One of my biggest jobs currently is readying our house for listing and showings. Now, I think our house is a very very very fine house, and most people would agree. It’s a bungalow in an excellent location, an easy 8-minute drive to downtown, close to shopping and hospitals, easily accessible to other parts of Ottawa. Location: Check.
We have open spaces, great light and a great kitchen; a large, treed yard that offers privacy yet has no fences. Structurally the house is sound. Our furniture is contemporary with clean lines. But when someone is looking at our house as well as six others the same day, what will make a winning impression?
Home staging is a relatively recent practice in Canada. It is the art of preparing a home for sale so that it appeals to the highest number of people, resulting in a quicker sale for presumably more money.
Some real estate agents, including mine, automatically include home staging in their process. They send a professional stager to your house to give you their advice, which you can then take or leave.
So what did my home stager say? Well, 2.5 hours later, I had four pages of notes related to painting, de-cluttering, moving furniture, removing rugs, placing rugs, cleaning, light fixtures, bathroom fixtures and much, much more. I felt pummelled. Why on earth should I do all that stuff to my already very fine house? Do people really have that little imagination?
Apparently. According to Certified Staging Professionals, 90% of the buying population cannot visualize the potential of a property. So if a seller wants to sell their property quicker and for a higher price, it is in their interest to spend some time and money on home staging. Statistics on ROI, based on my quick research, range from 200% to 583%. (Hmmm…) The good thing is that staging can be relatively inexpensive, especially if your home only needs cosmetic upgrades.
The stager’s job is to advise on how to make your house a place where people can easily imagine themselves living. In broad terms, that means neutral wall colours, no clutter, good flow, scaling down furniture, bright lighting, cleanliness and good repair. This is hard to argue with especially since, according to the industry, buyers make a decision about purchasing your house within the first six minutes.
Another consistent rule is to de-personalize – leave no personal photos or trace of who you are in view for prospective buyers (they are nosey afterall). That’s hard to achieve unless the house is empty. In our case, our art is an instant give-away of what we do and what our “thing” is. I can understand clearing away family photos, but those on the walls will leave behind holes and I’m not sure I want to patch and repaint throughout the house.
After my somewhat disconcerting meeting with the stager, I got a second opinion from a friend who is a designer. Interestingly she confirmed everything the stager said. I’ve now come to realize that I need to detach myself and see my house through a different lens. My home is set up for my purposes and the ways I want to use it, and it is comfortable for me. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the space is shown to its best effect, no matter how tastefully I think I’ve done it.
The truth is I’ve wanted to repaint those bedrooms for years. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut or to stop seeing things (especially the problems) altogether after a while.
So the painter is booked, I have yet another list, Paul has a new list (prepared by me!) of handyman jobs and now I’m off to work de-cluttering those closets into which people are sure to peer (that’s a bit creepy). Let’s hope it works!