Staging for Beginners

Selling your home in a buyers market comes with its own unique set of challenges. Not only are sellers competing against a market saturated by distressed properties (26 percent of all sales) selling at steep discount, they are also coming face-to-face with a unique breed of buyers.

Buyers today are well aware that home rates are at or near the most affordable in history. Though reports say inventory levels are limited, most buyers know that another home is around the corner if yours is not the best deal.

Buyers are playing hard ball. This doesn't lessen a seller's need, however, for garnering top dollar on a sale. Sellers have one tool, though, that can set them apart from the competition. This tool can also help sellers reach that top dollar goal.

It's all about staging! Staging is about showcasing your home in the best light; it means creating an ambiance that sets a mood. It makes buyers ask, "Is this the sort of lifestyle I can see myself living?"

The first step it a no-brainer. You must clean your house thoroughly from top to bottom. Deep clean every surface: walls, cabinets, floors, and windows. Rent or hire a carpet cleaner.

Make any necessary repairs and consider doing some inexpensive updates. A new front door and mat, fresh mulch, and even new countertops can go a long ways in the staging game. Larger projects, such as roof repairs, faulty plumbing, or outdated kitchen and baths, may need attention before you list. Ignoring these repairs could mean limiting your buyer pool to only project-willing buyers.

Next, decide on the ambiance you want to create. Is yours a family home with great bones for cozy spaces? Consider a fresh coat of paint in a contemporary color. Assiduously choose only a few decorative accessories, boxing away any overtly personal items such as trophies, souvenirs, and trinkets.

Can't decide where to start? Home magazines are a great place to find design inspiration. You can even pick an inspiration room to mimic as closely as possible.

If the budget allows, you may wish to hire a professional stager or opt for storing away your own belongings so that you can stage with a fresh set of rented furniture.

Once you've arranged your room, it's a great idea to step away and look at it with fresh eyes. Try to see this room anew, as if you're a potential buyer. Have friends and family, along with your real estate agent, do the same and give your suggestions. Simply rearranging furniture or removing one or two extraneous items can make all the difference.

It's about making a great first impression - and this includes your online meet and greet with potential buyers. A vast majority of buyers start their home search online. If you've been in the market to buy in the last decade, you'll understand the appeal of searching through the MLS, taking virtual tours, and perusing pages of photos.

Understanding how a camera will see your room is imperative. The camera sees rooms differently than our eye. Every out of place item will seem awkward. This awkwardness can distract your potential buyer from the real focus -- your home.

Be sure that whoever takes the photos or video of your home uses a high resolution camera and either beautiful natural light or professional lights. You can only make a first impression once!