Putting your home up on the market can be an emotional task for any homeowner who is selling a property they have lived in for even a few years. Even if you have already moved your stuff out, every time you look at the walls, floor, and that old living room carpet it brings up thoughts of home. You remember all the meals you cooked here, movies you watched, and time you spent with your loved ones within these walls. There is light fixture you used to hang the yearly holiday snowflakes from, and that’s the window you used to sit at and watch your dogs playing outside. To you, the place still is a home, but it may not seem as welcoming to potential buyers who don’t already have all these positive associations.
All too often, people selling their homes, especially first-time home sellers, don’t realise that a few quickly snapped pictures of the house aren’t as appealing to buyers as they think. People need to be able to feel how warm and cosy the house you’re selling can really be and they don’t have the benefit of your memories to help. If you’re not getting the kind of interest you expected to, it’s time to take a page from the book of Better Homes and Gardens and successful real estate agents everywhere and get to staging.
What is Staging?
Staging is the art of making a place look lived-in, well-decorated, and inviting. No doubt you’ve seen the beautifully laid out pictures displayed in magazines, on redecoration television shows, and in the listings of other houses. Staging is how you achieve those clean lines, decor, and attractive photography angles that make a home being presented look wonderful. However, while the professionals may make it look natural, staging is a lot harder than it sounds and it takes hard work for an inexperienced home seller to make their pictures look as good as presentation properties.
Furnished or Unfurnished?
There are two ways to sell your home, living in it and after you’ve moved out. Many homeowners who do have another place to go opt to move out before trying to sell the home. This option has a variety of advantages including the fact that you don’t have to put up with people tromping through your living room to take tours of the house you’re also trying to sell. Potential buyers don’t look at your stuff and you don’t have to keep your home perfectly clean just in case someone wants an impromptu tour. However, if you’re planning on buying a new home with the proceeds from the one you’re currently selling, it’s not uncommon to still live in a house while it is on the market. When this happens, you may have to prepare for viewings, but you also have the opportunity to use all your own items to stage the house in photographs and help people imagine what it’s like to live there.
Staging in a Furnished Home
Let’s say even if you’ve started moving out, there’s still a significant amount of furniture in the home when you’re ready to take pictures and post the listing online. If you’re willing to put in the work, this is actually a great benefit. Your first step should be to clean every surface, floor, and length of fabric that will appear in any shot. Polish your kitchen until it gleams, vacuum your carpets three or four times, and don’t be shy about using the attachment on upholstery and curtains. While you’re at this, make sure to clear every ounce of clutter. Pack up boxes with anything you don’t think would make an attractive accessory to the room and consider digging out a few decorative knick-knacks that you normally don’t use.
Now that the room is clean, start thinking about how you want to arrange the furniture. It can help to look at magazines and other examples of decoratively staged rooms to give you an idea of what is attractive and what might look awkward. Wherever you choose to stand with the camera, turn chairs outward slightly to face that point, much like arranging the props for a play. Use blankets, throw pillows and consider leaving a clean mug on the table or an open book to give the shot a subtle ‘lived in’ feeling.
Staging an Empty Home
You may be surprised to learn that empty houses need staging, too. If you have moved out completely, a house can seem ‘too empty’ which will cause people to subconsciously wonder what is wrong with it when looking at the pictures. While you could move a few strategic pieces of furniture back in, this isn’t necessary. To stage an empty home, make sure to go through the cleaning phase, including tending to any smudges on the walls and floor where furniture used to be. Next, remove the feeling of vacancy by leaving just a few personal and decorative items behind. Curtains on the windows give the place a homey feeling, even without furniture, and any natural surfaces like window sills and the kitchen island can hold one or two small attractive objects like a book, vase of flowers, or even a little fish bowl.
When you have staged your home correctly and take photographs with an eye for composition as well as completion, buyers are likely to respond with far greater enthusiasm than they would to a few unartistic shots of the interior. As a final step, always be willing to take a few more pictures of something important like the bathroom or kitchen fixtures, as these are often key decision-making points for buyers who are almost ready to commit.
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