Given my rather stiff stance on staging, my editors and I agreed it could be fun for me to speak with a woman who recently authored a book on the subject. Her name is Andy Capelluto; she’s a teacher and interior designer, and her book is called “The Power of Staging: A seller’s guide to home staging.”

  • Staging doesn't have to be about major renovations. Let the buyer worry about what kind of countertops they like.
  • Decluttering and cleaning needs to be done inside and outside of every house for sale.
Andy Capelluto

Andy Capelluto

Given my rather stiff stance on staging, my editors and I agreed it could be fun for me to speak with a woman who recently authored a book on the subject.

Her name is Andy Capelluto; she’s a teacher and interior designer, and her book is called The Power of Staging: A Seller’s Guide to Home Staging.

She also lives in Seattle, hails from South Africa, and runs the International School of Staging.

Here’s what went down.

Craig Rowe: Hi Andy. First, I want you to know that despite my opinions, I’m a relatively good person, my wife and dog love me, and I’m open to being educated.

So tell me why you think staging has become such a popular tactic for real estate agents?

Andy Capelluto: I once again want to blame it on the millennials. We live in this instant gratification world; everything is glossy, on television, in magazines. It’s all glossy and made to look good and fabulous. So very few people today can visualize potential.

I like to present a home looking spectacular. And that doesn’t mean bringing in truckloads of furniture to make it look that way. It’s the bricks and mortar that the new owner will be acquiring. That’s what I want to look fabulous, and that’s where we should put our energy.

I can relate to that, actually. I have these hard stances on how people artificially present themselves online and on reality shows, and I can see how that makes everyone today think that things are always perfect, and never broken.

Exactly, but there’s more to it. On a logical level, everyone is so busy today, there’s so much happening in our lives. We, as sellers, must present the idea that you just have to pack your bags and move in, then get on with your busy life.

Many agents seem to think open houses don’t work — then why take the time to stage a home? Wouldn’t it make sense to combine the two?

Absolutely it would.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

In home staging, we want everything out of the house that lets a person know who owns the house. There are some real crazies out there; didn’t just last week Inman have an article about a serial killer who was a Realtor?

When we de-personalize a home, we’re talking about social security statements, family calendars and message boards, weapons, prescription drugs, expensive jewelry. Even animal heads, hunting trophies, that sort of thing.

On the exterior, well, you’re moving away the fancy RV and the Sea-Doo, and the animal cages, picking up dog poo, the garden gnomes and the dusty wreath on the door that says “Shirley’s Cozy Nest.”

We want everything out of the house that lets a person know who owns the house. – Andy Capelluto

As I’ve said before, no one wants to move in and deal with other people’s yuck. I’m not a statistician, but it’s said a good cleaning can result in a $3,000 increase in price.

The final stage is the decorating, and that’s what I think most people confuse as home staging, the part where you ship in truckloads of furniture. But I feel that’s one part that can be left out. Buyers aren’t buying the furniture; they’re buying the home.

So, if there’s a cosmetic issue, like paint color or old carpet, why aren’t agents simply communicating to buyers that those small issues can be easily addressed after closing?

For example, ‘Boy, that’s an ugly couch, but it will be gone when they move.’

Exactly — a buyer can say, “my beautiful couch will go in its place” — and if the couch is that ugly, they make slip covers. In my book, I go into all kinds of ways to repair and recover.

On your website you state that statistics show that staging can decrease the number of days a property is on the market by up to 50 percent, and can increase the final selling price by 10 to 15 percent.

Where did you find those stats?

I’m not a statistician. I have no categorical proof on that; it’s not my area of expertise, but it does make logical sense.

It all depends on the market. In Seattle right now, you could put a house on the market that looks like hell and have a bidding war.

I beg to differ on your take [from your previous column] that not every house needs it. I think every house needs it to some extent, at least in terms of de-cluttering and cleaning.

Isn’t everyone aware that a house has been staged? You even use the word, ‘fantasy.’ Why don’t buyer agents say to clients, ‘Remember, this house has been staged, so keep that in mind before falling in love with it, it might have been a disaster before it went on the market.’

It can definitely be overdone. I think people may be feeling the pressure of having a professional home stager … We don’t want to present an over-the-top perfect scenario; it can be too much for a buyer. And I believe there aren’t a lot of really great professional stagers out there.

By the same token, I’ve seen some cases where there wasn’t enough done.

I’ve heard arguments for staging where agents recommend sellers install new countertops and revamp landscaping, which can cost thousands. Is that fair to ask of a seller?

Sellers don’t want to do that; they want money for their new home. We suggest to not do any major remodels. Let the new buyers decide if they want Corian or granite. Why put down quartz if you don’t know they want quartz?

I can’t stress enough that people want move-in ready … look at how busy we are … if they see a room that has pink walls but they have sons, that’s something else they’ll have to do. You want to make it as easy as possible.

It’s human behavior — keep it simple. I’ve bought and sold homes all over the world. You want the house as it is … but we’re just taking each house for what it is and making it look the best it can.

There may be ugly homes, but if they look good and they’re priced right, they’re going to sell.

Thank you for your time, Andy; I enjoyed it.

Capelluto told me when we were wrapping up that as a career teacher, she’s very good at helping people learn things.

I accept that I may have been misconstruing staging as an excuse for someone not being able to sell a house with a few warts. It’s simply about putting a product in its best possible light.

I still question the validity of the sales statistics as the result of staging, which I have yet to see proven.

Nevertheless, Capelluto’s classes and book appear to me as very worthwhile resources for listing agents.

Email Craig Rowe.

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