By Laura McAlister
Gone are the days when a sign in the front yard and maybe some cookies in the oven are all the prepping homeowners need to sell their house. In this market, Lisa Bond said, it takes much more.
Lisa, who lives in Hoover, is a home staging consultant and redesigner and owner of The Stagehand Home Staging and Redesign Services. She works with Realtors and homeowners in the Over the Mountain area to get homes in the best shape possible for sale.
Whether houses are large or small, lived in or vacant, Lisa stages them all. The Stagehand service is fit for all budgets, too. Lisa said a project can be as big as bringing in painters and contractors as well as furniture or as small as pulling weeds and rearranging furniture.
In the current market, she said, staging is about redesigning the home with the buyer – not the owner – in mind.
“Our job is to tell a story,” Lisa said. “When they walk in, we want them to see that lifestyle. You can’t change the location of a home or the year it was built, but there is a buyer for every house. You just have to target that buyer. Is that buyer a family or empty nester, or maybe it’s a young professional.”
Whatever the case, Lisa and her staff are trained in making homes marketable. She is a credentialed member of the Real Estate Staging Association and the American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners.
She’s also a graduate of the Haverhill Institute of Staging and Design and has passed the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice exam for real estate home appraisal.
While many clients think they can wait to make needed changes to their home after it’s on the market, Lisa said that just isn’t the case if owners are really looking to sell.
Lisa can’t guarantee a home will sell in a certain amount of time, but she said in the three years she’s been in business, her homes typically sell anywhere from three days to three months after the staging and redesigning take place.
“We’ve had some really good success stories,” she said. “We did have a really large home in Mountain Brook that was vacant. It had been on the market for two years.
“We came in and staged it. It was owned by an investment company in Atlanta, and they did everything we asked as far as updating. We went in and replaced light fixtures, redid some stonework, got some new planters out front.
“They had a contract two months later.”
Lisa said her company can’t do it alone. She has to have homeowners willing to make the necessary changes, as well as a good Realtor and aggressive marketing strategy.
With the home selling season getting into full swing, Lisa offers the following tips to get your home market-ready.
– The first impression could be the last, so make sure the house’s exterior and yard are in good condition, Lisa said.
This doesn’t have to be expensive, she said. If there are weeds in the yard, pull them out. If paint is peeling, fix it.
“This is just like a mini-facelift,” she said. “It’s what we call sweat equity. The first thing we look at from a buyer’s perspective is curb appeal. I can say from my own experience when I first got married and was looking at houses, I remember pulling up to two and just saying ‘eww.’ It was because of the outside.”
– Inside, de-cluttering and cleaning house are key. (See our story on Amanda LeBlanc and her new series “The Amandas” for tips on de-cluttering your home.)
– Make sure the furniture in your home is laid out appropriately.
Lisa said you don’t want furniture to block the flow or cover any appealing aspects of the house, like a mantle or window with a nice view.
Make sure all the spaces in the home are used as they were intended, she added. “If you have a dining room, use it as a dining room, not as an office,” she said.
“Furniture layout really needs to be appropriate for the room,” she said. “You don’t want to make it look smaller. Sometimes we have to sit down with a computer program we have and do the layout plan. It just depends on what you need to highlight.”
– Keep decor fairly neutral. Lisa has access to “thousands” of pieces of furniture and artwork. She said when she’s furnishing a vacant house, she tries not to go to any extremes and of course keeps the potential buyer in mind.
“We don’t go too transitional, too contemporary or too traditional,” she said. “We do want to target the buyer and play up the living spaces with them in mind, but we also want it to work generically.”
– Depersonalize the home. Potential buyers want to see themselves there, not the former owners.
“Think of it like a model home,” she said. “You don’t see anything really personalized. You don’t want buyers to psychologically see other people there. Then they start thinking, why are they leaving? Are they getting divorced? It’s that first impression again.”
Lisa suggests removing family photos as well as religious symbols or other personal items.
She also cautions sellers to keep their jewelry and prescription medications in safe places.
“People are very trusting when they sell their homes, but there have been cases where prescription medications or jewelry have been stolen,” she said. “Remove them. Put them somewhere safe. Remember, people are going to come in and snoop.”
For more information about home staging and Lisa’s services, visit www.thestagehand.info or call 1-888 STGE NOW.