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Sustainable Staging – 8 Tips to Make Your Listing Stand Out

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By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

RISMEDIA, June 16, 2010—With demand rising for green home features, it’s no surprise that home stagers are starting to style sustainably to help prospective buyers see green when they’re shopping for property.

“Thus far, I haven’t seen a house sell just because it is green,” comments Michelle Minch, of Pasadena, Calif.-based Moving Mountains Design and Staging. “However, I think a house with green credentials could help tip an on-the-fence buyer in favor of a home.”

And though it’s beneficial to convey the impression that a home is environmentally friendly, it’s more important to address the substantive issues that affect overall performance.

Here are eight staging tips to make your listings stand out:

1. Verify environmental friendliness: Conduct an energy audit of a home and outline the green changes and upgrades that have been made as a result of the audit’s findings. That can include basic changes, such as new caulking, insulation and lighting packages. It also can entail more substantial upgrades, such as new appliances with the Energy Star® label and the installation of a tankless water heater or an efficient HVAC system. Show prospects the potential savings and long-term benefits of all the green modifications that have been made.

2. Highlight green features: Offer buyers a checklist of a property’s green features, along with the benefits that each offers. Norma Lehmeier Hartie of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.-based Harmonious Environments and an interior designer specializing in green staging and feng shui has developed a chart (http://www.harmoniousenvironment.com/SELL%20YOUR%20HOME%20FAST/EcoFriendly%20Features%20and%20Appliances%20Chart.htm) for staged homes that details everything from CFLs to solar panels. And Minch suggests creating a notebook made of recycled paper or bamboo or something with a green image on its cover that illustrates a home’s green aspects. Her books include notes about energy efficient appliances, water filtration systems, bamboo floors, and so forth. She also includes documentation, such as information from the paint store or the paint company’s website, about the low toxicity of the paint used or proof that the floor covering is made of sustainable wood.

3. Incorporate green products: Any cleaning supplies in cabinets should be green, and food on display in pantries should be labeled organic, if possible, according to Minch.

4. Include a recycling center: The aesthetics of recycling bins have evolved beyond basic blue, so it’s possible to make separating bins a sleek design element in a house.

5. Eliminate odor: That freshly cleaned pine smell that comes from commercial cleaners or that new paint smell often signals air that is teeming with unhealthy chemicals. It’s why Lehmeier Hartie aims for an odor-neutral environment. She suggests using green cleaning products and avoiding any items, such as vinyl shower curtain liners that emit an aroma.

6. Go natural: Use living, not silk or plastic, plants. They have a more natural look and can improve indoor air quality. For a list of plants that can filter out toxins, visit http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/sf/air-water-quality/13-top-air-purifying-house-plants-072212.

7. Upgrade sustainably: Lehmeier Hartie routinely suggests green, efficient replacements to homeowners who are considering upgrades. She comments, “If carpet should be replaced, I recommend renewable wood flooring, for example.” The same goes for curtains, bathroom fixtures and so forth.

8. Enhance curb appeal: Don’t neglect the outdoor space. If homeowners are revamping the exterior, suggest swapping a lush lawn that demands huge resources for something more eco-friendly, such as vegetable gardens or native grasses. For more on lawn alternatives, see www.lawnreform.org. Plants, shrubs and vines that are native to a given area can thrive well without excessive watering or additives and they require less maintenance. Play up other green outdoor features, like composting bins and rainwater barrels. And chemical additives, such as Miracle-Gro, sitting in the garden shed are a no-no.

Established by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS®, the Green REsource Council was founded to make the knowledge of green real estate practices available to everyone. The Green REsource Council awards NAR’s Green Designation to REALTORS® who are looking to prepare themselves for the future of real estate and raise awareness of the environmental impact of commercial and residential properties.

To learn more, visit www.GreenREsourceCouncil.org.

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