Monday, July 11, 2005

The Fine Art of Staging

Anyone who has had experience trying to sell a house knows about the necessity of staging. This is in theory the art of displaying your house to its best advantage, devoid of personal effects which may detract from the environment you are trying to create. In other words, you try to make your house look as if nobody even lived there. I must say here that 1) this is not an easy task, and 2) we have pretty much become experts at it.

Those TV shows about selling your house follow the same basic line. They start with a house for sale, give you an overview, then bring in an expert who tells them basically that they have a snowball's chance in hell of even giving their house away until they clean up the filfth, buy some new furniture, update the decor, get rid of the clutter, slap on some paint, and bring in some curb appeal. Then the show's carpenters, decorators, contractors, painters, and landscapers get to work on preparing the house not only to sell, but to get what they call "top dollar" and "multiple offers," neither of which have made themselves known in our personal house-selling situation. The show usually ends with the grateful homeowner receiving multiple offers, all way above the asking price, and being put in the enviable position of having to decide exactly how much extra profit they want to accept.

How does one make a house look inviting yet look as if nobody lived in it? Well, it takes practice, practice, and more practice. We have had enough house showings that we could do this in our sleep. I'll bet we have shaved a good half hour off our preparation time since we started showing the house a few months ago. First, we have to put away all personal hygiene products. That means the potential buyer should see no toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, hair spray, razors, hair brushes, etc. Second, we have to pretend we have no dog. That means making sure all the doggy toys and snacks and bed are removed from sight. Third, we have to pretend we don't read. That means all newspapers, magazines, paper clutter of any kind must be stacked neatly and relatively hidden. Fourth, we have to pretend we don't do laundry. Yes, we have top-of-the-line washer and dryer, but if we're smart, we pretend we don't use them. This means hiding all the dirty clothes and towels. Fifth, we have to give the impression we are perfectly healthy. This means hiding all the prescription bottles, the Gas-X, the Tylenol, the Benadryl, and especially the laxatives, which apparently don't convey a good impression.

Now why someone interesting in buying our house would care if we were constipated, I just don't know.

There is one part of staging advice, though, where I had to compromise. You are supposed to get rid of all personal pictures. I managed to pack up most of our family photos, but I am leaving the ones on the wall in the hall upstairs. For one thing, it reminds the viewer that this house had a big part in raising a happy, functional, well-adjusted family - and maybe it will whisper something like, "....and you can too!" The second reason for leaving them is the fact that if I took them down I would have a great number of holes in the wall to deal with. I'll leave them up, thank you very much.

Ed, of course, hates the staging aspect. "Where in the heck is my......?" has been his mantra since day one. I just tell him I hid it for staging and he gives me "the look."

Where we and the TV house-selling shows part ways is this: Somehow their group of contractors, painters, decorators, carpenters and landscapers never made it to our door to offer their services. And on TV they work hard at one single, magnificent, perfect staging, have one big open house, get their multiple offers, and are through with it. We, on the other hand, are constantly staging for another showing.

And it does make me wonder, sometimes, if the potential buyers who scout out our house think, "What kind of people are living here? They don't even brush their teeth!"


Tif said...

Does that mean your guests have to stage their luggage?

bbpi said...

Have you heard about baking bread before a showing? Gives it that homey smell. Any extra loaves? Send them my way.

Shan (bbpi)