All About ReDecorating

Decorating Sells-Staging A House Can Help Speed Up the Sale

By Beth Bragg
McClatchy Newspapers
Published in the Providence Journal
Home & Garden

The quick de-cluttering, de-personalizing and redecorating of a home will give it a wider appeal to house hunters.

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 bear-skin rug, eh 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 de-cluttering, depersonalizing and redecorating of a home so it appeals to a wide variety of house hunters.

Right now in Anchorage, it takes longer to sell a house than it ahs anytime in the last eight years, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics.

Through the first five months of the year, houses spent roughly 25% longer on the market than they did during the first five months of last year. In May alone, the 217 houses sold spent an average of 73 days on the market; in May of last year, the 260- house sold averaged 54 days on the market.

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 owned 200 pillows, nine air beds and seven couches.
Right now the items are scattered all across Anchorage, 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 bed spread 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.

“We don’t go in and knock down walls,” said Julia Martin, of ReFeathering, the staging company she owns with Tracey Wood. Usually stagers don’t even paint walls, although Pennington and Carpenter made an exception last week 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 eh 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. The owners of ReFeathering are military wives with extensive experience moving in and out homes. Martin and Wood have been in Anchorage the last few years and they see interest growing here in home staging.

In Anchorage, as in many other areas, it’s a buyer’s market right not. Housing prices have dropped only marginally. Thomas said, but there are plenty of house for sale and it’s taking longer to sell them. That means it’s a stager’s market, too.

“With the market time somewhat longer, what you look at as a seller is how many houses of your type are getting bought per month,” Thomas said. “If there are 10 houses that I’m competing with and two a month are selling, then if I want a reasonable chance of being the next sale, I have to be as good as the No.1 and No. 2 houses.”

Staging’s not for everybody, Ramsey said. Some people can’t afford it. Others don’t need it. “Some homes you go into and they look like a model home, they’re so beautiful,” he said.

Staging a house can cost a couple of hundred dollars for a list of recommended do-it-yourself changes, to a couple of thousand dollars for an actual home makeover.

Myrna Brown, owner of Transformed by Design, continues to work as a Realtor for Prudential Jack White Vista. Sometimes, she said, real estate agents pay for staging as part of their service. Other times, sellers spring for the service in order to get an edge on the competition.

Most staging businesses charge by the square foot or by the hour. At Home Staging Alaska, it costs $1,050 to stage a 1,600 square foot home and $1,850 to stage a 3,000 square foot home.

Carpenter loves the work because it suits her nature. “I can’t go to sleep in a hotel room without rearranging the furniture mentally,” she said. But no one is getting rich, at least not yet.

“This is our second fob,” Pennington said. “My first job is Social Security.”

The split-level house that Pennington and Carpenter staged recently was practically empty when the women showed up on the Monday morning. The seller had already left the state, leaving behind a giant entertainment center that doubled as a room divider in the master bedroom. In an adjoining sun room sat a hot tub with a drab cover that made it look like a big dark cube.

The first order of business was to get rid of the purple in the master bedroom. They moved the entertainment center against a wall, which made the room look much more spacious.
A queen-sized air bed was next fluffed up with an over sized comforter and covered with a bedspread made from a $6 pair of drapes Carpenter found at Burlington Coat Factory.

Items foraged from garage sales and Pennington’s private stash….an old hat that belonged to her grandmother, a pedestal style face mirror, a comb and brush…were arranged artfully on a built-in desk. A few books, some baskets and vases on the entertainment center, a chair nearby with a small table next to it, and the scene was set.

The women will spend 18 to 20 hours on the project….one or two hours bringing things over, then eight hours one day and six the next decorating the house. Ninety days later, or after the house sells, it will take two or three hours to remove their props.
“It’s breathtaking work, but I love it,” Carpenter said. “It’s like playing h

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment