Selling a House

Home staging is a major aspect to preparing to sell

By Sonia Kuczaj for Calgary Magazine

When realtor Judy Bonnell sees a home in need of a facelift, she knows who to call.

“It’s a very touchy issue in that you don’t want to offend anybody. It’s hard to tell somebody that their house needs a good clean or to get the junk off the front lawn,” Bonnell says.

That’s when she tells her clients about Karyn Elliott and a little remedy called home staging.

“I explain to somebody that they shouldn’t take it personally, and that it is Karyn’s job to do stuff to their house to make it sell faster and for top dollar,” she says.

Bonnell first heard abut Elliott’s home staging division, CRAZY HOUSE, with Albertine Design when she picked up a copy of President’s Choice Magazine. Flipping through it, she spotted an article about home staging – the art of professionally preparing your home for sale, or “setting the stage” by strategically preparing the home to show at its greatest potential.

In the business of selling homes, Bonnell was quick to give Elliott a call. That initial conversation took place two years ago, and ever since then Bonnell has been consistently using Elliott’s services.

Bonnell remembers Elliott’s help on a particular house that walls painted sterile white and was childproofed to the hilt.

“It had nothing on the walls, nothing on the tables, nothing anywhere,” Bonnell says.

To make the house feel warm, comfortable and inviting for the buyer, Elliott came in with new pieces of furniture, put up art work, repainted some rooms and veranda, organized the cupboards, and even put up a new mailbox.

The house sold within 24 hours.

Not all of Elliott’s jobs are so big – sometimes it involves something as simple as rearranging the furniture – but it all comes down to one goal: helping the home owners sell their homes faster for top dollar.

“I’m a support service for realtors,” says the enterprising Elliott.

Elliott, an interior designer, says she got serious about home staging while she was decorating rental units that had been transformed into condos at one of the Outrigger Hotels in Honolulu. She was telling a colleague about this great idea she had, when her colleague said she had read in a Honolulu newspaper about someone doing a similar thing out in California.

That’s when Elliott hit the public library to do some intense research. After searching through several California phone books, she finally found the listing of a realtor involved with home staging. She hasn’t looked back since.

Elliott says home staging isn’t about major remodelling or redecorating – just simple packaging techniques.

“I find Calgary buyers don’t want any work. They want to make sure that everything is done for them, that it’s in perfect condition, perfect repair. It’s clean and neutral. Whatever it takes to get the house to that condition, we prepare it to sell,” Elliott says.

When it comes to staging a home, Elliott makes these suggestions:

Un-clutter. Clutter makes rooms feel smaller and look smaller, so unclutter. Organizing shows buyers that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Clean and repair. If the home is clean, clutter-free and in good repair, the buyer will feel that the home has been taken care of.

Neutralize. Most people are not particularly good at visualizing different furnishings or colors, so they tend to think that what they buy is what they get.

Make it dynamic. Never leave it up to the buyer to do visual work. Create 25-35 powerful, indelible first impressions to enable the house to sell quickly and profitably. Each room, nook and cranny provides the opportunity to make dozens of “first impressions.”

Whether it is helping a client rearrange a home for better living or to sell as home faster, coming into a stranger’s home and giving advice on home improvement is always a delicate matter. Indisputable, Elliott says one of her biggest challenges is helping people emotionally
detach from their homes.

“They can take it personally. But we are not trying to sell their things, we are trying to sell their home”, Elliott says.

Considering that selling one’s home is an emotional experience, Elliott says that by helping clients sells their home faster she can help reduce some of the stress and inconvenience of keeping a home in impeccable order every time there is a showing.

When asked about some major blunders that can kill the sale of a home, without having to think twice, Elliott’s response is: pink walls. She is dead serious when she says that “they literally assault you” and that “people can’t visualize past pink walls.”

Poor choice in wall color often deters the sale because buyers don’t want to paint and tend to overestimate the amount of money it will
cost. Since buyers already have enough on their plate without having to paint the whole house, what the seller should offer the client is
a beautifully maintained home, Elliott says.

Other decorating turn-offs that can discourage buyers are art work that is hung improperly and furniture that’s set up to cause bad traffic flow in the house, like putting a couch in front of adoorway. When a buyer walks into a room, they may only be in it for about 30 to 90 seconds: therefore, sellers must remember there is a first impression buyers get when they walk through the door and it is not something that can be recreated.

In essence, home staging is about the buyer falling in love with your home at first sight. Whether it is selling a 700-square-foot condo or a $1.5-million dollar home, Bonnell says home staging is a service she now recommends to all of her clients. Thankfully, most clients
like the idea because it means that don’t have to do it themselves, she says.

As for her colleagues, she says many realtors are still sceptical about the benefits of home staging, but she has no qualms about paying for Elliott’s services because she has seen just how pleased clients are with the end result.

“I actually had clients tell me that they are going to get her back in, after they have moved to the new place, to do some stuff because they have seen the difference.” Bonnell says.

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