The cliché is true-you never get a second chance to make a first
impression. "Most buyers know before they even enter the house whether
or not they want to buy it," says Anna Kortie, certified staging
professional and owner of Room By Room, a home staging and rearranging
company. "Homebuyers want to imagine themselves living in your home."
"Because the market is slowing down, sellers need to make their house
stand out. Staging is the way to accomplish that," says Kortie.
Home staging is the process of putting the best features of your home on
display so a potential buyer can imagine living there. The process
begins with a walkthrough and initial consultation. For Kortie this
means spending about three hours taking over 100 pictures. She charges
$300 for the detailed assessment.
Cynthia Fortin of Cynthia Anne Interiors in Hollywood asks a lot of
questions over the phone before she sees the house. She charges $85 per
hour for the one-to-two-hour consultation and the client gets a detailed
list of everything that needs to be done. The home seller can hire the
stager to do parts of, or the entire, list.
White Plains ReMax 100 agent Ruth Mudd took a staging course last
August. She realizes now that staging works for attaining higher and
quicker sales. As an agent, Mudd doesn't charge a fee for staging her
Kortie identifies five basic areas of staging: decluttering, cleaning,
repairing, depersonalizing and enhancing. Fortin adds communication and
commitment to her list.
Decluttering is taking items out of a home to make it look larger and
more inviting. Often homes have too many things in them. Most sellers
need to throw away, donate, sell or store extra items.
"Your house must be detail cleaned and odor free," says Fortin. "Every
lived-in house has an odor. I recommend asking a friend or family member
who is not used to your house to tell you what the odor is."
Often, "[sellers] forget the outside of the house," Kortie says. "But
sometimes a decision is made about buying based on the outside
appearance of the house." A good stager looks outside the house,
suggesting landscaping ideas, exterior paining, driveway entrance and
If your house needs major or minor repairs, do them before a potential
buyer sees it. Something as simple as a squeaky cabinet or broken hinge
can make or break a sale. Fortin adds, "If people see that you take care
of things they can see they'll believe you'll take care of the things
they can't see."
Depersonalizing requires removing personal items such as photos,
collections, or other things that represent the homeowners' personality.
"A lot of emotions come with selling your home," says Mudd. "People need
to realize that your house becomes a product to sell. How you live in
your home is different than how you sell your home."
Kortie agrees, "Sellers must realize a potential buyer is not buying
your stuff, they're buying your house. Your house is no longer a home,
it's a commodity. Thinking like this will take the emotion out of it.
For some this is difficult."
Fortin concurs, "I recommend sellers concentrate on putting their heart
and soul in their new house, their current house is a product."
Enhancing involves finding or creating a focal point in each room,
painting, carpeting, rearranging and accessorizing. Kortie uses the
analogy of getting dressed: "You put on that black dress, but maybe you
add some jewelry, the right shoes and the right purse so it's not your
typical little black dress."
"Communication between the seller, agent and stager is essential,"
Fortin says. She adds that a commitment from the entire family is
necessary so the house stays staged throughout the selling process.
Does staging work? Fortin had one client whose home was on the market
for months. After 50 showings and no offers, Fortin was called in to
stage the house. Within two weeks, the homeowner got a contract at full
According to a 2004 Coldwell Banker survey, staged homes sell in 13.8
days while un-staged homes take 30.9 days; and staged homes get an
average of 6.4 percent more than the list price.
In the saturated Southern Maryland market, staging may be the thing that
sets your house apart from the one down the street.
To learn more about staging your home, contact:
Anna Kortie, Room By Room,
Cynthia Anne Interiors,
Ruth Mudd, White Plains ReMax 100 agent,