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It’s a fact – the longer a house languishes on the market, the lower the selling price will be.

It’s also been shown that buyers form an opinion within the first 15 seconds of entering a house, and that buyers tend to stay in a furnished house for an average of 40 minutes versus a vacant property for just 5 minutes - with 9 out of 10 people finding it difficult to visualize how an unfurnished home would appear furnished.

Can you recall the very first time you walked through the door of your house – before it became your home?

While your house has the potential to meet the needs of today’s buyer, your home may not. After all, you are selling the space – not your furniture or personal effects.

“Home staging is like dressing your house for success,” Patte Lau, Interior Stylist, said. “Just like you would prepare for a very important interview, first impressions of a house are a top priority. The role of stagers goes above and beyond decorating. Stagers recreate the look and feel of a seller’s house so that potential buyers can envision themselves living there.”

The original pioneer of the home staging industry nearly 40 years ago, REALTOR® Barb Schwarz has personally taught more than a million people as a professional trainer and logged more than 20,000 hours as seasoned speaker.

“There are two things that sell a home – one of these is price and the other is home staging,” she said. “It’s really important that the way you live in your home and the way you market and sell your house are two different things. When you think about your investment in your property, which is your number one investment in life usually, the investment in staging your home is less than a price reduction on your home.”

Earlier this summer, statistics gathered at Schwarz’s stagedhomes.com site showed staged homes average 6 days for selling time on the market versus 48 days nationally. The average seller is getting anywhere from 6 percent to as high as 20 percent more in some markets. The key is if the market slows, a staged house will sell quicker for more money, and if the market remains hot, it will sell for even more money.

“Staging is a proven technique for improving and optimizing the home selling experience,” Lau, whose unique background as an interior decorator and longtime photography prop stylist specializing in room design made her an ideal protégé for Kathleen Sarrett, one of DuPage County’s most sought-after stagers, said. “As it continues to gain momentum on the east and west coasts, staging has become very popular in Illinois, where the sellers are really driving it, asking Realtors, ‘are you going to have somebody come in and stage my home?’ In Indiana, Realtors are driving it, introducing staging as part of a comprehensive marketing plan, noting that it will make a house look great online so it really stands out from the competition.”

A member of the Real Estate Staging Association, Lau is eager to share her expertise with Realtors in northwest Indiana. She met Nancy Frigo of McColly Real Estate during a recent series of seminars at the company’s Crown Point, Highland and Merrillville offices.

“She brings a huge value to the marketplace as an outsider looking in,” said Frigo, who recently partnered with Lau to stage one of her listings in St. John and also provide a staging proposal to a seller in Valparaiso. “It’s not a personal thing for her, it’s business. My clients and my team truly believe in her service. She’s got class and she’s got style, but she’s not overbearing and that’s important. It’s time now for the market to embrace what she does, it really works.”

“My services range from a ‘Walk & Talk Consultation,’ where I meet with a client who wants to do the actual staging him or herself. I provide a checklist of items for each room and arrange a time to come back and tweak things a bit if want,” Lau explained. “When it comes to full-service, hands-on staging, the homeowner may or may not choose to be involved. We’re going to remove clutter and start packing some storage boxes – most people have way too much stuff, and it’s a great way to get a head start on moving. Then we’re going to take a look at the furniture, determine which furniture stays, needs to be rearranged or moved out completely. Finally, we’re going to re-accessorize and fine tune things. It’s usually not necessary to go out and buy a lot of things or spend a lot of money.”

For example, in the St. John home, Lau wanted to generally brighten up and update the space.

“The home was fully furnished, but it was just a bit too much,” she explained. “We improved the flow by repositioning the sofa and moving a large china hutch to the basement. Quite a few things were professionally packed in anticipation of moving and the bookcases were re-merchandised. I did purchase some updated bedding, linens, accent pillows and throws, plus a few accessories to add some color. My years of experience as a stylist have taught me to shop cost-effectively while still getting the look I desire. It’s about presenting the property for success. It’s creating a lifestyle - not necessarily the seller’s lifestyle.”

“She brings a flavor to the houses unlike what you see in northwest Indiana,” Frigo added.

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