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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

Homes Dressed for Success

Transforming cramped, dull space into cozy livable areas is Nickie Rothwell’s job. Through nothing more than the magic of furniture placement, an on-the-market Studio City home is reborn to help entice buyers to plunk down full price. Rothwell, owner of Get Staged 2 Sell in West Hills, performed her magic throughout the 1,600-square-foot dwelling. “Someone wanting to buy this house would see this as a closet,” said house seller Joshua Touber, standing in a pink-walled bedroom. “It’s often difficult for people to get excited about a home empty of furniture. As a buyer, you don’t perceive rooms logically.” Therein lies the magic, or illusion, created by professional “stagers,” who dress up houses antsy for buyers. And though it’s true that the home real estate market is in a funk, stagers remain busier than ever. Real estate agents, brokers and homeowners are looking for an edge to distinguish their product from the more than 2,000 area homes elbowing for attention. Touber, owner of JT Properties, a residential development firm in Burbank, bought the Studio City home to sell or rent after touring the rooms dressed by Rothwell. “I want these to be enchanting rooms,” Rothwell said with a wave of a hand during a showing of the $900,000 dwelling. “I want people to feel emotions here.” Middle Way Staging Anyone can be a home stager; there are no courses to complete or certificates to attain. There is also no overarching body regulating the industry, so the number of home stagers is hard to gauge. In the San Fernando Valley, dozens have hung their shingles. Many real estate agents do their own staging through tactful recommendations to sellers about getting rid of, say, the Las Vegas-like ceiling mirrors in a master bedroom, or the provocative sculpture in a hallway, or the helter-skelter clutter in a bookcase. But when it comes to wholesale transformation, a professional dresser typically gets the call. A stager for two years, Rothwell is one of a large number of professionals who created a staging business during the bullish housing market. The former realtor invested $50,000 in furniture and accessories that she stores in a warehouse. Relying on her inventory and occasional rentals, she stages about five houses a month. Rothwell charges $300 to $500 for a consultation and $3,500 to $5,500 to stage a house the size of Touber’s property. Stagers seek “the middle way” in d & #233;cor, avoiding decorative extremes that can send the wrong message and potential buyers scurrying for the exit. In the Studio City home, Rothwell enlivened the master bedroom with chocolate Godiva tables and chest of drawers and covered the queen bed with a coffee-colored comforter. The room’s middle-of-the-road theme is husband-and-wife unity, symbolized by the latte lamps on either side of the bed, the twin paintings hung on the wall and the matching potted topiaries staring from the dresser. “I’m trying to convey a feeling of romance,” Rothwell said. Empty homes a challenge Home staging began about eight years ago in the tight housing market of the Bay Area. Soon after, the technique was appropriated by sellers in New York and Los Angeles. It differs from model-home staging, around for decades, in that stagers match interior dressings to the needs of a specific home. Empty homes, which occur when sellers move into a new dwelling before the old one sells, are the biggest challenge to home stagers. “People have no depth perception when rooms are unfurnished,” says Lynn Liebermann, who preps for The Art of Home Staging in Los Angeles. “Rooms can seem smaller, lighter, taller, darker, every adjective you can imagine.” The Art of Home Staging, which stages anything from entry-level homes to mansions, boasts a 7,000 square foot warehouse stuffed with furniture styles and accessories. Prepping a home can run from $7,000 to $60,000. The company uses live rather than synthetic potted plants, orchids and flowers. Dining room tables are set in an inviting tablescape. A library is adorned with books. Quality linen decorates beds and baths. Recently a dwelling staged by the Art of Home Staging went on the market in Encino, Liebermann said, and in two weeks was in escrow. “We want someone to walk in the home and say, ‘I could live here,'” she said. Staging Woes Not all realtors are sold on staging. “If you can’t do it right, it’s better not to do it at all,” said realtor Marilynn Bradbury of Ramsey-Shilling Associates, which has a valley office in Toluca Lake. “It can backfire if it’s only done halfway. It can make things look shabby.” The furniture style and accessories might distract, said Bradbury, who stages only about 10 percent of the time. House shoppers might like modern and instead be confronted with Early American, she said. “It becomes a distraction by taste.” Home staging, which is typically paid for by the homeowner though sometimes the realtor or broker foots the bill can also conceal structural flaws. Hiding defects such as wall cracks and plumbing leaks can lead to a property damage claim or rescinding of the contract, said Colleen Badagliacco, president of the California Association of Realtors. Staging Saves Money Even so, like many realtors, Kate Christiansen is quick to spread the gospel of home staging, especially given the deepening shadow over the housing market. Christiansen, a realtor at Legacy Realty Group in Valencia, consults with sellers about how to present a home to entice buyers. “First impressions are so important,” she said. “And with so many houses on the market, your home better look darn tootin’ good.” Over the summer, a Castaic home entered escrow after being staged for four weeks. Before being dressed by Kim Kapellusch, the 2,400-square-foot abode was on the market for more than a year, according to a Santa Clarita realtor. “If people walk in and it feels high-end for its price range, sellers won’t have to knock off $20,000,” says Kapellusch, who’s based in Santa Clarita and charges between $3,500 and $5,500 to prep an empty home. “My cost pales in comparison to a price markdown.” Kapellusch drew an analogy to contrast the beauty of staged homes to the drabness of empty ones. “It’s like shopping at Pottery Barn versus shopping at K-mart,” she said. <!– Staging: Toeing the design line. –> Staging: Toeing the design line. Home Staging Tips – First Impressions: You only get one chance to make a first impression. A buyer typically develops an opinion of a home in the first 10 seconds. – Welcoming Interior: Bright, neutral colors, soft music playing, burning candles to create a new-house smell. – Pack It Up: Keep rooms simple and uncluttered. – Homey Touches: Use flowers and plants as accents. – Be Invisible: Owners should be out of sight when their home is being shown. Source: Kate Christiansen of Legacy Realty Group in Valencia

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