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November 28, 2009

Furnishing (or staging) your home for free

The Consuming Interests blog, offering up what its authors think are the best deals around town, included a few items on its list that homeowners might find useful. Because they're free -- yeah, free.

For instance: You can check out prints and maps from the Fine Art Department of the Central branch of the Enoch Pratt Library -- "some of them framed!" points out Consuming Interests -- for as long as half a year. If you've trying to spruce up your digs or stage your home to sell it, the price is right. (Just make sure you get the art back before the past-due fines start being levied.)

Bemoaning an empty bookcase? You can get "secondhand tomes gratis at The Book Thing in Waverly," Consuming Interests notes.

And the Baltimore Free Store "sets up occasional free markets around the city where people can pick up items for no money at all," so you might find useful things for your house or apartment. (Probably not hefty furniture, though. The Free Store website says it's not accepting donations of large furniture at the moment.) 

If you've got the other sort of house problem -- too much stuff -- then you can donate rather than take.

Have you any other free or close-to-free suggestions for homeowners and apartment dwellers? Do share.


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: 10Spot


Jaime, I understand that you want your house to be clutter free when on the market, but the whole staging thing seems needless to me. Why should a potential buyer worry about how another person decorates their own house? I love HGTV, but it gets a little picky at times

I'm agnostic on the staging question -- to each his own. I can see, though, if you have a completely empty house -- because you've moved out -- that it might help to have a few pieces of furniture and art. Agents swear that most buyers aren't very imaginative when it comes to seeing bare rooms as lovely lived-in space.

What do you think, buyers?

When I first heard of/saw staging my reaction was the same as Jeff's, basically "only an idiot would be dazzled by someone else's furniture." From my own personal observations I've seen it work and there's nationwide compiled data that suggests all else equal, a well staged house will sell faster and for more money than an empty house. Granted the statistics are from the National Association or Realtors or the Real Estate Staging Association, but it does support my observation that for most the buying process is far more emotional and irrational than logical and rational.

From a buyer's perspective, I've see several scenarios... 1) a staged home (a wee bit overdone) but beautiful none the less, but which still did not justify paying a premium on a street where other houses were selling for less, 2) a home that seemed more much more natural (but discovered the agent had added a few touches here and there) and 3) a home (which I ultimately bought) but that had so much mismatched, overstuffed furniture crammed in every corner that I couldn't imagine living in it. On this latter, my agent insisted that the house was in great shape and that I wasn't buying the furniture, but it was awful! I'm glad my agent prevailed. I've hardly had any problems with the home.
I think NOT paying any attention to making it look a bit livable and welcoming is silly. Even if one has moved out, a vase on the mantle and an interesting key table in the foyer never hurts.

Unlike "most of buyers" I have no problem imagining furniture placement in an empty home. Actually a completely empty and clean house is much more preferable, because there are no water stains hiding behind the pictures and it also means I'll be able to settle and move in quickly.

Even though, like many others, I don't care much for professional staging, I'm a strong believer in neutralizing.

Sometimes the owner's taste in furniture is just so different than my own that I hardly can see past their flowery wallpaper, doilies and cheesy figurines, even though I am a rational person and fully understand that I'm buying a house. I remember an open house where the whole bedroom was devoted to a rather creepy doll collection (we ran away) or a bedroom reminiscent of a monastery with a single ascetic bed and a huge black cross on the white wall (will we need an exorcist?).

However, on the other end of the spectrum there could be homes, which I might find especially attractive because of the furniture and decorations. So I guess it depends.

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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