When potential buyers walk into a home, they decide whether or not they’re going to make an offer within seconds. By that point, they’ve already had an emotional experience, perceiving the entire space with all five senses.
Home staging attempts to make that initial and decisive experience a positive one.
Toronto-based realtor duo Ralph Fox and Kori Marin know about the importance of good staging. They’ve seen firsthand how effective it can be to de-clutter, organize and re-vamp a home before showing it to potential buyers.
Many of their clients have benefitted from cleaning and de-personalizing their homes prior to listing. Fox and Marin said that part of the reason why it works is because it helps potential buyers visualize themselves and their own things in the home because they’re not distracted by someone else’s personal items or distinctive decor tastes.
“Some people have trouble visualizing themselves in a space, so a properly staged space doesn’t need to be done over the top,” Fox said. “It needs to be done in a way that somebody can look at it and say ‘oh I could understand where my couch would go and I could understand where I’d put the TV and I can visualize myself sitting here and having breakfast at this little table when the sun comes in’.”
While the word “staging” might suggest theatrics or bright and loud decor, the end product should be the opposite of that. When staging a home for resale, the objective should be to put the house on full display, which is why Fox and Marin believe that a neutral colour palette and minimal accessories are ideal.
Marin said she’s heard of buyers who are outraged by the idea of home staging because they think they’re being duped by the sellers. On the contrary, she said, clutter and dirt are the real distractors because they can deter open house guests from a property with good potential and solid bones. Staging, Fox and Marin explained, helps buyers see a space for what it really is.
“Really good staging is when you’re seeing the house and not really focusing on the staging. Really bad staging is when you’re focusing on the staging and the house gets overlooked because you have weird placement or you have weird colours,” Fox said.
Fox and Marin compared home staging to women’s fashion. They said that neutral, understated clothing emphasizes a woman’s beauty, while busy, over-the-top garb distracts from it.
According to Fox, a quote from legendary designer Coco Chanel about fashion also rings true in real estate: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
Barb Schwarz is the founder and chair of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, a global network of trained home stagers based in Seattle. She said that a fresh coat of a light, bright hue like white or taupe on the walls can be extremely effective because it will expand the space, while dark colours can make a room feel tight and stuffy.
Colour is one of Schwarz’s three Cs of home staging, the other two being clean and clutter-free. She stressed that getting rid of clutter is an essential part of preparing a home for resale.
The appearance of a space acts as a means of communicating with potential buyers, and an unclean home sends a negative message about the home. Schwarz said ridding your home of stains, dirt and personal items like coats and shoes in the doorway can go a long way in making a good impression.
“It’s got to be clean. I call it Q-tip clean. It comes down to every little thing in that house. It’s got to be spotless,” she said.
“It’s got to be clean. I call it Q-tip clean. It comes down to every little thing in that house. It’s got to be spotless.”
Home staging isn’t as simple as cleaning and decorating, though. Diane Black of Diane Black and Associates, a full-service firm in Toronto specializing in design and renovations, said that there’s so much more to the process than adding a few pleasant-looking finishes to a space.
“Staging has a component of accessorizing and decorating, but that is not the most critical aspect of it. The most critical is these updates or upgrades,” Black said. “Staging is not just furniture and artwork.”
She said there are three different levels of home staging, each one corresponding to a different price point. The first level encompasses changes the owner should make if he or she is planning on selling the home as-is. It covers surface changes like paint, furniture and decor.
The next level of home staging is for those who are planning on selling their home at market value. This includes upgrading things like flooring, bathroom tiles and outdated fixtures.
Finally, Black explained that the third level of staging is for people who are willing to overhaul their homes in order to be paid a premium. Home staging at this level can involve kitchen renovations and overall changes to a home’s layout.
Surprisingly, Black said that flooring is the most important thing to update before resale. She said that the proposition of overhauling the flooring is exhausting to buyers because it can involve a later move-in date and extra finances.
A turnkey property is extremely attractive to house hunters, which is why carrying out the nitty-gritty aspects of home staging is so important.
“The most important thing is having updated flooring, walls and light fixtures. You need those basics,” Black said.
“The most important thing is having updated flooring, walls and light fixtures. You need those basics.”
Effective staging is all about providing a frame for a home’s best qualities. A great layout, spacious rooms and high ceilings only go so far if they’re concealed by heavy clutter and overbearing decor.
The National Association of Realtors’ 2015 profile of home staging found that a whopping 81 per cent of potential home buyers found it easier to visualize themselves in a home if it was staged. The report also found that about a third of agents say home staging increases the amount buyers are willing to pay by one to five per cent.
According to the report, the average cost of staging is $675, making it well worth the investment.