Selling Your Home? The First Step is to Un-Decorate.

By Amanda Baggaley, The Londoner, June 17, 2004

The housing market is hot and has been for quite some time so I guess the question becomes how do you make your house hotter than the rest? Well, there is a new trend in real estate and although our neighbours down south have caught onto it for quite some time, London is new to the "Staging®" market. Tracey White of A Piece of Peace Interior Decorating has recently become an Accredited Staging® Professional (ASP™). She is now shifting her business to give sellers a competitive edge by arranging their houses to appeal to a wider variety of potential buyers.

Can you imagine hiring someone to come into your home to ‘un-decorate’. Sounds a bit crazy doesn't it? It is called Staging® and its all the rage. The concept was masterminded by Barb Schwarz, an American Realtor® and interior designer, almost 30 years ago. The idea stemmed from the need to ‘set the stage’ in one’s home for prospective buyers.

While most homeowners recognize that there are certain things that should be done to their homes prior to putting them on the market, many have difficulty looking at their personal living space with objectivity.

Meet Tracey E. White, the un-decorator. Tracey White is one of just a handful of Accredited Staging® Professionals (ASPs™) in London and she is trained to de-clutter, de-personalize and neutralize your home. Kind of sounds like a superhero, doesn’t she? A clutter-free environment is less distracting for the potential buyer. It makes for a good first impression and spaces seem larger when they are ordered and tidy.

Tracey suggests, for example, that you clear counters in the both the kitchen and the bathroom of unnecessary items, including decorative accessories. And while a closet that can hold 45 pairs of shoes is indeed impressive, an organized space that isn’t filled to its capacity is even more impressive.

Collections should be packed up and put away. An intriguing collection of old cameras may detract from the beautiful crown moulding in the same room. It is important to showcase the home’s best features and not your personal treasures.

Another goal of the professional Stager® is to de-personalize – that is taking ‘your home’ out of ‘their house’. Remove family photographs, certificates, awards, trophies, etc. Personal and sentimental trappings just make it harder for potential buyers to imagine your living space as possibly theirs.

Neutralizing means just that – make it neutral. Your terracotta dining room and navy den are great colours for living but not for selling. Tracey’s recommendations could be anything from removing the 70’s inspired wallpaper in the powder room to giving the living room a fresh coat of paint. She might suggest dismantling outdated and elaborate fabric window treatments to let more light into a room or to highlight a pretty view. Generally, the more neutral your décor, the easier it is for a prospective buyer to visualize his or her belongings in your house.

The professional Stager® has an entirely different focus than the decorator or designer. Consider furniture arrangements. While both professionals are concerned with style, the designer addresses the functionality of a grouping and a client’s lifestyle. A Staging® expert’s focus is designing a space within your home that could be anybody’s space.

Staging® means that living rooms must look like living rooms and dining rooms must look like and function like dining rooms. A makeshift office operating from the dining room table must be re-located to an appropriate place in the house or packed up altogether. Don't force a potential buyer to visualize your makeshift office as a dining room, Stage® it.