We all want to make good first impressions - at a job interview, when meeting the future in-laws or when giving a presentation.
When a home is for sale, it must also make a good first impression.
'You need to get the potential homeowner's attention in the fast-paced world where everyone has a limited attention span. This happens 10 second into the front door,' said Heather Wood, owner and designer with Meadowood Design Group.
Besides being tidy and freshly painted, the home must stand out as unique from its competition - basically every other home in its price range and general area.
Staging a home - placing furniture and accessories to create warmth - is a way for the sellers to prepare their merchandise, so to speak.
'You want to give people an idea of what it would be like to live in the home,' Wood said.
With 30-plus years experience in real estate, new home construction and interior design, Wood's full-service company specializes in material selections for residential and commercial spaces.
As the former design center manager and director of design and merchandising for Renaissance Homes in Lake Oswego, Wood created the company's Lake Oswego design center that won the gold award for 'Best Design Center in the Country' in 2007 from the National Association of Home Builders.
And now, in a slower real estate market, her staging tactics with her own company are paying off for local homeowners trying to sell their homes. The $1.3 million home at 567 10th St. in Lake Oswego was staged from March 1 through May and just sold last week.
'This is pretty quick, considering the price range of the home,' Wood said. 'Staging can make all the difference.'
The home's Realtor - Patrick Krause of Soldera Properties in Lake Oswego - enlisted Wood's help to enhance its ambiance.
'I love marketing vacant, new construction when the market is good because (the client's) mind set is, 'we better buy this before somebody else.' And they're envisioning their furniture in the house,' Krause said. 'In this (slower) market, buyers are oftentimes just looking, so we need to entice them to buy the house.'
It's 'emotional staging'
By utilizing furniture arrangements Krause's staged listing resulted in 'lots of positive comments about Meadowood Design,' he said.
'Obviously you can't stage the entire house; it's not a model home. The rooms that people are interested in are the rooms that sell the home - the great room, kitchen, dining area and master suite,' Wood said, 'and if you have a challenging area or room that is small or people wouldn't know what to do with.'
This particular home Wood staged was built by Accent Residential Homes and centered around an enormous exterior south-facing slate patio. It offered other distinctive features such as a wet bar at the entrance to the master bathroom, main-level guest suite, box-beam ceilings and extensive hardwoods.
'This house has an East Coast, Cape Cod feel,' Wood said.
While Wood's decorating style fits the home's physical style, her furniture and accent items were chosen purely to create ambiance. Staging is different from decorating, she said.
'If you're asking what my style is, it may be emotional staging,' Wood said.
Emotional staging, she said, is creating a comfortable environment that allows those visiting the home to create scenarios in their minds.
'This could be a relaxing evening in a comfy chair reading, sitting down for a home-cooked meal, festive family events or a romantic evening,' Wood said.
Show off the potential
Since this home had a lot of large rooms - like the expansive great room and master suite - Wood wanted to show buyers the potential for each space.
In the space between the living room and kitchen she set a large dining table, which emphasized how expansive that room was.
'The room still feels big with this big table in here. Without the table here buyers wouldn't be able to envision how big this space really is,' Wood said. 'There's plenty of room for a family to have dinner here and have room to walk around the table.'
The same went for the master suite with a king size bed.
'(Buyers) might think, 'hey, our king bed will fit here. We've been thinking about moving. We can get into a great school district. Let's think about this,'' Krause said.
A hand-carved bench in the long master bathroom was placed before the shower to indicate the expansive space.
'I wanted to do something to add some personality. You can add a towel over the bench. You can set your robe here,' Wood said.
The oversized laundry room has a built-in desk and state-of-the-art appliances. Wood placed a large lamp and calendar with make-believe important dates on it to indicate that the space could be a usable desk for a family member.
While it isn't necessary to stage each room of the home because, 'sometimes it's obvious how large the space is and what it's used for,' Wood said, there are some rooms that might prove challenging.
In the basement, a good sized room could be used as a wine room, artists studio, music room or playroom for the kids. Instead of bringing furniture into the room, Wood listed these options and created a collage on a presentation board to get visitors thinking.
'Imagine the possibilities,' Wood said. 'You don't need to spend the money to bring pieces in down here. It's just as helpful to get people thinking.'
Make it interesting
Wood described decorating the homes as branding, something that people do consciously and unconsciously.
'Walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the world and there is a ribbon of design, color that are familiar with every Starbucks. I suppose what we do differently from other designers is that I have the ability to make the empty house feel like a home,' Wood said.
Wood chooses material selections that are unique to the specific project.
'You could furnish the home with everything out of a Pottery Barn catalogue but it's different if you do find unique pieces because it does look like someone has lived in the house and collected items, maybe from their travels,' Wood said.
This comes with the material selections and the decorating.
'I like the hunt and search for interesting dishes or a special patterned pillow that is unexpected,' Wood said. 'You don't have to spend a fortune either. Some of my best shopping has been at T.J. Maxx and Target.'
Wood said she always opts to use furniture from local companies; its free advertising for the company and items can be arranged in the home quickly.
'I've noticed that a lot of people will inquire about buying the house furnished,' Krause said.
Because, 'sometimes people can't visualize it any other way,' Wood added.
This home used furniture from Classic Antique, a favorite of Wood's, saying, 'they are so accomodating to clients and have a wonderful store.'
Wood said that choosing the materials that go into each home excites her. And she enjoys when this process is rewarding for her clients.
'One of the best compliments I've had was when my past employer sat in one of the great rooms that I completed and said, 'I just want to sit in the room that you (designed) and not get up,'' Wood said.
'That is what I want the prospective homebuyer to do,' she continued. 'We want them to feel comfortable enough to stay and linger and fall in love with the home so they write an offer.'