Home Staging

The kitchen of a Marion Avenue home in Gearhart.<BR><I>ALEX PAJUNAS PHOTO</I>

For many of us, our home is the largest investment we will ever make. When it is time to sell that home, whether to go upscale, downsize or make a work-related move, we want to maximize our return on that investment. This is where the home stager comes in.

The concept of staging or redesigning homes started about 15 years ago and has grown dramatically ever since. There are many variations on the theme, but the general idea is to make a home irresistible to the buyer from the curb to its farthest interior corner. There are different techniques used: some for vacant homes, occupied homes, using owners' goods and furnishings or starting from scratch with the stager's stock. Professional stagers often have storage spaces - even warehouses - filled with goodies that are just waiting to be shown off in your home.

The cost of these services varies according to the scope of the project. Some real estate agents offer the service as a free perk for listing with them; other stagers charge by the hour. Think of it this way: The cost of a stager is always less than that first price reduction you will make when your house has been on the market too long. Some realtors are Accredited Staging Professional Realtors, having taken classes to earn certification. Two in our area are Sylvia Stuck with Re-Max in Gearhart and Pam Ackley with Coldwell Banker in Seaside. Other regional stagers are Rinda Shea with Windermere in Gearhart and Farzahn Kamali of Kamali & Company Inc. in Cannon Beach.

What might you expect when you engage a stager? The first advice they will give is: Detach! That house you live in is no longer your home; it is a property for sale. The way you live in your home is not the same as the way you market your house. The whole idea is to make the exterior and interior spaces inviting to a prospective buyer, part of which means that person must be able to visualize his or her possessions in your spaces. That calls for a thorough de-cluttering.

Down come all the family pictures, those tchotchkes from your travels, refrigerator messages, your collection of snow globe paperweights, Suzy's blue ribbons for swimming, last month's ironing, the newspapers, magazines and awards and even art and window trim that is too distinctive. Pack them away and think about how much you will enjoy rediscovering them in your new home! (Except for that pesky ironing.) If you absolutely cannot part with it or store it, flaunt it! Use colorful bins or baskets and line them up or stack them in an attractive manner. What is left need not be a blank slate - just a backdrop that someone else will see as having great possibilities for their own collections.

The next piece of advice from the stager will be: Clean, clean and then clean again! Cleaning is significantly different from decluttering, and deep cleaning is called for when you are inviting people to see - and buy - your home. Maybe you need to hire a cleaning service or maybe you are a natural neatnik who just needs to do a quick dusting when the agent calls. Are you the best judge of which one you are? Deep cleaning means more than bathrooms and kitchen; it means floorboards, moldings, cobwebby ceiling corners, under the bed, behind the stove, washer and dryer, rugs shampooed, bare floors polished, windows washed - you know the drill. Pretend that you have a crabby mother-in-law who is coming for what you know will be a white-glove inspection. Remember that all "lookers" will automatically open closet and cupboard doors to check size, depth, shelving, etc., so keep those areas shipshape. That's what you can do; now what will the stager do?

After taking a look at your home, starting at the curb, your stager will make suggestions, possibly even compiling a checklist to work from. Trim the bushes, weed and mulch the flower gardens, sweep the porches, decks and walkways. Move the garbage and recycling receptacles out of sight. Check gutters for roof moss and dry rot. Moving inside, one of the first things that will be considered in your newly clutter-free environment is paint. There is no quicker, cheaper, better way to freshen a room. If you use lots of color already, be sure that there aren't chips and nicks on those painted surfaces. Patch picture holes. Paint or stain your front door if it needs it.

Now the canvas is ready to be decorated. Using your furnishings or the stager's, this is where the artistry comes in. Editing and rearranging furniture in the main living areas will create openness and good traffic flow. Lighting is important to focus on certain areas and downplay others. Soft furnishings make the difference between a lifeless property and a warm and inviting home. Your stager will provide slipcovers, pillows, beautiful bedding, greenery and other accessories to enhance the look of livability. Now, put a stick of cinnamon in some water and simmer it on your stove for that irrestistably homey aroma and put classical music on the stereo. Then stand back and look at what a lovely home you have to offer. By the time your stager is finished, you won't want to move!

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