Diane Spencer is an editor -- but not of books or newspapers. Spencer edits homes, eliminating clutter and arranging furniture and accessories to accentuate focal points of living spaces.
With her new business, First Impressions, Spencer has brought the growing specialty of home staging to Realtors and home sellers in Steamboat Springs.
Her goal is to make homes appealing to as many homebuyers as possible by neutralizing or "depersonalizing" spaces.
A few simple changes -- such as painting a few walls, clearing counters and tables, throwing a slip cover on a dated couch or replacing an old light fixture -- can do wonders for buyers' first impressions of a home.
"The point is to help the buyers visualize themselves there. ... You want to take away all of the distractions," Spencer said.
The problem is many home sellers don't have the time or "eye" for knowing how to spruce up their homes. It also can be hard for them to see how personal items take away the open, comfortable feeling homebuyers seek.
"Anytime people have been in a house for a while, they become blind to what's around them," Spencer said.
Instead of perusing pictures or collectables, buyers' attention should be on attractive aspects of the home, such as open rooms and high ceilings, fireplaces and large windows.
Clutter can make spaces appear small and create a feeling of disarray that deters homebuyers from spending time in a room.
"Sometimes it's difficult to get a client to linger," said Susan Coover-Ross, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Silver Oak. "You want them to spend as much time as possible taking in details."
Coover-Ross called Spencer earlier this year to help with a client's condominium that had been on the market for six months, had constant showings but had not had any offers.
To make the 900-square-foot unit more spacious and visually interesting, Spencer rearranged and removed furniture and had the owner stow away personal items that filled shelves, corners and countertops. She also added simple accessories to make the condo look like a model unit.
"It was like night and day," said Michelle Fuller, who owned the condo. "Even like the little things she moved around made it look bigger -- she utilized the space a lot better."
The condo was under contract within weeks of the staging.
"She definitely contributed to the sale of the condo, by just making it show better," Coover-Ross said, noting the staging helped the unit stand out from four other condos for sale in the complex.
Spencer will meet with home sellers and/or Realtors to evaluate a project and provide a free estimate for her service. If hired, she will compose a prioritized list of things the owner can do to make their home more appealing or she will work hands-on with the owner to transform the spaces.
Homeowners may consider calling Spencer before they list their homes to help make a good impression with the Realtor and make sure the home is ready to show.
That's a good way to take full advantage of the first few months of listing, when homes typically get the most "action."
"It's not fun to show and sell a house, so you want to sell it as quickly as possible," Spencer said.
Spencer also can provide an objective, third-party perspective about needed improvements that may be awkward or uncomfortable coming from the Realtor, Coover-Ross said.
Equating a seller's personal items to clutter can be sensitive, Spencer acknowledged, but they can let go of those emotions by focusing on where they are going rather that where they are leaving, Spencer said.
"When they live in it, it's their home, but when they decide to sell, it's a product -- something to be sold," she said.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Spencer at 846-4597.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com