The Home Guru by Bill Primavera

Staging Makes a World of Difference When Selling Your Home


By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru


As Published in The Examiner, The Putnam Examiner and The Yorktown Examiner



With home values down and inventory up, the best way to jump ahead in catching the buyer’s attention in any price range is through the dynamic medium of home staging.  A good home staging can do more than a price reduction in capturing an offer to purchase.

For some the term staging is relatively new, but the concept really is not. Home sellers have always tried to make their homes look their best when they go on the market.  But most times it’s better to have another set of eyes to view a home as a prospective buyer would and to make needed improvements.  Buyers want to see the features of a home and how they could fit into it, without being distracted or turned off by what’s in it or how it’s decorated.

Professional home stagers are not decorators, as some think. Rather, they prepare a home for sale by going with the flow of the home that is already in place, but eliminating clutter, editing and arranging furniture, and helping with curb appeal.

Home sellers might be apprehensive about hiring stagers, wondering what their credentials are in proclaiming themselves professional and, in fact, there are really no national qualifying standards or certification for stagers.

“Today, it’s true that anyone can be a home stager because there’s no real certification,” says Susan Atwell, President of A Well Staged Home, headquartered in Westchester.  “But when home sellers make a decision to hire me, they can go through the process of getting referrals for the work I’ve done, talk to me on the phone, and they can check my website that has my portfolio, testimonials and examples of my work.”

From her earliest memory, Susan has had a natural inclination toward organization, she says, and that is what led to her chosen career. “I had done a lot of IT work, but what I really loved was organizing space. Even when I was in grade school, I organized my locker so that everything was accessible. I started helping friends and family organize their living space as a part-time hobby, and that evolved into a full-time profession when I found that’s all I wanted to do,” she reports.

Susan states that her company’s mission is to increase resale value and expedite the selling process. “Selling a home is more than just a number’s game,” she says. “There’s a creative aspect to selling a home that goes beyond list price.”

That creative process involves a number of basic rules. If there is too much furniture, diminishing the size of a room, some of it must go. Decorative accessories usually must be thinned out in a way that gives appropriate focus to the room itself. And strong, personal decorative motifs must be neutralized so that the buyer can best see the room’s features, rather than what’s been done to it. “Normally 95 percent of wallpaper must be replaced by a neutral paint color because both wallpaper pattern and strong paint colors are too personality-specific for most home buyers to get past,” Susan explains.

The most important proviso of a good home staging, Susan advises, is that a home must be scrupulously clean. “It doesn’t matter as much if materials and appliances aren’t updated if everything is as clean as it can be,” she says, adding that “in other words, the house must look ‘turn-key’ ready. If prospective buyers feel that something isn’t to their personal taste or really needs updating, they are more willing to make an offer if the place is ready to move into. Then, they can change things to their own preferences later.”

Sometimes staging requires adding rather than eliminating. An empty house can seem forlorn, and a stager might recommend renting certain pieces of furniture and décor to warm the place up.

The cost for staging is relatively modest, especially when the home seller factors in the prospect of securing a higher offer from a buyer. Susan charges $350.00 for a two-hour consultation during which she is able to impart everything that needs to be done for a well staged home, from brightening the living space to removing clutter and organizing belongings in a visually appealing way. From that point, clients can be on their own, or Susan can manage the continuing project or give referrals for other suppliers to accomplish the needed work.

“It’s important for the public to know that staging isn’t just for the rich and famous,” she says. “A client with a modest home might invest as little as $500 for a staging and changing a few items, and they might get thousands back with a better price for their home.”

A new angle on staging is its utilization as a substitute for interior decoration for model homes. “Some developers are realizing that when they have a model unit professionally decorated, it reflects the personal taste of the decorator, and that can sometimes obscure what the living space is all about,” she says.

Two other applications for staging are somewhat inventive. Some realtors vying for listings among their competitors offer a free staging consultation to every homeowner who lists with her or him (myself included).

Sometimes staging is offered as an incentive to buyers of new properties. Susan works with The Retreat, a new development in Carmel built by Pulte Homes for the 55-plus market. Pulte offers buyers as much as a $1,000 staging credit to be used toward staging the homes they have for sale in order to buy a new home in the development.

When is the best time to hire a stager?  Susan says it should be as soon as you decide to sell. “It’s never too late to hire a stager, but it’s better to do it before you place a home on the market. Most times people call me when they’re desperate. Their home might have been on the market for months and it’s not moving, but they get to the point where they must move on with their lives.

“It gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I can take a home that’s been lingering on the market and get the home owner a good offer just days after doing a staging.”

For those who need to move on with their lives, or just want to stay put in a more organized and efficient way, Susan Atwell’s website and she can be reached at 914-525-0454.

We all know that “all the world’s a stage,” and something else good to know is that staging can make a world of difference in getting a home sold.



Bill Primavera is a Westchester, NY-based realtor ( and marketing practitioner ( who can be reached for questions or comment directly at 914-522-2076.


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