It doesn’t matter if a house is for sale for $3 million or $300,000 – home stager Michelle Maurice says that in every price range, there are home sellers who have no clue that a smelly kitty litter box has no place in the living room, or that dirty diapers on a changing table in the kitchen are a turn-off.
“These things are common sense for most, but for others, it’s astonishing what they don’t realize,” says Maurice, who is a Bedford, Mass.-based certified home stager who says she increases the perceived value of a property by showcasing the space, allowing potential buyers to “mentally move in.”
“Decluttering and depersonalizing a home can make it more attractive, rather than being overpowered by someone else’s possessions,” say Maurice, who says that a staged home sells two to three times faster, and for six to nine percent more than an unstaged home.
With the real estate market hit hard by the recession, home sellers are reaching for all the help they can get. That’s where professional home staging experts like Maurice come in. They prepare the property for showing, with claims of enhancing curb appeal and making first impressions count.
“Potential buyers make a decision on whether they like your house or not within the first 15 seconds,” says Maurice. “You can’t just throw a for-sale sign in front of the house and get tons of bids anymore."
Although costs range according to client need and budget, Maurice earns $75 an hour, with a typical staging appointment lasting 3-4 hours.
“To be successful in this business, you need to be creative, organized, and have a thick skin and the ability to work with a lot of different people,” says Maurice. “You have to be able to handle situations without offending people, because people often can’t understand why 300 pictures of their grandchildren on the wall would be a problem.”
Q: Is this a recession resistant home business?
A: The recession has been a double-edged sword. People need to be more proactive in selling their houses, but conversely, realtors aren’t making as much money, so they’re more reluctant to hire a staging service now. I work both directly for homeowners and am also hired by realtors. I have no financial interest in the commission, so if I tell someone that the master bathroom is a hideous yellow color, it’s easier for them to accept. Realtors use staging more often in affluent towns where homes have a bigger price tag, because buyers there expect more when they walk into a house.
Q: Why is staging a house necessary?
A: Most people can’t see the faults of their own house. When trying to sell a house, the most important thing is that the house is generic. If there’s anything personal or offensive, like war memorabilia or religious icons, this is the kind of thing that gets packed away.
Q: What’s the worst house you ever staged?
A: Houses that have lot of stuff and are very dirty are difficult to deal with. One house was so jammed with things that I literally couldn’t move the bed. But I did a lot of work with the owners, cleaning up, changing fixtures, and adding accessories, and it sold in one day.
Q: Do you practice what you preach?
A: I do. If you walked into my house right now, it’s not cluttered. I’d have to touch up the paint a little, but the house is laid out the way it should be, and I’ve maximized the space.
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