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Staging vs. Decorating. What’s the difference and why does it matter?

While it may seem as though home staging is just redecorating, it’s actually much more! There’s an entire industry dedicated to properly preparing homes to appeal to a broad range of buyers. Let’s take a look at the differences between staging and decorating.
 

The purpose of decorating is to make your home comfortable for your family and reflective of who you are, while staging is modifying your home’s décor to spur a quick sale. Here are some of the key elements of a successful staging effort:

Colors


Bold paint can make a wonderfully-creative statement and give a room a personality all its own, which is great for homeowners in their daily lives. Yet, when staging a home, neutral colors make it much easier for the potential buyers to imagine themselves in your home.
 
That doesn’t mean that you have to choose stark white paint. Many different colors can be used to give off a neutral vibe, including pale buttery yellow, light-hued sage or today’s hottest trend—greige, which is a pleasing combination of gray and beige.

Artwork

Because opinions about paintings, photography and sculptures are very subjective, it’s wise to remove any potentially-controversial artwork when staging your home. Art that depicts or alludes to religion, politics, nudity, violence or other emotionally-charged topics should be tucked away before any showings.

Photos

As a homeowner, there are few limits on what constitutes an appropriate number of personal photos, but as a seller, it’s wise to keep images of family, friends and pets to a minimum.
 
Not only do you want to help the shoppers imagine themselves as the future owners of this home, but there’s something to be said for protecting your children’s ages and identity from random strangers who stumble across your Open House.

Valuables

Speaking of strangers … although most house hunters are upstanding citizens, there’s always the potential for something to get accidentally broken or stained. Any (financially or sentimentally) valuable furniture, antiques, vases or linens should be safely packed away before the For Sale sign goes up.

Accessories

A hugely important—and free—thing professional stagers always recommend is to eliminate clutter. Start by removing virtually everything and add back a few non-personal items, like plants or vases. Fewer, but larger, accessories is a good way to go.
 
While we’re on the subject of clutter, make sure you tidy your closets and cabinets—potential homebuyers are almost always interested in the amount of available storage. When you move into your new home, you’ll have the opportunity to decorate any way you’d like.

Lighting

On a dark and dreary night, it can be cozy to snuggle in with just a few accent lights or a fire. But when trying to sell a home, light is your friend. In addition to opening blinds and cleaning windows to let natural light shine in, having a few nice tabletop lamps at varying heights can bathe the rooms with inviting light.

Floors

While it’s fun to choose artsy carpet or patterned vinyl flooring for a home you plan to stay in for awhile, it’s not the best idea if you’re hoping to sell quickly. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend a fortune updating your home’s floors if you’re planning to move. However, if the flooring needs to be replaced, choose a neutral color or a subtle pattern.
 
If you’re not going to replace the carpet or hard surface, you can camouflage less-than-perfect areas with carefully placed rugs or furniture. (When choosing rugs, make sure they’re non-slip to reduce the likelihood of a fall.)

Furniture

Some professional stagers recommend moving out some of your own furniture and renting a few appropriately-sized pieces. The goal is to have furniture that doesn’t overpower the room or look like it’s undersized.
 
Even if you don’t rent any items, it’s smart to remove heavily-worn, overly stylized, mismatched or excess furniture. If you don’t have the option of storing them with a friend or family member, renting a short-term storage space is relatively inexpensive.

Functionality

In our everyday lives, we may kick off our shoes at the back door, toss a ratty bathrobe over a bedroom chair, keep makeup on the bathroom counter or leave out our most frequently-used spices. However, when staging to sell, we need to tuck away these personal aspects of our daily functionality in exchange for a fast-moving sale.

Scents 

Some home stagers swear by fresh-baked cookies as a way to put the potential buyer in a good mood, but there are other ways to engage the senses. Air fresheners, wax melt pots or fresh flowers can provide a nice scent throughout the home.
 
Even if your family prefers bold smells like cinnamon or something super flowery, it’s smart to choose more neutral scents (like vanilla or fresh linen) to avoid triggering an allergic reaction or to distract the visitor from the home itself. On a related note, always make sure the litterbox has been freshly cleaned (or removed) and that dog beds don’t smell nasty.

Outside 

Beyond the obvious steps of tidying up outside and grooming the landscape, you can do a few other things to set the stage for a successful open house or showing. Although it’s certainly fine to fly a sports-themed flag or have a door mat with a slightly inappropriate message when family comes by, it’s best to strip away anything that might offend your visitors. A fresh clean “Welcome” mat is a great place to start!
 

There’s a happy medium between throwing open the doors without tidying your home and making yourself crazy trying to create a “perfect” scenario. Because some of these suggestions can be subjective, we’ve found that the most successful staging focuses on the foundational items that nearly everyone agrees on—like reducing clutter, using neutral colors and removing overly-personalized items. Then, if you have time, you can incorporate additional changes to increase the chances of a quick sale.
 
As you get started staging your home, remember this: You’re staging a vision, not selling your reality.
 
- By Stephanie Clark , Apr 26, 2018



 
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