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Setting the stage sets up the sale

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Selling a home often is all about first impressions. As homeowners and real estate agents prepare for American Home Week open houses April 10-11, home staging is on the minds of many.

Real estate staging is preparing and decorating a house to sell quickly for top dollar, according to interior designer Ruthanne Hatfield.

“A first impression is a lasting impression,” Hatfield said.

“Staging will get you more money and expedite the sale.”

Staging may include painting, repairs, cleaning and moving existing furnishings.

“We arrange furnishings and accessories to appeal to the emotions of the buyer,” Hatfield said. “We work to highlight architectural features, maximize space and minimize flaws.”

Hatfield, owner of Art of Interior Placement, has been staging and redesigning for nearly 15 years. She moved to Sequim with her husband and business partner Charlie last year, and is hired by sellers and real estate agents.

Editing the environment
Hatfield said one of the most important things a homeowner can do is remove clutter and personal items.

“When someone is selling their home, it really becomes a property,” Hatfield said.
“A lot of what I do is editing because usually there is too much in the home.”
Staging also helps a buyer connect with a home by evoking feelings of warmth, comfort and welcome.

Susan Scott, of Scott Staging Services, said the feeling a buyer gets can be very important. The way a house is staged helps create a feeling of calm, comfort, harmony and flow, she said.

It’s also a smart investment, she added. “Staging is probably the most effective marketing tool for selling a house,” Scott said. “Whatever it costs you in time and money, it gives you the biggest return.”

Like Hatfield, Scott suggests creating a comfortable environment in a house, which includes getting rid of clutter. She suggests storing personal items, collections and small items to clear out space in the home.

Smell the money
She also encourages people to make sure their home is well-lit and smells nice.
“It’s got to feel like a home.

It can’t smell like the fish you cooked the night before,” she said, adding that a well-lit home creates ambience the buyer is looking for.

Scott, who moved from Port Townsend to Port Angeles a few weeks ago, said staging helps sellers detach from their home.

“The seller often needs a lot of TLC and coaching to get them through the process, especially if selling is a result of death or divorce,” she said.

Scott said the national average of time on the market is 212 days for a house. In this area, houses average 300 days. However, fully staged homes sell after an average of only 37 days on the market, she said.

Put buyer in his place
“The goal of staging is so buyers can envision themselves in the home,” she said.
“If he or she can do that, you very likely have a sale on your hands.”

Hatfield’s expertise includes assessment of target markets, consumer and market psychology and placement of props and accessories so buyers will fall in love with a home.

“People need to get emotionally connected to a house they are going to purchase,” Hatfield said. “It’s about how they envision their family living in a particular space and helping them to envision the perfect house.”

Scott and Hatfield also offer decorating services using the homeowner’s existing furnishings, often called interior redesign or redecorating.

Scott offers a free 30-minute consultation for both staging and redecorating.

“I go in and educate them about the huge benefits of staging or offer suggestions and ideas about redecorating a space,” she said.

Scott often helps with odd-shaped spaces, placing artwork, establishing traffic patterns and placement of furnishings.

Hatfield has taught classes on the subjects for nearly 10 years and will teach a workshop through Peninsula College titled “Staging Your Home” from 3-5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 29, at Dungeness Design, 520 N. Sequim Ave. Cost is $25; preregistration is required through Peninsula College Community Education at 452-9277 or at www.pencol.edu.

As seen on TV
Hatfield has been featured twice on HGTV on a series called “Decorating Cents.” The episodes were filmed in 2001 but continue to run on the Home and Garden Television network. Her redesigns also have been featured in print publications, and she is a published author of “IRIS in the House” and contributor to the book “301 Simple Things You Can Do to Sell Your Home Now.”

Some real estate agents offer staging services to their clients and make many of the same suggestions for helping a house to sell.

Costs for professional staging and redecorating services with Hatfield and Scott vary depending on the size of the house and the amount of work needed.

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