Staging – A Seller’s Guide to Home Staging

Harford's Home Staging Formula

Builders, Realtors and Individual Home Buyers have contributed to the compilation of Harford Real Estate's exclusive home staging formula. The technology has been applied and proven effective in home sales and marketing since data acquisition and recording began in the early 1950s.

Price increases of as much as 13% can be linked directly to key staging and preparation decisions. The duration of listing time on the market can be cut by as much as 40% by simply following this formula.

If you want to sell your home faster and for the highest possible price, you should trust Harford Real Estate's certified staging professional formula.

INITIAL REVIEW HIGHEST PRIORITY CHECKLIST
These items represent the greatest deterrent in procuring an acceptable offer...

Odor is the number one deterrent in procuring the initial emotional connection necessary to engage your buyer's interest. The first and lasting impression on your potential buyer is heavy scent. As they enter your home, PET ODOR, SMOKING, KITTY LITTER, OILY COOKING and OVERBEARING DEODORIZERS trying to mask these smells can be potential deal breakers. Third party analysis, or anonymous feedback from buyers or Realtors, is the only way you will know if that is what is killing your sale.

Clutter is the next item on the checklist. Even the most experienced real estate investor is distracted as eyes are drawn to personal effects of the real property. Countertops cleared, fridge magnets removed, bulletin boards taken down, toys stowed away. Trophies off display, posters need to come down. Even family pictures and sentimental items have no place in the home staging process. Remember, if you have your way, this is not your home anymore, so let's make it look like their dream home – not yours!

Windows and Screens are vital in the home staging process. If you study the most profitable builders, they are rigorous about the brightest, cleanest windows possible. Corner-to-corner, inside and out, all dusty blinds could represent the highest return on invested time. WD-40 all cranks, locks, and sliders while you clean.

Paint is cheap! That is the real estate investor's adage that goes a long way in the home staging process. Your personal taste in colors is not always the best. This is a simply popularity contest and the modern, clean, popular color schemes are online, on model row and at your paint store. Take your opinion out of the equation and think like a builder. Fill holes and cracks before painting and remember at $18 per gallon, you cannot go wrong with a fresh coat of paint.

Curb appeal is a broad term. It means lawn is cu and free of brown spots. Landscape is pruned and the beds have been mulched. There are no weeds growing through the sidewalk or steps. The sidewalk and porch are swept and free of mold, mildew, grease or grime. The driveway is empty of the family car is the only thing in it. The doorway is clean (fresh paint), door handles shine and there is no rust, cobwebs or clutter in sigh as you approach the entryway.

Dark, Damp or Dingy – Find that room – we all have one! The room or closet that needs the most attention Empty it out completely, even is it is your entire garage. Call Pods storage or DRY WOOD simply take it to the curb. Open the windows, air it out, and put back only the thing that ADD VALUE.

Dust, Cobwebs, Ceiling Stains, Carpet Stains should be cleaned or covered. Ceiling fans catch dust on their blades, high corners need a broom and stained or frayed carpets can cos you thens of thousands of dollars in the early stages of home shopping and selection.

Wood Rot is a now or later thing. A support post or fascia board which as water damage will be flagged on a termite report. Early repair will prevent DRY WOOD TERMITE report red flags that may make mountains out of mole hills. Bottom line: get it done NOW!

FROM THE CURB

  • Edge grass meeting sidewalk, driveway and street
  • Lawn is a dark green color, weeds and grass cut to the proper length
  • Driveway stains, pits, holes, cracks, color, clean, clutter-free
  • Trash cans out of sight, toys away, tools stored, planters filled
  • Front porch is free of clutter, decor is well maintained, floor covering is spotless
  • Trees and bushes are trimmed, free of dead leaves, low hanging branches are gone and foliage does not touch the home. Too much landscaping is not good, less if more
  • Beds are free from weeds and fresh mulch or stones have been put down to spruce things up
  • Impatiens or other colorful ground over makes a huge splash of color for a minimal investment
  • Check the roof from the street. Are tiles broken or shingles missing? Do your vents look secure?
  • Is there any wood rot of exposed concrete visible as you walk up to the house?
  • Are the numbers on the mailbox straight and visible? How about the number or name on the house?
  • A welcome mat is cheap and leaves with you when you move
  • Analyze the front door, locks, knobs, hinges, brass kick place and paint
  • How do the windows and screens look?
  • Check the eves and all overhangs for cobwebs, wasp nests, leaves
  • Are the gutters functional, free of debris and cosmetically proper? Are they connected properly?

Experts Agree: Remove rope swings, tire swings, old birdhouses, worn signage, knick knacks, toads, elves, ducks, lawn men statues, religious symbols, stickers, concrete stamps, wood cravings, personalized stepping stones, unnecessary items. LESS IS MORE IN HOME STAGING. The customer is always right so they need to picture their own personal touches.

UPON ENTRY

  • Take a big whiff or better yet, have a stranger to the property tell you what they smell
  • Would you say that the foyer is bright, dark, or in between? In staging, brighter is better
  • Take everything you can off the table in the foyer, a single centerpiece or decor item in enough
  • Turn on the lights and have the blinds wide open, clean windows for optimal staging presence
  • How is the flooring, carpet, tile, vinyl? How about the floorboards, crown molding and ceiling?
  • What do you see when you stop and look towards the rest of the house?
  • Removing and storing a couple of pieces of large furniture may be a smart move
  • Is there a dog/cat greeting strangers as they enter your home? Would that be the case on Model Row?
  • How about children and children's toys?

The potential buyer needs to feel their way through your property imagining themselves living there – NOT YOU! Get out of the way and let them make the proverbial emotional connection with the home.

Homes are bought and not sold. Nothing you or your Realtor can say during the first five minutes of the buyer stepping into your home can help to sell the house. Once an emotional connection starts to form, tangible verbal features, advantages, and benefits can be demonstrated by your Realtor. The professional representative knows what features are important to that individual consumer. While your water purifier is nice, it might not be a priority in the home buying process. The timing and delivery of the information is a delicate process, one which when delivered improperly, may lack creditability. Home buying is emotional as much as it is economical and no one wants to force feed on the upgrades and improvements.

Staging is about charisma, confidence, and attraction. Staging is about eliminating distractions while evoking positive emotions and pleasant surprises. Fresh flowers and clean windows can do more for the home buying process than your well rehearsed laundry list of upgrades and improvements.

LIVING AREAS

Family rooms, living rooms, and dens are personal... right up until you decide you want to sell. When staging your home for THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE PRICE, you need to transform your home from your kingdom to their kingdom; the buyer needs take precedence over your own.

  • Brighter is better, blinds open, lights on, accent lamps and high hats dimmed to perfection
  • Floor covering free from spots, distractions, and clutter
  • Minimum wall decor, light bright and neutral, avoid over personalized items and distracting heirlooms
  • Make sure the paint is popular and clean and make sure the scents are neutral, fresh or unnoticeable
  • Furniture that is old and worn should be removed or recovered
  • Most rooms could use one or two less pieces of furniture, even a comfortable ottoman could make your room feel larger and leave more to the imagination
  • Area rugs are nice but if the flooring below is clean and attractive, we may suggest removal to showcase wide open spaces and popular flooring underneath
  • End tables, coffee tables, and wall units should be emptied, dusted and in most cases 50% of the items could go into storage until after the move. One or two neutral items go a long way to open up possibilities and stimulate a buyer's comfort level
  • Ceiling fans, light fixtures, air vents, windows, sill and floor boards should be clean and functional
  • Desks need to be free of clutter and even daily items need to be in a drawer to properly stage a home
  • Desk chairs need to be pushed in under whenever possible as do bar tools and other seating
  • If there is tile, clean the grout; if there is carpet, remove all stains
  • Ceiling stains are a deal killer in any room, water intrusion or the fear of it is #1 deal killer in real estate.

Moisture on walls, mold in the air vents, even dark dust on air intakes can be exploited as MOLD in the buyer's mind. If you have made a decision to move, go ahead and act like it. Box up all the matters of personality which do not add specifically to the aesthetics and value proposition of your home. Cut clutter and decor to bare minimums and free up as much space as possible.

KITCHEN SPACE

Nothing can see a home like a great kitchen and the most popular floor plans engage entertainment by overlooking or commingling with living space. Cleanliness is a home buyer's secret wish. Tilex, Windex and a full day of scrubbing is the detail work that will pay huge dividends.

  • Countertop clutter needs to be eliminated as Step One in the home staging process
  • Refrigerator magnets can be fun and cute but play no part in the home presentation process
  • A kitchen appliance on the countertop may be convenient but should be stored to see your home
  • What is on top of your fridge or cabinets? Does it add to sale ability or serve as a distraction?
  • How are ALL of your hinges, handles, and drawer pulls? Are they clean and do that match?
  • Six chairs in a breakfast nook may be too many. Less is more! Push the chairs in neatly around the table
  • A simple single centerpiece may be just the right touch to highlight your family's primary eating area
  • Clean the stove inside and out especially the viewing window and pay attention to the knobs
  • Refrigerators should be wiped down inside and out
  • Sinks should be empty and dishes put away immediately after use
  • An organized pantry and orderly cabinet space might not seem important to the process of home sale, but it speaks to a deeper culture of proper maintenance and trustworthy attraction that a buyer must feel when making their decision
  • Dish towels, pot holders and utensils can make a kitchen homey and warm but more times than not, distract a buyer from the matters at hand. Make the right choice for your buyer
  • Barstools reduced to bare minimum, if it feels crowded, pull a couple away and store them
  • A perfectly staged home would not even have a bar of soap or dish rack on the counter
  • High hats, light fixtures, ceiling fans and lamps should be functional even appliance bulbs should work

Make the most of the space you have with elbow grease and eliminating clutter. Even if you use it every day, make the choice to achieve a fast and profitable sale at the expense of your convenience. You won't believe how 40% less time on the market changes your idea about convenience.

BATHROOMS

Many home buyers feel a little uncomfortable looking at bathrooms while walking through the home. More time will be spent in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms that the bathroom You will have only a few seconds to impress so you must make the most of it.

  • Get rid of mold. It is in every bathroom and can easily be eliminated
  • Light fixtures and exhaust fans need to be spotless including bulbs
  • Replace worn out, frayed or outdated rugs, towels
  • Clean mirrors, windows, shower door and glass. If you have a shower curtain, replace it with new
  • Remove lime deposits on shower doors, faucets and fixtures
  • Fix leaky or dripping faucets
  • Clean toilet and replace the seat with a bright solid color
  • Make sure cabinet hardware is clean, shiny and tight
  • Remove and prescription medicine from the cabinet and store in a safe place
  • Make sure personal care items are stored out of sight (including bar soap) and counters are clean

Each bathroom should look and feel clean and sparely. You could create a spa-like feeling with a couple of well placed décor items as long as they are few. Remember, less is more.

  • If there is a large window or sliding door which feature the outdoor area, open the blinds and clean the glass and tracks
  • Check your welcome mat, ground cover, outdoor carpeting
  • Remove or store pool toys and cleaning supplies, chlorine bottles and leaf catchers all out of sight
  • Keep the pool sparking and free of debris, on the surface and on the bottom
  • Check your fence and hedges to ensure that they are looking their best. Remove dead and rotting pieces of foliage and fencing. Check your ground cover and flowerbeds, replace mulch and plant fresh whenever feasible

Prioritize and Budget Concerns
Your return on home improvement investment

Improvement, by Priority Typical Cost Increase in Sales Price Average Return
1) Lighten & Brighten $86 - $110 $768 - $935 769%
2) Clean & Declutter $304 - $339 $2093 - $2378 594%
3) Landscape & Trim $432 - $506 $1594 - $1839 266%
4) Fix Plumbing & Electrical $338 - $381 $922 - $1208 196%
5) Staging $212 - $1089 $2275 - $2841 169%
6) Kitchen & Bath Upgrades $1546 - $2120 $3823 - $4885 138%
7) Repair Flooring $1531 - $1714 $2267 - $2589 50%
8) Replace Carpeting $2602 - $2765 $3585 - $3900 39%
9) Paint Exterior Walls $2188 - $2381 $2907 - $3233 34%