Home Staging: Sell the Sizzle!

Before you put your home on the market, get it ready to compete! Then present the lifestyle it offers as much as how many bedrooms it has. Employ home staging to make your home stand out.

Did you ever walk into a restaurant and smell the steaks on the grill or hear the sound of one sizzling as it lands on a metal steak plate?  Mouthwatering, isn’t it?  Do you think your appetite would be just as piqued if the menu simply said “12 ounce T-bone?”  Of course not.

Restaurateurs are masterful at engaging all five senses to make you hungry.  You smell the steaks grilling, you hear them sizzling, you see colorful vegetables and touch warm, fresh-baked rolls. It all adds up to enhance your dining experience.

Do we Realtors create the same excitement when we market a home?  Not usually.

People buy homes on emotion more than logic.  The house must feel like home to them or have the potential to feel like home.  They are buying a dream, not sticks and bricks.

How can you make their dream sizzle?  How can you make their mouths water when they walk into the home you are marketing?  How can you communicate, in a dramatic, effective way, how this particular home delivers their dream?  How do you sell the personality of the home more than its number of bedrooms, baths, square footage and exterior sheathing?

More and more, savvy real estate pros are turning to home staging experts to present what their listings offer in a more powerful way.  In its simplest form, home staging is nothing more than a list of ideas to make your home ready for a showing – open the curtains, turn on the lights, and bake an apple pie.  These suggestions are intended to make visitors feel welcome as much as to present your home in its best light.

Making the property marketable is a necessary step before you bring in a stager.  If the carpeting is worn, shadowy or out-of-date, replace it.  If your colors are not current (inside and out), repaint.  If your lawn is brown and full of weeds, re-seed it and if your bushes and trees are overgrown, tear out the old ones and re-plant.  No amount of home staging will mask product deficiencies.  It would be like trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

In today's real estate market, however, both are necessary.  It is a buyer's market.  They have plenty to choose from and if your home does not measure up to the competition, it will not sell.  It is as simple as that.  Home staging is about the presenting your quality home, not trying to cover up its shortcomings.

In its more complex form, home staging shows the lifestyle the home offers.  It presents more than the structure and layout of the home.  Home staging showcases a home’s highlights in a visible, tangible way.  It translates the features of a home – its location, architectural design, and floor plan, for examples -- into dreams the consumer cannot live without.

When selling resale homes, staging is important, but when selling new construction, it is absolutely essential.  Have you ever visited a builder's open house for a newly-built home?  Typically, there are no window treatments, no area rugs, no furnishings and personal touches. The house feels cold and uninviting. Too often, builders rely on a buyer’s vision to place furniture or mentally change the basic white walls to sage or eggplant.  Too often, the warmth of well-placed Ralph Lauren fabrics or bathroom linens goes unimagined in the buyer’s rush to leave.

Most buyers cannot visualize possibilities when it comes to homes and decorating.  It’s not what they do.  Buyers are lawyers and doctors and accountants, not builders, not interior designers, and not Realtors.  Note to builders: Don’t make their imaginations struggle; make it easy for them to fall in love with the home you’ve built.

Home staging ads treatment for windows, linens in cupboard, strategic lighting, stylish area rugs, flower arrangements and more – even pots & pans!  A properly-staged home will draw people in; it will engage them. It will “take them there.”

Home staging can be simple or as elaborate as your budget allows.  In 1982, I was hired to do the marketing for a vacation-home resort development north of Houston called Waterwood – a world-class golf course surrounded by one of Texas’ few inland lakes. That was nearly thirty years ago and these weekend homes started at $450,000. The development was so posh it had its own landing strip which allowed us to fly prospective (and well-qualified) buyers to the resort by private jet.  Extravagant, yes, but extravagance was a huge part of the allure.

Years later I worked on a high-end subdivision in a suburb outside Detroit.  A builder I worked with loved the huge, Corian cooking island he’d built at the edge of the kitchen which opened to the family room.  Buyers, however, didn’t seem nearly as excited about it as he was.  So, for an afternoon open house, we hired a chef (tall, white hat and all!) and three local actors to gather ‘round the island, just as we all do at house parties.   The home sold that day.  Home staging has been around for years; we just have a name for it today!

To use home staging effectively, demonstrate how the home fits the buyers' lifestyle or their desired lifestyle.  For example, home offices are popular but they’re often a converted bedroom space.  Show how the space can be used efficiently with organizers or a modular workspace.

Exercise rooms are in vogue.  Ask an exercise equipment distributor to place a treadmill and bicycle and promotional brochures in the home in exchange for you recommending the distributor to your friends.

Is there a space perfect for a grand piano?  Don’t just bring one in, hire someone to play it for open houses or Realtor tours.  Is the home wired for a home theater?  Contact a high-end distributor and see if they’d like to showcase their product in your theater space.

Home staging sells the dream. It sells the sizzle … not the steak.  In today's competitive market, sellers need to do everything possible to make their home the one buyers won't forget at the end of their day of shopping.

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