Photograph courtesy Sharon Colvill
Local professional home stagers Jo Potvin of Design to Market Home Staging and Sharon Colvill of Eye 4 Design Interiors say they’re busier than ever, each working on dozens of real estate listings in the Cincinnati region. Potvin teaches a class on staging to Realtors; Colvill used to be one. Each can draw from their cavernous warehouses stocked with current, neutral-hued upholstered furniture (no overstuffed recliners or ornate Victorian sofas in sight), bedding, clean-lined hardwood or glass-topped tables, and colorful accent pieces such as lamps, pillows, artwork, or rugs. Their goods are specially selected, delivered, set up, and rented out to homeowners who aim to be homesellers.
What’s the point of staging a home for sale?
Colvill: Staging creates emotion that attracts buyers to a property. It camouflages outdated features, allowing buyers to see a home’s potential. It’s investing in your equity. Spending $2,500–$3,000 on staging can reap an additional $8,000–$10,000 at closing. Homebuilders, with their model homes, have known this forever.
Potvin: Staging a home increases traffic through the house because of improved online photos, and then shows potential buyers how they might live in that house. Stagers used to be brought in as a last-ditch effort to sell a house; now it’s seen as a positive move at the beginning of the sales process, to make the most of that, even in an already-hot real estate market.
What might you notice about my house that I don’t even think about?
Potvin: We put on the hat of prospective buyers and go room by room, envisioning which demographic the home will most appeal to: a young family? Empty nesters? If it’s in an urban setting, it’ll probably have tighter spaces; in the suburbs, the floor plan could be more open. We show people how they can live in those varied spaces, down to where to put the flat screen TV [those are in her warehouse, too] in a 19th-century “parlor.”
How much will someone pay for your services?
Potvin: For a modestly priced vacant home, it can be as low as $1,200 for the first month, which includes design, delivery, staging, furnishings, and accessories for the main living areas. There’s also the “hybrid” solution, where we tag the homeowner’s furniture that stays, and we add the rest, or we can add everything but the furniture. For $200 we do a walk-through consultation on what we would advise to get a home ready for market.
Colvill: For a home listed at $250,000, the cost could be around $2,500—usually it’s between 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the list price. For a 60–90 minute walk-and-talk-through consultation in an occupied home, it’s $175–$200.
What’s a top turn-off for potential buyers?
Potvin: Wallpaper. Homes that are not clean—stained carpet, moldy grout in the bathroom, grungy kitchen hardware and cabinets. If a house is dirty, good luck.
Colvill: Too many personal effects: your favorite color throughout the house, your family photos. And make sure your home is Q-tip clean, especially if you have pets.
Do you have a favorite staging story?
Potvin: Our client was trying to sell his empty home in Mt. Lookout after he’d built a new one. He called us, we staged it, and then the Realtor called people who’d seen it before and asked them to come back. The empty rooms had seemed so small, and before it was staged people couldn’t imagine how they’d live in it. Two of the buyers who came back got into a bidding war before one of them got it.
Colvill: We went to a home for sale by a gentleman and his sister; their parents had died, and hadn’t done much with the property for a while. [The heirs] made some positive changes—wall colors were neutralized, they’d replaced carpeting, put some granite in the kitchen, but in the two-story great room, there were these three recesses, high in the wall, that they didn’t know what to do with. We found a way to add large-framed artwork and a decorative vase to highlight the space, giving it impact. We staged several rooms. The home, in Forest Park, sold in 12 days for above the asking price.
More Staging Tips From:
→ Paint is the cheapest way to make an impact—grays, light blues, and the family of whites are all big now.
→ Granite prices have come down, and adding some for kitchen or bathroom countertops can make a big difference.
→ Visit stores to see what’s popular right now: check out pillows at Target, wall colors at Restoration Hardware, style tips from Crate & Barrel, or lighting fixtures at Lowes.
Potvin buys artwork for her staging business from local artists.
Eye 4 Design Interiors
→ Pack up half the contents in closets and kitchen cupboards, creating a functional space with lots of breathing room.
→ Dark colors will shrink a room, but brighten up neutrally painted rooms with colorful accessories. Odd numbers of accessories in varying heights are pleasing to the eye.
→ Face it: The minute you decide to sell your house, it’s a product, not your beloved home. Then I’ll be gentle, but authoritative, and say, “It’s a game, and I’ll tell you how to win if you want to play it.”
Colvill’s Eye 4 Design Interiors rents out furniture to other stagers, with the goal of being their go-to resource.