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Setting the stage for a great home sale


Whether you’re selling a multimillion-dollar oceanfront mega mansion or a 500-square-foot studio, the National Association of Realtors says that curb appeal may very well make a home sell faster and for more money.

Homebuilders know this, and put a lot of effort into creating a model home to appeal to the target market – granite countertops, spacious walk-in closets with pukas for everything, a baby room, a home office. Builders know that these design tricks are appealing to buyers and amount to dollars – sometimes thousands of dollars – for builders. They are selling the dream-home image. These same basic staging principles also apply to individual sellers listing their home for sale. Simply put, a well-staged home highlights its best attributes.

Karen Robertshaw became a believer in home staging after attending a convention in 1989. One speaker, Barb Schwarz, was a professional home stager.

“I’d never heard of home staging before,” recalls Robertshaw. “But by the end of the session, I was a convert. I had a whole new way of seeing listings and have been implementing the concepts into the marketing of all my listings because the returns are incredible.”

Over the years, she has fine-tuned her practice, realizing that there are special techniques to make a small space look larger, or give life to a vacant listing – even specifically how to stage a home when the seller still lives there.

“Home staging with a specific purpose in mind targets situations that plague a lot of sellers, so I can help them to enhance the listing,” she says. “The goal is to maximize the home’s potential.”


In Hawaii, this is a common issue. Square footages are small and optimizing space is a priority. It’s important to help buyers to better see the optimum use of the space and its liveability.

“Small spaces benefit from being edited down and decluttered,” advises Robertshaw. “Using pieces that are dual purpose, with clean lines and neutral colors, is a good start. However, staging a smaller space using only small pieces and stripping it down too much will often backfire. Using only small-scale pieces can make the room feel even smaller and cause the room to feel sterile. A small space can feel bigger if the right larger-scale item is added into the mix. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s true.”


Believe it or not, an empty room, devoid of even furniture, looks smaller. And there are other downsides to empty homes.

“Often, the lack of décor causes the eye to focus on the flaws – rooms look smaller and dents or defects look larger,” says Robertshaw. “Empty rooms echo nothingness. But small things can soften the echo, like a cookbook and implements in the kitchen, towels, soap dishes and shower curtains in the bathrooms, a few plants, flowers, pillows, decorative umbrellas and maybe a chair or two will help.”

If the home feels more like a to-do project, buyers are likely to turn away or want you to bring the price down.

“When staging a vacant home, I create small, simple vignettes aimed at softening the emptiness and creating a happy, more inviting feeling,” she adds. “And it works. Listings sell faster and sellers are happy.

“Over the years, I became more assertive. Rose-colored walls? Forest green walls? They might work for you but will likely turn off many buyers. So I also recommend repainting the walls to appeal to more buyers.”

No matter what condition your property may be in, basic staging is always needed: Declutter and put things away so that the value shines through.

Making a home look more spacious, expensive and homey, and less like a to-do list or cluttered is so important. Just like detailing your car before you sell it, home-staging methods are the latest tools designed to help sellers make their homes more appealing to buyers.

Presentation is everything! Read more about home staging in Karen Robertshaw’s articles on Prudential

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