Staging can emphasize a home’s unique appeal

#589 in a series of true experiences in real estate
July 2009, Hills Newspapers

Our sellers Rita and Matthew moved out of state. They gave us the keys and their blessing to prepare their house for sale.

Inspections told us that the old floor furnace was shot so we had new central gas heat installed with outlets in each room. Oak floors everywhere except in bath and kitchen looked pretty good but had never been refinished so the floor people came next. They lightly sanded and applied 3 coats of finish making the floors clean and light, and it was fast: only a week from start to walkable.

The sellers had already updated the bathroom and included some nice lighting. And they put in a dishwasher and new water heater. They’d installed new sheetrock and meticulously stripped windows and doors intending to paint but various projects were stalled with the arrivals of their two little boys.

Matthew is a landscaper and he did a fantastic job of building fencing and green privacy on their good sized corner lot. Their small house sits toward the front and side leaving beautiful outdoor space. The family had a large table in the garden outside their kitchen and that’s where they ate and played for a lot of the year.

We hired painters to paint inside and out in soft green-yellow tones that let the little house recede into “the woods” – the oak, pear, redbud and other trees planted on both sides of the house near the sidewalks. As paint was going on the outside, the house looked more softened and friendly than before. Matthew had pruning and mulching and general cleanup of the gardens done, laid a beautiful new lawn, and as the weather got warmer, squashes and tomatoes grew and tiny grapes arrived on the arbor.

We finished small details inside the house making the locks all work right, regrouting tile in kitchen and bath, removing paint from grillwork, replacing a broken light fixture. The sellers had taken their washing machine but left the old dryer and we talked to agent friends about whether to leave the dryer or what? There was strong opinion that new washer and dryer would be the best so that’s what we did.

When the painting, repairs, and final cleaning were all done, the stager came. She used the black wrought iron drapery rods the sellers had put in all rooms to hang lightweight white drapes, some plain and some with same-color stripes. The house was looking very, very pretty.

The stager brought pots of variegated yellow and green bamboo to the front porch repeating the house paint colors and also two chairs with cushions for porch sitting. She furnished the house simply and beautifully: Modern-styled coral color upholstered sofa and blond wood chair with cushions in the living room along with an old black-finish Windsor chair. A nice old round oak dining table and oak chairs. Marble-top, metal legged table in the kitchen with red wooden Ikea chairs.

She hung framed pictures and variously styled mirrors in different areas, laid an Oriental rug under the dining room table and placed used clear glass glasses (brilliant call I thought) in the twin painted cabinets in the dining room corners. In the second bedroom she did not put but a bed but instead a 1960′s-look blond desk. And small lovely touches throughout like flowers in every room.

There are newer wide steps that go from the kitchen to the side part of the garden without a handrail. The stager thought about putting flower pots on the steps but instead used rocks about the size of soccer balls, one for each step placed in a row. So simple, quite beautiful.

The house was looking great. We opened windows during our open houses and a breeze came blowing the curtains prettily, and we had many happy visitors. The house seemed to cause people to start smiling as they came in the front door and they just didn’t stop. We had many offers to buy the house, all from people who truly loved the location, the light, the overall feeling of the house and the garden.

Matthew has been back to see the house in person but Rita has seen it only in photos. Photos aren’t the same as being there but she’s very impressed, especially by the staging. She specifically mentioned the towels in the linen closet and the cloth clothes hangers in the hall closet. The birdcage, the bed location looking out to the garden on two sides, kitchen red chairs and marble-topped table, and the round dining room table. She says “I am in awe of the power of design.”

We do agree. We are surprised every single time we see it. Our kind of staging does not speak model home. Our staging is a fresh-and-comfy-at-home look that makes us feel good. The stager combines colors, textures, old and new furnishings, and there are fresh flowers in every room. It’s the whole picture that makes just about everyone who sees it want to stay.

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