Finding the right house isn’t that different from falling in love. You pretty much know upon first impression whether there’s going to be a connection.
Likewise, if you’re hoping to get a buyer to make a long-term commitment to a house, they need to be able to picture their future there, starting from when they first see the property, said Breese Romano, a Richmond, Virginia, Long & Foster agent and co-owner with her husband, Josh, of Cobblestone Development Group.
“Buying a home for most people is based on emotion,” Romano said. “How they feel in the space and how they envision their lives in a home either makes it or breaks it.”
That’s why so many agents agree that home staging is important, even in today’s low-inventory environment. In a recent study by the National Association of Realtors, 62 percent of sellers’ agents said a staged home sells faster than one in which it appears the owners made little effort, and 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging made it easier for a buyer to visualize living in the property.
A home has to look every bit the asking price, or buyers will start adding up the dollar value of repairs, and that equals a discounted offer, said Michele Graham, a Long & Foster regional administrator and accredited home stager who works with agents in the greater Philadelphia area.
While 93 percent of agents in the NAR study said they tell sellers to declutter before listing their homes, Graham said staging means more than putting things away and getting rid of stuff.
“Staging is neutralizing the space so a buyer can picture themselves and their things in the space,” she said.
The NAR study found that the living room was the most important area to stage, with 55 percent of agents on the buying side agreeing that potential new owners wanted to be able to visualize family time there. Also important were the master bedroom (51 percent) and kitchen (41 percent).
Staging doesn’t have to be expensive, Romano said. Simply rearranging furniture can have an impact. A fresh coat of paint is also an inexpensive improvement.
“One of the first things a buyer notices the second they walk in the front door is the paint color,” Romano said. “A nice, neutral color palette of grays or whites is most appealing to the eye and allows the buyer to see the home like a blank canvas.”
Making sure kitchens and bathrooms are shining clean and odor free is also extremely important, Graham said. Tired cabinets can be woken up with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware, and old light fixtures are usually easy to switch out without great expense.
“Home purchases are made with emotions, so you want to grab them from the minute they look at the pictures on the MLS or do a drive-by,” Graham said. “The cost of staging a home is always less than the first price reduction.”