Thursday, July 5, 2018

How to Save Money When You Stage

You're selling your home. You decide to stage it. So far, so good.

But when you start to compare how your home looks with how you know it should look to appeal to the typical buyer, you envision dollars flying from your wallet.

It's easy to go overboard when you want your home to be all it can be. Of course you want to attract every buyer who's out there shopping for a house like yours,  priced like yours, and to convince them to offer full asking price or more.

That's how I feel when staging a home I'm selling. I want to start a bidding war!

But, as a real estate investor, I know I have to budget my staging in order to see a profit.

These are my favorite tips to keep expenses down while staging, without sacrificing that million dollar look I want.

Draft a Spending Plan

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes the practice he calls, "Begin with the end in mind." To you it may seem obvious, but to me back in the 80's, it was eye-opening.

To a homestager, the habit Covey writes about translates as, "Begin with a budget that will net you what you want at selling time."

Start your planning with what is a realistic selling price. Deduct what you need to pay the necessities -- a mortgage, your carrying costs (insurance, taxes, and utilities for typical days on the market in your area) a broker's fee, and closing costs.

How much you should spend on staging depends on quite a few factors. There's no rule of thumb because every house and every home seller is different.

Some sellers can afford to spend more to dress their home for the real estate market. Maybe you inherited your home and can justify a big budget to maximize profit, Maybe you're in a hurry to sell so you can take that good-paying job in another state. Maybe you're highly motivated to sell and have lots of equity in your home, and it's gone up in value since you bought it. Maybe you bought a distressed property and fixed it up as you lived there.

On the other hand, you may be in the tiny budget camp. You paid too much at purchase time. Or you live in an area where housing prices tanked and haven't recovered. In these cases, staging with what you have and doing a dynamite job of cleaning and decluttering will be the answer.

One thing is certain: If you spend on what matters to buyers, you will see a return of that money when you sell.

Define Priorities

Next, put on your "buyer glasses" and objectively evaluate the best and worst features of your home. Once you know what will help sell your property, and what might be stumbling blocks for a buyer, you're one step closer to knowing where to spend.

Start by studying what other homes that are your comparables are offering. Does your home have a killer garage and workshop that no one else has? Is the view spectacular? Are the closets all walk-ins? Have you just updated your kitchen? What sets you apart?

At the same time, make a list, mental or otherwise, of what you'd want to change about your home. Once you've determined what buyers will love and not love about your house it's easy to decide what to highlight and what to remedy.

Is an awkward floor plan something a problem? Minimize it by rearranging furniture. Get help  with that in my eBook, How to Arrange Furniture, A Guide to Arranging Furniture Using What You Have.

Does your backyard patio lack privacy or shade?  Create the illusion of a private outdoor seating area screened with lattice panels (like this deck by Maria Killam) or potted plants.

Does your home have windows that are small? Hang your window treatments higher and wider.

Do you hate your ugly lighting fixtures? Maybe a can of spray paint is all you need. Visit Pinterest to see what  DIY remedies catch your eye.  New lights from big box stores don't have to cost much.

Is your beat-up sofa not doing you any favors? Microfiber can be painted. How about off-the-shelf slipcovers? You might find a new sofa with a lovable price from Overstock or Big Lots.

It usually doesn't cost money to emphasize what's special about your house. Make sure the focal point and what is immediately visible to people entering each room is a plus, not a problem. Make sure your MLS listing accurately includes the home's best features. Make sure your whole house is clean,  organized and smells great!

Limit Your Sources

This one is difficult for impulse shoppers, but it's essential if you want to stay on course financially.

Most home staging begs for some new purchases. Some on-trend pieces to dress up the mantel. A stylish lamp for the bedside table. Or just new bath towels.

Decide where you can buy what you need at the best prices. Your answer will depend on the price point of your home, the local real estate market and demographics, and the style of your home.

If your home is going to be listed at $750,000, you can't expect to fix up that spare bedroom with furniture from Goodwill. But if you are staging a cottage as a second home, castoffs you find on the curb and odds and ends your grandmother left you might be perfect.

Once you narrow your list of places to spend money addressing the shortcomings of your home there's less chance of wasting cash. It's like shopping for shoes only at stores that carry the brands priced right for your budget. You won't be tempted to make unwise, impulse purchases.

Don't Overfix

It can be tempting to get rolling with staging and not know when to stop. You paint a bathroom and then decide it should have new sheet vinyl on the floor. You freshen your landscape with new mulch and now you want to buy some better shrubs. You make a headboard for the master bedroom and now want to shop for bedding and nightstands.

The question you have to ask yourself is what will buyers expect of a property in your market. Your Realtor should be able to guide you because she shows properties and talks with buyers on a daily basis. Ideally, you'll find that sweet spot between what's necessary to compete with other listings and what makes sense for your budget. You want to wow buyers without emptying your bank account!

You're off to a great start by deciding to do your own home staging. Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Fast and For Top Dollar, and you'll get all the help you need to make the right decisions and discover ways to stage on a shoestring.



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