Let’s just admit that it has been a rough few months with the effects of COVID-19 on the housing market. Existing home sales experienced a large decline but pending home sales have bounced back. From a stagers’ perspective, we continued to see homes sell during the peak of the quarantine and we had homes to de-stage on a weekly basis. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of higher end homes, which we define as anything over $1 million, selling often with quick close dates. But due to the Governor’s executive order, we did not take on any new staging projects during this time.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ weekly housing market monitor, properties are selling at a faster rate compared to the same time last year. And new contracts and new listings, while lower in number than a year ago, are easing in their rates of decline.

What else are we seeing that is different? And why, and how, are houses still selling so well in this market?

First and foremost, we are seeing a greater dependence upon the listing photos and the virtual walkthrough. Buyers are narrowing down their list of potential properties faster than before and coming to a conclusion on their top 2 or 3 selections to then view in person. We are consistently seeing some of our favorite agents doing virtual walk-throughs on social media to show off a new listing.

Recently, I watched an interview with Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame, who has extensive real estate experience and knowledge. She said the most important thing that anyone should do when marketing and listing their home is to use high quality listing photos, which show the home in its best light. What does this mean for staging? Everything!

Specific to staging, we counsel every one of our clients to spend time carefully preparing their home for the photos. Now more than ever the on-line visual representation has taken on greater importance. If buyers don’t like what they see in your on-line photos, they will not schedule a visit. You have a quick opportunity to get them excited about your home or they will not visit virtually again.

Here are a few of our favorite suggestions to think about that will show up on the photos:

  • Open your blinds completely and make sure they are all even. I like to take the long cord that remains after opening the blinds and run it straight down the window frame and then straight across the windowsill. This way it does not stand out in the photos but rather, blends into the trim.
  • Anything that fits in the palm of your hands is too small and just visual clutter. Pack it away.
  • Make sure and leave some “air” between things. Don’t crowd your kitchen counter with your coffee maker, toaster and banana hanger. Instead, leave some space (or air, as we say) between visually pleasing objects. Don’t fill every space on a bookshelf but rather place one grouping of items on each shelf and even feel free to leave a shelf completely empty!
  • Think about the camera angle when positioning your furniture. The camera will shoot the view from every doorway, so make sure that you are not looking at the back of a sofa or piece of furniture.
  • Make sure you also have a clear view to the key selling feature in the room, like the fireplace or the amazing view out the back window.
  • Remember curbside appeal! This is often the first picture on the listing and thus the first impression so make sure the windows are clean. The front flower bed is weeded and colorful. And the front door is interesting and inviting. Clear away any clutter or extra items. You don’t need a bunch of small potted plants at the step or lawn chairs crowded on the front stoop. You can often leave this completely empty and let the front door shine. Or a beautiful flowering plant may be the single touch of color you want.
  • Make a pretty bed. You want your bed to show like the photos in a department store circular. The pillows should be fluffed and standing tall. The coverlet or duvet should be smooth and pristine. And the corners of the bed should be crisp and folded.
  • Turn on all lights, both overhead and lamps, so the house shows big, bright and beautiful!
  • Don’t date the listing photos by keeping anything out that might indicate when the house was listed, like holiday decorations or colorful lights.

As your prepare your home for the listing photos, challenge yourself to step into the position of the ideal buyer of your home. Try to look at your home through their eyes and put your best foot forward!