Plan for Selling a Home

Image by JAGwired

SO YOU HAVE a house for sale. When potential buyers walk in the door, can they picture themselves coming home? Or are they ready to do an about-face?

This decision could take place in as little as 15 seconds.

The difference can be as subtle as a scent, as obvious as a pile of old mail sitting on a table. You might think your home says “warm and hospitable.” But you live there, and maybe you don’t even realize what’s turning buyers off.

Whether your house is full of furnishings or completely empty, the art of staging can help it stand out among all those other houses on the market.

Leslye Cushing is a certified interior redesigner whose local business, Creative Room Makeovers (creativeroommakeovers .com), aims to do just that.

“You have to consider what the house looks like through the buyer’s eye,” said Cushing, as she showed a vacant house she has staged in Fredericksburg’s Idlewild subdivision.

“The first thing buyers ask themselves is, ‘Can I picture myself living here?’ Then they think, ‘Could I move in Friday and go to work on Monday?'” she said.

For this house, she has combined furnishings she owns and has rented to give several rooms appealing looks.

“Empty houses don’t sell. People want an idea of how furniture would fit, or to see a dinner table set and ready for people to sit down,” she said.

Located at 1102 Pickett St., the house was built in 2005. The buyer was unexpectedly transferred shortly after the sale and listed it with Joy Jordan, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Loudoun County.

“There are so many houses for sale in there [Idlewild] that I had to do something,” said Jordan. She said the $570,900 asking price for the five-bedroom, 3-bathroom home is very negotiable. “You can’t just put the sign up anymore and expect a sale. Staging it was part of the game plan from the beginning.”

Jordan said she Googled for staging services in Fredericksburg and came upon Cushing’s Web site.

“It was just luck,” Jordan said. “And it looks so much better than it did just sitting there empty. She told me what she had in mind and I told her to go for it. I don’t know anything about that sort of thing.”

The empty house provided Cushing a clean canvas with which to work. The living room received a plush, inviting, oversized chair with a table and lamp alongside. The dining area has a table set and awaiting the arrival of guests.

The family room has sofas, a coffee table and other furnishings, but leaves open space that lets visitors imagine their own entertainment system there.

Upstairs, the master suite has a bed and just enough furniture to lend a feeling of comfort without clutter. The bathrooms have towels neatly layered over the towel bars, and a few colorful, decorative touches. The window treatments are understated but do the job.

“You want the house to have the psychological impact that it’s warm and cozy and looks like home,” said Cushing.

For the tour, candles are burning here and there throughout the house, providing a mild, pleasant scent, and the perfect antidote to a gray, autumn day.

In the same vein, a seller still occupying a home might want to have cookies just out of the oven when the house is about to be shown.

Cushing said these are some of the “mind games” that sellers can play that are in no way deceiving but can provide an edge.

Cushing explained that despite the need for generic appeal, the decor must also leave potential buyers with a “Wow Factor,” one that lets them smile at the thought of living there. “The home has to distinguish itself from other homes,” she said.

The same ideas apply to a house that is full of a family’s furniture, she said. But Cushing said someone needs to go through and tag all the items that ought to be cleared out before the house is shown.

“It needs to be depersonalized. Family photos have to go, closets have to be unstuffed,” she said. Some furniture is necessary, of course, but the last thing you want is for buyers to feel confined by an overabundance of personal belongings.

“You have to try to think of it as somebody else’s home, and you are trying to decide whether you would want to live there.”

Cushing said the process really begins with curb appeal. Before you can get buyers inside the house, you have to get them to stop. If they see a well-kept, tastefully landscaped yard, perhaps with flowers on the porch–and certainly no peeling paint–they’re going to be drawn into a closer look.

Cushing’s home staging is a natural extension of her room makeover business, in which she’ll blend existing furnishings with new ones, redecorate walls, maybe even swap furnishings from different rooms.

In her consulting mode, she’ll recommend color and lighting changes, and help homeowners go as far as their imaginations and budgets will take them. There could be a whole new house hidden within your current one, she said.

By RICHARD AMRHINE