Do Your Favorite Things Belong Here? Making a Connection with the Homebuyer


So you’re in the market for a new home and you flip through photos of a listing. Can you picture what your own things will look like in it? If so, the staging of that house likely played a big role.

It’s not what you have, but what you don’t have that makes all the difference. At least when you are staging your house as it goes on the market. Your home can boast the finest touches of high-end decor, but if the rooms don’t photograph well, chances are it may take longer to sell.

Dinna Eckstein owner of Audrey Kate Design and Staging in Purcellville, Va., says 75 percent of homes she staged within the last year had ratified contracts within three weeks.

It makes all the difference in the world, she says. “Staging has nothing to do with design. It’s all about how a room presents to prospective homebuyers. Will they feel connected to it? Can they picture their own things in it?”

Something as simple as an entryway can appear more spacious when the area is streamlined. As an example the foyer of a Haymarket, Va., property boasted a lovely console with a tasteful display of greenery and a tidy collection of household items. However, when photographed for real estate promotion, the viewer’s eye needs to be directed to the space the home offers, rather than the items in it, Eckstein says. Therefore, to stage this area, most things were removed, including family photos and a baby gate, opening up the space for others to envision the home as their own.

When Eckstein walks through a house to begin staging, she is looking through the lens of a camera – often literally, with a camera in hand – to see how a room can show it’s full potential. In this case, the owners had an already beautiful home, but it still needed some adjustments.

The homeowners spent many hours packing up much of their extra belongings and rearranging furniture to get their home ready for sale. Eckstein worked with them as part of a consultation to “declutter” some areas like the office area and playroom, repositioned some furniture and area rugs and a few wall decorations, all to give the appearance of more space and to direct the eyes of the viewer up and around the rooms. She then provided them with a detailed “to-do” list that they could finish themselves, like taking personal photos off the walls and repainting a few areas.

Their realtor, Matthew Wahlstrom, of the E4 Realty Group of Pearson Smith Realty in Sterling, Va., will never put a house on the market without staging it. “Sellers tend to overlook how important that is. People are not as visual as we like to believe they are.”

Even those with good taste and an eye for decoration still need to pare down their rooms and almost start with a blank canvas, he says, That sort of “hotel minimalist look adds to the level of beauty and openness to a house.” A home that shows clutter would probably be more of a turnoff than a benefit, he says. “If nothing else even if your just going in and having an initial consultation just to get the information I think it’s critical. You can’t make a second first impression.”

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