Powerhouse Barb Schwarz Rules Home Staging

Review of 'The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money'

home staging with barb schwarz

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Barb Schwarz, the dynamo founder of home staging, might have easily been the next Barbra Streisand if she hadn't pushed aside her singing talents to pursue interior design and a real estate career. Or so she says.

"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," says Schwarz. She 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 an individual scene is staged in the theater. "Every room is different, so we did a different scene in every room," Schwarz explained. "It worked." From those humble beginnings in 1972, that small success was all Schwarz needed to propel her into staging other homes and earning top producer status as a real estate agent.

Fast-forward to the Present
Today, as owner of Stagedhomes.com, Barb Schwarz says she has trained around a million real estate agents to stage homes, logged over 17,000 hours on the speaking platform and joined the ranks of an elite group of 300 individuals who have 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.

Home Staging from A to Z
The photographs say it all, and the book contains plenty of "before" and "after" photos, making it very 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 offers tips and 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, brightness, with all counters bare.
  • Pantries should contain a minimum amount of neatly arranged canned goods and bottled water. No bags of pet food.
  • Create an open, airy and romantic master bedroom.
  • Clean and polish foyer floors.
  • Remove stacks of mail & overstuffed coat trees.
  • De-clutter family room or den.
  • Set the dining room table with chargers, china, and centerpiece. No flatware because people steal it.
  • Involve children. Make their closets roomy and unclutter shelves.
  • Buy pretty hangers for your closets and show lots of space.
  • Staging a bath should be kept clutter-free and be immaculate.

There's also a chapter on landscaping and how to spruce up the exterior of the home. 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 magical showcases that sell for top dollar in record time. There's not a room left unstaged nor a space left untouched.

Staging on a Dime
Chapter 6, Staging on a Dime, is my favorite because it 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 out of nothing or for pennies. 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 a button.
  • 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," gushes Schwarz. Her enthusiasm and passion for home staging are contagious. If you have time to read only one book on preparing your home for sale and home staging, trust me, this is the book to purchase. I give it a 10.

    Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House For More Money. 205 pages. © 2006 by Barb Schwarz and Mary Seehafer Sears. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

    At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.