One of the most popular and successful home stagers in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain area is Suze McCart. Suze has staged 100’s of properties in the area since 2013 and has a very successful track record in doing so. I thought it might be fun to ask her a few questions to see what secrets we could learn.
What Is Home Staging and how does it differ from interior decorating?
They really are opposites. Decorating is about customizing a home for a specific person whereas staging is about showcasing a homes potential so it appeals to the widest number of people. There is always a balance between making it feel like a home but without personalization and clutter.
We all know how important decluttering is. What are the most common things people forget to address in this area?
Again, it is about de-personalizing a space. It is really important to remove personal photos and religious artifacts. Little things also detract like, believe it or not, Kleenex boxes. Sometimes the key areas people overlook are bathroom vanities and kitchen counters. Remove toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and toiletries to other areas and, put away paper towel holders and knife blocks. Another area is the closets. Get rid of unused sheets, towels or clothing and, get everything up off the floors of cupboards except perhaps essential shoes in the front hall closet.
How important is lighting?
It is crucial and one of the biggest things that can impact how a home feels. It should be bright and light with modern fixtures in order to showcase and transform a space. My experience shows that about 90% of homes have some burned-out light bulbs. They should all be replaced. All bulbs in the home should be replaced with bulbs to their maximum allowed wattage. It also helps to replace builder-grade light fixtures with something more polished. These don’t have to cost a fortune and big box stores or locally, places like the Georgian Design Centre, offer inexpensive and attractive options. One tip when looking is to match metals. For example, if you have chrome taps, used a light fixture with chrome metals.
What is the single biggest thing that can make a difference when staging a resale home?
Paint. Paint can really freshen up the appearance of a home and show that it is well maintained. It’s also a good opportunity to change the colour to something neutral that will appeal to almost everyone and, I often recommend one uniform paint colour throughout a house. The choice of colours has to be done on a case by case basis as light differs in various houses but some of my favourite go-to colours are natural Cream, Edgecomb Gray and Revere Pewter. Also, don’t forget to touch up dings and scuffs on trim.
Should basements be staged?
Generally, basements are rarely staged unless it is an area that is a significant selling feature. It is important though to declutter the lower level and ensure it is well lit, fresh and clean.
How do you deal with odors?
This can be a real turn off for home buyers and it is really important that they be addressed. Some homeowners are nose blind to the scents within their own homes so it’s important we draw it to their attention. In most cases, household odors can be resolved by painting, cleaning and shampooing carpets. In some cases, an ionizer may be advisable or a commercial strength deodorizer. NEVER use plug-in air fresheners as it is a turnoff and can affect people with allergies and sensitivities.
What do you recommend for older homes that may have many small rooms or are dark such as some smaller century homes we see in the area?
The key is light. Start by removing ceiling fans or drop-down light fixtures if ceilings are low. Paint walls a light, neutral shade and stage with light coloured rugs and cushions. Use lots and lots of lights and lamps. If rooms are small, it is extra important to use furniture that is properly scaled to the rooms.
What about empty homes?
These are one of the most important types of homes to stage as they lack an emotional connection for buyers. Contrary to what many people think, rooms look smaller without furniture and, in some cases, potential buyers can’t envision the flow of the home. You want buyers to fall in love. I would recommend that the entire main floor be staged regardless of it being a bungalow or two storey home. If it is two storeys, then at very least, the master bedroom and the first bedroom you come to upstairs, if not the master, should be staged as well.
Does the outside matter?
It certainly does. Most buyers choose houses based on the photos they see and by driving by. Curb appeal creates the first impression and you want the love to start right thee. Rake leaves, tidy up gardens, clear away debris, replace the mailbox and light fixture if needed, add a welcome mat at the door and have some nice potted plants near the entry door. If the front door is scuffed, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint too.
What do you think of virtual staging?
It can be a disaster. These are edited photos that do not reflect what a buyer will see and is really just smoke and mirrors. A buyer may get excited by the photos but then lose any emotional connection when they walk into the house.
How does staging work?
Usually, it begins with a consultation with the homeowner where we discuss decluttering and what they can do to get ready. We also then agree on the level of staging that is needed and who will do it. There is an initial cost to getting the home staged which may include the cost of movers to bring in and place furniture as well as an electrician to change or hang light fixtures. Thereafter, there is a monthly rental fee for the furniture that is used. While it is not always the case, a good rule of thumb is to expect to pay about 1% of the home’s value on staging costs in an average home. It can seem expensive at first but it usually results in a faster sale at a higher price and is far less than sitting on the market or having to do price reductions. Almost every one of our clients has said afterward that it was absolutely worth it.
Thank you Suze for your insight and tips. To learn more about Suze or to sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit her website.