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'Staging' your home for a quick sale -- Page 2

By Holden Lewis

Step 1: Eliminate clutter

Everyone agrees that the first order of business in staging a house is to eliminate clutter. "The task is usually subtractive, I think," says Ralph Gillis, principal with Gillis Previti Architects in New York City. "People don't think of their homes as cluttered," he says. "But you find that problem all the time. Too many chairs in the dining room. If you take some out, the room will look a lot bigger."

For johns, staging a house includes a heavy dose of clutter elimination, but goes far beyond that. "Every room has something to sell," she says. "Figure out what it is. It may not be in the room, but something outside," such as a view out of a window.

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The idea is to direct the visitor's attention to what that room is trying to sell. For example, you might have a gorgeous fireplace, especially after the clutter on the mantle has been cleared off. But the couch blocks the view of the fireplace. If so, move it, preferably at an angle, johns advises. The new arrangement might not be as comfortable, but it looks better, and that affects the sale price.

Johns tailors her staging tactics to each home, starting with aesthetic considerations. But the emotional stuff really fires her imagination. Take the candles and wine in the master bath: In the mind of the buyer, "you want to create an ambience of, 'Wouldn't I feel great sitting in this tub enjoying this?'" she says.

The open cookbook on the kitchen counter puts visitors in the same emotional place as they imagine themselves sitting at the table, enjoying a delicious, good-looking meal -- even if, in real life, the house-hunters usually dine out, or their dinners are stressful affairs replete with sullen teenagers, spilled milk and poor table manners. Staging is drama, not reality. "You want to have a spirit of fun around it. It's supposed to be fun and creative," johns says.

Mood music for buying

And cozy. Johns recommends turning on a soft-jazz radio station with the volume low. Fitts says the music has to match the house -- soft jazz for some places, classical music (chamber pieces, not symphonies) in other houses.

Everyone has heard of homeowners baking something -- brownies, cookies, a pie -- right before the prospective buyers arrive. The smell creates a homey ambience. But it also might make the visitors hungry, and then they want to leave to get something to eat, or they start fretting about their weight. Dolf de Roos, a self-described "passionate real-estate investor" and author of "101 Ways To Massively Increase the Value of Your Real Estate Without Spending Much Money," has another idea.

"One of the best gadgets you can bring into the house is a coffeemaker," he says. The prospective buyer (or, in de Roos's case, renter) "can imagine being there on a Saturday morning making coffee."

Mirror, mirror

More subtly, some stagers hang extra mirrors on the walls. How does that make a visitor more inclined to buy? "They'll see themselves in the mirror, which means they'll see themselves in the house," de Roos says. "Psychologically, it's a way to get them to see themselves living there."

Finally, there are the little props that the seller can spread around the house to connote coziness. Johns favors throwing an afghan on a chair or a bed, and placing a book by a chair "in a way that says, 'This is where I snuggle up to read and relax. This is my thinking chair,'" she says.

Just make sure it's the correct reading matter -- that is, it should be a prop, there not to express the home seller's personality but to flatter the buyer's good taste. "A copy of Wine Connoisseur magazine on a table can create the right mood," Fitts says.



PAGE 1 | 2

-- Posted: Dec. 9, 2004

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