TWO TO SIX MINUTES – that's how long most potential buyers will look around a house if nothing catches their eye. The only way to sell a home is to entice them to stay longer, since the more time they spend, the more likely they are to fall in love. Those first few minutes are crucial, and smart sellers on the Canadian real estate market are learning how to capitalize on them.
For the past thirty years, “home staging” has been standard practice in many parts of the U.S., but to lots of people in Canada the term is practically unknown. It's more or less as it sounds: preparing and fine-tuning a house for presentation to buyers. But staging a home doesn't just mean a thorough cleaning and straightening: it's a comprehensive project, broad in scope with close attention to detail, undertaken by trained professionals.
In a lot of ways, staging a home you plan to sell is the same as redecorating a home you plan to live in – with one fundamental difference. Instead of making the home unique and personal, the goal of staging is to make it as neutral as possible. The professionals employ their knowledge of trends and tastes to design a décor with the broadest appeal within your target market based on price, location and the home itself. Should the home attract new families who will be decorating on a budget? Aging couples with an eye for convenience? Busy executives who spend half their time travelling? Stagers can determine your most likely buyers and cater the home to their common wants and needs.
You may be wondering if it’s worth spending that kind of time and money on a house you are leaving; after all, there's a new home and new decorating projects to think about. But the return on investment speaks for itself: homes in the region that are fully staged commonly sell in the first couple of days and at prices over asking - sometimes by as much as $50- or $100-thousand - while the cost of staging is less than an average price reduction, and can be adjusted to nearly any budget. It’s a wise recourse for sellers who aren’t receiving many offers, but it’s also so effective that many people are choosing to show fully staged homes from day one.
Home staging can be broken down into three steps. The first is a detailed inventory of the home and a checklist of recommendations from the professional stager. This will include work to be done like painting and rearranging furniture, things to pack away like toys, photos and collections, and a prioritized list of places to clean. Building the checklist also involves a thorough inspection in which the stager will check every light switch, window, closet door and anything else that could be stuck, broken or damaged. Every lived-in house has some wear-and-tear, most of which goes unnoticed by the owners who have become accustomed to it. The same applies to pet smells, cigarette smoke, creaky floors and more. Home stagers offer fresh eyes, and can put themselves in the shoes of a potential buyer from the moment they set foot in the home.
The second step covers all the major work – painting, repairs and the like – and is also the time to start packing personal effects. Although leaving family photos and sentimental items on display might seem inviting, the fact is they serve as distractions that make it harder for others to picture their own lives unfolding in the home. A stager will help you decide which of your décor elements are neutral enough to stay, and which are too unique or personal – and don't worry, they'll already be thinking about how to fill in the gaps with their own accessories. They will arrange furniture rentals and portable storage if needed, and some are even glad to do the packing for you! If other professionals like painters or renovators are needed for any of the second-stage work, they can enlist and co-ordinate the help from their own list of contacts.
Step three is the final staging of the home. The furniture is arranged, the accessories are brought in and placed, and the whole house is meticulously prepped and checked for viewing. The effect is so stunning that many home stagers are actually asked to design the décor for their clients' new homes as well. The stagers will continue to visit throughout the showing period to ensure everything stays undisturbed and up to par. As the offers roll in and, in many cases, the bidding wars start, the benefits of home staging become clear and undeniable; it's no wonder that in some places, especially those with high-power markets like California, everyone factors a full staging budget into their moving plans as a matter of course.
People today are busier than they ever have been. There are more double-income families, travel-heavy jobs and irregular work hours, so there are fewer people looking for fixer-uppers and big projects. Most are looking for that perfect house, ready and waiting for their family – and they're looking for it within the first two to six minutes. There's no better way to offer them what they want to see than with a professionally staged, beautifully presented home.