In the residential real estate market, “clutter” is a dirty word – and like many dirty words, it’s heard all too frequently.
Clutter in a home is in the eye of the beholder. Visitors and, more importantly, potential buyers usually see it. But the homeowners – who create and live with furnishings, decorations, artifacts and other items in highly visible places – may be less apt to notice.
That usually means staging, an all-encompassing term that means using independent eyes to get rid of excess items, ranging from furniture to family photos, and sometimes redecorating. It’s all done either by a discerning owner or, often, with advice from a real estate agent or a person trained to put a home on stage, so to speak.
“The reason for staging is to put the focus on the great features you have,” such as wood floor and granite counters, says Stella Pseekos, owner of Dublin-based Styled to Sell. “Clutter gets in the way of what you’re trying to get the buyer to buy.”
A potential buyer can immediately identify a room he or she might envision living in someday, says Nancy Edwards, co-owner with Linda Ayers of Clintonville-area First Impression Home Stagers.
“It takes just 15 seconds to create a good first impression,” Edwards says.
Edwards and Ayers tell of helping an owner stage a 1920s-built home in Upper Arlington by having wallpaper removed in one room, improving some lighting, hiring a professional cleaning crew and rearranging and removing some furniture, steps that resulted in 15 showings the first day and a quick sale.
“You’d be surprised what you can do with things you have,” Edwards says, by re-purposing or restaging.
First Impression sometimes spices up rooms by adding colorful pillows or, as in a recent case, strategically placing some knick-knacks in a kitchen that surprisingly had none, Ayers says.
Most stagers have a supply of furniture or decorative pieces available for temporary use; others arrange to rent what’s desired.
It’s important to depersonalize when trying to sell, says Maria Bonaventura, owner of Westerville-based StageOrganizeStyle.
“Everybody has too much stuff,” Bonaventura says. “A lot of it goes off-property” when staging based on a list of suggested changes she prepares.
Fresh paint can add to the flair. Art and other decorative items are some of Bonaventura’s favorite extra touches.
“Buyers buy on emotions,” she says. “If the home is disorganized, it detracts.”
In today’s market, buyers are less inclined to give top dollar for a home that needs decorating or some fix-up work, says Bonaventura.
“Buyers are more critical. They want it more turnkey,” she says.
Most stagers have similar approaches. Usually, it involves a visit to a home and a room-by-room tour to compile a list of suggestions for the owner to get ready for a sale. Stagers’ fees are based on the services they provide, ranging from suggestions for additions and subtractions to arranging for work to be done to lining up storage and moving unneeded items, and cannot be determined without a visit to the house.
“There might be a room full of antiques that’s not going to sell (the house),” says Pseekos. “It needs to look modern. Today’s younger buyers don’t want a house that’s going to look like their grandmother’s.”
Bonaventura also helps owners style their homes to make them look more comfortable. She recently helped a client do some refinishing and place furniture when moving from one home in UA to another.
Pseekos tells of staging a high-end Dublin home with top-quality upholstery and draperies.
“All these fabrics, all these draperies take away from what you want to see” in an attractive rear yard, she says. “We’ve taken down all those expensive draperies so you can see out.” The home sold quickly.
Kelly Cantwell, a real estate agent with Street Sotheby’s International Realty in Upper Arlington, gets involved in staging preparations. She once spent nine months on staging before putting a seven-figure home on the market. It entailed “purging a lot of personal things to make it more comfortable for the buyer.”
The result: several offers within 48 hours and a quick sale. In another, smaller UA home, the homeowner had already done some significant purging before Cantwell came in, but her suggestions of lighter-colored walls and less furniture in the living room helped speed the sale along.
The idea of staging is to “get the paint color right, pick some furniture pieces, maybe add some throws,” and other simple decorative touches, Cantwell says. Family pictures, while nice, distract from the home and should be put away.
While real estate agents generally don’t wade into staging, Cantwell makes the effort because a home needs to look good to sell, she says.
“Over 90 percent of our buyers are shopping for their homes on the Internet,” she says.
Duane St. Clair is a contributing editor. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.