Home Staging – How to Survive It’s Three Phases
Home staging was foremost on Sally’s and my agenda at this time last year. We were prepping our house for sale. The list of Do’s and Don’ts is well established, so I won’t bore you with them. What’s less understood is what a homeowner goes through when prepping a home for staging – what the process looks like – the decisions needed to be made – how long it can take. Staging is the very last step. To get to Staging, you first have to Declutter and Assess.
In reality, Home Staging is a Three Phase Process.
- Decluttering. Clear everything out of the house that is not necessary while you do Step 2. (Rent some storage and put it there.)
- Assess and repair/replace. It can be cosmetic such as painting or refinishing floors. Or “structural” such as replacing a hot water heater. New wiring. Fixing that leaky faucet. Unclogging the shower floor drain.
- Staging. Bring back and place only that which will show the house off to its maximum advantage. Yes, Madge, you will need to continue renting storage. NO! It all can’t come back!
In this post, Sally and I invite you to tag along as we take you through our journey of prepping our home for sale last year.
In August 2018, we decided it was time to downsize and simplify our lives. As much as we loved our home of 36 years, the responsibility of maintaining the house, shoveling drive and walks, mowing the lawn and keeping up the flower beds had begun to feel burdensome as opposed to pleasurable. (And there was the tug of living closer to our grand children.)
PHASE 1 – DECLUTTERING
So in August, we began decluttering the house. We quickly learned decluttering takes many forms.
- Craigs List (It became our best friend…).
- Neighborhood groups on Facebook.
- Buy Nothing/Free Stuff Groups on Facebook.
- Moving furniture and packed boxes into nearby rented storage space.
- Weekly “free stuff” table at the end of the drive.
Home Staging Tip: Tackling one room at a time makes the task manageable.
Yes, it’s messy, too! Put as much as you can in storage.
PHASE 2 – ASSESSMENT AND REPAIR
As I previously mentioned, the point of all this activity was to see what was actually there. What we would need to do to physically prepare the house for sale. How much painting was needed? Did the floors need sanding? What were we going to do about our 25 year old kitchen? The family bath desperately needed a redo. The attic and basement looked like a bomb had gone off in them – all repositories of 36 years of living in the house. Our house was 100 years old with plaster and lath walls and ceilings. Virtually every room was showing its age with a few cracks here and there. They would all need patching and painting to make them really fresh and appealing.
Years ago, we had wall papered several rooms. It was time for the wallpaper to go and the rooms to get a fresh coat of paint. 27 years of dog ownership had definitely taken a toll on the oak floors. They needed refinishing throughout the house. Although well laid out, the kitchen renovation we had done 25 years ago was showing its age. We had recently replaced several appliances. Could we keep the Corian countertops? What about the cabinet doors? After running the numbers, we kept the counter tops and had the cabinet doors removed and repainted.
Over the years, with just two of us at home, the casual dining area in the kitchen had devolved into a hangout/TV watching area. It needed to be a casual dining area again, sans TV. (Note the stuff getting ready to go to storage before the painters start their work.)
The family bath desperately needed a complete remodel. The powder room needed to have the carpet replaced with new low maintenance flooring.
Then there was the garage, basement and attic. They looked like a bomb had gone off in them. We got rid of all the shelving units in these areas and did a deep cleaning. Here’s a corner of the garage.
While we were cleaning out the attic, we had the chimney re-parged.
As we began to define/determine our priorities/needs we talked with the trades needed to do the repairs, asking about schedule and price. These conversations informed us how quickly we needed to be scheduling/sequencing the work. For example, painting needs to be done prior to floor sanding. The end result was a “reverse engineered” Project Schedule based on when we wanted to put the house on the market.
The biggie was the family bath renovation. Selecting, ordering and receiving product takes time. As does the actual renovation. I started the design in September, 2018. We had all product in our garage by December. The contractor started work in January, 2019 and completed the project by mid February. You can see a detailed story of the family bath design here.
Home Staging Tip: Establish a calendar based on when you plan to put the house on the market.
So what’s your home going to look like in the midst of all of painting, floor sanding, etc.? You may have to store furniture and boxes in one room while another room is worked on. FYI. If you decide to have all the floors refinished, as we did, be prepared to vacate your home for a week in order to let the fumes dissipate and the finish harden. Even water based finish will off-gas.
Home Staging Tip: During this phase, we retained a broker with a strong knowledge of our neighborhood and our targeted buyer market. He was invaluable helping us evaluate our target buyer, which then prioritized our work agenda. Our target market was Boston. The buyer, a young couple moving out of the city to start a family. They would want move-in condition. Compared to Boston’s real estate prices, our home’s asking price would be extremely attractive.
PHASE 3 – HOME STAGING
As we started to see the light at the end of the refinish/repair tunnel, we tackled the actual home staging. Furniture placement. Do we pull the area rugs and paintings from storage, putting the rugs back on the refinished floors and hanging pictures/paintings? Our personal style in the house was “cozy”. For example, we had created a very intimate living room, with multiple seating areas. But that layout didn’t show the spaciousness of the room to a prospect. In response, we eliminated bureaus, bookcases, and reworked the seating, using less seating.
Our dining room received the same stripped down treatment. We tucked the existing bar cart into the window bay in lieu of the former sideboard, which remained in storage. This made the room feel larger, as you could walk into the bay now. The chandelier was to be sold with the house.
The antique table that had been in the foyer for several years, remained in storage. This decision truly opened up the entry to the home. Note no areas rugs in the following pictures…
With freshly painted cabinet doors, the kitchen looked like new again.
We reclaimed the casual dining area. Eliminating the TV opened up the view up the stairs to the studio over the garage. Having given away our casual dining furniture several years earlier, we rented some for several months. It was fun to eat in the kitchen again! (A bonus of decluttering.)
The powder room looked terrific after its small refresh.
Upstairs, all three bedrooms were subjected to our new “Shaker Style” by eliminating bureaus, mirrors and artwork. Sally used to have fun telling everyone that our house looked like Shakers lived there – very few possessions!
The family bath transformation was a show stopper.
To see the full story about the finished renovated bath including it’s design challenges and costs, click here.
All painting and floor refinishing was completed by mid March. Furniture and artwork was back in place by mid April. The exterior fluffing was accomplished in April. The house was photographed in early May and our first and only brokers open house was in mid May. Less than two weeks later the house was under agreement, setting a new benchmark sale price for the neighborhood.
Total time – 10 months.
HOME STAGING TAKE AWAYS
- Home Staging has three parts – Decluttering, Assessment/Repair, Staging
- These three parts take time. Ours took 10 months of hard work. (We still have things in storage, but that’s another story.)
- Make a schedule based on your projected sell date, the work that needs to be done preparing the house for sale and how long that work will take to do. Take a deep breath! Somehow it will all happen!
- Carefully evaluate comparable homes in your neighborhood to determine what was done or not done in prepping those homes for market. Look at your costs as part of your evaluation of what you should/can do in your home. Some things may not be worth the investment.
- Be prepared to endure a mess for a while.
- Move what you can to storage, knowing full well you will need places to sit, etc.. It just makes life easier for the trades who will be working in your home. (Remember, every time a piece of furniture is moved, there’s risk of damage.)
- Early in the process, hire your broker. Make sure they have a strong working knowledge of your neighborhood and your targeted market of buyers. The right broker can help you make smart financial decisions.
- Keep a good supply of adult beverages handy. 😉
- I know I should talk about colors. It seems so many homes are painted white when they go on the market. I don’t think that’s necessary. In fact, white feels pretty sterile to me. Choose a neutral palette of soft beiges, greens and blues. Keep them the same intensity. White can be the trim color.
- If you’ve refinished your floors, don’t cover them back up with area rugs. Show the floors off! Stay away from gloss! It’s shiny and draws too much attention downward!!! Go with a matte finish.
- Repainting your kitchen cabinet doors is a very cost effective way to dress up your kitchen. While the doors are off, its the perfect time to give those cabinets a deep cleaning!
- Don’t bother with countertops. If the new home owner wants to refresh your old kitchen, they’re going to want to select their own counter tops. Same with sinks.
- Do replace dripping faucets.
- Keep a good supply of adult beverages handy. 😉
- If you don’t have the right furniture, rent it.
- Create room layouts that make your room look spacious.
- Minimize artwork on the walls. Visual clutter is off putting.
- Think “Shaker Style”. By that I mean, clean and simple. No clutter anywhere. If it doesn’t need to be there, don’t put it there. All the chachka’s go to storage. Sorry.
- Number 18 may make you feel like you’re not living in your own house. You’re not. It’s now a stage set meant to entice someone else into wanting to buy your house so much that they make an offer.
- Celebrate the sale of your home with an adult beverage!!!
- Soon you will be moving to your new home and starting a new chapter in your life. Enjoy!
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
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