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In Hamptons Real Estate, Home Staging Is an Art Form

No one wants to live in your home,” says Allegra Dioguardi. “They want their own space.”

Yes, as much as you may love the environs you’ve created, as sure as you are that every bit of décor in your home is perfect in every way, the fact remains that interior design may actually get in the way of getting your home off the market. Or, says Dioguardi, noted home stager, interior designer and president of Styled and Sold, it can give a positive boost to efforts to sell. It all depends upon how you approach things.

Home staging has increasingly become a powerful factor in the world of real estate, whether one is trying to sell or rent a property. Having designed and staged countless homes in the Hamptons and other high-end markets, Dioguardi knows why certain properties sell quickly or rent immediately for the entire season—and for top dollar—while similar properties in the same price range and geographical area languish on the market, causing many homeowners to accept low-ball offers out of desperation.

There’s a genuine philosophy behind making a property beautiful—and moveable—inside as well as out. “Home staging is not all about smoke and mirrors,” she says. “It’s about good design. It’s about accenting the positive aspects of a house and downplaying the negative. It’s showing a house in the best possible light and designed in the best possible way for people to live in.”

Over the years, home staging has evolved into an art form, particularly here on the East End. And it’s not as simple as a homeowner or even a broker having a “good eye” for where to place an ottoman or how to hang a painting. “Presentation has always been important. My mother was a real estate broker, and as a teen I helped her ‘stage’ her listings 45 years ago. Since then, staging has become much more sophisticated and it’s now recognized and accepted as an effective way to showcase a home. More and more buyers are expecting to see professionally staged homes, and because it’s become a standard, it’s become more important.

“The bar is constantly being raised in the industry,” she continues. “The successful stagers who had hung up a shingle 10 years ago because they thought it would be ‘fun’ to be a stager have honed their craft, divined the psychology behind merchandising a home for sale, expanded their resources and become genuine professionals.”

Just as the Hamptons real estate market is unique, so is staging here compared with other areas of the country. It isn’t just about design trends, which here in the Hamptons right now, Dioguardi says, means “contemporary—people are looking to uncomplicated their lives and want a clean, serene look.” It can often become about peoples’ connections with the actual design objects that stagers select.

“On a national level, most stagers lease their staging merchandise. Because many of the homes on the East End are not primary residences, I find that about 85% of the time the buyers want to purchase the staging merchandise. We also have such a variety of styles and sizes of homes, from oceanfront contemporaries to historic cottages in the villages.

“These factors make leasing staging merchandise problematic,” she adds. “I can’t imagine having enough inventory to cover all of the bases out here and being able to maintain enough inventory in stock. My company has a unique solution. We sell the staging merchandise to our clients, passing along our trade discounts. If the buyer doesn’t want to purchase the staging merchandise, we can hold a professional tag sale to recoup a portion of the staging investment. This permits us to individually select the appropriate merchandise for each property. In the long run, it’s more cost effective.”

Staging can be successfully applied to both a new construction and an occupied home, but the approach an expert will take is different in each situation. “Staging a new construction home is like starting out with a blank canvas. Similar to a model home, we completely furnish and accessorize the house targeting the correct demographic,” Dioguardi says. “Typically, staging an owner-occupied home is almost the reverse and will involve editing, de-cluttering, maintenance—painting, upgrading lighting, refinishing floors etcetera—and depersonalizing. Owner-occupied home staging is a very affordable and effective tool that is underutilized in our area.”

The unique aspects of staging each individual property notwithstanding, there’s one constant for this market, Dioguardi admits. “So much of staging is about selling lifestyle. The lifestyle I target in the Hamptons is casual, beach, vacation.” And that’s something everyone wants.

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