Staging is all about being broadly appealing — and tactful when it comes to homeowners’ existing decor.

Real estate agents have long known that staging a home can heighten its appeal to buyers, and ultimately translate into stronger sales. But even so, a survey earlier this year found that more than half of agents don’t actually bother to stage their listings.

Dawn Price wants to make the process less intimidating.

Price is a sales instructor for Coldwell Banker, and hosted a panel discussion Wednesday at her company’s Gen Blue Experience, a hybrid virtual-and-in-person event happening this week. During the discussion, Price argued that “first impressions are very impactful” — meaning it is essential for agents to be thoughtful about how a space communicates. And that means staging is key.

Here are the tips Price and her panelists shared Wednesday:

Give a room a purpose

The start of a successful staging, Price explained, involves decluttering and cleaning.

But once that process is complete, Price suggested using furniture to create defined spaces. For example, even if a home typically has furniture oriented around a TV, successfully staging the space might involve rearranging furniture so it fosters interaction among users.

“Create conversation areas,” she said.

Clockwise from top left, Dawn Price, John Jones and Kara Hahn at Gen Blue Wednesday. Credit: Coldwell Banker

Focus on the spaces prospective buyers will see first

John Jones, a panelist who runs a staging company, said that if agents aren’t going to stage entire homes, they should focus on the first areas that buyers engage with. For certain types of houses, that could actually be a big porch or outdoor space. In other cases, it’ll be the home’s main communal space.

“What room is best to stage?” Jones mused. “Whatever that first room is when you walk in that front door. And generally that’s the living room.”

Other effective areas to stage include master bedrooms, Jones noted.

Be tactful with homeowners

Everyone knows that the goal with staging is to be broadly appealing. To that end, Jones recommended using neutral items. For example, wall art should avoid polarizing subject matter such as politics and religion. He also recommended neutral paint colors, such as gray.

“You don’t want to offend anybody,” he said.

But what happens when a home is filled with expressive decor to which a homeowner feels very attached?

Jones said real estate professionals have to be tactful when telling someone they need to remove items during staging.

“Start off by complimenting something, even if you hate it,” Jones advised. “I tell them, ‘Although I love it, to appeal to the most people we’re going to have to tone this down a little bit.'”

Jones said this kind of approach can help cut through homeowners’ gut defensiveness.

Clockwise from top left, Dawn Price, John Jones and Kara Hahn at Gen Blue Wednesday. Credit: Coldwell Banker

Don’t give away the strategy too early

Price said during Wednesday’s session that she knows an agent who outlined her staging strategy during a listing presentation. Later, the agent called the homeowner back to get an update, only to find out the homeowner took her ideas and went to another agent. By the time the original agent found out, the home had already sold.

Staging does come up during many listing presentations, but Price’s point was that agents should be strategic about how and when to share their concepts.

“Don’t give all your staging tips prior to signing,” Price concluded.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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