• Over 81 percent of buyers find it easier to visualize a property as their future home when it is staged.
  • A good home stager will know how to communicate with your sellers tactfully and professionally.
  • Home stagers know how to create appealing, inviting and neutral spaces for potential buyers.

Contract signed, marketing plan created, photographer scheduled — now what? Hire a professional home stager, of course. According to the National Association of Realtors 2015 “Profile of Home Staging” survey, over 81 percent of buyers find it easier to visualize the property as their future home when it’s staged.

When time is of the essence, and there’s only one opportunity to make a first impression, why not maximize your listing’s chance for a fortuitous sale? Here’s a list of 10 key design applications your home stager better know.

1. Tact and customer service go hand in hand

A good home stager will know how to break it to your clients that the dead, stuffed animal heads on the walls must be removed. He or she will be able to explain why neutralizing the decor is necessary for creating an attractive palette to an audience of buyers tactfully.

Professionalism, respect and an understanding of personality types will be invaluable during the home staging process, and your stager better know how to work with people from all walks of life.

2. Curb appeal is a must

The outside appeal can make it or break it so start with an an overview of the exterior.

How does the house look from the road? What will the buyer experience once the car is parked? There needs to be a clear, well-lit, welcoming path from car to front door. Look at the plants, flower pots, landscaping, walkways, etc.

Is the roof clean, does it need to be freshened up, or does the trim need paint? An experienced home staging pro will sweep over the entire property with a fresh perspective utilizing a buyer’s eye approach.

3. The clutter must go!

Home staging 101 starts with the removal of stuff, and your home stager better be a master at this. Cabbage Patch dolls, weaponry displays and rare insect collections gotta go, period.

Closets, cabinets and shelves must be stripped of all the excess. Your stager will know exactly what can stay and what must go. Drop off a pile of boxes for your sellers, and encourage them to pack away!

4. Paint is like magic

Paint is also the easiest way to add maximum impact — fast. The use of neutral colors is best for creating a fresh, clean feel and your pro should know how to mix and match paint to complement the furniture, window treatments and artwork.

If there’s distracting wallpaper, remove it and paint. Decks, patios and front doors might need a refresher too. Paint opens up a room and makes it feel larger. Getting the color right is invaluable.

5. The kitchen is the center of the home

Your home stylist better have some cool ideas for updating and creating a warm and inviting space. If sellers can’t afford a full remodel, they can paint the door fronts and add new hardware.

New appliances always dress up a kitchen nicely. How are the countertops, backsplash and flooring? Flowers and fresh fruit are great additions here too.

6. Bathrooms should be polished

Rolled up towels, candles and scented soaps can create a spa-like ambiance. Spotless mirrors, tile and showers are a must, and just like in the kitchen, door fronts can be painted and new hardware applied where appropriate.

7. The living room is crucial

A couch, loveseat, bean bag, desk, coffee table, harp and dog bed in 100 square feet won’t create the best look, and your stager better know how to deal with it.

According to the NAR study, the living room is the most important room that needs staging, so grouping furniture into conversation areas, directing traffic flow and making the room feel larger is an art that can have a big impact when done correctly.

8. Lighting is a bright idea

Lighting is crucial for complementing home staging efforts.

Stagers better know how to use ambient, task and accent lighting. An easy way to transform a room is with the right lighting, and there are so many inexpensive, fun options available. Lamps, wall sconces, dimmers, pendant lights and new bulbs all play a key role in the composition of a room.

9. Creating an inviting home is in the details

Your home stager better know how to strategically arrange artwork and accessories, and yes, all those family photos hanging in the hallway will need to be removed.

After the furniture gets shuffled around and the walls are painted, there will be a few key pieces brought in to decorate. Neutral accessories will be placed in groupings of three, fresh pillows thrown on the sofa and a new rug might be set under the coffee table. These are some of the finishing touches in home staging.

10. There can’t be unfinished projects

If there are any unfinished projects around the property, your home stager better be advising your seller to get them done. Nothing is more distracting than walking through a beautiful home and seeing a deck that needs to be finished, bathroom mirrors that need to be hung or hardwood floors installed.

Staging a home for sale is an excellent way to start your marketing efforts. Not only will the online presence of the listing be well-received, but the homeshopper’s experience when touring the property will be impacted positively. Good luck!

Debbie Biery is the Expansion Ambassador with eXp Realty. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Email Debbie Biery.

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