I remember the very first new-construction listing I previewed after moving to Lake Norman and getting my North Carolina real estate license. I was shocked. It had been on the market for quite a while by several different real estate firms. While the construction was 99% completed, the home itself was dusty, the plants the builder put in the front yard were dying; it was very bleak looking even though it was brand new.
Why didn’t either of the listing agents stage this $689,000 house? I quickly found out that most vacant listings in Lake Norman are not staged at all and many aren’t even cleaned. Perhaps this is why many new-construction homes around the lake take almost a year to sell! Well, for fun and since I didn’t have a lot of business yet, I asked the listing agent if I could add a few touches to this home which she graciously allowed me to do and even paid for part of the props.
Staging a vacant home does not require as much money or effort as you may think unless you want it completely furnished like a model home. I learned from a builder years ago that a few well placed “props” can convert a construction site into an inviting home, You should focus primarily on the:
- Curb appeal,
- Master bath
- Other bathrooms
- Deck or patios
- Curb Appeal: Everyone knows how important curb appeal is but they may not know how relatively easy it is to improve: Create an inviting front door and walkway. A nice welcome mat, healthy potted plants and annuals along the walkway make a huge impact. It is also critical that the landscaping be well maintained as it gives a strong indication of the care the owner has taken keeping the property in top condition.
- Kitchen: If appropriate to the house, I usually go for a Tuscany feel: baskets, wine bottles, cookbooks, William Sonoma soaps and towels and Gourmet Magazines strategically placed can transform a bare kitchen.
- Bathrooms: Have some fun! Create a spa theme and include brand new towels, candles, plants, soaps, TP.
- Fireplace: Try a large mirror over the mantle and a few candles, a potted plant, a large pot…just warming up the mantle can make a big difference!
- Decks and Patios: Place a few pieces of patio furniture, perhaps two chairs and a small table in-between, and some colorful potted plants and flowers where you can see them from inside. The goal is to catch the buyer’s eye and help them to imagine the patio as an additional living space.
- Overall Ambiance: Don’t forget how important it is to appeal to all the senses: scented candles , soft music can change the entire mood of a buyer! Keep the air fresh and the porches, windows and garden clean. Vacant houses don’t have to smell musty or stale.
In the end I spent only $800 for the props you see above plus a few more that aren’t pictured and spent about one full day cleaning and setting up the props.
Staging is not only fun, but you get immediate gratification. All you have to do is take a few “Before” and “After” pictures to remind you what a difference your efforts made overall!