They want to see the quality of everything, and if it’s not clean and organized, they assume you don’t take care of the place.”
In other words, pack up knick-knacks put them in storage. Piles of books, paperwork, kitchenware, children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and other home items need to be neatly boxed or taken to a different site.
Any damaged or worn furniture and decorations should be repaired, removed or replaced.
But keep in mind that going to the other extreme and removing everything from a home on the market is a poor strategy.
“If a room just has a couch and a TV, it’s not inviting,” Zumberger said. “If a house is sterile, it’s not going to sell.”
The second step is to remove any personal items.
“Your personal taste and collections need to be taken out to make it more appealing to a broad range of people,” Zumberger said. “We become numb to our surroundings, because it’s our home. Making it market ready turns it into a house.”
Also, remove personal smells. Don’t use strong potpourri or other scents. Smokers and pet owners should take the extra step of having carpets cleaned and odor eliminators active to remove potential buyers’ concerns.
“In today’s market, people can’t have any doubt at all in their minds,” Zumberger said. “There’s too many houses available; they’ll just move on to the next.”
Third, highlight the home’s best qualities to create an emotional connection for visitors.
Every home has architectural features worth paying extra attention to, whether it’s a fireplace, a large storage space, a front porch or a beautiful view.
“When they walk in, (buyers) need to have an emotional attachment to the house,” Zumberger said. “When they walk from room to room, their first reaction needs to be ‘Wow.’”
Home stagers are professionally trained to get those “wows.” It starts with the first appointment, when the stager visits the home and assigns tasks to the sellers, such as winnowing six bookcases in a room down to one. It goes on to include painting, repairs, landscaping and other basic work to improve the home’s visual appeal.
“If clients are unable to do that or just don’t have time, we have a crew that comes in and helps them,” Zumberger said.
Within a week or so, the staging team is back to transform the house at an even deeper level. With homeowners out of the house, the crew works from room to room to showcase each space’s best features.
“I put myself in the place of someone coming in for a tour of the home,” Zumberger said. “I’m trained to make their eyes look where I want them to look.”
That’s done through furniture placement, colors, and a careful selection of what stays in the room to avoid confusion and help define the purpose of a room. Is the space a home office or an exercise room? A dining room or a living room?
Home stagers can bring in designer furniture and decorations to improve a space. But many times, solutions already exist.
“We rehang your pictures, we repurpose a lot of things,” Zumberger said. “It’s not about going out and buying all new things, it’s about being able to see things in a whole new way. I enjoy watching people come back to their homes and seeing their reactions, like ‘Why didn’t I do this 20 years ago so I could have enjoyed this?’ ”
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