HOUSE + HOME Q+A

How to stage your home for sale

Updated: 2013-03-10T04:16:30Z

By ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

Among the services AJ Miller offers through her nine-year-old design and decorating business, Ready, Set, GOrgeous, is staging homes to sell. It’s a task she approaches with experience, wisdom and humor. Miller, who holds a degree in accounting and administration from the University of Kansas and a masters in project management from George Washington University, trained at the National Redesign Institute in Smithville, Mo., and updates her skills in specialty classes at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Miller works from her home near the Plaza, where she lives with her husband, daughter and Great Dane.

Q. What is staging?

A. It’s really just getting a home ready for sale, making sure you’re going to maximize your sales price and putting your best foot forward.

Is it a common practice these days?

People are aware of it through television programs, but many don’t do it. That’s why you hear sad stories of homes on the market for a long time. It’s not always price point that keeps the house from selling. A lot of realtors will pay for staging and hire someone before they list it. Don’t be hesitant to ask if you’re selling a house.

What are some of the advantages of staging?

It will allow your house to appeal to the widest audience and reduce the amount of time on the market. When people walk through the house, it will have a positive flow. They’ll be able to walk through halls and past furniture and easily get to the next room. Another really big advantage for sellers is that everything they have to store or save or eliminate in the closets means that packing is already done.

What do you bring to the process? I know you have a real estate license.

I work with realtors and I understand what a realtor has to do. Sometimes they don’t want to be the bad guy and tell the client not-nice things about how they have to change their house. What I bring to the table is a third set of eyes, an unbiased opinion and direct communication as to what a seller needs to do.

I have my ways of saying things in nice terms: “White-glove clean.” “Declutter.” “Let’s show off the features.” If they have to move something out, they have to move something out.

Walk me through what you do for a staging.

Someone contacts me. I start with a home viewing. I walk through the house with the homeowner and/or the realtor and I tell them everything in every room that I feel they should do. I write up a report and send it to them. I ask them a lot of questions. When are you listing? What’s your target market? What’s your list price? That all helps me determine how to set that house up. If I know what market they’re appealing to, I can help target it.

Give me an example of changes you might suggest.

If they have an office combined with their master bedroom, I may suggest they take that office out. It might make someone else feel there’s not enough room in this house.

I make sure that the fireplace and the TV are on the same wall. The buyer is paying for the fireplace. He or she is not paying for the TV. I’ll rearrange furniture around architectural features. If I’m walking down a hallway and they have furniture in the hallway, I may suggest they take it out.

What else is on your list of do’s?

A. One big do is to present all closets and cupboards half-empty. Clear them out so it looks like there’s plenty of storage. Add a fresh coat of paint where it’s needed. Nicks and scratches should be covered. You may need to neutralize some of the colors.

Edit the furniture and arrange it properly. Space is important and function is important. If he can’t envision where the TV will go, that man will not buy the house. If they can’t envision where the king-size bed is going to go, that house won’t sell.

If it’s a new home, people understand that they will have to put up blinds. They don’t expect to have to put up a fence and basic things for privacy.

What are the top don’ts?

Do not have anything political or religious or family photos present in the home. And no nudes. Sometimes you’re better off having no artwork than nude artwork. You don’t want to offend someone right when they walk in the door because you have a cross. Even if that’s important to you, it might turn someone off. And no family photos, because buyers want to envision their family there.

Don’t have a dirty house. It should be clean as a whistle. The rationale behind the cleanliness is that if it’s not clean, people don’t think you’ve been taking care of it Next they may wonder if the seller tuned up their furnace every year. It gets to underlying maintenance of the home.

You don’t want to hide architectural features. If there’s fireplace, you want to show it off. You don’t want to cover up the window and with most windows, you’re going to want the blinds pulled up to let more light in.

A lot of showing will happen at night. You don’t want to leave any room without some kind of light sources.

What kind of expense are we talking about for staging services?

I charge $125 for home viewing. That gets us started. They can take it from there, or they can pull me back in. Typically for staging with the furniture and accessories that they have, it will run about $250 per room. You concentrate on what’s important to that house to sell. You may do two or three rooms or you may just do one.

You need to have a budget of $1,000 to $10,000. That would include repairs. It could be refinishing hardwood floors, painting two or three rooms, addressing counter tops.

Have you had any funny experiences in this line of work?

The funniest part about it is that sometimes the clients don’t realize what they’ve been living in. It’s part of their daily routine to come into the kitchen or the living room and see this or that.

It’s an eye-opener to them when I rearrange the furniture and accessories and decorate shelves and make it all attractive. Sometimes there are accessories that are too interesting for children not to play with, and the children come in and rearrange everything I’ve just done. We’ve found we really just have to take pictures right after I’m done so we can put it back right before people walk in the door.

What about pets?

Dogs and pets can be tricky and make the process interesting. Sometimes the pets will get out or be in the wrong place. There might be a dog bed that can’t be moved, and if you can’t move the dog bed from the entranceway, it challenges me as a designer. Or there may be a pet with their favorite chair, and you can only imagine what that chair looks like and it can’t be moved. You can show a house with a dog or a cat, but some don’t deal with it very well, and you can imagine where that can go.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4763 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

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