Bobby Owens didn't ask for his dining room to be painted two shades of lavender.
That was courtesy of the home's previous owners. But the unusual paint scheme is now Mr. Owens' problem as he works to sell the home before moving to Alabama.
Enter Caryl Smith, the owner of Southern Signature Rooms. The lavender room was one of several things she flagged at Mr. Owens' Evans home during a visit earlier this week.
Other turnoffs to a potential buyer include dated lighting fixtures and even Spider-Man curtains in the children's room.
It might sound harsh, but Ms. Smith's job is to make the seller's residence less like a "home" and more like a house in which potential buyers can see themselves.
Ms. Smith, who is accredited through the Society of Decorating Professionals, just launched her Evans business.
Staging a home to get it ready for sale isn't a new concept. But sellers of older homes are having to market their properties aggressively as new homes sprout up like weeds in the Augusta-Aiken area.
The goal is to help homes sell quickly and for as much money as possible. Staged homes sold in half the time and for about 7 percent more, according to a 2004-05 survey of 200 homes from Stagedhomes.com.
And to meet the need, new businesses have started to pop up.
"My job isn't to make friends, it's to sell the home," said Maria Theresa Bezubic, a Stagedhomes.com-accredited staging professional who started her firm, Augusta Home Staging LLC, in May.
Ms. Bezubic said some of her main clients have been investors trying to flip a house or builders wanting to stage a model home.
Homes in Augusta sat on the market for an average of 82 days last year, said Tom Horner, a Realtor with Sherman & Hemstreet GMAC Real Estate.
Realtors and home stagers alike say it can be hard for clients to hear that their home needs some changes.
"You have to teach your clients that selling your house is different than when you live in it," said Mr. Owens' Realtor, Barbara Crenshaw, of Keller Williams Realty.
Mr. Owens, who has lived in the house 1 years, did not take Ms. Smith's suggestions personally. He had expected that more work would be needed before he and his wife, Becky, decided to move. They have been trying to sell since December.
"I couldn't care less. We want to sell the house," he said.
Ms. Crenshaw said even though she helped Mr. Owens with a lot of staging work, a fresh pair of eyes helps.
Although the industry is big in other markets, such as Orlando, Fla., or Atlanta, Realtors say it hasn't caught fire in Augusta.
But with new homes to compete with, sellers should aim to make their house look like a model home.
"(The buyers) might like the resale home better, but if there's any cosmetic work to do" they might change their mind, said Kim Hankins, a Realtor at Sherman and Hemstreet.
Area residents also are becoming more aware of the industry though programs on HGTV, increasing its popularity, Ms. Bezubic said.
Hiring a staging professional can cost a couple hundred dollars for the consultation, more if you hire them to do the work.
But not all changes have to break the bank.
Ms. Smith gave Mr. Owens easy ideas Wednesday, such as switching out light fixtures, touching up paint, rearranging furniture and replacing a worn-out welcome mat.
Ms. Bezubic said she often scours Goodwill stores, Habitat for Humanity stores and yard sales for lamps, artwork and other inexpensive goods that can spruce up a home.
"Some of us just have a creative knack," she said.
Reach Laura Youngs at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
Even if you can't afford to hire someone to stage your home, here are some basic rules from Realtors and stagers:
Cut Clutter: The figurine collection shows years of your hard work, but to a seller, it makes it hard to visualize themselves in the home. Straighten up any cabinets, closets or pantries that stay with the house, since buyers will look in those, too.
Clean Carpets: This will remove spots and neutralize odors from cooking, smoking or pets. You might not notice the smell, but chances are sellers will, and Realtors and stagers say it can be a big turnoff.
Detach Yourself: Now that you're selling, it's a house, not your home. Family photos and other mementos with names and faces also make it hard for a seller to see themselves in the house.
Pack Up Now: This will help you get rid of clutter and extra furniture while safeguarding any family valuables. Never leave anything out that could be broken or stolen.
Landscaping: Mow the lawn, pull weeds and plant a few flowers for color. A buyer will see the exterior first, and a good impression is key.
Painting: Touch up chipped trim or peeling paint. If you can, use a neutral shade to paint over any outdated or over-the-top colors that might not appeal to the average buyer.
MORE STAGING TIPS
Stagedhomes.com offers tips on how to keep your home looking great while you sell:
- Make all beds every day.
- Keep all toilet seats down.
- Make sure towels are hung properly.
- Make sure all crumbs are cleaned from counter tops after meals.
- Turn all lights on when showing and have FM radio with light music on during showings.
- Don't leave dirty clothes on the floor, and put all your belongings away.
- Keep all counter top items put away.