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Homestagers 101

Want to sell your house in a flash? Pick the right home stager

All home sellers know that when you put a home on the market, your number one goal is to appeal to the right kind of buyer. You want to attract someone who sees this house as their home; someone who can imagine cooking in your kitchen, spending time with their family in your living room, and even playing with their dog in your backyard.

That’s where home staging comes in.

Staging your home conceptualizes your house as a “stage.” By designing and marketing each room with intention and appeal, you are setting the stage for potential buyers to fall in love with your home. Home staging plays to your house’s strengths, while downplaying — but not hiding — challenging areas or rooms that need improvement. A home stager can help you decide which areas of your home to play up and which areas should draw minimal attention. They can help you decide which of your belongings should be moved to storage to help minimize clutter and, in many cases, even take the lead on organizing, packing and moving furniture in and out. You can also work with a storage service that will pick up the items you need to stash, put them in a climate-controlled storage unit for you, and bring them back to you when you’re ready for them, which will make the staging process even simpler.

It’s important to note that a home stager is not the same role as a real estate agent. They are hired to arrange your home and belongings in a way that makes your home more appealing to the buyers’ senses. A real estate agent will help you through the legalities of the buying and selling process, so while a home stager can give you home design tips, don’t expect realty information or guarantees from them. If you’re considering adding a home stager to your house selling team, consider these 12 tips to help you find the right one.

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  • Ask friends and family first: Just as you are more likely to trust a dentist or a mechanic that your friends, neighbors or coworkers use, you may have an easier time finding a high quality home stager by asking your network. Post on your social media sites that you’re interested in home staging services; Facebook even has a special way to post asking for recommendations.
  • Check with your real estate agent: Your agent will likely have met or even worked with a variety of home stagers in your city. He or she can not only help you understand what to expect when you hire a professional stager, but also save you time and energy by helping you narrow down your search.
  • Start with a low quote: Before you bring a home stager to your property, get their ballpark quotes over the phone. Once you know what qualifies for their lowest price, consider putting items from your home into storage before they visit.
  • Prep questions for the consultation: The first time you meet a home stager should be in your home. He or she will walk through the house — inside and outside — and give you feedback on their impression of your home. This is a great time to ask important questions, such as: Will they use your existing decor, or bring in new items? If they bring in new furniture, will they store your belongings? Do they charge by room or how much detail they put into the home? Which homes have they staged in the past? Can they describe the best home staging experience in their career? Are there areas you can paint, design or clean yourself to bring down the cost of their services? How do they recommend you keep your home properly staged after they finish?

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  • Ensure clear communication: Get a timeline for the duration of the project so you know how long the home staging process will take. You won’t be showing your house while the stager sets it up, so you want to be sure you understand the steps he or she will take to get your home buyer-ready. Be sure to agree on methods of communication as well. If you prefer to email but the home stager likes to text, find a common ground where communication won’t be missed or backlogged.
  • Prioritize curb appeal: Hire a home stager who will spend quality time marketing the exterior of your home as well as the interior. Walk with them around the outside of your property and listen to their suggestions for your yard, flower beds, porch and patio, as well as the exterior of your house.
  • Suggest upgrades: When you bring in a home staging professional, they can — if you want — do much more than splash a coat of paint on the walls. They can tell you about small upgrades that can add up big time. Instead of replacing all of your kitchen cabinets, they might suggest upgrading with a nice new stain and modern hardware. A good home stager has an eye for those little touches, like suggesting a larger ceiling fan on your porch to add elegance or painting the brick around your fireplace to cover up soot stains.
  • Meet with several home stagers: Don’t go with the first stager you meet; shop around. Interview several professional home stagers to compare recommendations, prices and ideas for your home. You’ll want to take time to write out your priorities so you can stay objective during the process. You may get along great with one interviewee, but if their price and skills aren’t the right fit, you’ll want to remind yourself of what is truly important.
  • A vacant home changes the game: If you aren’t living in your home, home staging will take more work, time and money. The stager may have to purchase or rent furniture, or hopefully have their own inventory. If cost is an issue, only have major rooms — like the kitchen, living room and master bedroom — staged. If you have furniture or decor in storage, take the home stager to your unit to see if there is anything that can be of value.
  • Understand trends: You need a home stager that knows what’s trending with buyers these days. Are sink pedestals the centerpiece of last year’s dream bathroom? Hire a home staging professional who can tell you what potential buyers are interested in now, but also knows how to balance timelessness by using decor and amenities that never go out of style.

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  • Look for red flags: How can you tell if this home stager is an actual professional or just someone who enjoys dabbling in design? Look for an up-to-date and clean web page, reviews on Google and Yelp, recent photos and recommendations. If these things aren’t present, even if the price seems too good to be true, you could be wasting your time and money.
  • Know ROI: A good home stager will know what items to purchase that won’t just attract buyers, but will also increase the resale value of your home. A strong home staging professional will understand the value of the investment you are making from multiple financial angles.

Selling your home is a process most people don’t want to linger. The average home takes 65 to 70 days to sell, but it’s not uncommon to see homes on the market for much, much longer. What’s worse, in those cases, some buyers think they have leverage to lowball offers. Not only can a home stager help your house sell faster, but statistics show staged homes have a stronger chance of selling for more than similar homes that aren’t staged. By strategically organizing your space and storing excess clutter, home staging gives buyers vision, transforming your house into a home they are excited to spend their lives in.