In a recent interior decorating project in Upland, CA, we desperately needed to update the kitchen. The cabinets were solid wood and in good condition and the homeowner didn’t want to replace them. We were also working with a pretty tight budget, so a full kitchen remodel was out of the question. The homeowner had (prior to hiring StageRight) looked into re-staining the cabinets a darker color, but the wood grain was not that attractive — so I recommended painting them white instead. The cost to re-stain the cabinets was $5000, so I used that as my budget for the kitchen.
The existing cabinets were solid wood in good condition, but the hardware was outdated and wood grain was not attractive. The countertops and backsplash were fairly new and worth keeping as was the built in oven and range hood.
We had the cabinets painted white (Behr Polar Bear) for a little more than 1/2 the cost of re-staining. This savings allowed us to purchase a new stainless dishwasher as well as a new stainless side by side refrigerator (out of this shot). We also purchased all new shelf paper and still had only spent $4974, so I bought the homeowner a new paper towel holder.
This should serve as a good home staging lesson. If your kitchen and/or bathrooms are outdated, it may not be necessary to do an expensive remodel. Look for the easier, less expensive ways you can make your house more appealing to buyers. We achieved a dramatic improvement spending less than $5000 and finished in about a week.
Deciding to stage this investment property in South Pasadena was an excellent decision. Furnishing a vacant house always helps buyers to envision themselves living there, but in this case, staging had a more important job to do. This house was originally a duplex. The renovation merged the two units into one home and did an excellent job. Even so, the resulting floorplan was not the typical layout and could have caused some confusion for potential buyers if left vacant.
This room off the kitchen was staged as a dining room to show buyers that there was more room to entertain guests than the small breakfast nook in the kitchen. Statistics show that although formal living rooms have become less popular with today’s families, they still want a dining room where they can entertain and having it open to the kitchen is an added bonus.
This room was originally the living room in the second unit, but we wanted to show that it could be used as a very nice bedroom. If the buyer only needed 2 bedrooms they could easily use this space as a family room, but in staging a 3 bedroom house, it is always best to show 3 bedrooms.
To see more photos of this property click on the “Featured Staging” page of the Photo Gallery.
The home staging principles of universal appeal and de-personalizing apply as much to the front yard as to the inside of the house. This goes beyond just good “curb appeal” and may involve a little sacrifice. With Halloween and the elections approaching, you don’t want to “scare away” or alienate any potential buyers with Halloween decor or campaign signs. Staging is about making your house more appealing to a broad range of buyers. Halloween is a fun holiday, but let’s face it, spider webs, skeletons, and gravestones are NOT going to improve the appearance of your property. Not everyone celebrates Halloween and NOBODY wants to buy a “haunted” house. Maybe someone else can host the neighborhood party this year.
De-personalizing is crucial to real estate staging inside and OUT. Buyers must be able to envision themselves living in a space. Politics (and religion) are two of the most personal things there is, so don’t let your political views or religious preference possibly alienate someone who might otherwise love your house. You never know how people will react and in this market, it doesn’t hurt to play it safe and eliminate any possible negatives. Put a bumper sticker on your car, hand out flyers, make annoying phone calls, and by all means VOTE, but please keep those campaign signs out of your front yard while your house is on the market. You never know when a possible buyer might drive by your house.
This wonderfully renovated historic Craftsman in Old Town Upland, CA was a bit of a mess when I first saw it, but the transformation is amazing. The owner did an excellent job of selecting finishes that respected the home’s Craftsman roots, but gently brought it into the 21st century so that it would appeal to today’s families. It was important to me for the home staging of this property to do the same. When staging a property, it is important that the furnishings match the style of the architecture, but it is equally important that those furnishings appeal to a broad range of buyers. I did not choose the stereotypical “mission style” furniture and accessories because I felt it might be a little too taste specific. I did, however, stick to simple straight lines and made sure that the accessories respected the Craftsman. Since this is a large 5 bedroom house, I wanted the staging to reflect a comfortable style that a family would like.
Update on this property: This house received 2 written offers during the first month it was on the market with an offer being accepted just 32 days after being listed. It SOLD for 99% of the asking price.
I remember the first time I saw this little placard attached to a “For Sale” sign, I actually laughed out loud. The house was NOT gorgeous on the OUTSIDE, and I realized this was the agent’s attempt to ask potential buyers to forgive the outside appearance and come inside anyway. This was before I knew the terms home staging and curb appeal, but even then, it didn’t work. I wasn’t interested. I kept driving and kept looking for a house that appealed to me both inside and OUT. With all the cliches about first impressions and statistics that show that people decide within seconds if they are interested in a home, you would think that agents and sellers would get the message. Still, the placards are showing up, and still, sadly, they don’t work. Buyers today want a move in ready home and they are much less forgiving. With the vast majority of buyers beginning their home search online, pictures of the home are more important than ever and what is the most common picture used first to advertise the property? That’s right — the EXTERIOR shot.
Many potential buyers may first notice a house newly on the market while driving by, but in order to know if they are intersted, they must be able to SEE IT! All the trees and shrubs may offer the homeowner more privacy, but now that it’s a product that you’re trying to sell, the packaging of that product is very important. Manufacturers spend a log of money on choosing the right packaging and so should you. They also do whatever they can to make sure their products are placed advantageously on shelves where the target buyer can SEE IT. I love greenery as much as anyone, so I don’t recommend cutting it all down. Trimming the shrubs and thinning the trees is all you need to do to create a window. Speaking of windows, you definitely want to trim any bush or tree that blocks a window. This will also let more light inside which is also a plus.
CURB APPEAL TIPS:
If shrubs and/or trees hide the house from the street, trim them back. Buyers want to see what they are buying and shrubs that block windows also cut down on the amount of light inside.
Clean up the clutter. Put away the bicycles, toys, garden hoses, trash cans, etc. and keep them out of view – ALWAYS. You never know when a potential buyer may drive by.
Remove excess items from the front porch. A few pots with flowers is fine, but too many can be crowded. Always make sure there is room for 3 adults (2 buyers and the agent) to stand comfortably on the front porch.
De-personalize. Keep your religious and political opinions to yourself while your house is on the market. Religious statuary and election signs are a no-no.
Bite the bullet and deal with things that need to be fixed. Replace door hardware and light fixtures that are in bad shape or outdated. If a window screen is torn, repair it; if the house needs paint, paint it. Defferred maintenance is a huge red flag to potential buyers.
Weed the flower beds and install new mulch. Fertilize the lawn and keep it watered. Depending on the season, plant annuals for color or rake the leaves.
Make it shine. If the paint is in good shape, powerwash it and the sidewalks and driveway while you’re at it. Clean the windows inside and out. Make sure the lights are clean and all the bulbs are working.
Make sure your house numbers are easily visible from the street and well lit so that buyers driving by at night can see them. While your house is on the market, leave your front porch light (and any other outside lights) on. Invest in a timer or a dusk-to-dawn adapter if necessary.
Get a new door mat for the front door. Something simple that just says “Welcome” – nothing too cute.
Stand across the street and look at your house with critical eyes as a potential buyer would see it for the first time. This may be hard, but give it a try.
This may seem like a lot of work, and it is. Most of these tips; however, involve a minimal investment and will have a tremendous impact. The goal, remember, is to get potential buyers to want to come INSIDE the house and see how gorgeous it is. Curb appeal will accomplish that far better than some silly sign. Remember, that first impression begins at the street – not after they open the front door.