The World’s A Stage
Ten years ago, New York was not a staging town. As agents, we would tell a seller when something egregious needed to be fixed: leak damage, rotting curtains, badly stained carpeting. And we would advise the removal of debris and even excess furniture. But for some reason we didn’t tend to recommend much beyond that. I recall my surprise in 2001 when my brother sold his house in Berkeley and the agent removed literally all his furniture to replace it with more neutral pieces. Doing something like that had simply never occurred to me. But now I am a convert to staging.
I have always known that most buyers (for that matter most people) do not have the ability to scale a room mentally without furniture in it. And photos of empty rooms tell a viewer nothing; without context the space is impossible to assess. So today we ALWAYS recommend staging for empty rooms and properties. While renting the furniture can involve some small expense, we find that the investment is recouped both in the price paid for the property and the speed with which it sells. Furnishing empty spaces for sale is a no brainer.
It can be more complicated to persuade sellers to make changes in the decorating scheme for a property in which they actually live. Often, however, the need is even greater in these situations. Here are the issues we see most often:
• Peeling paint – even if it DOESN’T come from a leak, peeling paint always makes a property look unkempt. It’s like not brushing your hair. Every apartment placed on the market should have a clean coat of neutral color paint on it. It doesn’t need to be new paint, as long as it has held up well and is a pale color.
• Clutter – less is more when selling your home. Closets should all look like you can easily fit in a few more things. There should be no piles of anything anywhere. 90% of your photos and bibelots should be out of sight. Table surfaces should be sparely populated, as should counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. That collection of 20 years of Architectural Digest? Throw it out!
• Furniture – most people have at least one, if not two, pieces too many in their rooms. Be prepared to move a number of things into storage, especially oversized pieces. Apartments in particular tend to sell best when they are under furnished with sleeker pieces. A very Victorian look, with wallpaper and a lot of different fabrics, tends to confuse the buyer’s eye, which usually means he will perceive the space as smaller than it actually is. Only the very largest rooms can accommodate a big canopy bed, or a massive mahogany breakfront, without feeling tight as a result.
• Don’t renovate to sell – I am asked frequently by sellers if they should renovate a kitchen or bathrooms to make a property more saleable. My answer is always no. You simply cannot know what style your buyer will want, so there is no guarantee that you are enhancing your value. Clean them up, replace broken tiles, clean out cabinets, use scented candles and pretty shower curtains in the bathrooms and put some appliances away in the kitchen.
• Amp up the wattage – most apartments we sell are under illuminated. Make sure every bulb in every light fixture is working, and buy a couple of halogen torchieres if your place is still somewhat dim. Buyers like bright.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your place doesn’t need staging or editing. All of our homes do. The goal is to make it easy for the buyer to easily imagine themselves in the space, hence the sleek, low furniture (which makes ceilings look higher) and neutral color palette. The more particular the taste, the more adjustments might be necessary to make sure the buyer’s eye isn’t distracted. New York has great staging professionals today; working with your agent they can help you both edit out the things which you don’t need, arrange the things you have to their best advantage, and make any necessary additional choices. Preparing a property for sale can be both time consuming and frustrating; many sellers don’t much want to do it. But the investment of time and money in paring down and sprucing up pays off in both time and money.