How a Good Real Estate Photographer can Help Sell Your House!

We’ve all seen them. The crooked. The dark. The grainy. The close-up of a well-meaning Realtor’s well-manicured (or sometimes not-so-well manicured) toes in an attempt to take a close-up of the flooring. The random cat hiding out under the bed. A picture of the dining room table instead of the dining room. The occasional blur of a homeowner trying to run for cover before the picture is snapped. Yes, these are the photos that all too often get posted to the MLS.

With more and more potential buyers beginning their home search on the internet…a number that ranges anywhere from 77% to 95%, depending on which statistics you want to believe… that’s not exactly how you want your listing depicted. The key is to generate as much traffic and interest in the home as possible. The more potential buyers who find it on-line, like what they see, and want to come take a look in person, the more chances you have to sell the house!

This is where a good real estate photographer comes in! Professional photographs will capture a home at its best with quality lighting and clear, crisp images to entice potential buyers to the door. And what buyer doesn’t want to see beautiful photos of a home they might potentially want to purchase? Professional images help them visualize what it might be like to live there while fueling their imagination! And getting them to the door with buying in mind is exactly what it’s all about. A good real estate photographer can help you create a positive first impression!

While finding a good real estate photographer isn’t always easy, we want to help you streamline that process by introducing you to two photographers I’ve personally invited to join our group of Preferred Service Experts. I am extremely honored and confident to recommend them for all your real estate photography needs.

Caryn B. Davis

Based in Connecticut, Caryn has 15 years experience photographing interiors, exteriors, home decor and gardens for an array of architects, resorts, realtors, builders, landscape architects and interior designers. Additionally, Caryn’s images have appeared in numerous publications such as Cottages and Gardens, Early Homes, Good Housekeeping, Old House Interiors, on HGTV, and others.

Q. How did you get into Real Estate Photography?

A. I came to it naturally through my love and appreciation of architecture, design and home décor.

Q. Can you share with us what you like best about your job?

A. Creating beautiful images of different spaces that also help to sell a home.

Q. Why do you think professional photos are so important when listing a home for market?

A. We are visual society. Often the photographs are the first thing the potential buyer sees. If the images are dark, unpleasing or blurry, and do not present or represent the house well, it may deter the potential buyer from wanting to see the house in person.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes you think real estate agents and homeowners make when having their home professionally photographed?

A. They often go for the least expensive professional they can find instead of choosing a photographer who has a solid knowledge of lighting, photography and the proper equipment to do the job and do it well.

Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception real estate agents and homeowners have about hiring a professional real estate photographer?

A. That is doesn’t take a lot time to craft well lit, technically sound, beautifully composed images, and that because it is digital there is not a lot of processing time on the back end.

Q. What is the number one question you are consistently asked by clients and/or potential clients?

A. What do you charge?

Q. If you could give real estate agents and homeowners any advice on choosing a good real estate photographer, what would it be?

A. Look at the work. It speaks for itself. Are the images dark or are they well lit? Are they crooked or straight? Do the room proportions look correct? Are they blurry, fuzzy or pixilated or are they technically sound? Are they well composed and invite the viewer in? Do they show off the best features of the house? Can you get a real sense of the house from the photos?

Q. Are there any other words of wisdom or anecdotes you’d like to share?

A. You get what you pay for.

(Please Click on Images to Enlarge.)

Caryn B. Davis 1

Studio Lights

Caryn B. Davis 3

Deanna Dimarzio

Deanna specializes in real estate and architectural photography in the Boston area. Dedicated to providing realtors and designers around Boston, Southern MA, Cape Cod and Rhode Island area quality real estate photography personalized service, and professional photographic knowledge. Over 10 years experience.

Q. How did you get into Real Estate Photography?

A. I have always loved architecture. I love going to cities, NYC in particular, with my camera. I’m like a kid in a candy store when I see all the great buildings and facades. I call it ‘eye candy.’ I met a realtor and started shooting their listings. I then started marketing locally and my business grew from there.

Q. Can you share with us what you like best about your job?

A. I love that each home I photograph is so different. Whether it be the lighting or design of the room, it forces me to think and be creative as to what the best angle would be to get the right shot or whether or not I have to move anything.

Q. Why do you think professional photos are so important when listing a home for market?

A. It’s that first impression! Real estate has changed so dramatically over the past few years and so many buyers now start their search on-line, having a set of great photographs to showcase a seller’s home is essential in the current market. A great comparison would be food photography. Think of all the beautiful photographs of menu items you’ve seen in print and on t.v. When you look at a great photo, you want that!Sometimes without even thinking.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes you think real estate agents and homeowners make when having their home professionally photographed?

A. I frequently find that a home hasn’t been properly de-cluttered, edited, or rearranged to make the best of the space. My rule of thumb is, ‘less is more’ and I always take the time to ask if I can make a few adjustments as needed. I think it allows potential buyers to envision how they can make the space their home.

Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception real estate agents and homeowners have about hiring a professional real estate photographer?

A. That they can do the job themselves. We have wide angle lenses coupled with vision to capture a great shot. A professional can also enhance the quality of the photos, post shoot.

Q. What is the number one question you are consistently asked by clients and/or potential clients?

A. They always notice that I moved everything off the counters for the photos and always want to know if I think that was really a good idea. Yes it is, because you want potential buyers to see the space and envision themselves living there, not looking at your stuff.

Q. If you could give real estate agents and homeowners any advice on choosing a good real estate photographer, what would it be?

A. I would encourage them to look at their portfolio, check out their testimonials, and make sure they are using professional equipment.

Q. Are there any other words of wisdom or anecdotes you’d like to share?

A. I do believe a home sells faster with professional staging and photos. I’ve seen it happen many times.

(Please Click on Images to Enlarge.)

Deanna Dimarzio 1

Deanna Dimarzio 2

Deanna Dimarzio 3

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Home Staging Tips From the Pros

nj real estate blog 2

We were lucky enough to be asked to participate in the Re/Max of New Jersey Blog featuring some great home staging advice!


We have featured some excellent guest bloggers in our Home Staging Series over the past few months, and each has offered their own unique home staging advice. All of our guest bloggers have returned for one last post to provide you with their top home staging tips. Check out their answers to some of the most important home staging questions.

Q: What are some simple ways a seller can spruce up their home before staging and putting it on the market?

“Clean your house inside and out until it is spotless. Consider a professional cleaning service that offers a one-time deep cleaning, including carpets,” Cindy Bryant, Redesign Etc Home Staging

“Keep a couple of laundry baskets empty and handy. Use these to tidy the house for those showings when you have short notice. Put the loaded baskets in your car and away you go!” Barbara Pilcher, DIY Home Staging Tips

Q: What are the best recommendations in terms of paint color when staging a home?

“Paint using a neutral color, not white. It depends on the overall color of your floors and counters, but stick to neutrals in the beige and gray families,” Cindy Bryant, Redesign Etc. Home Staging

“This is not the time to get creative with your paint colors. Strong colors should be toned down. I stick with warm neutrals. Unless a home is modern, I steer clear of white walls. Painting walls a color will bring out the beauty of any architectural features such as moldings. This is a selling feature and should be highlighted,” Angela Gagauf, NJ Home Decorating and Staging

Q: Should homeowners focus on outdoor space when staging a home?

“Absolutely! Staging an area outdoors as a sitting or entertaining area is the next best thing to adding square footage to a house. Some possibilities: Make a patio from pavers or flagstone or pay to have a cement slab poured. Turn a side yard into a shade garden with plants and a bench. Make sure any porch looks like a destination spot. Set a picnic table under a tree. Add a fire pit surrounded by outdoor chairs. Place a bistro set on a small balcony. You get the idea,” Barbara Pilcher, DIY Home Staging Tips

“Absolutely! The outdoor space, called “curb appeal” is the first impression of the house. It sets the stage for what a prospective buyer will see inside the home. If the property is immaculate on the outside it sends the message that the house has been well-cared for and will be easy to maintain. Some potential buyers will decline to view the interior of the house because of it’s exterior condition. It’s a fact, a home with good curb appeal will generate more interest than a home that does not have curb appeal,” Angela Gagauf, NJ Home Decorating and Staging

Q: How can homeowners enhance square footage when staging a home?

“Create as much visual square footage as possible! Even if a potential buyer is downsizing, they’re still looking for space. No one is ever really in the market for ‘cozy.’ To achieve this, remove as much unnecessary furniture as possible, edit excess and accessories, float major furnishings 8”- 12” off the wall and de-clutter everything from built-in’s to glass cupboards, even if they aren’t being sold with the house. This creates a sense of openness throughout and leaves the buyer with the feeling that the home has plenty of space,” Lori Matzke, Home Staging Expert

“By eliminating oversized furniture, not blocking entrances, de-cluttering and putting away items not in use. I find that most sellers have too much furniture. A professional stager will determine what should stay and how to arrange the furniture to create good traffic flow and appeal,” Angela Gagauf, NJ Home Decorating and Staging

Q: How can homeowners stage a home if they are on a budget?

“Implement as many cosmetic updates as you can within your budget. Of course changing your hardware, light fixtures, flooring and counters will make a huge difference, but if you have to choose, pick the one with the greatest impact and R.O.I.,” Cindy Bryant, Redesign Etc. Home Staging

“Avoid offering a buyer’s allowance like the plague! Most buyers today are looking for ‘move-in ready’, may not want to put in the time and effort, typically over-estimate the cost and are more likely to make an even lower offer if they make an offer at all! It’s also difficult for buyers to imagine the house looking any other way than what they are currently seeing, so a seller will be ahead if they make the changes beforehand. Many home improvement and appliance stores offer zero-down financing, no interest/payments for a certain time period, etc., so the seller can take advantage and make the improvements without paying anything out-of-pocket and can pay it off at closing,” Lori Matzke, Home Staging Expert

Q: What is the most unique or important piece of advice you can offer a homeowner when staging a home?

“Stage rooms from the view point of the entry into the room! The entire purpose of staging is to draw the potential buyer into the space. By staging rooms from this perspective, buyers have a chance to immediately see the allure of the space, and once their interest is piqued, they are more apt to walk in for a closer look rather than just pass through,” Lori Matzke, Home Staging Expert

“Pretend you are a tourist in your town to decide what’s unusual about your locale. Include touches in your staging that emphasize what’s special about your state, city, small town, or neighborhood. It could be a landscape painting, a book about the area, a posted schedule of community concerts, or just the flavor of your décor, because some buyers are relocating and are attracted to what’s unique,” Barbara Pilcher, DIY Home Staging Tips

“Home sellers can’t control 28 % of the home’s interior impressions (number of rooms and floor plan). But they are in control of the remaining 72%. And considering that home equity makes up approximately 60% of a home owner’s wealth, home sellers should do whatever is in their control to preserve that equity by eliminating the need for price reductions. Frankly, their real estate agents can only do so much. An agent can’t get a good price if the seller is not committed to presenting the property in the best condition possible. The pre-market preparations that will help preserve the home’s equity include de-cluttering, cleaning, repairing, neutralizing and updating décor and last, but certainly not least, showcasing the property,” Angela Gagauf, NJ Home Decorating and Staging

“We live in a visual society, regardless of what people tell you. Many, if not all, will form an impression of what they immediately see. Corporations spend millions of dollars on marketing and packaging to make their products stand out from their competitors to successfully strike a chord with your emotions. When it comes to staging a home, it all comes down to appealing to a buyer visually and emotionally connecting. You want to have the home that buyers connect with, grabbing their attention, making an impression and then ultimately buying it. This can be created by using unique decorative items, wall art, throw pillows and colors by appealing to and knowing the market of potential buyers for your home. If you live near the water, add classy beach decor without making it a beach themed house. Don’t be afraid to bring some industrial and urban pieces into a family home to add interest. Use metal barstools or skyline cityscape wall art. You never know where potential buyers are moving from. Be creative. Your house will stand out from the competition and buyers will definitely connect!” Cindy Bryant, Redesign Etc. Home Staging

We hope that our guest bloggers have given you a little more insight into the world of home staging. Which tip was your favorite? Let us know by leaving a comment! And of course, don’t forget to check out all the awesome homes for sale in New Jersey at

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Dear Home Staging Expert -

My wife and I are finally going to be living our dream after 35 years of life in the Midwest. We are anxious, excited, and ready to head to The Sunshine State, and plan to relocate as soon as the house sells. The problem is, our realtor has asked us to replace the carpeting before the house goes on the market. I agree it is definitely old carpeting, but I don’t want to dip into our retirement funds since the move will be expensive. I think it would be better to just give the new buyer a carpeting allowance and let them pick their own. I don’t want to spend anything out-of-pocket we won’t be getting back. What do you think?


Don’t-Wanna-Spend-The-Money in Chicago

Dear Don’t-Wanna-Spend-The-Money -

I totally hear ya, and really…who wants to spend money on a home you will be leaving behind for an update you won’t get to enjoy yourself? But I’m afraid your realtor is right. Buyers can’t see a carpeting allowance. They can only see what’s there right now. And unfortunately, more than 90% of potential buyers can’t seem to visualize anything beyond that. They also tend to think of an ‘allowance’ as an opening to make an even lower offer if they make an offer at all, over-estimate the cost to replace, and tend to think of it as a hassle, in general. ‘Move-in-ready’ condition is the key to enticing a solid offer on your property.

That being said, while I totally understand your dilemma, I have to disagree with you on one major point; You will definitely be seeing a return on your investment in the form of a quicker sale and higher offer! And that is the ultimate goal, right there. While it might not feel like it now, once the carpeting is replaced and the house is staged and looking fabulous, your house will suddenly appeal to a much larger market.

My best advice would be to listen to your real estate agent. I suggest you bite the bullet, shop around and look for a deal that offers interest-free financing or something similar, and replace that carpeting upfront. If you can find a financing deal like that, and they do come around quite frequently, you can purchase the carpeting and have it installed without dipping into your retirement funds and simply pay it off the investment at closing.

Look for carpeting that is nice and neutral and goes with everything! New carpeting is a HUGE selling point and will positively influence how your house is perceived by potential buyers.

Thank you for writing in, and wishing you and your wife a world of happiness on your new adventure!

If you have a question for “ASK THE HOME STAGING EXPERT”, please contact

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Home Staging ROI: Why Home Staging is Worth the Cost

Posted by Krystina Maloney On July 9, 2014 In Tips & How To’s

In our first post in our Home Staging Series, guest blogger Lori Matzke offers her advice on why home staging is a good investment when selling your home and why it’s worth the cost to work with a professional home stager. Read what she has to say and see for yourself:

When I started professionally staging homes back in 1999, home staging was typically considered a ‘last resort’ for many people. After all other efforts had been exhausted, the price of the home had already dropped significantly or the agent was just days away from losing the listing, they’d finally cave in and give me a call. Many of my clients were unsure of what staging really was. Most of them were willing to try anything at that point and all of them were quite frantic. Home staging was a much tougher sell back then and I never understood why.

The concept of staging a house to sell creates a win-win situation for both the seller and the buyer. In turn, staging contributes toward the sale of the home. The goal for the seller is to gain as much interest in the property from as many potential buyers as possible. They also want to sell the house quickly for the best price. On the other hand, a potential buyer wants to find a house they truly love, would feel good about buying and would be proud to call home. Staging helps bridge the gap between the seller and the buyer, creating the perfect opportunity for both.

As any Realtor can attest, “a home that shows well, sells,” which is why those first few weeks on the market are absolutely crucial! New listings always generate the most activity and typically see the most showings. For that reason, I am a huge advocate of staging the home first and promoting it to the marketplace second. Once a potential buyer has seen the house, they’ve seen it! And if they don’t like what they see, they won’t be back for a second look. But when a property shows well from the start, it creates a momentum and sense of urgency among buyers, giving the seller a marketable advantage over the competition.

Selling a house is one of the largest financial transactions most homeowners will ever be involved in. Ensuring the home is properly staged to make a positive first impression is the key to grabbing and maintaining a potential buyer’s attention to garner an offer. The last thing any seller wants is for their home to linger on the market, inviting price drops and bargain hunters. Finding the right home stager and making that initial investment not only saves time and ensures a home will show its best, but will be one less hurdle for sellers to overcome between putting a house on the market and actually selling a house.

After staging hundreds of homes, I cannot think of a single house that hasn’t seen the benefits of home staging and reaped the rewards. Most received offers within days or weeks, not months. Many frequently sell for more than the asking price when a bidding war erupts! As for those clients who’ve called me in as a last resort, their number one question has been, “Why didn’t we call you sooner?” Home staging gives sellers the best advantage possible when their home is on the market. Professional staging is a small investment to make considering the potential payback. It ranks right up there with finding a good Realtor® and pricing the house right. It should always be one of the first things anyone selling a home should consider.

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Featured with a lot of other stagers on this blog…apparently, they saved the best for last! :)

By Jake Cain

It seems that home staging is all the rage in selling your home these days. Is home staging worth all the hype? The data suggests so. Here is a link to a great infographic about home staging which references a study done by Coldwell Banker which found that staged homes sell in half the time, and for 6% more money.

Home staging, when done right, will also make your listing stand out online.

About 90% of people use the internet as part of their home search, so it is critical that your house show well both in person and online. Without further ado, we sought out the opinions of home staging experts across the country to compile a list of home staging tips based on a series of different questions.

Budget Home Staging Tips

We asked professional home stagers:

“If your budget is tight, which affordable home staging tactic makes the greatest impact?”

Here are the budget home staging tips they offered:

Cathy Hobbs – Home StagerCathy Hobbs, is a nationally known interior design and home staging expert as well as the owner of Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes, a residential interior design and real estate staging firm currently working in the NYC Tri-state area and New England. She was also featured as a contestant on HGTV’s Design Star. Cathy said “If a client is on a budget, the most cost effective tool they can do at NO or little cost to themselves is to de-clutter and de-personalize. Remove all personal belongings, such as photographs and mementos and all unnecessary furniture. Essentially, purge! Edit, edit and edit again. If a client has some money—repainting can go a long way. MOST buyers do NOT want worry and work. They want a home that appears to be move in ready and a fresh coat of paint can go a long way!”

Barbara Bock – Home Staging TipsBarbara Brock of Sold With Style, who has been featured on HGTV’s Selling NY along with a laundry list of other shows and publications had this to say: “I’ve often asked myself: bottom line, what is THE most important tactic a person could do. People think of painting or or repairs first. But after listening to brokers and sellers alike, I think THE most important tactic is weather or not a resident is clean.”

She continued by saying “Therefore, my number 1. thing a seller can do is to do a DEEP CLEAN. – closets, walls, windows, floors, appliances, plumbing and cabinets. People can feel clean. You can paint a wall and make it fresh, but if the house isn’t clean, people will get squemish.

My second tactic would be paint. We have a saying “a can of paint can make a wall what it ain’t.” This is what people will inherit when they close on their purchase – existing walls, floors, plumbing and appliances. The single largest surface in a home is a wall. A wall color or lack of a wall color can change a person’s mood as they are going thru the house.”

Kate Case, the owner and a designer at Kate’s Home Staging said “Definitely, de-cluttering and cleaning your home. Both of these items do not cost any money; it will only take time.” She also mentioned that many professional home stagers will offer an initial consultation for around $200, which can be really helpful for prioritizing what needs to be done.

Home Stager – Tori TothTori Toth at Stylish Stagers has been trained by HGTV Star Matthew Finlason of “The Stagers” focusing on target staging and lifestyle merchandising to showcase spaces that aspire to buyer’s dreams. She offered this advice: “If you have a tight budget it’s still important to prepare your home for sale with home staging.

The biggest bang for your buck, de-cluttering and cleaning both of these projects take up more of your time than money, but can make a huge impact on the overall look of the room.

Curb appeal is particularly important when trying to lure in buyers, so spend a weekend doing some yard work, remember to cut the grass, weed and spend your money on mulch, a new welcome mat, flowers, new house numbers and lighting (if needed) and a can of paint for the front door. Speaking of paint it’s the cheapest and easiest way to update a space, so consider spending your money on painting your home a neutral color.

Another thing sellers can do to make a huge impact on their home without breaking the bank is to pay attention to their window treatments, less is more. Open all blinds, curtains and consider removing heavy and dark fabrics, opt for white sheers instead. Don’t forget to clean the windows inside and out to let the natural light brighten up your home.”

Cindy Bryant of Redesign Etc. Home Staging in Houston said for a budget home staging tip that “the first would be to paint using a neutral color, not white. I would recommend a greige color, a cross between beige and gray.

Today’s buyer wants an move-in ready house, the cost of painting is probably going to be your best R.O.I. Also painting paneling, cabinets, built-ins and wood trim from the old oak or dark look. People hate to paint wood, but it not only brightens a room to make it look larger, it’s also an instant update.”

She also talked about de-cluttering and doing a thorough cleaning, but also added “Replace outdated hardware or lighting. I can’t tell you what a difference a new light fixture will make for usually less than $100. It automatically updates and upgrades a room. If your budget is tight, replace only impact key rooms.” Cindy also said that paying for at least a home staging consultation was some of the best money you can invest in selling your home. A professional stager can let you know where your best ROI will be.

Spend Wisely On Home Staging

Knowing that home staging has become more main stream, many home owners are setting aside funds specifically for staging their home. With that in mind, we asked:

“Beyond “free” staging tips like de-cluttering, if a home owner has money set aside for staging – how would you spend that money for maximum return on investment?”

Darcy Kempton – HOme STagingDarcy Kempton, the principal designer at Simply Stunning Spaces in San Diego said people should consider spending money on a virtual staging consultation. “Most people in general have trouble visualizing something that isn’t there and its hard for potential buyers to look past the obvious flaws and outdated parts of the home. On top of it, most times they don’t have any clue how much it would cost them to re-design the home to their liking. Simply Stunning Spaces bridges this gap and helps homeowners (and Realtors) by giving them a digital image they can use on their MLS listing and for all of their marketing materials, that showcases the home in its absolute best light possible.” They provide some virtual staging examples in their online gallery.

Donna Dazzo of Designed to Appeal in NYC said “I always say that the bones of the apartment are very important. Paint the walls and rip up carpeting. Refinish or buff wood floors. Lay down vinyl tiles in the kitchen. Buyers like clean and fresh and move-in ready.”

Mannie Tantawy, The Staging Fashionista, said she would look to spend money on these 3 things first:

“1) Paint (painting a home a nice neutral color throughout works wonders)

2) Updating Kitchens

3) Updating Bathrooms.

Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes and it is important to update these key rooms with new appliances, granite counter tops, updating flooring, fixtures and lighting. If the seller is on a budget painting the cabinets is an easy and inexpensive way to update cabinets and then add new silver/chrome knobs. This creates an instant updated look. “

Home Staging ConceptsSandra Holmes of Home Staging Concepts in Fort Lauderdale said “Many homeowners set aside approximately $5,000.00 to prepare their properties for sale. Many times the investment is used to update things that should have been taken care of while they were living in the home and never got around to it.

Curb Appeal is very important as you want to get the potential buyers in the door.

Next, it would be to paint the interior and to have carpets/flooring professionally cleaned. I often recommend for people to update the knobs on kitchen and bathroom cabinets and to remove the plastic ones in addition to updating light fixtures. Then always to hire an Accredited Staging Professional to come in to do a consultation to discuss arrangement of furniture, what to pack up and what to keep out along with other details. It all really depends on the property.”

DIY Home Staging vs. Professional Staging

We are in the age of the so-called “DIY-er” – the person who wants to do everything themselves. With the access we have to Pinterest and YouTube, there are no shortage of good ideas and plans that we can follow for our next DIY project. While there are certainly things you can do yourself to prepare your home for selling, there is also value in hiring a professional.

I asked the experts a question that buyers may wonder the answer to:

I already know about de-cluttering and cleaning up, what is the advantage of hiring a professional home stager?

Michelle Minch, Home StagingMichelle Minch of Moving Mountains Design in L.A. has some great input about the value of home staging based on personal experience. She said “The advantages to hiring a professional home stager? I’ve staged or consulted on more than 500 homes that were about to go on the market as the owner of Moving Mountains Design. I know what makes homes sell!

Last month, a home I staged sold for $300,000 over listing price with multiple offers. That was a 1,500% return on the cost of staging! Staging is so much more than just cleaning and decluttering. During one of my consultations, I discuss furniture placement, optimal traffic flow, condition issues, paint colors, landscape recommendations, curb appeal and so much more. My job is to add perceived value to your listings. As a value added proposition, I include professional photography with all my staging projects.”

Judith Burzell of HomeScapes San Diego agreed that cleaning and de-cluttering are good first steps, but added thoughts about why a professional stager can take you to the next level. “Professional home stagers are trained to know how to showcase the home to appeal to the broadest range of potential buyers in the targeted demographic for this home, without the personal bias a homeowner may hang onto about the home, which could prevent them from having the perspective needed to get buyers attention

The cost of using a trained home stager is a drop in the bucket compared to the average first price reduction if the home doesn’t sell (typically home staging can range from $1,000 – $2,500 – far less than the first drop in price, usually no less than $10,000).”

Lorraine Alwaise of Design Milagros said “Being in San San Francisco, staging is a hot commodity. Many brokers will not list a home unless the owners agree to stage it professionally.

They understand that the return is 3 to 4 times the costs incurred.

A professional stager understands the concept that a STAGED home is set up to maximize the space; is very careful of walk flow; and creates appeal at various eye levels to distract buyers from any “flaws” of the home for sale. Also important, is the stager’s expertise is selecting a new color palette that resonates with current design trends.”

Biggest Home Staging Mistakes

What would a list of home staging tips be without a few things to avoid. I knew that professional home stagers have seen it all and wanted to know:

When you consult with home owners, what is the most common mistake you see them making as it relates to home staging?

Taryn Lund of Chicago Redesign offered a couple of things that we can learn from:

“1. Removing too much furniture and accessories from the space, so that the home feels sterile. Yes, you want to de-clutter and depersonalize, but you still want potential buyers to fall in love with the place. This means using furniture and accessories to create a vision of what it might be like to live there and of course, to showcase the home’s best features. This is definitely where a staging professional comes in handy – they can tell you what to keep, what to put in storage, and what pieces need to be rented or purchased to create a space that buyers will love.

2. Not showing bedrooms as actual bedrooms. If you are listing your place as a 3 Bedroom, then you need to SHOW 3 bedrooms – not 2 bedrooms and an office or (even worse) 2 bedrooms and an exercise room, etc. Especially if the room is small or oddly shaped it’s important to demonstrate to a potential buyer how a bed fits and the room will be utilized.”

Belinda Mendoza of Design For Energy in Austin said the biggest mistake is often “Failing to see the home as real estate and no longer theirs. You can tell because they are attached to things in the house that need to be stored or donated. Clutter holds back sales opportunities and offers.”

Brandy – Home Staging Tips Brandy Anderman of The Missing Piece Design in Austin had this to say “One of the most recurring issues that comes up when staging homes for sale is owners are unable to remove their personal items/decor. The goal of staging is to try to present each home as a neutral setting to allow anyone who walks in to feel as though they understand the intended use of each space. Then the potential new homeowners can visualize how their items could easily work in the house to make it express their personality and taste.

Some home owners have trouble removing photos or other personal items that are particular to their taste but not necessarily something an individual seeking to find a new home would also find pleasing. It can take a bit of bargaining at times, but eventually most home owners understand the difference and appeal of staging once it’s done.”

Leona – Home StagingLeona Piro of Act Two Home Staging in Rochester said one of the biggest mistakes she comes across is “Poor furniture placement. Furniture should call attention to architectural features, should never restrict access to doorways or block a good view from windows, have good traffic flow and create a balanced look in the room. Furniture must also demonstrate the intended use of a room. All of this is not so easy for the average home owner to accomplish. People arrange their furniture based on how they use the room, not on how it looks best.”

Creative Home Staging Tips

We’ve covered a lot about home staging, including budget tips, if you should stage your own home, and some mistakes to avoid. This last section is hopefully going to offer some home staging inspiration! We asked the experts:

Besides the obvious things like cleaning up, what is one creative staging idea people can do for very little money?

Aimee Miller of Designed to Move answered with “Usually most spaces do not have appropriate lighting. Lamps can add fun, color, interest and much needed source of life. Even in full daylight, the addition of a well placed lamp adds vertical design lift and light, therefore a sense of life in a dreary space or corner.”

Amy Powers – Home StagerAmy Powers of Accent Home Staging had this to say “It’s important for seller’s to see their home as a marketable product. Just like a display at a department store, it’s very important for them to wrap their head around preparing it to ‘show off’. Let’s start off with the Palindrome of a Staging Design, P A S A P (Plan, Assemble, Size it Up, Accessorize and Paint). Some practical and inexpensive ideas include planning out each space to represent it’s maximum potential. A dining area should look like a dining room, etc.

After a plan, assemble all the big pieces, i.e. table and chairs. Then size it up, make sure room has flow and the space looks as large as possible. Then accessorize with a trendy runner, centerpiece and artwork/mirror that speaks to all generations, not just one. Never place artwork in hallways or staircases as they psychologically take up personal space. This look is called transitional style, somewhere between modern and traditional.

Lastly, paint, yes, paint last. Make sure the paint compliments the flooring, lighting, cabinetry, etc. A great transitional go to color for Bedrooms and Living Rooms is SW 6002 (Essential Gray) and for smaller spaces like bathrooms and kitchen, SW 6000 (Snowfall). Lastly regarding paint, preparing the wall is the #1 key to well painted walls, doors, etc.”

Kim Tarr Home StagerKym Tarr at Prep This House said “The best thing to do that will require some sweat equity only… Would be to rearrange the existing furniture placement, ensuring that each room in the home has a useful purpose. Buyers see only the way a space is,not the way it’s going to be. If a buyer has to ask “what’s this space used for”…you’ve lost them, and they will move on to the next property on their list.”

Lori Murphy at Element One Home Staging had a great tip to update your bathroom. “As you know, bathrooms can be a big part of the buying decision; updating light fixtures can be done for as little as $30.

I also suggest that my clients frame bathroom mirrors. It instantly takes a builder grade mirror to high-end and “finished”. For an inexpensive solution (and those who are not DIY) there is a product called MirrorMate. It’s a frame that is custom made (over 65 styles to choose from) and fits right over top of the existing mirror with super strong adhesive. No need to take the mirror down, or worry about it breaking.”

Monika Carney at Phoenix Rising Home Staging said that flowers can make a big difference. “I think that bringing flowers: both potted and fresh cut ones makes always a difference in how a house presents itself. We should remember that people are sensitive to the smell so let’s pick up something nice from the home fragrance section. “

Kim Asbury – Home StagerKim Ausbury of Staged & Styled had a great solution for outdated bedding “Something that sellers can do that doesn’t cost anything is to neutralize their bedding by flipping the comforter and shams over to the solid side.

I just staged a house yesterday and the master bedroom was floral overload, i.e., floral border, floral comforter, floral shams, floral window treatments, etc. The sellers did not have the time or budget to take down the border or repaint the room. In order to get the room to appeal to men, as well as women, we simply flipped the comforter and the pillow shams over to the solid colored side, took down the floral window treatments and the room felt a lot more welcoming for both male and female.

Another thing… busy patterned bedding does not photograph well. So it is always best to have a more simple or solid bedding set.”

Joellyn Machnics of Sonoran Accents had a very simple, creative home staging tip that we liked. “Advise home sellers to buy some new, unused, matching towels for the bathrooms. These should not be used while the home is on the market. Instead, use old towels; throw them in the dryer until the next day.” Kathy Burke of Sensational Home Staging agreed. “Always use new, crisp, fluffy WHITE towels….will give all baths a feeling of being clean, new & spa-like!”

Beth Riordan of Stage to Sell in Charlottesville said that “neutralizing color is something that we encourage. A gallon of paint to change a blue and orange bedroom to a more soothing neutral color (not white) would be one suggestion. Encourage single purpose rooms. Don’t have the exercise equipment in the master bedroom.”

Lori Matzke Home Staging TipsLori Matzke of Home Staging Expert has a wealth of experience in staging and continues to train other stagers around the country. She shared this advice: “Besides fresh paint, and updating the lighting fixtures and cabinetry hardware, my best advice would be to create more visual square footage through editing and arrangement.

Space sells, even if a buyer is downsizing.

They want to see a house that has plenty of room and doesn’t feel cramped. To achieve this, remove furnishings that don’t absolutely need to be there, float major seating 8”-12” off the wall, remove any unnecessary area rugs, and never layer an area rug over carpeting. Area rugs just tend to break up the space and make it feel even smaller.

Likewise, remove any wall accessories that aren’t specifically drawing attention to a feature and edit built-in’s, bookshelves, and glass cupboards, even if they aren’t being sold with the home. This will create the feeling of a home that is open, spacious, and has plenty of room and that is a HUGE selling point for most potential buyers. No one is ever really in the market for ‘cozy’. The more space you can show, the better.”

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Turning a Formal Living Room into an Approachable Space to Live In that SELLS!

This formal living room from our latest workshop in Virginia Beach felt unapproachable and somewhat ignored. After speaking with the homeowner, we did indeed find out the room was only used for holidays. But the goal of staging your home to sell is to ensure every square foot of a home is both approachable and livable. So when it came to staging, our students had one goal in mind…to make this formal living room more inviting by giving it a sense of purpose.


Formal Living Room BEFORE

Formal Living Room BEFORE

VB Formal LR

Formal Living Room AFTER

By creating a more open layout and bringing in the piano which was taking up too much space in the family room, the formality of this space is brought back to a livable level. Removing the throw pillows makes the sofa feel less dated. Tying back the curtains made the space feel much more casual while bringing in additional natural light. And adding both a floor lamp and table lamp to the room, placed diagonally from each other, ensures the entire space will be well-lit for showings!

This formal living room now has a much more livable feel and will help to fuel potential buyer’s imaginations!

Great job, Virginia Beach Workshop Ladies! You did some amazing work!

*Photos the property of Lori Matzke and Center Stage Home, Inc. and may not be republished without permission.

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