Tips for Home Staging From Barb Schwarz

home staging with barb schwarz

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Barb Schwarz, who came up with the concept of home staging, says she might have been the next Barbra Streisand if she hadn't pushed aside her singing talents to pursue interior design and a real estate career. "When I first said the word 'stage' in 1972 to a client, I never dreamed I'd be having this interview or the business I've been able to build," she says.

Schwarz started with a client whose home had been listed with somebody else and on the market for six months without a nibble. She compared staging this client's house with the way scenes are staged in the theater. "Every room is different, so we did a different scene in every room," Schwarz explains. "It worked."

That small success was all Schwarz needed to propel her into staging other homes, creating a subindustry within the real estate business, and earning top producer status as an agent.

Speaker and Author

Schwarz has trained about 1.3 million real estate agents to stage homes, logged over 22,000 hours on the speaking circuit, and been awarded the designation of Certified Speaking Professional from the National Speakers Association. Her book, "Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money," with co-author Mary Seehafer Sears, is filled with practical advice.

Staging Every Room

The book contains plenty of "before" and "after" photos, making it easy for the reader to see why staging is so effective. Schwarz suggests writing ad copy before staging and then staging the house to play up those features that make it unique.

She explains in detail how to tackle each room of the house:

  • Staging a living room should reflect spaciousness and light.
  • Staging the kitchen should focus on simplicity and brightness, with all counters bare.
  • Pantries should contain a minimum number of neatly arranged canned goods and bottles of water. Don't show bags of pet food.
  • Create an open, airy, and romantic master bedroom.
  • Clean and polish foyer floors.
  • Remove stacks of mail and overstuffed coat trees.
  • Declutter the family room or den.
  • Set the dining room table with chargers, china, and a centerpiece. Don't put out flatware because people steal it.
  • Make the closets in children's bedrooms roomy and remove clutter from the shelves.
  • Buy pretty hangers for your closets and show lots of space.
  • Staging a bath should focus on keeping it clutter-free and immaculate.

There's also a chapter on landscaping and how to spruce up the exterior of the house. Schwarz calls it "giving the home positive energy and spirit."

She offers advice on how to deal with messy neighbors and formulas for turning unappealing homes into showcases that sell quickly for top dollar. There's not a room left unstaged nor a space left untouched.

Staging on a Dime

Chapter 6, "Staging on a Dime," explains how to stage with simple items found around the house. Schwarz lends a new eye to old items and shows the reader how to make something pretty for no or little cost.

Here are some of her creative ideas for turning the ordinary into the spectacular:

  • King-size sheets can do double duty as window coverings.
  • Tapestries, throws, scarves, and sarongs can turn into table toppers.
  • Dressed-up white plastic tables and chairs can become dining room furniture.
  • Add weight and substance with careful placement of metalwork such as lanterns, bowls, and candle holders.
  • Bring yard trimmings inside to make floral arrangements.
  • Explore innovative uses for buttons like covering up a wall nail with one.
  • Tie ribbons, grass rope, or twine around towels and bouquets.

Schwarz's staging-to-sell techniques are so successful that sellers sometimes ask her to stage their new home, to turn it into a peaceful environment filled with energy. "Staging creates so much less stress, and the depressed feel more joyful," Schwarz says. Her passion for home staging is contagious.