When potential buyers walk into a home, they must be able to visualize how they’d make the house their home. They don’t want to be distracted by the owner’s bobblehead collection or other tchotchkes.
Home stagers help separate the seller’s emotion from their home and create a vision for buyers to sell them the idea that this is how the house could look with them in it.
“Selling a home is definitely a process, and it’s something that’s incredibly emotional, incredibly stressful, and my goal is to help make that easier,” said Jill Gaynor, CEO of Home Staging Specialists. “And it’s also a process of getting the person selling the home to let go and to visualize it as it’s not their home anymore. It is a product they are selling.”
Home stagers like Gaynor recommend changes to the house, such as new paint or getting rid of an area rug, as well as bringing in new furniture and decor. A home stager for six years, Gaynor has her own stash of decor but also works with Louisville-based Cort Furniture. It depends on what the house needs.
“It’s not about the stuff,” she said. “It’s about selling the house.”
With the internet, successful home listings include so much more than a base price, basic facts and a photo of the home’s exterior. Buyers use the internet to peek inside and eliminate potential houses before they spend the time driving to see them.
“Everybody shops via the internet. They do all of their research before they even step foot on the front porch of some property they’re interested in. Your photographs need to look like a magazine spread. First impressions are most important,” Gaynor said. “Your staging needs to come before they even put it on the market.”
Home staging has been popular in larger cities for years, and Louisville home owners are now increasingly using home stagers.
“It has truly taken off leaps and bounds,” said Judie Parks, co-owner of Louisville real estate firm Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Parks & Weisberg. “The importance of having it staged is that you are trying to take out the distinct personality of the home owner without making it look sterile.”
Parks has worked with home stager Lyn Mabry, owner of Living Spaces by Lyn, for the past three years, and about 85 percent of the homes she lists are staged. She previously offered her own tips to home owners about how to lay out their house and suggested improvements, but she said she likes having someone who can serve as the expert.
“(Home owners) tend to listen a little more than if it was just me,” Parks said.
Because selling a home is an emotional process, an outside expert can prevent a tenuous relationship from developing between the realtor and person selling the house.
“There is a dynamic there I think is going to be more helpful if it is a third-party coming in,” said Laura Grubb, a realtor with Semonin Realtors in Louisville.
About 75 percent of her listings are staged; she uses Kathi Jaggers and Lynn Medeiros, co-owner of Staging Your Next Move.
Prices vary depending on the home stager and the needs of the home.
“(The cost of staging a house is) always less than a price reduction,” she said, adding that on average, the homes she has staged have stayed on the market for 2.75 days after her work was complete.
The average time on the market in Louisville was 81 days in February, a typically slower month, and 61 days back in August, according to Realtor.com.
The first house Parks used a stager for was on the market for 120 days before she took over the listing, Parks said.
After six hours of staging work, including removing wallpaper and repainting, “we sold that house within five days,” she said. “They do sell quicker, and because of that, they do sell for more money.”
When a house stays on the market, home owners sometimes are forced to lower the price to entice a buyer, and although housing inventory is low, creating competition among buyers, homes still sit on the market or sell for lower than asking price.
“Houses that don’t have that appeal when you walk in the door — even though we have limited inventory — are not going to fly off the market as quickly,” Grubb said.
That’s not to say home staging is a magic bullet. The houses still need to be priced correctly from the get-go, but staging houses “dramatically reduce the days on market,” she said.
“A lot of people watch HGTV especially if they are contemplating a home purchase, so they expect a house to look that way,” Grubb said. “If your house doesn’t look good on the internet, it isn’t going to sell as quickly.”