When Lori Guyer was selling her Southold home earlier this year, she placed a large bowl of green apples on the counter in her neutral-colored kitchen and scattered books about the North Fork throughout the house.
She then removed all evidence of clutter, made sure the windows sparkled and staged each room to look as bright and open as possible. Small pops of color in the form of accessories like small throw pillows and picture frames were peppered strategically. Fresh flowers and an herb planter also adorned the home.
When the house sold, she left behind the North Fork books, including Southold PTA cookbooks, as a housewarming gift for the new owners.
Ms. Guyer, who owns White Flower Farmhouse, a home furnishing and antique store in Southold, said she believes staging a home simply helps buyers envision themselves in the space more easily.
“There’s a fine line with staging,” she said. “You want to strip away all the clutter, but you don’t want to make it feel sterile. You have to give it enough warmth to make it inviting.”
North Fork real estate agents agree that sellers should consider staging the interior and exterior of their homes, decorate according to the season and invest in professional photos of their property.
Jerry Cibulski, a broker with Century 21 Albertson Realty in Southold, said he enjoys staging homes and even provides sellers with his own props.
He said sellers could evoke a beach theme, for instance, by putting sand from different local beaches in labeled jars and displaying them on a shelf. One of his most unusual props, he said, is a four-foot trident. He said he uses the metal spear to convey a nautical theme by placing it against a wall.
“One talking point I use with sellers is from Coco Chanel: Once you complete your outfit, take one thing away,” he said. “We want just enough accessories to tell a story.”
One example of successful staging comes from an Orient home that went up for sale last winter, Mr. Cibulski said. Before he staged the property, he said, potential buyers felt the living room was too small — an optical illusion he believed was created by overly large furniture.
After staging the room in a way that opened up more floor space and changing the decor to a beach theme, Mr. Cibulski said, the listing began receiving more offers.
Marie Beninati, owner of Beninati Associates in Southold, said she also gets more offers after staging a home.
Her number one piece of advice for sellers?
“Neat and clean goes a very long way,” she said. “You really want to set the stage so when people come in they can envision themselves living there.”
If there’s a fireplace, she said, lighting a roaring fire during a winter open house is a nice touch. In summer months, Ms. Beninati suggests removing heavy curtains in order to brighten any room. And make sure the lawn is mowed, the hose isn’t lying around, pool toys are put away and the air conditioning is turned on, she said.
“The first impression is the most important,” she said. “You don’t want someone pulling up to the house and not wanting to come inside.”
Valerie Goode, owner of Colony Realty in Jamesport, said she stages homes simply and will ask sellers to pack up as many of their belongings as possible before a showing.
“You’re going to pack anyway — why not pack in anticipation of the whole process working in favor of a sale?” Ms. Goode said. “Get your bathrobe off the door. Push slippers under the bed. You don’t want a potential buyer to feel like they’re crowded in someone else’s space.”
As for professional photography, Mr. Cibulski described the investment as a “key element” in today’s market, since buyers typically first view homes online.
“A point-and-shoot camera will only focus on the bed in a room and we’re not selling the bed — we’re selling the house,” he said. “It’s key to position the angle of each photo to pull all the pieces together and show where the room leads to.”
Mr. Cibulski also suggests spraying light fragrances around the home. He shuns baking cookies during an open house because he believes the scent comes across like a used car salesman masking an odor.
If the seller smoked inside their home, he recommends having professional cleaners remove nicotine from the walls and the smell of smoke from furnishings.
“We need to take it from the home you own to the asset you’re selling,” he said.