All the world’s a stage when selling a house

03/22/2014 11:23 AM

03/22/2014 11:23 AM

When Thomas and Jolene Inskeet put their Cheney house on the market in early March, they hired Gary Streepy of Three Pea to stage the house.

“It was such a transformation between when he came in and when he left – it was amazing,” Jolene Inskeet said.

On his first visit, Streepy gave the Inskeets work to do, including painting a room a neutral color and taking down some curtains, Jolene Inskeet said. The next time he came back, with that work done, he hung pictures and brought in area rugs – and lamps.

“I have three children,” Inskeet said. “Lamps went bye-bye a long time ago.”

Those who stage homes can fill in such holes and do whatever else it takes to make sure a house is shown to its best advantage.

Staging is more important now than ever, because people often search for houses online, said Teresa Miller, a Wichita interior designer who does staging.

“If it doesn’t appeal to them on the Internet, they don’t want to walk in the house. We have to have the house top-notch before they even make an appointment to see them,” Miller said.

In addition to offering an expert eye, a stager is an impartial third party.

“Some people will use me because it’s easier to bring a third person in that isn’t connected with the Realtor,” Miller said.

Wichita real estate agent Scott Stremel said staging is an advantage for sellers. He can recommend staging companies to his clients, or he can make staging suggestions to homeowners who can either implement them themselves or get help from a friend who has a knack for design.

“It does make a difference, that first impression,” Stremel said.

There’s a difference between decorating and staging, Streepy said: Decorating is personal and about the homeowner, while staging is all about the house and showing it to its best advantage.

Because of that, staging begins a mental transition period for homeowners, Miller said: It helps them start detaching from the house.

“I’m a really sentimental person,” Miller said. “Staging is a way of depersonalizing. Staging is a process. When you move in, you’re customizing. With the staging, it allows you to detach by packing that away. As you see the house transform, it makes it easier to walk away when the house does sell.”

Staging can involve major work or just tweaking.

“It’s most economical if I use all the homeowner’s stuff,” Miller said. “We have creative ways of how to use things outside the box to accomplish what we need.”

One of the changes that Streepy recommended for the Inskeets came with a sting: repainting the baby’s room. The couple had recently had a baby girl after two boys, and just three months before the house went on the market, Jolene Inskeet had painted the baby’s room pink.

“I spent like $100 on pink paint,” she said. And now she and her husband were faced with painting the room a warm but neutral Practical Beige.

For his part, Streepy said he wanted a potential buyer to be able to see more uses for the room than a baby girl’s bedroom.

“We knew we had to,” Jolene Inskeet said of the new paint job. “And it’s true: If someone comes in to look at a house and they don’t have a baby girl, they’re not going to appreciate a pink room. If you have boys, this is not the right color.

“We’ll start looking at houses, and that’s kind of a big thing: You see a room online that’s quite inappropriate to your lifestyle, it kind of turns you off.”

The second time around, Thomas Inskeet did the painting.

“The biggest change in what Gary did: Our living room was very bare, because I didn’t want corners for the baby,” Jolene Inskeet said. “He brought in a sofa table and an area rug, and now everyone gravitates to that room. It’s kind of funny. We play Go Fish on the coffee table now.”

Indeed, the reactions of homeowners to their houses after they’ve been staged can range from “Why didn’t this happen sooner?” to “Why are we moving?” Streepy said.

For this reason, Miller also does staging for people who are not moving. One of her clients was a woman who decided to treat herself for her birthday by having Miller redesign a certain room in her house. The woman went to another room to watch TV while Miller did her magic.

Between Streepy and organizer Kirsten Awe of Three Pea, they stage, organize and furnish houses as well as run a consignment gallery at First and Hydraulic that buys items that are too nice for a garage sale and too few for an estate sale.

They also help people who are downsizing to a retirement home visualize how their things will look in their new smaller space.

Streepy charges $150 for a two-hour consultation and stages houses in all price ranges. He can make a big impact in a $75,000 house, for example, he said.

If he furnishes as well as stages a house, it can cost $1,500 to $2,000, which includes furniture rental for two months, trucks, drivers and staging.

The most important thing to Streepy is the very first look someone gets entering a house.

Some of the things Streepy commonly tweaks:

• Too many pictures hung too high.
• Furniture stuck to the wall instead of floating in the room.
• Tables not centered under ceiling lights.
• General-purpose rooms that fail to define the space.

The biggest thing that can be done to change the space is paint, Streepy said.

Through a coat of beige paint, Jolene Inskeet sounded like she was already detaching from her baby girl’s room.

“I did all this work painting, but you know what? I have great pictures of her in her pink room. In our next house, she’ll have her pink room back.”

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