To help their A-list clients get the most out of the market, industry experts have two words of advice: stage it!
When staging a home, selecting an in-the-know retail and design team can greatly increase your ROI, as in this 3,600-square-foot Bethesda home that embraces the trend for indoor living in outdoor spaces.
In the district, sellers invest significant time and money into staging homes to get the most out of their listing. In fact, ultra-luxury homes can take up to a year to stage before they hit the market. From flooring to mill work, our panel explains what it takes.
Let’s talk about luxury staging. Marika Meyer: Often, it’s the reversal of decoration—reupholstering chairs, simplifying pillows, changing light fixtures, changing drapes, removing wallpaper. It’s about neutralizing. But especially at the luxury level, it’s making sure there’s still acute attention to detail. If we’re swapping out pillows, they’re beautiful, custom pillows. If we’re changing drapes, they’re still custom-made.
What are the first things you recommend to do? Anthony Wilder: Paint the front door. With the fresh smell of paint anywhere, it’s going to have a good feel when you walk in. George Bott: Curb appeal is important. [You should remove] overgrown bushes. AW: When overgrown bushes get taller, the house looks smaller. In many older houses, the bushes are halfway up the window.
Wydler: Lighting is so important, and if the bushes [cover] the window, you’re losing light. We take the screens out of windows for more light!
AW: Our biggest challenge is north-facing rooms. MM: I’ve talked to clients about adding recessed lighting. If you’re having the house painted, doing patchwork, the cost is [minimal]. Always refinish the floors. It says, “I’m cared for.”
What are some other investments you’ve recommended? GB: Replacing counter tops. Cabinets are a huge investment, so you don’t necessarily want to do that, but if you have an older counter top, replace that. HW: We talk about the onion: Where do you stop? Sometimes the cabinets actually look pretty good, and with changing hardware and counter tops, you can really change the look of the space. But if the cabinets are really old, putting in new counters is good money after bad. Is it helpful to keep some personality for buyers to see how one lives? MM: Often clients recognize staging, and ask: “This looks great, but when we come in from a walk, where is this going to go?” So sometimes it’s adding simple mill work in a mudroom… proving livability… Adding shelving or a bench for the concept of function if it’s otherwise missing.
How do you approach different neighborhoods? MM: Let the style of architecture play into the staging. For a loft space on U Street, you’re not dropping in rolled-arm sofas. If [a prospective buyer] is looking on Redfin, there’s something about the architecture that is speaking to them, consciously or not. That said, be careful in Old Town or Georgetown, that you don’t play too much into that. If you painted a contemporary house a cool white, it would push it too contemporary, which could be polarizing. On the other hand, if you painted an old Georgetown home in a cool, crisp white, it would modernize it a bit! Are you dealing with extremes? Bring it back to the middle.
How do you prepare for resale through renovation? MM: You have to think about what those changes would be—changing out all of the casing and trim work, adding in wide plank flooring. Even if somebody knows they’ll be in a house for two years, at any moment something could happen, and the house would show in a much better way. HW: If liquidity is a concern, be very conscious of what you’re doing, what your expense ratio is, and what you expect to get out of it. Sometimes a client knows they’re leaving in a year or two, and our advice is not to do the work, but to create a plan you can articulate [to potential buyers].