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Staging for Sale in the Current Market Keep it Clean, and Know Your Buyer

Staging an apartment for sale has always been an important factor in getting the best price for your unit, but in the current market, it has become even more so. Many aspects of a condo or co-op unit are static, and while buyers are looking for the best value in terms of both individual units and building amenities, how you present that unit is dynamic - and can make a huge difference in how quickly a prospective buyer makes an offer.

Cleanliness Above All


Marilyn Sygrove, President of New York-based Sygrove Associates Design Group says that “Today, with COVID, it’s all about cleanliness.” She stresses that an apartment must be pristine. “Have the apartment professionally cleaned and keep it that way,” she says. “Declutter every room, even more so than before the pandemic. Empty the closets, leaving just a few items. Invest in decent storage for the duration of the sale cycle. A fresh coat of paint leaves the buyer with a sense of newness, even in older, prewar buildings. I recommend OC-17, also known as White Dove, as the preferred color apartmentwide, in a flat or satin finish. No glossy paints. Also purchase some simple, clean room scents to give the right feeling.”

Sygrove suggests that the truly optimal situation for selling is for the owner-seller to vacate the apartment while it’s being shown. If you are buying, or have bought your next place already, move - then sell. If not, edit down the furnishings to a minimum, keep the window treatments simple to let maximum light enter the apartment. Emphasize livability with an innocuous throw blanket and some cheery pillows on a couch, a coffee table book. Something anyone would have.

Who’s Buying?


Today’s is clearly a buyers’ market. To properly stage your apartment, you must balance the two ends of the buyer population most likely to be looking for a new place today: millennials starting new families or intending to shortly, and empty nesters looking to return to an urban lifestyle. They are looking at the same space through different eyes - so the trick is in staging your space to appeal to both.

“Millennials comprise 40% of our market today,” says Joanna Mayfield Marks, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens. “Most sales are happening under $1 million in Manhattan and Brooklyn as we are in an economic recovery and it starts at the low end of the market, then moves up to luxury.”

“One wants to show that at least a queen bed fits into a bedroom, and there is space for a dining table and bonus in these times for a home office,” she continues. “Also, small seasonal touches, like candles in winter, fresh baked cookies, cozy fluffy pillows or throw blankets and lush green plants always add the warm home appeal.”

Sygrove suggests that for millennial buyers, sellers should highlight the technology; huge screen TVs, smart amenities, and the work-at-home potential of the space. Alternately, for empty nesters, something as simple as accessories with a mid-century vibe can make all the difference. “You want to make prospective buyers feel more at home in the space, like they can relate to it.”

What About the Second Bedroom?


Staging the master bedroom or living room is easy compared to how to present a second bedroom - a space that might serve as a child’s bedroom or a home office or study. “The main bedroom should be staged as such,” says Larry Lubin, a broker with Klara Madlin Real Estate in Manhattan. “But the second bedroom should be as innocuous as possible - not necessarily as a child’s room or nursery. If it’s too child-oriented buyers might lack vision to see how it can be an office or a study.” Mayfield Marks concurs, stating that home offices are more in demand now than nurseries.

In the final analysis, at this time and point in the market the ultimate issue regardless of what end of the buying population your apartment will appeal to is cleanliness, pure and simple. “Everything must appear, feel and smell sanitary, especially with COVID,” says Sygrove. “No toothbrushes in sight! If there are multiple apartments in the building competing you need to make the case for yours. Cleanliness is key.”

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