Selling your house? Here’s what to know about staging
If you’ve heard that putting your home on the market can be overwhelming—well, that’s an understatement. Moving is considered one of the top five most stressful life events, up there with the death of a loved one, job loss or serious illness. Home ownership is also the largest financial investment for many Canadians; whether you’re looking to turn over a rental condo, or are parting with your beloved family home, the stakes are high for getting top dollar.
While some factors you can’t change, such as the strength of your local market, seasonal weather, and desirability of the neighbourhood, will play a role in the success of a real estate listing, there are some variables within your control as a seller. The first is to choose a listing agent that provides you with competent, knowledgeable representation. The second is to ensure your home looks its absolute best from the moment it hits the market.
These days, getting condos or houses for sale into market-ready shape requires the help of a stager—a design professional who specializes in making homes as aesthetically pleasing as possible to buyers. Once considered a “nice to have,” or an option for higher-end properties only, home staging is now commonplace—and in competitive markets like Toronto and Vancouver, it’s absolutely vital for getting your home sold quickly, and at top dollar.
Research proves staging pays off. According to an American study conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 83% of agents agreed that staging made it easier for buyer clients to envision themselves in the home. Further, 22% reported an increase in offer values for staged homes, while 28% reported staged homes had fewer days on market.
Katie Taylor, a decorator and stager at Katie Taylor Designs and Andrew Peck Interiors, says the use of staging has doubled over the past five years in the Toronto market, in lockstep with increasingly heated buying conditions. “You kind of have to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ in a listing sense,” she says. “First impressions are very powerful, especially in a competitive market. The majority of potential buyers will struggle to see a space’s full potential when they are distracted by a cluttered or chaotic room.”
Here’s what homeowners should keep in mind when staging their home for sale.
Get ready to paint and purge
At their first visit, your stager will make a number of recommendations. Doing a big purge—removing anything that adds clutter to the home, crowds its space, or dates its aesthetic—is typically top of the list. Sellers can expect to get in touch with their inner Marie Kondo, placing items in storage, hiding personal knick knacks, and disposing of accumulated mess.
The most important thing, says Taylor, is that the home is presented as a stylish, yet blank, slate that prospective buyers can picture themselves living in. “Creating a feeling via a bright and airy canvass will first bring the buyer through the door, but also inspire them to personalize the space to make it their own—and emotional connections are very important when making a major life purchase,” she says.
“The clutter factor is so huge when you walk in. One, it’s just not a comfortable feeling, and two, it doesn’t give you that gut feeling of ‘I want to live here, I want this to be my home.’ But it can also make the space look smaller. When there aren’t things on the floor, it looks like there’s more square footage, it opens up the space.”
Once the purge has occurred, the stager will likely recommend a fresh coat of paint, preferably in a pale, neutral colour, which also helps create the feeling of a large, open space. They will then bring in a few pieces of rented furniture and accent pieces to further polish the space, and move around the home’s layout to maximize its visual appeal.
Remove evidence of pets
Your fur baby may be a cherished part of your home, but it’s important to present it as an animal-free space, as potential buyers may not share your affinity for pets due to allergies, hygienic concerns, or even religious reasons. Professionally clean your carpets and upholstered furniture of any pet hair, scrub away lingering litter-box smells, and ensure all pet accessories are out of sight.
Taylor adds that, if possible, it’s best to keep your pet offsite for the entire time your home is being shown. “The last listing that I did, they sent the cat to grandma and grandpa’s so it wasn’t there during showings, as well as during the pre-list stuff and staging. It didn’t ruin anything we brought in rental wise, and there was no cat hair. They had the carpet professionally cleaned, and then it stayed professionally cleaned because the cat was gone,” she says.
You may need to get out, too
It’s not just Fido who needs to take a mini vacation: It’s also advisable that you find alternate accommodations during the weeks your home is shown. Not only does this keep your home in pristine, staged condition, but it also removes any timing and logistical challenges from showings—and that makes it easier for your listing agent to do their job.
Taylor says that while it’s not imperative—or possible—for clients to vacate the premises, it’s “10 times less stressful.… It definitely benefits your listing to be able to have no showing restrictions.”
She adds that, especially in competitive markets, prospective buyers can be turned off by the need to wait a day, or even an hour, before they can view the home. “A lot of people will shy away and say, ‘I don’t even want to see it anymore, because I wanted to go see it NOW.”
Who pays for all of this?
From renting a storage locker to staying in an Airbnb, sellers may be wondering who puts up the bill for all these staging-related expenses. The answer is: It depends. Most agents who offer a full service package and who do not discount their commission fees, will cover the cost of staging and design which, in some cases, can cost up to 1% of the home’s total price. However, this might vary depending on the scope of work to be done, and whether the client is willing to handle small improvements and tasks on their own.
“Based on my experience, 90% of agents would pay for the staging, and then maybe in some cases, depending on the circumstance and what the current property looks like, would maybe split that,” says Taylor.
However, there is always room to negotiate with your listing agent, and discussing just what they’ll pay for to prep and market your home is an important conversation to have during the hiring stage. Don’t be afraid to ask outright what your agent’s fee encompasses—if you’ll be expected to cover the cost of moving and storing your furniture, or hiring a painter, it’s important to know upfront. As well, be wary of an agent who seems hesitant to disclose these details, or who recommends slashing staging services in lieu of lower commissions in a busy market.
“Prepping your home to list has become more important than ever, with the housing market being as competitive as ever,” Taylor says. “Planning ahead and tackling home projects ahead of time will give you an even bigger advantage against comparable listings.”
Penelope Graham is the managing editor at Zoocasa, a full-service brokerage that offers advanced online search tools to empower Canadians with the data and expertise they need to make more successful real estate decisions. View real estate listings, including sold house prices in Toronto, at zoocasa.com or download their free iOS app.
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