The calendar says March. The real estate industry says the spring buying season is getting under way.
If your senior relatives have decided it’s their season to downsize and move, start preparing the house. Now.
Your real estate practitioner will advise you to declutter and organize and he or she also will probably suggest staging the property before it goes on the market.
Stagers look at a space to refresh it and lay out furniture and accessories to deliver an aesthetic that will appeal to the broadest buying audience and showcase a home’s best assets and minimize its flaws.
But staging the home of a senior can present extra challenges. For one, you have to work through a lifetime of furniture and collections. You also have to be sensitive to seniors’ emotions. After all, moving from the family home is a loss, even when seniors are downsizing to something that better fits their needs.
If you’re helping a senior relative sell a longtime home, look for a professional stager who covers the essentials sensitively.
Here are 7 staging tips and ways to get your downsizing message across with kindness and diplomacy.
1. Picture this. Consider that seniors haven’t been in the market for a new home for decades and may not be up on the latest design trends. “Society has changed and people are much more materialistic now,” Beth Lester often tells senior clients. “They want ‘new’ and ‘modern,’ like a nice hotel. So we try to update the accessories of the home to look as if the style has been done within the last 10 years.” Lester is a home stager and interior designer with Home Staging Designs of California in Torrance, Calif.
To give your loved one a sense of the look you’re chasing, show them interior design trends in magazines, before and after photos of staged homes on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=staged+homes+before+and+after and http://pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=home+staging+designs), and pictures of listings at www.REALTOR.ca.
It can help you make the case that clean, bright spaces are in.
2. Trouble spots. Among the challenges that longtime homeowners bring are too much furniture, clutter, and an old-fashioned vibe, stemming from out-of-date accessories, decor, furniture, and electronics.
Explain that lifetime collection of knickknacks, 30-year-old artificial flowers, a hobby table teeming with tools, and a dated feel all can distract and turn off potential buyers. Stagers frequently move out existing furniture and bring in their own or rented furniture and accessories that best complement the house.
Consider the process as an opportunity to start downsizing and choose a few key pieces that will go to the new home. Then sell or donate the things that won’t be making the move.
3. Depersonalize. Seniors often ask, “Don’t people want to see that a house has been lived in and see its history?” Not really.
If you talk to your SRES® designee, he or she can provide a sketch of today’s buying audience and what is on their wish-list. It doesn’t include someone else’s personal style.
Lester explains it this way: “You made it your home when you moved in; now we want to help someone else see it as their own home. It will begin to look less like you, and more neutral so buyers can see themselves living here.”
So that means refrigerator magnets, religious items, grandkids’ art, and embroidered inspirational messages all need to be stowed away.
4. Edit collections. Along with depersonalizing a house, one of the biggest challenges facing stagers is dealing with the heavy load of collectibles– teacups, figurines, cookie jars, and so forth.
Here’s Lester’s gentle proposal: “Those things are precious and we’ll store them so no one steals or breaks them during home showings.” Stagers say that one or two decorative objects on a shelf are better than 30, and a few well-chosen pieces of furniture will make a strong first impression.
5. It’s always been there. Stagers frequently hear the line, “It’s always been there,” whether it’s a chair, a grandfather clock or some other treasured heirloom. The truth is that though a floral wing chair’s lifelong position has been in front of a window, it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for showings.
Understand that stagers aren’t judging your taste, but aiming to highlight the best aspects of a property. So an eight-ft.-long couch in front of a window that’s shrouded with heavy drapes, for example, could mask a room’s best asset– a large window that lets sunlight stream in and looks out to a mountain.
6. Mirror your grandkid’s taste. Lester tells elderly clients that the house must grab the attention of someone who is probably the age of their grandchildren, and asks them to think about those grandkids’ likes and dislikes.
Framing the argument that way makes it an easier sell when it’s time to suggest contemporary light fixtures, a flat screen TV, and fresh decor.
Here’s a question to pose: “Would your grandchild go for a floral couch and afghan blankets or do you think they’d prefer a neutral love seat with a couple bright red accent pillows?”
7. Protecting personal information. Hide medicine bottles and other items or papers that display personal information. For one, the strategy protects your relative’s privacy. In addition, buyers want to see the sleek bathroom fixtures, rather than wondering about the illnesses behind that stash of pill bottles.
Lester’s best argument to seniors just might be this. “When you put your house on the market, it becomes a ‘product,’ not your home. We will be marketing it just like a store sets a pretty scene in their front window to attract shoppers.”
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