Publication Date: Wednesday, April 7,
Creating curb appeal
A first impression begins with the outside of a house
by Gretchen Roberts
it comes to selling your home, it's not just what's on the inside
that counts. You may have spent thousands of dollars painting
your walls, hauling your junk out and spiffing up your furniture,
but many would-be homebuyers cruise through the neighborhood
before calling the real estate agent.
If all that greets them at your house is a barren wasteland
of a lawn, complete with a rusty swingset and cluttered porch,
they might not even stop by.
Staging, or furnishing and decorating the rooms of a home on the market to make
it more appealing to a potential buyer, is a well-known concept in the Bay Area.
In recent years it has become more the norm than the exception in these parts.
Hiring a separate outdoor stager is a surprisingly lucrative way to sell your
home more quickly, and often at a higher price.
"A lot of what people are buying is the outside, especially in California," said
Nancy Goldcamp, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Palo Alto.
Vicki Hyde, owner of Hyde Gardens, a garden staging and plant-design business
in Palo Alto, believes in the value of curb appeal. "Buyers decide in the
first 30 seconds whether or not they can see themselves in this home," she
said. "If their initial impression is a turnoff, you'll be fighting an
uphill battle in the sale."
Outdoor stagers typically work through the Realtor or indoor stager rather than
directly with a homeowner. Hyde usually coordinates with the indoor stager's
design and with the style of the home. The rest, she says, depends on the budget.
Homeowners who are moving don't usually want to invest in
pots, plants, benches and other items that will help sell the
home, since the pieces may not work
with their new place, Goldcamp said. "With staging, you essentially
just rent the materials instead of investing in them."
Sometimes outdoor staging is as simple as creating a large potted arrangement
for the front porch. Hyde uses a large focal piece in each pot with fresh underplantings,
which she places on either side of the porch or front door area. Such an arrangement
can cost about $150 per month to rent, though Hyde notes the majority of the
homes she's staged sell within the first month.
Stagers typically rent goods for the first month and then
weekly. "I lease
the pots, but if it's planted, it stays," Hyde said.
The goal of outdoor staging is to make the exterior look inviting and to take
away any thoughts the buyer might have of putting work into the place, Hyde explained.
Or the seller, for that matter. Most stagers do the lion's share of the work,
but others, like Kit Davey, owner of A Fresh Look in Redwood City, involve clients
in each step.
Davey does both indoor and outdoor staging work. "We start at the front
of the house and I give suggestions for curb appeal. Then we walk through the
house and I tell the homeowner what needs to be done, room by room," she
Some of Davey's typical recommendations include washing the windows, buying a
new doormat, mending or cleaning fences and storing toys, tools and garbage cans.
Other indoor stagers prefer to turn outdoor staging over to
a specialist. "We
used to do gardens and porches ourselves, but Vicki [Hyde] is a plant designer,
and we like to work with her in a custom design that blends the inside and outside
together," said Jenny Bisset of Stage Right in Palo Alto.
Hyde recently finished staging the backyard of a condo that
had been a rental unit for years. "Many times condo buyers are purchasing their first home
and they may not have yard experience," she said. "The owner wanted
someone to walk back there and say, 'Wow, what an oasis.'" The
job, which ran about $4,000, included a new patio, plantings and
Hyde's philosophy is simple, but the look is sophisticated. "I like texture,
color and leaves -- not just flowers," she said. "I try
to create an interesting combination of containers and plants that
good to the
don't have to articulate why you like it, you just know that you
Outdoor staging is more than just power-washing your driveway. "Many homeowners
can achieve a beautiful appeal to the house," Goldcamp said. "But
we use an outdoor stager to create a focal point, to give the house
that extra impact."
Goldcamp said just one or two accents, from potted plants to a new garden bench,
will highlight the space and draw your attention to the merits of the property.
"We push hard when we put a house on the market to have it sparkle inside
and out," she said. "But that wouldn't do a lot of good
if we put back the shabby rug. It's the same with the yard. If
extra punch by adding something -- a bench, some plants, a sculpture."
In a strong market, your house will sell regardless of what
you do or don't do to prepare. But an attractive outside is just
the saying goes, you never get a second chance to create a first