Coming up with visual ideas to make a home look more appealing, and ultimately make it more saleable, is something Cheryl Barnes was doing long before securing her real estate licence in 2006.
She was adept at removing clutter, adding colour co-ordinated accents and arranging furniture – removing it if need be – to give the impression of space.
“When I started talking to people, meeting with them and helping them sell their homes, I would say, ‘we should do this, we should do that,’ she says. “It came natural to me, because I had bought and sold so many properties (of my own).”
These days, the concept of home staging, as it is referred to in the real estate trade, can be a key marketing tool for agents with an eye to selling quickly and getting their clients’ asking price or close to it.
“Selling a home is not just about sticking the sign on the lawn and hoping people will come to see you,” Barnes says.
It takes work and sometimes weeks of preparation by home sellers to get their property into peak saleable condition.
Garth and Jeannine Scoular had collected years’ worth of memories in their Royal Oak home by the time they decided to sell earlier this year. Having worked with Barnes once before, they knew what was coming.
“We rented a storage locker and took a whole bunch of stuff out of the house,” Jeannine says.
“We worked very very hard to make the house look very good. We ripped the carpet out and polished the mahogany floors. We took away a lot of furniture and we made sure the closets were half empty. We did a lot of work prior (to listing), but I think it was all worthwhile.”
The listing went up on a recent Friday, with an open house set for the following day from 1 to 3 p.m.
“I think somewhere between 6 and 7 that night we had an offer, and by noon the next day we had a done deal,” Garth says. “We were fortunate enough to find someone who was very interested in our house.”
Most people remarked how roomy the modest house looked, he says. “This is a not a big house – but how it appeared was the thing. We did the work, but Cheryl kind of gave us the heads up on some things.”
Barnes, who keeps a storage locker full of staging items near her home, brought in some lamps, matched pillows and other accessories.
During another two-day staging process, for an “overpriced” home that had been on the market a year and had dirty laundry on the couch in one photo, she instructed the owners to clear as much stuff as possible. She then focused on “making the master bedroom look sumptuous, to help create that spa effect.”
She admits to being known as someone who tells it like it is rather than giving clients, prospective or confirmed, the “warm and fuzzy” approach. “I’m here to do a job,” she says. “We talk about what they need to do and I give them the list and we get going.”
For people who have already moved everything out, staging can help avoid the stark look. For homes with a lot of stuff in every room, less is more. It’s partly about achieving a balance, but it can allow viewers to better envision how the home might look decorated with their own items, Barnes says.
Neutral, bright artwork, clean area rugs and simple furniture can help update an older home. But the key is to get clients involved in the preparations going in.
While he and his wife were pleased with the result and know they played a major role in selling their home, Garth Scoular is convinced putting their minds to preparation and presentation, with the help of someone who knows its benefits, worked.
“We think we got extra value for our home because of it.”
Q: WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER STAGING MY HOME TO SELL?
Pictures are worth a thousand words – Since the vast majority of people preview homes online first, it is essential to have beautiful photos of your home to capture people’s attention.
Your home is your biggest financial investment – Statistically, the cost of staging is always less than your first price reduction. Removing clutter and organizing a home to its best advantage can help create a positive first impression.
Most buyers can’t visualize the full potential of a home – On average, professionally staged homes sell for seven to 10 per cent more and often sell faster, because prospective buyers can imagine themselves using the space more easily.
GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF APRIL 16 / COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD
335 / 615 -- NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES, MONTH-TO-DATE / APRIL 2013
843 / 1,346 -- NEW LISTINGS THIS MONTH / TOTAL FOR APRIL 2013
4,218 / 4,585 -- TOTAL ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / PEAK, APRIL 2013