By Diana Mosher
Apartments and houses that are staged tend to get leased and sold more quickly and they also fetch top dollar. But there’s more to staging than just bringing in stylish furniture and hanging art on the walls. Successful staging is all about understanding the psychology of consumer behavior. It’s a careful mix of visual merchandising and interior design strategy. Don’t leave money on the table. Here are some tips to keep in mind that will work for any residential real estate investment.
Know Your Target Market
Staging experts develop a buyer profile to answer questions like how long do homes in the area typically spend on the market—and at what point are you most likely to get the best price? Analyze the property’s condition from top to bottom starting with the exterior. Are there any aspects that detract from its current value? Plan to fix these things before buyers see the property and raise objections.
Make Affordable Improvements
Invest in affordable, cosmetic improvements. Tap your interior designer’s network of contractors, painters, flooring experts, etc. Also, your designer can select furnishings and accessories to show the best attributes of the property and appeal to the lifestyle of the buyer or renter. Your staging expert/interior designer will also have suggestions for art that is appropriate for the space and resources for leasing these pieces as needed or “shopping” from your own furniture and artwork.
Plan the Photo Shoot
You also need to create a compelling online presence so the real estate listing stands out in an increasingly digital and very competitive marketplace. People shopping for a home online respond very well to 2D floorplans that demonstrate layout and flow. Even after your interior designer has staged the space for in-person visitors, the rooms need to be styled for the photo shoot. Best results from real estate photography for website and social media happen when you play up the selection of finishes, the textures, the colors and the spatial layout. It’s a good idea to let the photographer know in advance that there will be a stylist there, unless they are providing one or you will perform this function.
Sometimes for a photo shoot we’ll need to pull the coffee table out three or four feet. This will look absurd in person, but when you get behind the camera, the distance actually looks right. So the way the lens sees the room is very different from the way our eye sees the room. All the shots need to be thoughtfully styled and it’s not uncommon to move things around. The spacing of the furniture is important. Sometimes just because of the angle, a vase will appear to be in front of a lamp that’s in front of a piece of art. When looking through the camera lens, they will look compressed, all on top of each other. So move the vase.
Market the Property Online
Online marketing has changed the business in terms of how properties are styled. Not all furniture is photogenic. Black and chocolate leather sofas that look luxurious in person might render as a black blob in a photo. Usage of case goods in real estate photography has also changed. There are fewer dressers and chests in bedrooms. Occasional chairs and seating groupings take up about the same size as a dresser, but they photograph much better. A chair looks comfortable and inviting—you can put pillows on it.
Think Like a Buyer
People who buy real estate walk—they don’t lie down on the bed, they’re not going to sit down at that table and have a meal, they’re never going to watch tv. Think about the pathways that potential buyers and renters are going to take as they walk through the space. Is it easy for them to walk from one room to another? Is it easy for them to open closets, and to walk to the window to see the view? That’s what they will want to do.
If you inadvertently create an obstacle course where they have to navigate furniture, it will subconsciously make the space feel smaller and cramped even when it’s not. If you can make it easy for them to transition through spaces, then the apartment or house feels bigger. Perceived size is everything. It’s less about how big your space actually is; if it feels small because you chose the wrong colors, that’s a problem.
Once they are there in person, the square footage recorded on the real estate listing doesn’t matter. A 1,4000 square foot apartment can actually feel larger than a 1,700 square foot listing because it’s set up better, feels more useful and therefore is more valuable in the marketplace. If people walk through and they don’t feel that it’s useful or large, then the number doesn’t do anything for you.
Adopt a Formula that Works
Some of the most successful staging experts are formulaic in how they lay out bedrooms. They like to have matching nightstands on either side. They like that symmetry—with art above the bed. This formula works anywhere with different colors, different finishes and different styles of furniture from modern to traditional. It’s photogenic and aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes the formula has to vary because of a door swing. In a new construction or rehab this can be avoided, and more space created, by adding a pocket door.
Create Continuity from Curb Appeal through Interiors
Be sure to address any visual disconnects between the exterior/first impression and the experience indoors. The customer journey needs to start and end on a high note, but focus on what you can control. If there’s a bad view, you can’t change the fact that there’s a brick wall. But you can change where people’s eyes go with a design element aka wow factor that directs attention elsewhere.
When you think about the way people buy or rent, they usually meet the broker out front. They’re there first, for five minutes, scrutinizing the exterior of the property. Five minutes is a long time to find flaws. Get them inside right away so they can admire the beautiful lobby or foyer.
If you need help with a staging project, click here to schedule a complimentary half-hour consultation or call 347.840.2499.