Clean, styled rooms will sell a home

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published September 11, 2013

 Tasteful vignettes, like a coffee pot and cream or place settings artfully arranged, can help buyers feel that they would like to live in your home.

Tasteful vignettes, like a coffee pot and cream or place settings artfully arranged, can help buyers feel that they would like to live in your home.

Photo provided by Kathi Jones-Cutler

Remove clutter, clean and create a tasteful space.

Those three tips will get home-sellers far in their quest to have a show-ready home, say local experts. But sometimes, all that is easier said than done.

“De-clutter not only closets, tables, (but) de-clutter walls so they’re not filled with art … because the eye doesn’t want to be taken over by how much art there is, but by how much wall there is to show,” said Virginia Tatseos, of Stage-Show-Sell in Bloomfield Hills. “De-clutter the closets — make them look big.”

She said don’t worry about fixing tiny holes left from the nail where the painting hung unless it creates a noticeable eyesore.

“Most people are going to paint or touch up,” she said. “They know the house is going to have a few bumps.”

Kathi Jones-Cutler, of Max Broock in Birmingham, recommends staging every room as if it’s being set up for a photo shoot in a home design magazine.

In the kitchen, for example, she said clutter and anything stacked on top of a refrigerator or cabinet says to buyers that there isn’t enough cabinet space. Put away all extraneous appliances, she said, and then create a vignette to show the buyers what your home has to offer.

One of the best, she said, is a café vignette with a coffeemaker and a little tray holding a small bowl of creamers, stir sticks and a coffee cup or three.

“You want their eye to go somewhere,” she said. “You want them to identify certain areas that are pleasing and appealing.”

Then, she said, clear the rest of the counter.

Staging is becoming more important as the market bounces back, said Carolyn Stieger, of We Stage Greater Detroit.

“We have been in an economic slump, and the staging was really low on the priorities of people’s things to do,” she said. “Since spring, my phone rings every day. People are getting it. They know they need to stage their house.”

She said a picture’s worth a thousand words, even to someone who has lived in a home for years.

“If you are not sure how the room looks to a stranger, take a picture,” she said. “Look through the eye of the camera, because that is the picture that people are going to see on the Internet, that people are going to see first and pass by or decide to look at your home.”

She said there is nothing wrong with living in your home the way you like, but those wanting to maximize the money they can get from a sale need to present it to the public tastefully.

Jones-Cutler said it’s important that buyers feel they are a guest in your home.

“They don’t care about what you like and what you do and what your tastes are,” she said. “If it’s messy and cluttered and dirty, they’re going to start looking for more flaws.”

Cleanliness is perhaps the most important factor, said Tatseos.

“Nothing will turn off a buyer more than a house that does not smell clean,” she said. “I was a Realtor for 15 years. A lot of my staging experience is walking in with buyers and their comments like, ‘Oh, they got a dog. Oh my gosh, they have a cat.’ Or even worse, they have a smelly teenager.”

She said matching the towels in the bathroom isn’t nearly as important if that bathroom isn’t clean.

Jones-Cutler said the key places to stage are the kitchen, dining room, living and family rooms, and the master suite. If your house has a bonus room or finished basement, that’s important to showcase, as well, to make the house stand out from the crowd.

Holidays can help, too. Jones-Cutler said fewer homes are on the market at this time of year, and some tasteful holiday decorations — along with the harvest smells of cinnamon, cloves and mulled cider — can really enhance a home for buyers. She said the Internet and home magazines have a lot of ideas that can be easily copied by home sellers.

When taking photos for an Internet real estate listing, it’s important to show special features of the home.

Tatseos said she recently photographed a 10,000-square-foot home that featured a master bedroom with a sliding glass door overlooking the deck and the pool. Trying to get all that in one picture is challenging but essential, she said.

And don’t empty the room, she said. Furniture gives scale to the photographs.

“A little furniture is better than no furniture because it shows how big the room is … so people can place in their minds where their furniture is going to be,” she said.

Using a wide-angle lens for the shot is helpful, Jones-Cutler said, so you can get as much of the room as possible in the photo. Turn lots of lights on to make sure the photo is bright enough, and so buyers can see the highlights of the home.

“That’s your mood and ambient lighting,” she said. “It will show in the photo.”

Learn more about Stage-Show-Sell at, and for more information about Kathi Jones-Cutler at Max Broock, call (248) 345-7775. For We Stage Greater Detroit, call (248) 515-2156.