One of the takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic has been a mass resurgence and redirection of the real estate market across the nation. It seemed to start in major urban areas, such as New York City, where thousands of city denizens suddenly found the suburbs appealing for their space, separation, and convenience for sheltering in place. Homes were snatched up as soon as being listed, often for well over the asking price, and not infrequently as the target of bidding wars.
The pandemic real estate panic has cooled off a bit; however, markets continue to surge across the country. People fleeing cities, people looking for vacation places, people realizing they can work from home ANYWHERE as long as they have decent wi-fi, have boosted markets across the country and prices for sellers are continuing to rise or at least hold steady.
So, you want to jump on this bandwagon and cash in on your property that may be larger than you need? Or you simply want to get more equity out of the property than you ever thought possible 2 years ago. The market is hot, but it’s crowded, so what’s your advantage?
Home staging is likely the answer. Relatively unheard of a decade ago, or at best, a purely upmarket tactic, home staging has become almost de rigueur in today’s markets. Is the term unfamiliar to you? Maybe, but I guarantee the concept is not. Think of the last ten minutes of any episode of Chip and Joanne, Jonathan and Drew, or any other HGTV superstar show as they walk through the homes primping pillows, setting out bowls of lemons or artichokes, placing adorable tchotchkes on shelves and tabletops, and lighting a candle or a fragrant kettle. All these small touches are designed to make the prospective next owner feel like they have arrived home.
There are large and small businesses specializing in home staging for sellers. Your real estate agent probably has one or two favorites they recommend. An established stager generally has a warehouse of furnishings and small décor on hand to truck over to your property. They will clear out the unnecessary and bring in those bowls of lemons or vases of peonies.
However, there is no reason why any seller can’t handle the basics of home staging themselves. The National Association of Realtors produced the 2019 Profile of Home Staging report with the following basic tips for anyone to undertake themselves. In short, simplify your décor and create a visual presentation that will appeal to the widest range of buyers.
First and foremost: Clean! Every property being shown will benefit from being as clean as possible. Even an empty property will look better if it is spotless and sparkling, no dead flies on the floor, no dilapidated curtains dangling unhooked from outdated curtain rods, and certainly, no weeds poking through the front walk.
Next, declutter, depersonalize, and freshen up. A buyer doesn’t care what your family memories are, they want space to envision their own, so pack up your “stuff”, your photos, your kid’s cute projects. Homebuyers want the potential open for new opportunities and to have that potential look and smell nice.
Additionally, you should neutralize your décor wherever possible. Perhaps that enormous purple sectional that seats the entire family for movie night is much beloved, however, would your two gray chairs from the living room make the space feel bigger and more inviting? Have your three daughters painted their bedrooms in all the Easter egg colors, when a white or cream wall may seem more enticing to a family with boys or no kids?
Staging isn’t a complicated process, yet it could greatly improve your selling time and price. Consider making it a priority if and when you decide to list your property. Remember, all the world truly is your stage now, so enter stage left.