Staging a home for sale during the pandemic

The Santa Clarita Valley real estate market is experiencing great conditions for sellers right now due to a number of factors. The significance of home staging somewhat depends on the space available, according to the experts. Photo courtesy Martin Realty Group
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In a hot residential real estate market like the one Los Angeles finds itself in today, sellers have a long list of steps they can take to get their properties ready for sale.

A primary item on the to-do list for selling is staging the home for showings to prospective buyers. Staging a home, similar to all other activities, has had to adjust due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Realtors are finding creative ways for homes to catch the eye, and many are keeping their walk-throughs to “serious buyers,” who are pre-qualified for a home loan and can show proof of funds, as a means to further minimize any potential pandemic exposure to possible buyers or the seller.

“I haven’t really implemented staging because I’m trying to really minimize the (number of) people coming into the properties,” said Erika Kauzlarich, a Compass broker associate with home listings in and around the Santa Clarita Valley.

Even before the pandemic, Kauzlarich recommended decluttering to sellers.

“I prefer clients declutter a home rather than having to stage the home,” Kauzlarich said. “People aren’t buying the furniture in the home. They’re buying the home and the floor plan and the layout.”

Craig Martin of Martin Realty Group in the Santa Clarita Valley takes a “hybrid” approach that combines staging and decluttering. He works with staging companies that do both.

“We box everything, we put it into the garage, we take out those extra sofas and chairs, extra furniture, and then we put other stuff in its place, like little knickknacks and stuff that look really nice,” Martin said. “It’s kind of like a hybrid staging where it’s not a complete ‘Bring in all the furniture now,’ it’s more about just decluttering.”

With or without staging and decluttering, Martin said he continues to see homes selling for top dollar. “If a house doesn’t have any (staging), it’s still going to sell,” Martin said.  “When it’s cluttered up and we want it to feel open and bigger, that’s when we’re doing the staging.”

A California Association of Realtors survey showed that people that stage their homes get 16% greater value in the sale price, according to Nancy Starczyk, a Realtor with Realty Executives in Valencia.

“Most of the time, buyers have difficulty visualizing furniture in a vacant home,” Starczyk said, “So, staging makes all the difference in the world.”

De-personalizing a home as part of the staging process helps buyers visualize themselves in a home, Martin said. Before a showing, he also recommends cleaning a home’s windows and making small improvement, like adding LED lights, “so it looks much bigger.” 

“You don’t really have to stage all the bedrooms as much,” Martin said. “It’s really the great rooms. Or a smaller room in the home (that) you want to make look bigger, so you’ll stage it with smaller furniture showing them that it can work for people.”

Data shared last month during the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation’s 2021 Economic Outlook Spring Report show that home sales have increased by 20% and home prices have increased by 8% in the Santa Clarita Valley since early last year. 

Kauzlarich pointed to three factors that she thinks attributed to those increases. A shortage of housing is No. 1 on her list.

“Until we build new housing and we increase our inventory, then it’s going to remain a seller’s market,” Kauzlarich said. 

Santa Clarita Valley appears to be doing its part to address the need for new housing. Last year, SCV witnessed the highest number of new residential units permitted of any year since 2006. 

Currently, 13,860 residential units are under construction, 4,735 units have been approved for construction and 18,586 units seeking approval, according to data presented at the 2021 Economic Outlook Spring Report last month.

A low interest rate for home loans is Kauzlarich’s second factor.

“People that were renting realized the value in the low interest rates,” she said. “When you compare what your mortgage would be versus what the rental market is right now, there’s a huge savings.”

Lastly, Kauzlarich noted that the pandemic and the way it has changed people’s relationships with work has played a role in creating a hot residential real estate market.

With an increase in the number of people working from home during the pandemic and a potential continuation to work from home arrangements as offices reopen, “the commute is no longer a factor,” according to Kauzlarich.

“When they’re not having to factor in a commute, they can live in Santa Clarita Valley,” Kauzlarich said. “A lot of people desire to live up here, some of them just don’t based on the commute to work.”  

Whether it’s Saugus, Canyon Country or one of the SCV’s many beautiful neighborhoods, Kauzlarich said the story is the same.

“Across the board, it was really the same in terms of number of showings, number of offers, all of that,” she said, noting that Valencia is one of the most desirable areas in SCV. 

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