Staging Your Home Part 1
Today’s Question: How did we ever manage to sell homes back in the old days when staging wasn’t a big “thing” like it is now? Specially when so few sellers or their agents were inclined to put very much effort into painting, primping or preparing their new listings before they went on the market?
Did those hundreds of places I sold back in the 90s and early 2000s just get up and sell themselves somehow? By today’s standards they were a motley assortment of fixer-uppers and former rentals that had been rode hard and put on the market even harder. A slew of 50s and 60s ranch homes that hadn’t been updated in a bazillion years and had about as much charm as a bag of hammers. And lots of old Victorians and aging 1920s Craftsmen homes whose better days were buried somewhere deep beneath 37 layers of paint.
All of them were real pieces of work that probably could have used a little work before hitting the MLS. But back then Sellers and Agents thought differently. We subscribed to what can only be called a “staging-light” approach (as in ultra-light.) We did the basics and not a whole lot more. The goal was to spend as little time and definitely as little money as possible.
Most Sellers were ok with paring down belongings and doing some modest decluttering. They were fine with paying a housecleaner and a carpet cleaner to come in and do the basic. And every once in awhile they could be convinced to hire a handyman/painter to blot out all memory of a particularly hideous wall color that was going to bum the collective chi of every prospective buyer who came through.
Seller were less resistant to the notion of establishing “Curb Appeal” back in those days. Somehow they grokked that curious buyers would soon be caravaning by their home as soon as it went on the MLS. They intrinsically understood that if that first wave of drive-by, buyers didn’t like what they saw from the outside, then they certainly weren’t going to make the effort to get inside to see the rest.
Of course, like all Sellers both then and now, they had less natural resistance to the idea of tweaking things on the outsides of their houses than they did about rearranging things on the insides their homes. (Inside changes feel more like criticisms and judgements about their personal choices.)
Think back to those wonderful scenes in the 1999 movie American Beauty (five Academy Awards.) Annette Benning is the struggling Realtor who is scrambling around in her slip, frantically trying to get things ready before the big open house. She’s using a tooth-brush to clean the thick brown grout line between the 1970s tile. And she’s using a few cheesy-looking tiki-torches in the backyard pool area as stage props, to create a little lush “Tahitian atmosphere” at an otherwise awful middle class home totally lacking in personality. It’s classic. And that was more or less what constituted staging back in the day.
Today, all of the above seems rather quaint. Almost inconceivable at a time when prices are higher than they’ve ever been and the medium of the internet increasingly controls public perception about what our homes and hearths should look like. Staging isn’t seen as a choice anymore. It’s more of a necessity if a Seller wants to get a top dollar return on their investment.
Next week we’ll spend more time talking about the whys and wherefores of staging.