Book Review
Title: "Home Staging that Works: Sell Your Home in Less Time for More Money"
Author: Starr Osborne
Publisher: AMACOM, 2010; 224 pages; $18.95

In her Introduction to "Home Staging that Works: Sell Your Home in Less Time for More Money," author Starr C. Osborne cites a study of real estate brokers and agents. The study revealed that 91 percent of them recommend that sellers have their homes staged before showing them to prospective buyers.

Despite the fact that staging is so strongly recommended by real estate professionals, there’s something about the inherent nature of home staging that makes sellers think it’s a simple matter of clearing up a bit of clutter and maybe sloshing some fresh paint on a couple of walls.

I would challenge anyone who thinks that professional home staging is anything less than an art and a science to persist thinking so after perusing this book.

Written by Osborne, who owns a full-service Philadelphia staging company with an impressive list of real estate developments under its belt, this book reads as the masterwork of a staging artisan who has full command of the aesthetic, psychological and commercial facets of staging as an endeavor — and is ready to pass them on to the do-it-yourself stager/seller or real estate professional.

With my own background in psychology and real estate, I’ve long appreciated the role that a seller’s emotional attachment to his or her home plays in creating resistance to executing the depth of staging that would optimize the sale of their home — much of which involves, in Osborne’s words, "removing the ‘you.’ "

To kickoff "Home Staging that Works," Osborne goes beyond acknowledging this to offer solutions to overcoming this psychological hurdle, with a list of actual action steps sellers can take to begin saying goodbye to their homes.

Then, highlighting one of the unique strengths of "Home Staging that Works" vis-à-vis other staging titles, Osborne creates a primer of the various demographic groups of homebuyers, and helps sellers figure out who their target market is, and begin to understand what that market will want out of their home.

In the next chapter, on "First Impressions," Osborne smartly dissects the sequence of events via which a home is first seen by its prospective buyers — emphasizing on the Web and at the drive-by — and provides a series of brief tutorials on staging a home’s exterior to maximize the likelihood a buyer will crave a second look.

As she does throughout the rest of the book, Osborne excels at providing extremely specific lists of items for readers to use — down to the varietals of shrubs, plants and paint colors that she favors in her own staging business.

This chapter, like the rest, is also full of before-and-after pics, and includes a bullet-point list of what the different generations of buyers are looking for from their next home’s exterior. Osborne concludes the chapter with a list of things the seller — not the listing agent — absolutely must do to create the best possible first impression on buyers.

In the next chapter, "Creating Space," Osborne circles back to and focuses on what sellers need to do to "take the ‘you’ out of your home," creating the visual and energetic space for a buyer to imagine their lives in the home.

In addition to providing bullet points with action steps for "prepacking," Osborne also delves into the relationship issues that often arise during this process, with tips for managing to declutter when spouses differ in their ability to part with objects, and helping children declutter.

The following chapter, "What to Fix and How to Clean," is similarly replete with concrete action steps to tackle the tough decisions about what to fix and what not to, as well as Osborne’s useful product and tactical recommendations for repairs and cleaning.

The final chapters of Home Staging that Works are, in themselves, more than worth the price of admission. "Setting the Stage" is full of generational do’s and don’ts, before-and-after photos, and uber-organized systems like Osborne’s "Finding Each Room’s Architectural Focus" and her pyramid diagram for creating vertical balance and interest in a room.

And the final chapter, "Presenting Your Home to Buyers," contains checklists for maintaining the pristinely staged look of your home during the showing period — while living there — among other useful steps for sellers of successfully staged homes.

"Home Staging that Works" is certainly not the only book on home staging on the market right now — it’s not even the only good book on staging out right now. It is extraordinary, though, in its well-organized and holistic approach to not just the nuts and bolts of what makes a room look pretty, but to solving the common psychological obstacles to strong staging.

No matter how decor-challenged you think you are, "Home Staging that Works" offers systems, diagrams, checklists, pictures and even specific paint color numbers to move you beyond simply decluttering to truly giving your home a strategic new look to lure in the buyers you want to attract.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website,


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