Staging proving to be a valuable real estate technique

Monday, June 10, 2013 9:56 PM EDT

Fifteen seconds. That’s how long a home has to make a favorable first impression. And that’s if sellers can get buyers off their mobile devices and through the front door.

According to area Realtors, more than 90 percent of buyers search for a home online, making it vital for a property’s listing photos to capture viewer interest.

Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.: the publicly-traded company chartered by Congress to guarantee mortgages granted to low- or middle-income households) has forecast 2013 to be the healthiest spring housing market since 2007.

Yet, housing inventory is still mired at 10-year lows, preventing stronger sales gains. At the same time, more buyers are hitting the market to take advantage of affordable home prices and low interest rates. The lack of desirable supply coupled with pent-up demand has created a new “seller’s market” for homeowners who have been waiting for the right time to sell.

Sellers, who turn their homes into highly marketable real estate through staging and inexpensive updating, should have a competitive advantage this season. Inexpensive updates or small remodeling projects preserve a home’s value, help it sell faster and for top dollar.

“Staging, coupled with remodeling, are important considerations in your home-selling strategy and in getting top dollar for your home,” says Patti Stern, accredited home stager/interior decorator and principal of PJ & Co. Home Styling, LLC, an interior decorating and home-staging firm based in Cheshire. “Older homes may require improvements in key rooms, such as kitchens or baths; the cost of updates now will be less than an initial price reduction if it sits on the market too long.”

PJ & Co. is one of several companies in the area that offer decorating and home-staging services for individuals, real estate companies and builders.

Stern says even modest updates can preserve equity in a home.

In a typical home-staging, one seller’s bathroom in Southington was transformed by PJ & Co. By painting the walls and vanity and also adding a new light fixture and mirror as well as updated accessories it offers buyers an up-to-date, modern design.

“Buyers [have become] more cautious than they were during the housing boom,” Stern says. “As the single largest purchase for most young families, there is a sense of entitlement about the condition of a home they expect for their dollar.”

Stern says she recently staged two older homes that sold in three days, while a third home sold in just 13 days.

Natuzza Dimasi, a top-producing Realtor with the William Raveis agency in Middletown, works with Stern staging and selling homes in central Connecticut. Dimasi says a major part of her job is advising home sellers on the importance of staging. For example, to meet buyers’ high demands, homeowners may need to:

��/  Make necessary repairs and complete unfinished projects

��/  Replace and refresh outdated accessories, fixtures and furnishings,

��/  Freshen up the interior with neutral colors

��/  De-clutter and open up the space

��/  Renovate outdated kitchens and bath

��/  Expose or add hardwood floors.

“I can’t stress enough how important the first impression is,” says Dimasi. “Most of my customers visit the Internet before talking to me about a house.”

Whenever Dimasi gets an objection from a homeowner about staging, she asks, “Would you rather reduce your home by thousands or get it staged for a lot less?”

Dimasi says a recent staging for approximately $3,000 meant the seller did not have to knock $10,000 off his asking price.

Scott Whipple can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 319, or