Staging a home so the house, not the seller's life and tastes, is on display can be the difference between selling quickly or paying the mortgage for another month or two.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Niel Thomas once tried to sell a house that looked like a taxidermy gallery, full of glassy-eyed dead animal heads hanging on walls.
Prospective buyers couldn’t take their eyes off the bearskin rug, he said. But once they left, they recalled little about the house itself.
“They remembered the animals all over the place and the hair everywhere,” said Thomas, a longtime Anchorage real-estate agent. “It was a nice house, but it was off-putting. It was such a distraction. … They would say, ‘Was that the room with the bear or the fox?’ “
The house, Thomas and a growing number of others in the real-estate business would agree, was in desperate need of “staging” — the quick decluttering, depersonalizing and redecorating of a home so it appeals to a wide variety of house hunters.
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Staging a home so the house, not the seller’s life and tastes, is on display can be the difference between selling quickly or paying the mortgage for another month or two, Thomas and other real-estate agents say.
The decision to stage a house often pays off, said Thomas and Clair Ramsey, a longtime Anchorage real-estate agent. The house either sells more quickly or for a higher price.
Not counting what’s in their own homes, Marilyn Carpenter and Jan Pennington own 200 pillows, nine air beds and seven couches.
Right now the items are temporarily occupying six homes the women, owners of Home Staging Alaska, have recently staged. When a home sells, the furnishings return to a barn at Carpenter’s home and wait for their next assignment.
“We have enough inventory now for about six houses,” Pennington said.
Pennington retired last year after working 26 years in the real-estate business, where she learned firsthand that staging can bring quicker sales and higher prices.
“Marilyn and I started staging my listings, and they sold so fast,” she said. “When I decided to retire, we decided to go forward with it as a business.”
Carpenter and Pennington get much of their furniture at garage sales and thrift stores, and sometimes they raid their own homes.
The women quickly learned to use air beds instead of real beds. Real beds take too much time and muscle to move. They add a comforter to give the bouncy beds some bulk and put a bedspread and pillows on top of that. You’d never guess they aren’t real.
“People sit on them, and that has created some problems. We saw one woman sit on one, and she got catapulted off,” Pennington said.
“That’s when we got insurance,” Carpenter said.
Home staging is about redecorating and rearranging, not remodeling.
Usually stagers don’t even paint walls, although Pennington and Carpenter made an exception recently when they took on a home for a weekend open house.
Two walls of the master bedroom were purple — not lavender or lilac, but Crayola purple. Barney purple.
Carpenter covered the walls with two coats of white paint.
“You try to make it generic so it appeals to the largest number of people,” she said.
That applies to everything in a house, not just the paint on the walls. The seller may be a photographer who proudly displays nude photos, but it’s probably better to replace the photos with a simple print of a farmhouse or seascape.
Carpenter likes to leave an open book on a bed or stack a few on shelves or tables.
“To me, books say the person who lives in this house has the time to read a good book,” the retired English professor said.
But even the books should be neutral. “No Bible,” she said.
A few other tips:
• Remove magnets, photos, notes and other things from the front of the refrigerator. Remove most items from kitchen and bathroom countertops.
• Hide the collection of E.T. memorabilia, stash the softball trophies, take down the family photos (although some staging experts say the family photos are OK). You want people to look at the house, not your personal stuff.
• Things go better in threes: Group three candles on a mantle, arrange three baskets on a shelf, place three pillows on the couch.
• When showing the house, keep curtains and shades open. The more light, the better.
• Get rid of clutter everywhere. Minimize furniture; don’t let it dominate a room. Take leaves out of the dining-room table.
• Don’t forget the outside. Mow the lawn, trim the bushes, maybe put in some flowers. Some people dismiss houses without ever leaving the car.