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How to Stage Your Home to Boost Your Selling Price [Pro Tips from Realtor® and Staging Expert Kelly Valera]

Headshot of Kelly Valera with text "Kelly Valera" on top of image of a woman placing a blanket on a couchPeople make purchase decisions based on emotion and justify them with logic, and houses are no exception.

When it comes to buying a home, people want a place in the right neighborhood at the right price point. But those are only a few pieces of the puzzle.

Buying a house is an incredibly emotional process—your home plays a crucial role in fulfilling several fundamental human needs, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

That’s where staging comes into play: presenting your home in a way that helps potential buyers envision their lives in that space.

Doing so has even been proven to help command higher selling prices, meaning that investing in staging can put more money in your pocket.

To learn more, we spoke with Kelly Valera, who started her own staging company in 2011, before eventually joining The Cozza Team as a REALTOR® and staging manager. 

SOMO Village: Having been both a stager and an agent, why do you believe staging a home is so important? 

Minimalist kitchenKelly Valera: Ultimately, staging adds value. 

Everyone lives in their home differently and has different needs. You may have children, pets, an elder you’re taking care of, or other unique needs. But sometimes the items required for your living situation do not translate to the people who are looking at your house to buy. People’s design choices don’t always resonate either.. 

A stager’s job is to make your home palatable and attractive to the widest possible net of potential buyers. 

Stagers pay attention to things that you, as a seller, might not be paying attention to. For example, you might have a giant couch for your five kids in your living room that is making the room feel small. Staging that space with an appropriate-sized couch will help show the real size and potential of the room. 

Staging is all about homogenizing and depersonalizing things. When people come to look at a house to purchase, they want to picture themselves in the home. If the sellers have too many personal things around, or distracting decor it can be off-putting. 

What does the staging process look like? 

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so there are levels to what stagers can do. There are two main directions to go, depending on your plan: 

  • Staying in the home: If you are living in the home while showing it to buyers, the key is to edit heavily—take all your personal photos down and remove clutter. You want it to almost look like no one lives there by clearing countertops, removing excess furniture, or even swapping out some of the decor and painting. I like to describe it this way: imagine the most judgemental in-laws ever coming over after a long time—you don’t want to give them anything to point out.
  • Moving out: Unless you’re a designer with neutral taste, it’s almost always better to move all of your things out, re-paint it a nice, neutral color, and then stage it with new furniture and decor. When we can start from scratch, we can do our best work. 

Have you noticed a difference in closing times and sales prices between homes that are staged and homes that aren’t? 

Woman hanging a mirror on the wallUnequivocally yes. They have done many studies on this. Statistics don’t lie. It is a verifiable fact that if you stage, you’re going to sell faster and make more money on the sale.

A good stager knows what the trends are and how to make the most out of the property in order to appeal to the widest swath of buyers.. 

I once had a realtor tell me a story about how they had shown two homes to a prospective buyer. They were in the same development and were virtually identical, with the only difference being that one was staged and the other wasn’t. The buyer wasn’t sold on the unstaged unit but fell in love with the staged one.

Investing in staging pays off. It’s part of the entire marketing package to present your property well to buyers. This is the biggest investment in your life, so staging is an investment in your investment.

Are there any styles or aesthetics that are popular here in Sonoma County? 

A good stager will always pay attention to the property type and stage it accordingly. One thing I love about Sonoma County is that there is really diverse architecture—you can be in Santa Rosa or Petaluma and see a house built in 1880 and then turn the corner and see a mid-century house. 

By paying attention to the architecture of a home, a stager can pick the right style. Right now, me and my stager friends are following what we call the “California Coastal” trend. Some elements of this are: 

  • Casual with some sneakily upscale elements. 
  • Neutral palettes, such as light or cream couches and walls.
  • Natural fabrics for rugs, etc. 
  • Pops of colors with accessories, art, or pillows.

This style is a foundation that you can build on and do anything to make it your own. 

Something else that is particularly relevant here in Sonoma County—and California more broadly—is the curb appeal. Good weather allows for a year-round indoor-outdoor lifestyle, so some buyers won’t even consider a house if the front yard and exterior don’t look good. 

Boosting the curb appeal could include small tweaks to things like replacing the front door or a new coat of exterior paint as well as tidying the yard and refreshing with plants. These small things can really punch up the value to prospective buyers.

How should sellers invest in options like staging or upgrades? 

Two people painting with a rollerStaging and upgrading your home before you sell is an investment that usually pays off in higher profits.

One great thing about working with the Cozza Team as a member of the Compass Family is that we can offer up to a $40,000 loan, interest-free. This is called the Compass Concierge and allows you to refresh your home before selling. 

As a team, we look at the whole house and come up with a dream list of things to do and how it’ll pay off. We then hone it down based on budget by choosing the things that will provide the best return on investment. One of the biggest ones is always paint—the look, smell, and feel are always a great upgrade. 

If you’re selling your home and want to learn more about upgrades, staging, and other factors that impact sales price, reach out to Kelly and the Cozza Team today. You can speak with Kelly by email or phone at 415-793-3494.

Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you.

Kelly Valera, Sonoma County RealtorAbout Kelly Valera

Kelly brings over a decade of experience in preparing homes for sale to the Cozza Real Estate Team. Her immense knowledge of Sonoma and Marin neighborhoods, along with her innate interpersonal skills mean that she gets the job done for her clients with ease and aplomb. 

Kelly’s motto is that she’s never met a stranger and that serves her clients well as they feel like they are being heard and immediately put at ease. She understands that for a lot of people, this is the biggest investment they will make in their lives and makes it her mission to complete transactions lucratively and expediently. To give back to the community she loves, Kelly works with several local non-profits to raise funds for the children of Petaluma. On a rare day off you can find her curled up with a great book or enjoying all that the area has to offer with her husband Jeff and their two children Calder and Monet.

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