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Staging 101: It’s Never Too Early to Start

The holidays are over. The tree is at the curb, decorations packed away for another year and all that’s left is a pile of pine needles and the faint scent of cedar boughs. This time of year can be a bit depressing. Despite the fact that the days are getting longer, the cold weather and frozen ground discourages many outdoor activities, including gardening and addressing the curb appeal of a home.

But if you are planning on selling your home this spring or summer, NOW is the time to start the staging process inside.

I recently spoke with Caryl Siems, whose company Senior Move Success provides staging and move management services for several realtors and their clients in the Baltimore area, including the Whit Harvey Group. Her advice? Start now. Start by organizing and clearing out.

Even if your plans for selling are a year or two in the future, there are many things you can do now and enjoy the results yourself instead of waiting to do everything for the potential new owners.

For instance, if your hardwood floors are tired-looking or damaged, and you know that you will need to refinish them before you sell – do it now. This can be a very disruptive process that includes moving furniture, staying out of the way of the workers, and staying out of rooms as the finish dries. Not something you want to take on along with everything else you are doing in preparation for the sale. Instead, consider doing it a year ahead of time. You can enjoy the result, and your floors will still look new a year later.

Will you need new kitchen appliances? Get them now and reap the benefits for yourself before you sell.

Caryl emphasizes the need to prioritize your staging, and then stick with the plan. “A good realtor and stager will help you prioritize your projects and maximize your return on investment.”

What is her advice for projects to tackle first? “Each home is unique, so that answer is different for every seller. However, I can say that potential buyers always want to see updated kitchen and baths,” she says. “Working with your realtor, you can decide how much money you want to spend and where you want to spend it.”

“For instance,” she says, “When updating a bathroom, decide how much you want to invest. Do you want to re-tile an existing shower, or use an insert? Shower curtain or glass door? New fixtures and paint may be all you need to achieve a fresh look.

DSCN1276“For the kitchen you may think about replacing your countertops and cabinets depending upon their condition, but if you are selling within the year I would not recommend major renovations such as taking down a wall. Maximize the existing footprint and invest in good appliances, and never underestimate the power of new paint!”

Ah, yes paint. Most people know what THEY like, but how do you know what paint colors the next owner might want? As Caryl explains, “When a potential buyer enters a house for the first time, they have a completely visceral reaction. Color, light and scent all evoke a response, and you want that to be a good one. It is best to choose a color that has the widest appeal. Neutral is…well neutral, but is it memorable?”

“I constantly keep an eye on trending colors,” says Caryl. “I look through architecture and decorating magazines, and see what Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel are using.”

“When painting bedrooms I keep it gender-neutral but different enough so that a buyer will remember that there were three bedrooms – a yellow one, pale green, and soft blue. From a marketing perspective, colors will show off a room better in pictures than white walls. And so much searching is now done online, that a buyer’s first impressions are made on a computer monitor, not when they walk through the door.”

I asked Caryl about curb appeal and planning ahead. “If you are going to be in your home for another four seasons, take a good look at your landscaping. Is it time to pull out straggly bushes and trim back overgrown hedges? By replacing and planting now, your gardens will be established by the time you sell.”