The living room staged for sale. Small sectional couches make the room look bigger than it is and minimize the shortcomings of the fireplace's weird placement. Candles and busts and books develop an air of spirituality and peacefulness.
The living room staged for sale. Small sectional couches make the room look bigger than it is and minimize the shortcomings of the fireplace's weird placement. Candles and busts and books develop an air of spirituality and peacefulness. - 

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Trying to sell your house?
Eh, good luck with that. The Commerce Department said this week that sales of new homes hit a seven-year low in August. Ouch.

But if you do have to sell, somebody will probably suggest that you stage your home. If you've ever looked through a home furnishing catalog and thought, "Oh
man, I'd like to live there . . ." Well, that's how stagers work. Curt Nickisch of WBUR in Boston got a firsthand view.


Curt Nickisch: I rented a house, and even helped my landlords sell it out from under me. Call me crazy, I let them move in furniture and decorate it to go on the market . . . while I was still living there.

In came Daisy Reilly, home stager extraordinaire. She set out candles as big as fire hydrants. Bundles of willows leaned fashionably in corners. African bowls hung in the kitchen like red peppers. Overnight, I was living in a Pottery Barn showroom.

Daisy knew what I was feeling:

Daisy Reilly: "Whoa, yeah. This is not my house."

She's familiar with the reaction. It's not the first time she's had to transform a . . . ahem . . . bachelor pad.

Reilly: A single man, definitely. You know, very sparse furnishings usually. Maybe one or two nice pieces their girlfriend gave them or parents gave them, but you know, mostly it's utilitarian.

Great, Daisy. Thanks for shattering my public radio mystique. But the point is, while utilitarian might be good for living in a house, it's deadly for showing one.

Reilly: It's like a movie set -- you're capturing a moment in time that's idealized.

The way she did that in my place was by carting to the basement everything that wasn't . . .

Reilly: Pretty.

Or:

Reilly: Sparkly.

Reilly: Fluffy.

Basically, my whole living room.

Reilly: There were a lot of paperbacks and lot of not necessarily pretty on the outside books. Content-wise, I'm sure they were very nice, but for something like this you want "attractively-covered" books.

In their place, she sprinkled a handful of hardcovers: one on antiques, one on mythology. The one on Feng shui matched the terracotta Buddha she perched on the fireplace mantle:

Nickisch: So I'm curious, which Buddha is that, do you know?

Reilly: I don't, I don't.

Nickisch: Not important?

Reilly: We're not necessarily looking for serious Buddhists.

Just people who like to think of themselves as spiritual.

Now, there is skill behind all this semblance. Daisy crafted the living room with low-slung couches that made it seem bigger. It cost $3,500, and it all paid off.

The real estate agent, Hannah Abrams, says she was able to list the house for more, because it was staged.

Hannah Abrams: I thought the difference between not staging and staging for this property would be about $20,000. But because this staging was so great, I think they're more likely to net an additional 30.

What's more, the house sold in just 10 days, and for about what she thought they'd net.

Ed Perlmutter: I didn't think, "It's been staged."

That's Ed Perlmutter -- he's the one buying the house.

Ed Perlmutter: It felt neat and tidy and organized, and all of the things that I want to be. Maybe if I live there, I could be like that. I mean I think at some level, I did think that.

Ed was was so taken with it, he hired Daisy to stage his old house -- the one he's moving out of.

I went along when Daisy checked out Ed's house. As they stepped over half-packed boxes and cans of paint, I got an appreciation for the chaos and seller stress that Daisy has to turn into a soothing catalog scene.

Reilly: How do we feel about this bright yellow?

Ed Perlmutter: The bright yellow was just painted, um Daisy, and it's not going anywhere.

Reilly: OK.

Ed Perlmutter: It was a color choice that was made, and we're here, we're here with the yellow.

Reilly: All right, well, we'll work with the yellow then.

And Daisy did. Ed paid her $1,500 for her services and to rent furniture and tchotchkes. The place sold within a week.

Ed Perlmutter: It was looking pretty shiny. The staging absolutely helped sell it so quickly. There is no doubt in my mind.

It cost him. And don't forget, he's paying a lot more for the new house he bought -- the one I was renting -- because it was staged.

But it doesn't bother Ed. Look, in this market, if paying a pro to decorate sells houses, he's all for it.

Ed Perlmutter: It's why you have your hair cut by a barber, and you don't, you know, put a bowl over your head and cut your own hair.

One more thing: Ed felt so inferior for living such an unpretty, unsparkly, unfluffy life, he's now hiring Daisy again to help decorate his new house. He wants his real life to approach the idealized life he paid for.

In Boston, I'm Curt Nickisch for Marketplace Money.