| For some home sellers, a house is a stage --
with props, a musical score and an audience that aspires to
replace the old cast.
These sellers "stage" houses, using
furniture, artwork, sounds, smells and objects to engage the
emotions of prospective buyers. The theory is that sellers
will pay more if they imagine themselves in the house, enjoying
delicious food, entertaining delightful friends, and snuggling
up with upscale magazines on lazy weekend mornings.
A well-staged home dramatizes reality instead
of reflecting it, says judy johns (she spells it lowercase),
a real estate agent in suburban Kansas City.
"The way you live in a home is different than the way
you market a house," johns says. "Notice that I
transition from 'home' to 'house' -- 'house' is less emotional
and 'home' is more touchy and emotional and personal."
Johns has been selling houses for 28 years, and now her sons,
Dave and Steve, are her business partners, working as a family
team with Keller William Realty Partners. In her years of experience,
johns has discovered that there's a difference between sprucing
up a home and staging it. When you repair leaky toilets and
repaint the exterior, you're fixing up the house; when you leave
a cookbook opened to a mouth-watering photo on the kitchen counter,
and artfully arrange wine glasses and candles in the master
bathroom, you are staging.
The first time a prospective buyer walks through
a house, "they look emotionally, with their body,"
johns says. If the house speaks to their psyches, "you've
just elevated your chances of getting an offer." The
prospective buyers will then look around the house a second
time, in more of an intellectual mode -- and with any luck,
they're already hooked.
Most staging takes place on less of an emotional
level and more of an aesthetic one. The seller might rearrange
furniture or bring in new decor.
"Typically, what we'll do is bring in
an interior-design specialist -- someone who has a real knack
for positioning of furniture and for colors," says Cubby
Fitts, a real estate agent with Jack Conway & Co. Realtors
in Duxbury, Mass. The designer will rearrange stuff or suggest
improvements such as new light fixtures.
Fitts adds: "Typically, a lot of these
home-design specialists have their own stuff, too -- a warehouse
full of tables and chairs and stuff that they can bring in.
If there's a beat-up old coffee table, they'll say, 'Let's
get that thing out of here and bring in my mahogany table.'"
Fitts and his design team will look around
to see if the furniture and decor are appropriate. Is it an
antique-style home, but filled with sleek, modern couches
and chairs? Time to borrow or rent more suitable furniture.
Or you could follow Jason Mockabee's example. He and his wife,
Jodi, moved this year from Orange County, Calif., to Tuolumne,
(near Yosemite). They bought furniture for the new house before
they sold the old house. Then they installed some of the new
furniture in the old house, just to make it look better. They
got three offers three days later.
Besides putting in furniture for the next house,
the Mockabees replaced light fixtures, put in a new flower
bed, placed flower pots on the front porch, stocked vases
with fresh flowers in almost every room, and kept the Labrador
retrievers at his parents' house.
And they eliminated clutter. "The real
estate agent came over and said, 'Well, my job is done here,'"
Mockabee says proudly.