Patti's Staging Tips for Your Real Estate Sale
For most of us, our home is the largest purchase we will ever make.
When it comes to large purchases, retailers have long understood that buyers need to be able to visualize their lives improving via the product they’re about to buy. That’s why clothing stores have fitting rooms, why car dealers offer test drives, and why smart sellers stage their homes. Patti Urbatis has an extensive knowledge of effective merchandising, as she held an impressive position with the Limited Brands in New Albany, Ohio before she became a realtor...so Patti knows all about professional merchandising!
You see, staging is much more than making sure your home puts its best foot forward. Home staging professionals understand that their work transforms a seller’s home into a blank canvas onto which a potential buyer can project and envision a whole new life for his or herself:
- Clear counter spaces? “Just imagine what we can cook in here,” a buyer might tell his partner.
- Tidy garage? “I can finally upgrade to an SUV,” another buyer might think.
- A big, open backyard? “We could definitely raise a family here,” one couple might agree.
This is what staging does for a home on the market. As a result, buyers of staged homes are more willing to overlook any negatives, get closer to your asking price, and close quickly.
Sounds like magic, right? Not quite. It takes a lot of work to stage a home that closes for top dollar. That is why we reached out to several industry professionals to get their take on what steps sellers need to take when they put their home on the market.
Why Staging Your Home to Sell Quickly Can Save You Big Money
Staged homes tend to sell more quickly and for more money, and the National Association of Realtors has the math to back it up. According to a recent survey of realtors, staged homes spent 81 percent less time on the market than un-staged homes.
This is critical for home sellers to understand because a home costs money every month it is on the market. As Darrow Kirkpatrick at Can I Retire Yet? points out, a good rule of thumb (and one that landlords use, as well) is to figure a house’s monthly costs will equal 1% of its total value. This figure includes things like taxes, utilities, mortgage payments and property insurance.
These are called carrying costs, and the average monthly carrying costs for a $200,000 home in America are about $2,000, give or take. So, every month that $200,000 home sits on the market, it will cost its owners $2,000 — or you can think of it as an automatic monthly 1% reduction from the home’s selling price.
Staging a Home is Really Just Smart Marketing
Staging does more than help move your home quickly, however...it can also get more money out of your home. Buyers will pay more for a home they love, and Patti Urbatis knows how to connect the right property with the right buyer.
“It’s not about creating a home for your personal taste or everyday comforts,” the team at Thumbtack Journal writes. “You won’t see any toothpaste or hampers in the homes.” Understanding this is the key to making someone fall in love with your home, which is how you get it to sell quickly...and often times for more than you had hoped.
In that National Association of Realtor (NAR) report, 52% of realtors said that home staging had a measurable positive effect on the home’s selling price — in most cases, an increase of between 1% and 5%. So, consider the $200,000 home again. In the right hands, that becomes a $210,000 home, and it sells quickly, rather than leaking money from month to month.
How does Patti Urbatis & Company pull that off? In many cases, by simply making a home appear to be move-in ready. “Many of today’s buyers are looking for specific homes that won’t necessarily require a ton of work before moving in, because honestly, who has the time to gut and renovate?” home stager Tori Toth writes at U.S News & World Report. “Hence, buyers want move-in ready spaces they can enjoy instantaneously.”
That’s just another way of expressing one of the oldest lessons in business: If you can save people time, someone will gladly pay you.
What to Expect When You Hire a Home Stager
“The stager (Patti Urbatis & Company) is not focused on creating a home that suits your personal taste and need for everyday comforts, but instead on making your home appeal to a broad range of tastes,” Ilona Bray, J.D., writes at NOLO.com. “Livable or not — probably not, after you’ve hidden the toaster, toothpaste, and laundry hamper — the idea is for the stager’s work to help people fall in love with your place and want to buy it.”
Don’t take it personally, but part of staging a home involves covering up all the little personal touches you’ve added to your home over the years. That’s because buyers don’t want to see where you live; they want to imagine where they could live.
And a good home stager can bring the objective perspective your home needs to make that connection with potential buyers.
That process breaks down into four components:
- An initial consultation: This is so you both get an idea of what work is needed to stage your home. You and Patti will try to strike the right balance between these needs and your own budget.
- A plan of action: Within the parameters you set out initially, Patti Urbatis will design a plan for highlighting what makes your home attractive to a variety of people.
- Getting your home ready for staging: Patti Urbatis & Company can help coordinate bigger tasks such as making repairs. Otherwise, this part of the process will fall largely on you. You will be giving your home a deep clean, decluttering, doing some work to the yard and whatever else is necessary to make your home as presentable as possible. More on this process in a moment.
The Initial Consultation
Patti Urbatis & Company understands the emotional difficulty homeowners face when staging a home — especially if it’s a home you raised a family in or the home of a loved one — so they initially begin by trying to understand the “spirit” of the home.
“When we begin a staging project, we first visit the home to do an initial walk-through. This allows us to see the spaces and their scale, get a feel for the neighborhood, and to hear what the homeowners envision for the home.”
Capturing that spirit, the thing that made you love your home in the first place, and then translating it to the imagination of a potential buyer is where the magic of home staging happens. This first consultation helps your stager wrap his or her mind around what needs to be done to make that magic happen.
- This consultation might also include advice on what needs to be painted, what needs to be cleaned, and what needs a full-on renovation to get ready for staging.
- At that point, they can give the homeowner a quote.
When Should You Hire a Home Stager?
Think in terms of weeks rather than days.
Laanstra says it takes two days just to source the furniture, artwork and accessories, then get those things packed and ready to deliver to the home. Bear in mind that renovation works and deep cleans before that furniture arrives take time, as well, whether you plan to do those yourself or hire someone to do that work.
“The logistics are often the harder element in the planning of staging,” she tells us. “To keep it all running smoothly, we like to at least have a week’s notice to plan it properly, but if time is of the essence it can be done a bit faster, keeping style and quality in mind. With an empty calendar of all parties, two days minimum, but we prefer at least a week from visit to the house to staging a property.”
Boggs at BY Design points out, too, that spring and summer are their busy seasons, and it’s not uncommon for them to be booked two weeks out. If a stager is booked two weeks out and needs a week’s notice to pull everything together, then consider reaching out at least three to four weeks before you even need your home staged.
Of course, a home stager will be willing to work with you if your timelines are shorter than that, but realize that you might be sacrificing some of the value that staging provides by rushing it.
Preparations: First Steps When Staging Your Home for Sale
After that initial consultation with Patti Urbatis & Company, you will have an idea of what preparations you need to make — and how big your window of opportunity is for getting everything done.
Those preparations will vary from project to project, but the home stagers we reached out to gave us a few tips that tend to apply to most of the homes they stage.
Declutter and Depersonalize
Patti Urbatis & Company recommends taking this opportunity to declutter your home. Anything that can be discarded should be. Anything with personal significance to you should be put in storage.
If you are already in the process of moving or planning to move into a new home, take this opportunity to expedite that process. “Clients need to begin the packing process and mentally move into their new home,” says Patti Urbatis. “All clutter, personal photos, personal objects should be packed away ready to assume their position in their new home.”
Break Out the Gloves and Cleaning Supplies
Patti Urbatis & Company says an entire deep clean is called for at this point, and the staged rooms will probably need a fresh coat of neutral paint. During this process, make any minor repairs you can.
“Cleaning your home is a very important step in home staging,. I’m not referring to your regular household cleaning, which of course should still be done, I’m referring to deep cleaning your home and cleaning parts of your home that you have possibly not cleaned in a very long time (if ever). Purchase some Clorox wipes and put the family to work cleaning all door knobs, baseboards, light switch covers, interior and exterior doors, door trim, etc.”
Patti Urbatis' Checklist:
- Remove vent covers on your heating and air-conditioning system and give those a good clean. Replace your A/C filters, too.
- Dust every light fixture and ceiling fan.
- Clean exterior lights and remove any dead bugs that might be in there.
- Sweep your front porch and shake out the welcome mat. “Make sure your porch makes a good first impression of what’s to expect behind the front door,” she says.
- Replace all burned-out light bulbs, and make sure to have extras of each handy in case a bulb burns out right before a scheduled tour.
- Clean out your fireplace.
- Shampoo your carpets, but only after you’ve decluttered and made repairs.
Give Every Room a Clear Purpose
Most houses have utility rooms, or bedrooms that kinda sorta double as an office sometimes. While junk-drawering entire rooms is something many of us are guilty of, it’s best to hide that habit when potential buyers are looking at your home.
Instead, potential buyers need to be able to imagine what they can do with each room. Spare rooms can become guest bedrooms or home offices, but not both. Make it clear what each room is.
This includes your closets and any other storage spaces you have. Make it clear to potential buyers that your home has the space necessary to store all of their stuff. “If you are living in the space, organize all areas, clear out closet floors and remove unused hangers so that the closets feel larger. The idea is to demonstrate that there is ample storage available to the potential buyers.”
Don’t Forget Curb Appeal
We open a lot of doors when showing homes and can tell you that buyers spend several minutes standing at your front door while their agent is opening the lock box.
A smart seller will use that time to their advantage by creating a warm and welcoming first impression. Buyers do notice, and what they feel in those few minutes sets the tone for the rest of the showing.
A few excellent tips to keep in mind so your home will make a good first impression:
- Edge and mow the lawn. Fertilize it, as well, and reseed any spots where the grass looks thin.
- Refresh any pine straw or mulch.
- Put some seasonal flowers in any flower beds and flower pots.
- Pressure wash the driveway and sidewalk.
- Give your mailbox a fresh coat of paint.
- Give your front door a new coat of paint, too, or re-stain it. Be sure to replace any worn hardware, as well.
Finally, if you have children remove any of their toys from the yard. “This is part and parcel with the depersonalize methodology,” says Clive Braude at Pallucci Furniture. “The key is to remove any precursor of the home’s current activities.”
Important: Get This All Done Before Staging
Sellers can be surprised to know that the house needs to be clean prior to Patti Urbatis & Company coming or that no other workers or contractors can be in the house with us, as we are bringing in beautiful pieces that cannot be covered in dust.
Your home must be 100% ready when Patti arrives. You cannot have someone replacing a backsplash during the staging process, nor can you have someone come in to do additional work after the staging takes place.