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Setting the Stage

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Best practices for ensuring a new build or remodel is well-positioned to sell

Home staging is the process of preparing a home to go on the market, and it can deliver a positive return on investment. Adding well-placed furniture and decor enhances the home’s aesthetics and highlights its most appealing features to buyers. It also answers questions before they arise, like which way the kitchen table should go or if a king-sized bed fits in the room. You’re essentially setting the stage for buyers.

While those in the real estate industry can likely picture exactly how they’d arrange their own furniture in the home, everyday buyers don’t usually have that kind of foresight. It can be difficult for buyers to see beyond what’s in front of them. While it may seem counterintuitive, rooms can also seem smaller without furniture. This is why staging has been shown to help increase the sale price by up to 20% on average, according to the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

You might have heard the myth that home staging is optional when the market is hot. “With so many new builds in Colorado, builders need something that makes their property stand out,” says Ashley Wilson, owner and designer of Refresh Denver Home Staging and Design. “The proper staging can bring out their particular finishes and add a sense of style and a feeling of warmth to a new property.”

Staging goes beyond simply showing homeowners where to put their couches. It’s also about establishing a look and feel for the home. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. For new builds, staging transforms an empty house into a home, and for remodels, it shows buyers the full potential of the lifestyle they could lead.

“Buyers establishing an emotional connection with a new home is the most powerful sales tool there is,” says Suzanne Schlicht, senior vice president and director of sales at Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club. “Staging a home not only paints the picture of what living in a new home will look like but, more importantly, helps buyers envision what living in a new residence will feel like. There’s no place like home, and proper staging is paramount.”

RELATED: What’s Popular in Home Design

Schlicht says luxury buyers are viewing Alpine Mountain’s properties more as a resort community where homeowners can design and build their high-end homes. Residents are choosing the location for its close proximity to skiing, downtown Steamboat, wildlife preservation, access to outdoor activities, and tranquility. “By staging a home with extraordinary furnishings, we are able to bring to life the entire vision of living the ranch lifestyle.”

Highlighting the potential of a property with staging can not only attract the right buyers, but also encourage higher offers and accelerate the home’s sale process. Research has shown us that buyers are more likely to purchase a staged home than one that’s empty during showings. According to the 2021 Seller’s Market Survey by the Real Estate Staging Association, investing just 1.3% in staging results in a 7.1% average over-list return.

home staging
© Alpine Mountain Ranch and Club

While some homes are built customized to buyers’ tastes, others are built or remodeled before going on the market. “Staging not only helps buyers envision the flow of a floor plan, it also can bring warmth and comfort to spaces that would otherwise feel cold and uninviting,” says Justin Wood of Wood Brothers Homes. When it comes to preparing a new build to go on the market, Wood says his company partners with industry-leading interior designers who look at the big picture to emphasize what the architect is saying to the buyer. Then they strategically place furniture and art “to bring out the character, comfort and livability of the home.”

A benefit of staging new builds is that the home’s best features can be played up. Professional stagers know how to give it that pop through strategic design choices and keeping buyers’ minds at the forefront of their choices. This may mean playing up the ample storage or complementing the artistic tile throughout the home with minimalist furniture.

Who covers the cost of staging varies based on the situation. For new residential homes, it’s usually the builder, but for remodels, it’s typically the homeowner if they are putting the house on the market.

Wilson believes the key to staging a property is to tap into the history or current style of the home. “With a touch of color, a backsplash of neutrals and an overall continuity of an updated style, no matter the state of the home, will guarantee the buyer falling in love with the home immediately,” Wilson says. “Home staging is all about giving it a refreshing new look and feel. Inside and out.”

Give your new build or remodel real ‘buyer appeal’ by following these top twelve staging tips.

Make sure the home is ready on installation day. To start off on the right foot, new builds and remodels should have work including cleaning completed before the furniture and decor are brought in.

Head to the curb. Creating an emotional connection with buyers as they pull up to the home will help make them feel excited and engaged before they even step foot out of the car. Seasonal flowers and greenery along with a welcome mat all work in harmony to produce an initiating welcome. If the home has enough room for furniture on a front porch or stoop, add a bistro set or rocking chair to amplify the outdoor living atmosphere.

Then follow through on the backend. “It depends on the outdoor space, in some areas it makes perfect sense to feature the large front porch or the custom backyard kitchen and really make the space pop,” Wood says. A backyard kitchen might benefit from an outdoor dining table complete with string lights and scattered potted plants and candles throughout.

Create a welcoming foyer or entryway. A styled entryway that’s clean and features simple decor will cement a positive first impression. A console table, lamp, mirror, runner and art all work in tandem to establish the feel you want homeowners to be introduced to.

Keep it neutral. By keeping the furniture and finishes in neutral shades, you’ll help the buyer envision living there. This doesn’t mean you can’t add little pops of color through pillows or accessories. Textured items like a chunky throw or more organic materials, like driftwood or sea glass candle holders, can create layers of interest.

Play to the room’s flexibility. Showcasing dual purposes can be highly beneficial. If the home boasts a large owner’s suite that has the perfect area for a functional office space, stage the room accordingly. The same goes for that little area under the stairs that could double as a reading nook. Compartmentalizing the room can play to its multi-use functionality, e.g., designating one corner for a home gym and the other for a kids’ play area. Visual cues, like rugs and furniture placement, can help separate the space.

For Wood, though it depends on the space, in a large recreation room that also offers a wet bar or wine bar, he would feature both uses with staging.

Play with the layouts. The best positioning might surprise you. When staging, arranging the room to look its best may not mean it’s the most practical layout. Sometimes a kitchen table may be too close to a buffet, but if it’s creating a balanced look, that’s a good thing.

Stay cohesive. You wouldn’t want to place contemporary furniture in a farmhouse. “We like to keep the same theme throughout the home, if it’s a modern build then keep the staging sleek and modern,” Wood says.

It’s hard to go wrong with luxe. High-end homes require elegant furnishings. Bedrooms brimming with crisp, luxury linens and textured pillows emit swanky hotel vibes. The decor should not only match but enhance the style of the home and the life the buyers could achieve once they inhabit the space.

Don’t hesitate to use third parties for staging. “We like to use professional stagers whenever possible, having experts back up your product can make all the difference,” Wood says. When you want to present the property in the best light possible, turn to those with the right expertise and resources to make the place shine.

Know when to stop. While it can be tough, knowing when to call it quits is equally important. Wilson cautions, “Keep it simple. You want it to feel warm and inviting but not lived in.”

Understand what not to use. While you want to create a specific ambiance, you don’t want it to become too personalized. It’s best to keep it generic; items like family photos, kid’s artwork and religious decor should stay out of sight. You don’t want to do anything that would inhibit buyers from feeling welcomed. “You want the potential buyer to be able to picture themselves in there—not another family,” Wilson says. Clutter can be a major detractor too. For new builds starting from scratch, show off the room’s best features and don’t crowd them with other items, which is especially important for fireplaces, kitchen islands and built-in bookshelves.

Think with your nose. While a home devoid of all smells is hands-down better than one with a lingering what-is-that odor, placing a vanilla-scented candle on the stove or a vase of fragrant flowers in the entryway or on the kitchen island can add a layer that enhances the ambiance.  

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Author

  • Emily O'Brien

    Emily O’Brien is a regular contributor to several news, lifestyle, and entertainment websites. Throughout the past decade, she's worked on numerous magazines, serving as the senior digital editor of Old House Journal, New Old House, and Period Homes, and as the managing editor of Traditional Building. She’s also the former editorial director of Boulder Lifestyle and Cherry Creek Lifestyle. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work.

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