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.
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
"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."
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,'"
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.