The Home Guru: Getting Naked with Staging and Laughter to Sell Homes

Michael Sean Murrary gets naked with staging to get to the essence of a house for sale, and he wraps the process in laughter.

There’s a huge difference between a home in which you enjoy living and a home you are selling, according to Michael Sean Murray, a decorator/home stager who’s new on the scene in New York, having polished his skills and reputation in the Midwest.

At a recent gathering of realtors, Murray performed what amounted to a stand-up comedy act, laced with the kind of humor that went far beyond innuendo. And, he was embraced by his audience who between laughs heard much naked truth in how to advise their homeowner clients about “re-purposing” (Murray’s favorite word) their homes to sell.

“Sometimes when I walk into a home and am asked by the homeowner what is needed to fix their problems to sell, I’m tempted to say, how about some gasoline and a match?” he said. “But I’ll be kinder and say, well, this was fabulous when the Bee Gees were popular and all the Golden Girls were still alive, but it’s no longer fabulous.”

Murray said that the realtor’s job is to make the sale happen, “and my job is to get the home where it needs to be to make the sale happen.” 

The suggestions he makes can be difficult for the homeowner to swallow, but Murray maintains that they are proven to work.

Here with some of Murray’s commentary are his rules of thumb:

  • Banish color except for accents, such as with pillows. Walls should be “kill ‘em” beige, with simple off-white draperies, and beige area rugs. “No oriental rugs. They’re too visually strong and distracting.”
  • Call out every place in the house where its inhabitants would sit, eat or sleep. If there are four bedrooms, there are four beds. If there are 10 places to eat, there are 10 table settings, “perhaps set properly for the very first time,” Murray said.
  • If there is a large open space, such as living room and dining room combined, each living function is defined by an area rug under it, so long as it’s beige.
  • Remove all heavy drapery. “We’re not cave dwellers.”
  • Get rid of all the small things and focus on fewer pieces of a larger scale.
  • Remove all wallpaper. “If a client refuses, saying either that it’s too expensive to do or that she likes the wallpaper, I say, ‘It’s good that you like it because you could be looking at it for another five years.’”
  • Throw out or update old looking furniture. “When a buyer sees an old sofa, he sees old plumbing and old electricity.”
  • Always pull shades down about six inches so they get credibility with the buyer who doesn’t have to worry about the expense of covering the windows.
  • Don’t over-stage. “I remove lots of artwork.”
  • Gather things, rather than spreading them across a surface, then place them to one side or the other, preferably in threes.
  • What about children’s rooms with lots of toys? “They get a pass from buyers who are very forgiving about children.”

“It’s my job to get the buyer to see the best features of the house,” Murray said.  When I’m redoing the main rooms, I focus on how the buyer sees them, particularly the main living areas. Some of the rooms don’t have to be furnished at all. I’d much rather furnish five rooms well rather than 12 rooms poorly.

“A house doesn’t sell from photographs on the Internet,” he added. “It sells when the customer walks through it and can clearly see the features of the house itself and the shapes of the rooms, rather than what’s in it.”

If a homeowner complains that staging results in a home that’s difficult to live in, Murray responds, "Remember, this is no longer your home: it’s a product to be sold." 

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with Coldwell Banker who writes regularly as The Home Guru. Visit his website at: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and, if you would like to consult with him about buying or selling a home, contact him directly at 914-522-2076.

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