Among the services AJ Miller offers through her nine-year-old design and decorating business, Ready, Set, GOrgeous, is staging homes to sell. Its 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.
By ALICE THORSON
The Kansas City Star
Miller works from her home near the Plaza, where she lives with her husband, daughter and Great Dane.
Q. What is staging?
A. Its really just getting a home ready for sale, making sure youre 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 dont do it. Thats why you hear sad stories of homes on the market for a long time. Its 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. Dont be hesitant to ask if youre 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. Theyll 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 dont 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. Lets 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? Whats your target market? Whats your list price? That all helps me determine how to set that house up. If I know what market theyre 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 theres 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. Ill rearrange furniture around architectural features. If Im 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 dos?
A. One big do is to present all closets and cupboards half-empty. Clear them out so it looks like theres plenty of storage. Add a fresh coat of paint where its 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 cant envision where the TV will go, that man will not buy the house. If they cant envision where the king-size bed is going to go, that house wont sell.
If its a new home, people understand that they will have to put up blinds. They dont expect to have to put up a fence and basic things for privacy.
What are the top donts?
Do not have anything political or religious or family photos present in the home. And no nudes. Sometimes youre better off having no artwork than nude artwork. You dont want to offend someone right when they walk in the door because you have a cross. Even if thats important to you, it might turn someone off. And no family photos, because buyers want to envision their family there.
Dont have a dirty house. It should be clean as a whistle. The rationale behind the cleanliness is that if its not clean, people dont think youve 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 dont want to hide architectural features. If theres fireplace, you want to show it off. You dont want to cover up the window and with most windows, youre going to want the blinds pulled up to let more light in.
A lot of showing will happen at night. You dont 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 whats 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 dont realize what theyve been living in. Its part of their daily routine to come into the kitchen or the living room and see this or that.
Its 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 Ive just done. Weve found we really just have to take pictures right after Im 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 cant be moved, and if you cant 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 cant be moved. You can show a house with a dog or a cat, but some dont 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.