Neutralize the Competition!

Reblogger Jim Frimmer
Real Estate Agent with HomeSmart Realty West CalBRE #01458572

It's too bad that this excellent post by Joanne O'Donnell in Oakland, California, didn't get featured.

It's posts like this that I think too often get overlooked by ActiveRain when they are looking for Featured Posts. They need someone who will go around and visit the people who haven't had a Featured Post recently and feature some of their work. Unfortunately, it seems to be the same old people day after day with the Featured Posts. I've noticed that some of them even go back to old Featured Posts, either of theirs or their friends, rewrite it, and get it Featured again! That's probably my only complaint about ActiveRain.

Original content by Joanne O'Donnell

Staging is not decorating or design; staging is a marketing tool for selling a house and, as such, should be a part of every realpaint roller and chips estate professional's toolkit.  As in all marketing we want to target our audience and appeal to the largest potential base of that buying demographic.   That is where a professional home stager comes in.   Today's professional stager continually educates themselves in what the market trends are and in-depth marketing knowhow.  A stager has to understand the psychology of the buyer and have an understanding of scale, design, and color.   Today's market requires a more sophisticated approach to preparing a home for market and so the staging industry is in even more demand.

Interior design caters to the individual client, their likes and dislikes, their life choices, their personal style.  Staging neutralizes the home and accentuates its selling features and flow while maximizing space. The goal is securing a more favorable offer, more quickly, from a buyer.  Price or location don't matter, all homes can benefit from professional staging.   Staging is about universal style, neutralizing and showcasing the space so a future owner can emotionally connect with the property. Style that is too personal or too specific to a particular homeowner or type of homeowner will greatly limit potential buyers.  When the home remains too personal, buyers often feel they are intruding.  Here are some practical tips for what to consider and how to make it happen. 

 Color:  Neutral colors are the first thing that comes to mind, but some go too far with "realtor beige" on allpaint Chips & Roller walls, etc...  This does not create that warm, fuzzy feeling in potential buyers that bring those offers rolling in.                                                   Paint choices should be Staging Safe® without being boring and uninviting.  Sophisticated taupes, rich tans, soft moss greens and warm creamy yellows can create a welcoming ambiance without making a design statement that will eliminated large portions of the target market.

Gender:  Another area where the principal of neutrality should be applied in staging is gender.  Homes and the rooms in them should not be so gender specific as to make half the population not comfortable in them.  As a professional stager I see this all the time.  Usually since the female tends to be the decorator in many traditional couples, the home has too much pink, lace and flowers on fabric... Décor should be androgynous - not too masculine nor too feminine.  So if you love pink, combine it with charcoal grey or black and confine it to bathrooms or children's rooms...  lace should be relegated to the baby or little girl's room... and replace flowered fabric with leaves, geometric or abstract patterns.  On the other hand, men need to repurpose their trophy rooms, take down the motorcycle and car calendars (you guys know what I'm talking about here...) from their garages, and turn that hanging-out-with-my-buddies-poker-palace back into the wholesome family room the builder intended and most buyers want...

  Religion: Religion is a very personal thing and therefore, by definition, it needs to remain out of a home that is on the market.  This is a touchy subject with clients that needs to be handled with kid gloves.  I think it is hardest to broach this subject with homeowners with whom we do not share a belief system, we don't want to offend.  As the professional, you have to take your own beliefs and feelings out of the discussion, even out of your thoughts as you have the discussion with your sellers.  Remember, it is about selling the home and the décor needs to be something of a blank slate on which the buyer can superimpose their own life.

 Culture and Ethnicity:  In our diverse multicultural, multiethnic society we have the advantage of experiencing foods, ideas, culture and styles from around the world.  Many of the styles have been incorporated into high fashion and everyday design and add richness to home style.  So, when a home has these elements, they don't all have to be eliminated, just used sparingly so that the end product doesn't feel specific to any ethnicity or culture.  The result can be an interesting, eclectic melting pot of style.

  PoliticsPolitics:  The thing that really brought this home for me was viewing a property that proudly projected a staunch belief in politics that were antithetical to my own.  I wasn't offended or uncomfortable but I found myself thinking about the people and their beliefs instead of the features of the house.  I wondered if the rest of the neighborhood was primarily of the political persuasion of the homeowners, whether I would not fit in here.  This is not where you want potential buyers' minds going.

 Generation:  I have had clients who wanted me to stage a Victorian in Victorian furniture.  While this is somewhat of the ultimate extreme, many homes have furnishings that are either extremely modern or extremely traditional, and not always to match the architecture.  Always remember we need to stage to the targeted buyer, while remembering that style spans generational groups, cultures, geography, etc.  Just because someone is over 50, doesn't mean they want heavy, ornate furniture anymore than those under thirty all want glass and chrome.  So, the rule of thumb is to bring it to the middle with contemporary style that with a few accessory changes could satisfy the modern as well as the classic.  There are places where we move more in one direction than the other - an urban loft, for instance - but, in general, move these styles toward the center.

 Collections:  Last but not least, the age-old problem of collections - the bane of the stagers' existence.  People love their collections, they are proud of them; they are status symbols to them; they want to display them and are emotionally attached to them.   The classic example is the doll collection that covers every surface in the formal living room.  This particular type of collection also holds a place in the gender specific category hall of fame...  Regardless of what the collection is, even if it is the most valuable, beautiful collection imaginable, it will take the potential buyers' attention from the selling features of the home.  Combine that with the potential for theft and breakage and you should have your sellers getting out the bubble wrap in no time flat.

Joanne O'Donnell has been professionally staging quality homes in the San Francisco Bay Area since early 2002 and her staging work was prominently featured in "Home Staging for Dummies" in 2008.  Joanne does training and consulting in home staging, design and green business practices throughout North America.   She will be speaking on "Maximizing Results through Home Staging" at the 2009 Texas Association of Realtors Convention in September.  For home staging, training and consulting services contact her at

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Jim Frimmer

Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist
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