Home Staging Helps Bring Top Dollar Sale
Learn the 5 C's to help you get multiple offers
By Phoebe Chongchua

If your house could be sold looking the way a model home does, do you think it might bring in more money? Chances are it would. That's why home staging is a growing profession that's rapidly changing the way homes are sold.

"Staging is not decorating. Decorating is optional, staging is mandatory in order to sell the house for the most possible money in the shortest amount of time," says home staging instructor Joanne O'Donnell.

O'Donnell has been teaching courses on how to stage a home to be sold for several years. The concept first became known in 1972 by then-Realtor, Barb Schwarz who realized that homes would sell for higher prices if they were prepared to sell first.

Today, hundreds of thousands of real estate professionals, decorators and sellers have come to understand the once-little-known term staging that was coined by Schwarz.

O'Donnell recently taught a course in San Diego, Calif. In the course were two mother-daughter teams, Realtors and even a lawyer.

"When we put your home on the market it is no longer your home; it is a product and we're marketing it," O'Donnell told the students.

Home stagers start by viewing the seller's home inside and out. O'Donnell encourages the students to walk through a home that they plan to stage with the seller, being sure to take notes of items that need to be moved and/or removed.

While home staging may improve the looks of the home, O'Donnell is careful to point out it is not interior decorating. Instead she says it's much simpler.

"You can't go out and buy new things for every problem that you have with a house," says O'Donnell. 

She tells the students to be problem solvers, reminding them that her clients are selling their homes and they don't want to spend a lot to do it.

Really home staging is about de-cluttering and making a home desirable to the masses. "Clutter eats up equity," O'Donnell frequently reminds the students throughout the course.

"The whole idea of staging is that you want to market to the largest number of people to get as many offers as possible," says O'Donnell.

There are five key points that must be applied when staging a home. O'Donnell refers to them as the Five C's of Staging: the home needs to be clean, clutter free, have color, be creatively staged, and finally stagers have to compromise with the sellers, because, of course, many sellers continue living in their homes while they're being shown.

"People don't see that a lot of things that are in their houses are part of themselves and when you try to sell a house you want to make it as neutral as possible, not necessarily in the colors, but in the way it's presented," says Gerin Canin, a lawyer from New York who is transitioning into a home staging career.

Canin believes home stagers play a vital role in real estate.

"I think that when people sell their homes they don't necessarily see their house as a potential buyer would see their house. They become attached to things. [The seller] doesn't notice things that other people would notice. So I do think it's important to have an opinion from someone else," explains Canin.

Here are a few home staging tips from professionals:

For the Inside:
-Clear the clutter. 
-Put away all electrical cords and extra appliances. 
-Put away family photos. 
-Think open space. 

For the Outside:
-Shutters improve the look. 
-Paint/Power wash. 
-Plants, high, medium, low -- with lots of color. 
-Decks -- even small ones can be a big improvement.

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