Home Staging: Hire a Pro or Do It Yourself?

stage your home yourself to sellRealtors will tell you that two things are essential to selling your home: pricing and home staging.

The price of your home is dictated by the area in which you live and the amenities your home provides. Your real estate agent can help guide you on this essential part of selling your home. But you can have full control over home staging. And if you are equipped with a few core ideas, you can stage your home yourself and save on the cost of professional home staging.

And why stage your home? You will see a return on your investment. According to Staged Homes, survey results show an 872 percent return on investment when you spend the time to stage your home. The $100 to $200 you spend to declutter and stage your home to attract buyers ends up in a $1,500 to $2,000 increase in the sale price of your home.

Los Angeles real estate agent Victoria Massengale estimates that professional home staging for a three-bedroom house in L.A. would cost upward of $10,000, plus $1,000 a month. However, you can do plenty of things yourself to get your home staged and sold. "Bottom line, homes that are staged sell for more money."

Massengale tells her clients one thing: "Staging sells homes. When you walk into an empty room it's hard for people to imagine a TV over there, or a bed on an angle. It sells homes every time."

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Barb Schwarz founded Home Staging -- she coined the phrase back in the '70s -- and she recently published the book, "Staging to Sell: The Secret to Selling Homes in a Down Market." Having staged all kinds of homes and trained thousands of people in the art of home staging, Schwarz has tons of tips. You don't need to spend a lot of money, but you do need to be open to making some changes. "It's all temporary. We are trying to get you the money. Focus on that," she says. "We don't want to sell your furniture, but we want to sell your space."

Massengale suggests you work with what you've got when you're staging your home for sale. "Move things around, take down kids' pictures -- otherwise, it's hard for people to imagine their kids living there," she says. "If you've got your wedding pictures up, you need to take them down. You can do a lot with what you have, you just need to re-think it."

Schwarz has a 3-key system to home staging for do-it-yourselfers:

  • Her first rule is all about color. "First, they gotta have the right color -- inside and out. Paint the front door if it needs it, and get those paints that people are using. Inside color rules are: We want the walls and floors neutral. Also we want to have 'movable color', that's colors sellers can take with them. 'Moveable colors' are bedspreads and towels, and area rugs and artwork. It adds pop to every room. But on the outside of the house there is a 3-color limit. That's my magic staging number and it's for color, too. If the house is Cape Cod gray you can add white shutters and then a burgundy front door but stop there. That's three colors." For the interior, remember that dark colors bring the walls in, making it seem smaller, while light colors make a room larger.

  • Schwarz's second key to home staging is all about clutter. "Clutter eats equity. It's the worst thing I see in America. Most people have too much stuff, and it's not just the family photos that need to be put away, it's also having too many accessories and paintings. Less is more." Go through and edit and then edit some more -- pare down to the bare minimum. Divide your stuff into three piles: items that will make the move with you, items you can give away, or items to discard.

  • And Schwarz's final step in home staging is cleaning. She stresses, "It's gotta be Q-tip clean. This includes the smell. If we can smell it, we can't sell it. Clean inside and outside."

You want people to come into the rooms, and not just walk down the hallway and out the house -- on to the next. And staging your home correctly will help. Schwarz suggests that you stand in the hallway and see what makes you want to come into the room. Are you not highlighting a great fireplace or area? You want to pull people in, so look into your old rooms with new eyes.

Once you take things out, rearrange and fine-tune. Move the chairs around, change the location of the couch, and check around for the details. You want the rooms to clearly define space, while still allowing people to imagine the space as their own.

According to Staged Homes the average number of days a home stays on the market without staging is 196. With the added benefit of home staging, a home sells in an average of 33 days.

Did home staging help you sell your house? Got tips and advice to share? We want to hear from you! Add your comments in the box below.

Want more home staging tips and techniques? These AOL Real Estate guides can help:

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