Home & Garden

Setting the Stage for Sale

Sage Advice
By Iris Winston

While keeping your home the way you like it

Once upon a time, selling your home was a straightforward operation. You made sure that the rooms were clean and tidy, the beds were made and the taps didn’t drip before a potential buyer came to look around. And that was about all you had to do.

Now, preparing a house for sale is a much more complicated business. Apart from repainting walls and repointing brickwork to make the place sparkle, you do your best to invite buyers with an assortment of tricks — better known as staging.

These days, staging has graduated from suggestions about minor fixing and general maintenance, to a fully-fledged and frequently costly business run by staging specialists. You’ll see plastic flowers, brightly coloured cushions and glass beads as obvious signals that this home has been staged. There may be rented art on the walls and rented furniture (usually smaller than the banished owned items) in rooms that now look more like an impersonal motel accommodation than anyone’s home.

And that’s part of the point. Realtors generally advise depersonalizing, as well as decluttering. While it makes sense to make overcrowded rooms look more spacious by removing non-essential pieces, it seems unreasonable to hide every photograph or sign that the owner actually lives here.

The idea, say realtors, is to give potential buyers a chance to imagine themselves in the space without the distraction of signs of the current owner’s life intruding. But the owners have to live through the “for sale” period, which may range from a few days to weeks, months or, in some (overpriced) cases, years.

Suddenly, they are the ones trapped in the impersonal, artificial ambience, unable to find a treasure that has been boxed or buried because it might interfere with the selling process.

Many realtors claim that staging makes all the difference, not only to speeding up the sale but also to improving the selling price. Others recognize that their clients have to live through the stressful period of marketing the home and do not add to the stress by imposing staging pieces that clash with the décor.

Unquestionably, it is important that the place is in good shape, beginning with the exterior. As any realtor will tell you, there is only one chance to make a good first impression, so a welcoming exterior with a neat yard and an attractive porch are simple ways to begin. Inside, space and light should be the order of the day, from the removal of unneeded mats to ensuring that all light bulbs are burning brightly and all windows are shining. These measures, like the regular servicing of furnace, air conditioner and fireplace, are part of general livability whether you are selling or staying put. It is equally sensible to make disposing of any pieces of furniture, tired machinery or clothing that you don’t intend to take with you, part of the pre-sale operation. After all, the greater the weight of the amount you have to move, the greater the cost.

The bonus, of course, is that a little less furniture makes any room look bigger and paring down your wardrobe makes closets seem roomier — for you today, as well as for the buyer tomorrow.

If you care for your home, you are, in effect, keeping it ready for viewing every day. Therefore, staging, beyond ensuring that it is neat and welcoming, is not a prerequisite for a satisfactory sale. So, ditch the plastic flowers and glass beads and set the stage simply, with warmth and believability. Keep your home the way you like it, while it’s on the market.