Photo by WBM, designed by Redesign4more

You’ve cut down on clutter, slapped a fresh coat of paint on the walls, steam cleaned the carpets, and hired the best damn realtor this side of…well, wherever you live. You may think your home is open-house ready, but there’s one more step that should not be overlooked — enlisting the help of a professional home stager.

Red Barrinuevo is the President and Principal Home Stager of Redesign4more, a home staging company that services the GTA and beyond. As a Certified Staging Professional, he’s helped countless homeowners sell their properties quickly, and for more money. “Today’s buyers have come to expect a beautiful house, especially considering the high price tags of the properties in Toronto, and the home improvement shows we watch on TV,” says Barrinuevo. “I always tell the seller, ‘You only have one chance to make a first impression.’ So do it properly!”

Here he shares seven staging tips that will maximize your return on investment.

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1. You’ve got to spend money to make money

Photo by WBM, designed by Redesign4more

“At the very least, hire a home stager to do a consultation. Depending on your location, this will cost $250 to $500,” says Barrinuevo. “The stager will give you an idea of what to do in terms of editing, setting up and accessorizing.” For larger projects, expect to fork over one to three percent of your home’s selling price. “The cost of home staging depends on the size of your property, the condition of the house, the area, and the listing price,” explains Barrinuevo. “From our experience, at the very least, the seller will pocket $60,000 to $70,000 with the help of a home stager. Last year, we had properties that sold for $500,000 over asking.”

2. Always seek a professional opinion

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“A seller shouldn’t attempt to stage their home themselves because there is too much emotional attachment,” says Barrinuevo. “If you’ve been living there for 20 years, everything in your home has value to you. Sellers often think their home looks great as is, and that’s why it’s important to get an outsider’s opinion.” Professional home stagers are familiar with the local market and know exactly what buyers are looking for in a new home. “Clients shouldn’t take it personally, I’m on their side, and I want to help them sell their house as fast as possible, for the most money.”

3. Hire the right person for the job

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“Hiring a professional stager can be tricky because the home staging industry is not regulated at all,” notes Barrinuevo. “The best thing to do is to probe and ask questions. They have to have a website, and you should look through their portfolio to see if they’ve worked on a home that is similar in size and price point to yours.” Barrinuevo recommends being thorough in your screening of a potential home stager. Don’t be afraid to interview multiple candidates or ask for references. “If you make a mistake when selecting a home stager, it’s going to be a costly mistake,” warns Barrinuevo. “It’s worth taking the time to make sure you’re working with the right person who can showcase your property properly.”

4. First impressions matter

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“Everybody starts shopping for a home online now, that’s how it works,” says Barrinuevo. “If you’re online and you see a nice condo that is showcased in the right way, you’ll feel like you have to go see it in person.” Even after the professional photos have been snapped, you should keep your home in pristine condition — that way there’s no disconnect between what buyers see online and in person. “This happens a lot with virtual staging,” says Barrinuevo. “In the photos, the home appears to be full of furniture, but then when you get to the property, there’s nothing there. It’s a bummer!”

5. Never attempt to sell a vacant home

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“It’s quite difficult to sell a vacant home, especially if it’s a large home. It causes a lot of confusion for buyers, and it’s a disadvantage for sellers,” explains Barrinuevo. “One of the main purposes of staging is to show buyers how a space could function, how their family could use it.” Stagers feed the homebuyer’s imagination — the room you formerly used as a guest bedroom could become an office, appealing to Millennial homebuyers who work from home. “You’re giving them an instruction manual on how to use the house,” says Barrinuevo.

6. Staged homes sell for more money in a hot market

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“In a hot market, a lot of homeowners will say, ‘We don’t need staging, our home is going to sell anyway.’ Yes, it will, eventually, but you’ll never know. Maybe you could get more money out of it, especially if it’s in a good location,” says Barrinuevo. When Toronto home prices peaked in March 2017, Barrinuevo saw staged homes sell for $300,000 or $500,000 over asking. “If you’re showcasing a home as is, it might sell at your asking price of $1 million or $800,000, but if you can do $1.2 million or $1.5 million, that’s a big return.”

7. Staged homes sell faster in a cool market

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“In a slower market, it’s even more important to hire a home stager,” notes Barrinuevo. “If you’re not staging, your house is going to sit on the market — competition is tough, and it’s all about packaging.” Barrinuevo is often hired by homeowners whose homes have been listed for months, especially older homes with dated furniture. He was recently hired by a couple of empty nesters whose house had been on the market for two months. “The agent kept saying that the home was not selling because the alignment of the staircase was bad feng shui,” says Barrinuevo. “I told them, ‘The layout is the layout, but we can style it and change the furniture and change the feel of the whole place.’ We staged it, and it sold in 24 hours! Staging makes a big difference.”

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