Looking Add Value to Your New Listing? Try Staging Your House!

Lori Valesko and Holly Light were getting concerned when their first attempt at flipping sat on the scorching hot real estate market in the Belmont Shores area of Long Beach, Calif., for three weeks.

Droves of people walked through the empty 1,000-square-foot bungalow, but none returned to make an offer. According to real estate agents, buyers couldn’t get past the long narrow space that greeted visitors through the front door.

“It was hard for people to visualize getting a living room and dining room in the space available after the kitchen,’’ Light said.

That’s when Valesko and Light turned to home staging, a field whose members are increasing as fast as home appreciation in the past five years. It figures to continue growing with many areas of the country shifting to a buyers’ market, creating intense competition among sellers.

The home-staging professional brought in furniture and decorated the large open space and the two bathrooms. The $1,500 cost was easy to swallow when the bungalow sold the first week.

“A woman who had seen it before came back, saw it staged and said, ‘I’ll take it,’ ’’ Light said. The buyer even decided to buy some of the furnishings from the home stager.

“Personally, I was really skeptical at the beginning,’’ said Valesko. “I didn’t want to spend the money.’’

That’s a common refrain according to Barb Swarz, who is credited with inventing home staging in 1972 when she was a Realtor® in the Seattle area. She started the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, which has about 9,000 members, mostly Realtors® or those who exclusively stage homes.

Swarz says that many people think home staging entails redesigning their interiors at a significant cost, but that’s not the case.

“It’s not about the money,’’ Swarz said. “It’s about being creative. It’s all about presentation.’’

Swarz said IAHSP members provide two basic services. For about $375, a member will tour a home as a consultant and provide a 25- to 35-page room-by-room report on how they would stage the house. Owners can then implement the plan themselves. If they want the home stager to do it, Swarz said the cost is usually about $2,000, slightly higher in areas such as New York City.

Home stagers are also becoming the bad cop to the real estate agent’s good cop. Agents, afraid of offending their clients, are often hesitant to say what they really think the seller needs to do to get their house ready to sell. It’s easier for the seller to take when it comes from the home stager. And in the end, the seller is happy to make the changes.

Swarz cites statistics from IAHSP members, who are required to report sales and time-on-market figures after their projects sell. She said staged homes are on the market seven days compared to 48 for unstaged.

Savvy sellers are even requiring real estate agents to provide a consultation from a staging professional as part of a listing agreement, a trend that will likely continue as sellers look for an edge as listings rise and the pool of buyers shrink.

In Massachusetts, sales are down 6 percent from the peak of July 2005, and listings have more than tripled according to a study by the Wall Street Journal.

David Waluka, a realtor and president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, knows first hand the advantage of a well-presented home. “I believe it’s important to have a home look neat and attractive, to look like a model house,’’ he said. “”Especially now when you’re competing against four or five homes for sale in your own neighborhood.”

Copyright © by Move, Inc.

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