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Home Staging: 5 Tips for Sellers

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just put my home on the market. Despite the lousy real estate environment, I've already had two offers. (I'm now anxiously waiting to see if one of the buyers signs a contract by the end of the week.) It seems that the money and effort I put into updating and staging my apartment was well worth the expense.

First, I followed some advice from my real estate broker, Justine Bray from Brown Harris Stevens. I painted my apartment a neutral color and repaired or updated all the items in my home that were either broken or tired looking. Bray even suggested I change all of my door knobs and I have to admit they look great.

Next, I hired Mona Ross Berman, an interior designer based in Philadelphia, to help me stage my apartment. I needed a fresh pair of eyes to transform my boring two-bedroom into a beautiful space. But rather than simply make my current home more attractive to a buyer, I also wanted to select some new furnishings that I could take with me to my next house. I'll admit that I spent more money than I would have if I hired a traditional home stager. But I actually feel as if I got a better bang for my buck since I now have some gorgeous lamps, pillows and curtains that I can take with me.

Here's how Berman transformed my home:

Home Staging 101
1. Declutter. The first rule in home staging is to get rid of all your clutter and personal knickknacks. If you have a large house with a basement, you could probably store some of it there. But if you live in an apartment, you had better get yourself a storage unit and squeeze as much as you can in into it. "You want people to walk in and see themselves in the space," says Berman. "It's hard to do that if there are pictures of the people who live there."

2. Know your audience. Make your home as appealing to a potential buyer as possible. In my case, I have a two-bedroom apartment so I imagine a young couple or family with a small child will move. So Berman went with a more modern look since that's what young urban types tend to like.

3. Decorate the foyer. We all know first impressions are critical. And your entryway is the initial thing a buyer will see, says Berman. So you want to make it as attractive as possible since it sets the tone for the rest of the home, says Berman. In my case, Berman transformed a hallway I used for stroller storage into a cozy foyer with a console table, two stools and a large round mirror.

4. Make the best use of your space. Unless you live in a mansion, chances are you want to make sure you make the best use of all the square footage you've got. My home, for example, has a cozy dining area that's adjacent to the kitchen. Berman made it look larger by replacing my tall dark dining room chairs with shorter white ones. She also defined the space and added some much needed style by adding a drum pendant light.

Berman took a similar approach to my bedroom and downsized the scale of my furniture to better suit the size of the room. Out went the Pottery Barn dark side tables, which were taller than my mattress, and instead we swapped in shorter white cubes.

5. Brighten things up. "Lighting is often the forgotten child of design," says Berman. "When done right, it is one of the easiest ways to transform a room and make it look more beautiful." Berman likes to layer her lighting so that there is both overhead and task lighting. In a bedroom, she enjoys using a light on the ceiling as well as bedside lamps.

In my living room she added a tall modern floor lamp to both attract the eye and give off reading light. "You wouldn't necessarily think of lighting as staging but it really changes the feel of a room," she says.

Not to be forgotten, before every open house I bought lots of fresh flowers.

Did I miss any staging techniques that worked in your home?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Staged Apartment image courtesy of Brown Harris Stevens.
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