Charlotte home stagers set up homes to sell

Photo courtesy of Kim Trouten | By painting the walls a neutral color and removing family pictures, Trouten made this dining area more buyer friendly.

Photo courtesy of Kim Trouten | By painting the walls a neutral color and removing family pictures, Trouten made this dining area more buyer friendly.

Despite a tough housing market and the fact that a dozen of his neighbors had the same idea, Angie’s List member Stephen Potchatek decided to put his townhome near downtown Charlotte on the market. After nine months without an interested buyer, he hired highly rated Stage Mothers in Charlotte to give his home an edge.

“I sold in January last year, and it was the first unit to sell in two years,” Potchatek says. “We were all exactly the same, so what was it about mine? It was staged.”

Potchatek says Stage Mothers rearranged his furniture and decor for about $150. His buyer was so impressed, he says, the man bought the furniture too, and Potchatek made about $7,000 in profit on the furniture and decor.

Home staging is gaining traction as sellers try to stand out in a crowded real estate market, says Kim Trouten, owner of highly rated Staged for Selling in Waxhaw. “Staging now is becoming a necessity,” she says. “Once the market picks up, you’ll find everybody’s going to be staging their house.”

Angie’s List member Amy Reinhardt hired Trouten to stage her Charlotte home before moving to Kentucky. After Trouten rearranged her furniture and offered presentation tips, Reinhardt says she received an offer within a month. On the buyer side, however, she expressed disappointment in several non-staged real estate listings she viewed in Kentucky, many of which showed rooms that appeared unclean or had outdated decor.

HomeGain, which tracks real estate trends, rated home staging the second best return on investment for a seller — after cleaning and decluttering. Based on its 2009 survey of real estate agents, homeowners paid on average $300 to $400 to stage their home, and the staged homes sold for an average of $1,500 to $2,000 more than non-staged homes. In its own study, the Real Estate Staging Association found staged homes sold 78 percent faster, on average.

Stage Mothers’ owner Mary Miller says stagers fill the gap between decorators and real estate agents, instructing sellers on what to remove, rearrange or replace to appeal to average tastes. Her services range from a walk-through checklist of what homeowners should change to redecorating or refurnishing with pieces from her own collection.

Melissa Marro, who represents the Carolinas as regional vice president of RESA, cautions homeowners to be aware of hobbyists who aren’t professionally trained to do the work. “There’s absolutely zero regulation in our industry,” she says.

Membership in RESA requires companies to abide by a code of ethics demanding honesty and professionalism. Marro, who operates a staging training company in Charleston, S.C., says sellers should ask home stagers for references and photographs of their work.

While no license is required to operate a home-staging company, RESA’s national president Shell Brodnax says they should have a business license and insurance. RESA offers the RESA-Pro designation to companies that have operated at least two years, have a business license and follow best practices. “That doesn’t mean they’re not a professional if they don’t have it,” she says. “But it’s our way of protecting the consumer.”

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Real estate agents say home staging makes a big difference. (Photo courtesy of member Roseanne J. of Bellevue Wash.)

Planning to sell your home? Angie Hicks talks about the benefits of hiring a professional home stager to make your house more appealing to potential buyers.

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