Should you stage your house?

By Kerry Johnson | Arnal Photography

You’ve made the big decision: you’re selling your house! Maybe it’s gotten too small for your family, or maybe it’s just too big for you now. Your next steps are important ones. Find the right agent, set a timeline, discuss a price. But there’s one choice you may have brushed aside: should you stage your house? 

You may have spent years putting together your home, picking just the right furniture, highlighting rooms with art you love. In fact, all your friends say you have great taste! But according to Andrea McMullen, chief designer and owner of ADM Design and Decor, there’s one big problem. Maybe your taste, as good as it is, is the opposite of the potential buyer strolling through your home. Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different. And that difference might be enough to lose the sale…and big bucks.

Of course, by the time most of us are ready to sell, it’s not likely we’ve got a beautifully put-together home ready to hit the market. The furniture is probably looking well-loved. The carpet may have seen too many kids and pets. The paint may be chipped and cracked.  And unless you spend a lot of time poring over decorating magazines, you, like most sellers, will have no idea what it takes to really impress buyers in the market today, and get those record-breaking bids. That’s when you need to call in the experts. 

McMullen’s firm specializes in the renovation and design of residential, condo and commercial properties, but there’s a special place in her heart for the art of staging. That’s why her team includes professional stagers, and she’s a certified staging professional. 

You can probably guess her basics: make repairs so there are no eyesores, get rid of personal items, pull out furniture that’s worn or too big. Painting is the most cost-effective improvement you can make, she says, giving you the most bang for your buck. It makes everything look bright, clean, fresh and up to date. Clean up outside too. It’s all about curb appeal, catching a potential buyer’s eye and making a great first impression. 

In fact, all of staging is about impressions, and there are theories about the best way to do the job. “You need to entice a client in about 45 seconds per room, and they usually scan from right to left.” 

ADM Design will do more than just the usual staging, though. They’ll come in and do a full staging renovation if the client wants it. They take down the builder-grade mirrors that came with the house and replace them with something high end. And don’t get McMullen started on those cheap, rounded lights on the ceiling of most bedrooms, the ones she calls “boob lights”. They get replaced with eye-catching modern lighting that elevates every room. Accent walls and new hardwood floors will make rooms feel new and fresh. If you want to go further, they can take your tired, dated house, and put in a magazine-quality kitchen with gorgeous appliances, and a spa-like master bathroom with the soaker tub to die for… everything a new buyer wants. And McMullen travels to international decorating shows to acquire the hottest decor items, and even original artwork that makes just the right statement. 

ADM also has their own teams of experienced contractors ready to work with the designers and homeowners to produce a property that’s exactly what buyers are looking for, thanks to a careful look at the demographics of buyers for that area. 

So why would a seller put themselves through the agony of a major renovation? So the new buyer doesn’t have to…and they’ll pay big bucks for that convenience. Meaning you profit by putting up with the mess. These days, most buyers don’t want a fixer-upper, they want to be able to stroll in with nothing but a toothbrush, and be ready to hold a house-warming party.  And McMullen says the evidence has been more than clear to her: money put into staging pays off if you spend it in the right places. A broader appeal means more positive views, more potential buyers, more bids and, in the end, a higher price. In fact, ADM often gets called in by real estate agents for a fast, efficient staging by her team, making a home photo-ready for public listing. 

Andrea McMullen says their job at ADM is clear: they release the seller from the stress of decision-making, give the potential buyer exactly what they’ve been dreaming about, and leave the homeowner reaping the rewards with more money in their pockets and some great ideas on how to decorate their new place!