The home staging challenge: ‘It looks easy’. ‘I lovvve to decorate.’ ‘How fun to shop with other people’s money!’ ‘Decluttering, cleaning and organizing first really helps!’ These things are true! Yet, home staging is actually work. Work that is challenging, can be a logistical nightmare, and it’s much more design, spatial reasoning and vision talent than it is personalized decorating.
The intent of home staging is to present the home at its best; by enhancing architectural features, creation of an inviting and comfortable vibe that encourages potential buyers to picture themselves living in the home, and by underscoring optimum space usage, and by ensuring general aesthetics are well detailed – all with the increase of perceived property value and speed of resell in mind.
In my world there are three types of home staging. Each has their challenges:
1) The owner occupied home awaiting resell on the real estate market. It is common for the owners’ Realtor® to make verbal recommendations on what needs to be organized, fixed, replaced, modified, eliminated, etc., as well as furnishings rearrangement. The really ambitious agents (time, energy and talent allowing) will lend a hand. A very small percentage may also be certified home stagers who will pitch in once all the ground work is completed.
The biggest challenge in this scenario can be the willingness, ability and the level of motivation of the homeowners to ‘perform’ tasks as needed within the timeframe their agent has prescribed. As selling one’s home also triggers downsizing, the process can be prolonged by multiple indecisions on items’ permanent disposition/s.
Many agents prefer to have a professional organizer assist their clients. This team member addition relieves the home owners of the added stress of beginning to pack, memorizing all the instructions of what needs to be done and gets them prepared for staging. There are even a few home organizers who are also home staging professionals. Voila! (Note: We can provide a Pre-Staging Report.)
2) Staging for everyday living. Downsizing and organizing has become quite trendy thinking these days. We’d love to know where everything is without having to hunt for it, accidentally buy 6 of whatever over time because we didn’t realize we already have the first 5, and we may just be sick of looking at the disaster that has become of the drawers, cabinets, garage, closets…These are beginning steps of staging for everyday living.
Once the cleaning and downsizing (via donations, trash, consignment, resell, recycling), has taken place the home requires staging. In this case, it will be for organization (a home for everything and everything in its home) function, comfort, space maximization, architectural enhancement, and general aesthetics. Obviously, a REALLY good time to do this is when you first move into your new home. There’s much less movement of items, clutter hasn’t collected (every item must have its own home when you unpack –and- ‘bad’ misplacement habits haven’t re-formed. Most importantly, your enthusiasm for you new digs and lifestyle has not waned (yet).
3) Vacant homes in need of some, if not all, of the rooms and the exterior to be staged. This is where design really steps up. One is facing a nearly blank canvas. All there is to go on is the possibility of usable window treatments, paint, flooring, updated fixtures, and maybe appliances. When said that way it sounds as if there are some ‘hints’ as to what to do next. In part that’s true.
What happens next will depend on the home / property investor’s budget. If what is available at the time of staging is all staying ‘as is’ the professional home stager will need to incorporate these items into their design and make them cohesive with their envisioned aesthetic. Not always an easy task. More often than not the older the home the more modifications homeowners have made to the basics mentioned above. These changes do not always, well, belong in the same home.
The decorator thinks color, theme, and the overall look and feel. The designer incorporates these ideas in while also thinking light, lines, architecture, property location, season, timeless piece/s structure, and space. The home stager takes all of the above into consideration as well as current trends for each.
A staged home is not intended to look overly comfortable, or usable for day to day tv watching, or set-up for everyday tasking (ie., gone are the baskets at the bottom of stairs for transporting, shoe racks at any door, computers, most waste baskets, oversized tv’s, cars in the garage…).
Staging is the epitome of minimalism; less furniture, few knick-knacks, no religious items, sans family pictures, generic artwork…All in the name of having the home feel as spacious and as organized as possible. The ‘WOW’ factor starts at the curb and should last to the rear property line. However, the dedicated stager knows that factor should be about the home, not the furnishings.
The challenges of the vacant home: Renting furnishings in a warehouse where chairs, couches, tables, lamps, shades, vases, are all grouped separately. There are no showroom hints here – one must be able to visualize not only groups of furnishings but the entire staging project at any given moment without the luxury of time. The stager must create a continuous stream of theme and color palette without over / under doing it. The ability to calmly ably handle logistics is essential. This includes measuring; all rooms, space to door / alcoves, switches, etc., table and counter height vs. chairs, and furniture, accessories and artwork dimensions vs. space available, timing for moves, increased paperwork and liability…, and of course, overall appropriate aesthetics.
Is staging fun? Absolutely, once you get past all of the planning, organizing and paperwork. I mean, who doesn’t like to step back and exclaim – “That looks awesome!”?
Kathryn Hisert's experience includes 30+ years of sales and marketing. This includes having been a Realtor for over a decade, a Marketing association president, and an Accredited Staging Professional. She is currently a member of NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing), the National and Arizona Realtor associations and various home staging groups.