Setting the Stage text by laurie lamountain photos by elyssa cohen
o homeowner who has made the decision to list their home wants to hear that it doesn’t show well. After all, your home is a reflection of you and if it doesn’t look right, well, what does that say about you? In all honesty, it may reveal that you’re incredibly busy or that you have kids and/or pets or that you’ve lived in your house for a very long time, which pretty much covers everyone. In 1972, a woman named Barb Schwarz took all of these considerations into account when she entered the world of residential real estate and quickly discovered the challenges realtors face when working with clients to prepare their home for sale. She realized she had two very important tools in her belt to work with; the first one being that the career she left behind was interior design and the
“A well-staged home should make potential buyers surprised by what they can afford. Anything going on the market in our area for $200,000 or over would be worth staging.”
second one being that she had a background in theater and set design. The combination led her to the brilliant idea of “staging the home for sale,” a phrase she coined and for which she holds a registered trademark on the word “Stage” in the U.S. and Canada as it pertains to preparing a house for sale. Barb reasoned that asking homeowners to imagine their home as a stage to be set for a performance would be met with much less resistance than would telling them their house was filled with too many tchotchkes and smelled of cat litter boxes. And she was right. Fast forward almost fifty years and home staging has grown into an international industry in which professional stagers provide an essential link between homeowners and realtors. According to a 2018 home staging statistics survey conducted by Home Staging Resource, over 97% of buyer’s agents responded that staging has at least some effect on the buyer’s view of the home and over half (58%) of seller’s agents believed staging increased the value of the home. Furthermore, the percentage of home sellers who are paying to have their home staged before listing it is growing, with the reason being that statistics show that staged houses sell faster and for more money. Statistics aside, we thought you might want to hear from a Maine home stager/ designer what the pluses and minuses are when it comes to staging or redesigning your
home, particularly if you are still living in a house you’re selling, and especially if you have young kids, pets and too much “stuff.” Helen Weston Archer took on her first big design project at seventeen, when she helped her parents design and decorate their new house, and it’s been her passion ever since. She has successfully taken on projects big and small—from finding a way to put a full kitchen in a Paris apartment wardrobe, to restoring an early Victorian row house to its original glory, to designing, building, decorating and then staging the 5000 sq. ft. lakefront home on the cover of this issue (it sold in two days.) As owner of Take Two Design, LLC, Helen is sensitive to the fact that renovating, redesigning or putting a house up for sale can be very stressful. Ideally, the home stager is there to support the homeowner and make the agent’s job easier by helping the homeowner do what needs to be done and understand why it needs to be done. The idea behind this exchange is that the more you know about staging and what to expect ahead of time, the smoother the process will be for everyone involved. How would you define home staging in a nutshell? Home staging is the nexus between good interior design and advertising. You are putting a home on the market for sale and, like any other product, you need to differentiate from the competition by identifying potential buyers, making sure that the home is going to appeal to them, and packaging it so that it is instantly appealing to the right people. Is there a common approach that you use when you first view and evaluate a house for staging? Yes, very much so. I look at what is unique about the home and what its strengths and weaknesses are. Again, going back to advertising, we want to differentiate from competing homes on the market. Strengths might be high ceilings or a beautiful kitchen; weaknesses might be smaller bathrooms or bedrooms. And we play up the strengths and we play down the weaknesses, but the most important thing of all is making a home photogenic. Every buyer now is going to look at photographs, usually before they even contact an agent, and most of it will be online, so ensuring that a home is eminently photogenic is absolutely critical to making it salable. That involves color, lighting, decluttering and lots of other factors that go into home staging. What happens if your style and the home-
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