PICTURE PERFECTSelling a home? First, call the stager
You’re putting your home on the market: to stage or not to stage? Industry professionals and trade groups like to cite a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development statistic that staged homes command 17% higher prices than ones that are un-staged, but according to the New York Times, both the figure and the source are apocrypha. When it comes to home staging, objective facts and figures are hard to come by. Nevertheless, many top brokers—people with skin in the game—are of the opinion that hiring a professional home stager is a smart investment.
“I’ve had a lot of success with homes I couldn’t sell,” says Vincent Horcasitas, an associate real estate broker at Saunders & Associates, “and as soon as I staged them they sold immediately.”
Among the professional stagers with whom Horcasitas works is Cindy Montgomery, who runs Stage By Design, LLC (www.stagebydesign.com). Currently based in Southampton, Montgomery works around the country, staging and/or designing as many as two hundred homes a year. Recently she designed and staged the interiors of an eight bedroom, nine-and-a-half bath home in Southampton. Designed by Peter Cooke the house is on the market for $8.25 million. Within a month of receiving the green light, Montgomery had kitted out the ten thousand square foot structure with custom-built furniture of her own design, upholstered white sofas, a massive dining table carved from a tree trunk which was then polished to a fine luster, and other appointments. The overall effect was that of a pristine hotel, a style that Montgomery characterizes as ‘luxe spa.’ “I’m trying to evoke emotions,” she says. “Ideally, you want to trigger the kinds of feelings that encourage people to linger.”
Fee structures vary. Some staging companies charge for an initial consultation, others have set-up and monthly fees. Montgomery charges 1% of the total purchase price, not including the cost of furniture and materials, due at closing. She leaves the seller with instructions for maintaining the home in camera-ready condition every day. But if you want to go the do-it-yourself route, check out Montgomery’s tips for achieving model home perfection on the opposite page.
1. Flower power. “Flowers add color and life to a space,” says Montgomery, who favors such outsize dramatic blooms as lilies and other flowers that don’t have a strong scent, which can overpower a room.
2. Lighten up. “Everything shows better in a well-lit room, even during the day,” she says. No matter how sunny the home, I always turn on all the lamps and overhead lights.”
3. Go minimalist. Montgomery says to remove every scrap of clutter, then take another look and remove even more clutter.
4. Ring dem bells. “Music establishes a mood, so if you have a sound system, use it.”
5. Refresh, refresh. If a client’s furniture looks like it’s from the eighties (or the fifties, for that matter), Montgomery will gently persuade them to redecorate. “Sometimes a $1,500 sofa is enough to carry the day,” she says. “Prospective home buyers like furniture that’s modern, clean-lined, and new.”