Setting the Stage 

Small décor changes can make a big difference when putting a home on the market.

Professional decorator and home stager Marilyn Mills Creech subscribes to the blank-slate theory of home staging. That is, simplify your interior, making it easy for potential buyers to imagine their furnishings in your home. "What you're trying to do here is make it as appealing to as many people — as many people — as possible," she says.

This month Creech teaches two classes on decorating homes to sell, both sessions open to the public: Saturday, March 18, at the University of Richmond, 1-4 p.m., call (804) 289-8133, and Friday, March 31, at Pine Camp Community Arts Center, 6:30-8:30 p.m., (804) 646-3677.

Home Style recently spoke with Creech about landing a better offer on your home.

Home Style: How did you get the idea to teach classes in home staging?

Creech: Because the demand for it is growing here in Richmond. Now people here are realizing that they can add thousands of dollars onto the sale of their home by doing this. And I feel like this will probably be as common, in about a year or so, as having home inspections.

What are some of the things that home sellers should pay more attention to?

Eliminating clutter is a big thing on the list. A lot of times, people are not as objective with their own homes.

And closets are a big thing. Everybody wants their closets to be nice and neat. They want to see how much space they have. And even the tiniest closet, if it's arranged nice and neatly, it makes the potential buyer feel like their lives are organized.

Home sellers may not want to spend a lot before they sell. What are some inexpensive things they can do to make a big difference?

Curb appeal is very important. That can be achieved for not a lot of money. Outside, one of the least expensive things you can do is make sure you get the yard cleaned up. Everything raked, mowed, bushes trimmed back. You want to make the front entryway inviting when they come in. You want to have the door sparkling, shiny clean. I find adding window boxes to houses really adds a lot.

A lot of times, rearranging furniture will make a big difference. Like in the living room, having separate conversation areas is good. Sometimes if you have a nice book over here with a pair of reading glasses on it, the person will feel like it's a comfy and cozy place.

So you want to get rid of clutter, but you also want to keep that lived-in, very comfortable look.

Oh sure. These people need to feel like this could be their home easily. Like a fire going in the fireplace, this sort of thing. A main thing is you want to get rid of all personal photographs: wedding pictures, that kind of stuff. The potential buyer sees you living there: This is your home and not their home.

For example, if I were getting ready to do this home to sell, I would go through and I would get rid of all my Chinese red walls. I would paint everything a neutral color, like a flat latex white, and I would do the baseboards in a gloss, to make them pop. More than likely, I would probably invest in some inexpensive crown molding, because that makes the room look finished. HS

Secrets to a Better Sale

1. Make sure your home smells good. Some swear by the scent of just-baked cookies or bread, but Creech says all that's really necessary is that the house smell fresh and clean.

2. Ask a friend or decorator to take an objective look at your house. He or she will point out the poorly sponge-painted wall or straggly shrubs you may have overlooked and suggest ways to help correct the problems.

3. Replace outdated fixtures such as old thermostats and '70s-style lighting.

4. Highlight anything of architectural interest. If you have a fireplace, light a fire or fill it with fresh flowers, depending on the season.

5. Don't forget mood lighting. Install dimmers for too-glaring lights and small uplights to brighten dark corners.



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