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From the outside, it seemed like the perfect home.

From the inside, it looked like an excerpt from the “Miss Havisham’s Home Decorating for Low Expectations” guide book.

The living room was engulfed in cat tower condominiums with, what might be, the world’s largest Precious Seconds™ figurine menagerie eerily looking on.

It’s unclear what was more disturbing—the porcelain or the purring.

Your wife grabbed your arm and quietly said “Honey, pretend they’re not there. See the big picture.”

But you can’t.

Turning on your heel, you left the home that just seconds before, held so much promise.

That was two years ago.

And according to your realtor, Mr. Whisker’s wonderland palace is still on the market today.

Dollars and sense

The past year has ushered in a wave of promise to area realtors.

“We have seen the market change from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market with a lot of multiple offers on homes on or around the $200,000 price range,” said Lauren Aja Bond, realtor with Century 21 Hometown Brokers.

In fact, according to the Billings Association of Realtors, the number of closed sales is up 12 percent from this time in 2012, Bond said.

And the news keeps getting better for sellers.

The year-to-date average sale price for a home in Billings is $209,864, up almost $15,000 from last year.

This means that home buyers have earned the right to be picky.

Making sure your home is presentable to prospective buyers is more important now than ever.

“The difference between a cluttered home and a home that is staged may mean thousands of dollars to sellers and a longer time on the market,” Bond said.

Set the stage to sell

Laurie Murphy has a gift.

She can make just about any home feel inviting and comfortable to a wide range of prospective buyers. As owner of her own real estate staging business, ReDesigning 4U, Murphy is not emotionally attached to the décor or design motifs in your home and can offer constructive suggestions on how to best place, position and present items.

“Home stagers see your property through the eyes of prospective buyers,” Murphy said. “Their job is to present the home in its best light—in whatever way they can—through recommended remodeling, painting, new flooring or kitchen updates.”

Sometimes, it can just be as simple as boxing up the Precious Moments™ figurines and moving the cat condos to the garage. Other times, it’s more involved.

Either way, it’s been proven that investing a little money up front to hire a professional stager will help your home move—fast.

A study conducted in 2011 by the Real Estate Staging Association revealed that nationally, unstaged homes averaged 156 days on the market—staged homes averaged 42 days.

The statistic rings true in Billings, too.

One of Murphy’s recent clients, Tim Williamson, had his home on the market for several months with no luck then decided to hire her to stage it.

“In a day, Laurie transformed the atmosphere of the home from cold and empty to warm, cozy and inviting,” Tim said. “The transformation was simply stunning.”

Three weeks later, Williamson’s home sold at his full asking price.

Design detachment

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Each Precious Seconds™ figurine was a gift from your grandchildren.

That’s why it’s so difficult to detach sentimentality, shelve your knick knacks, pictures and décor while your home is being listed.

Home stagers are able to see past your possessions and see the home’s potential.

“You don’t want little things turning buyers away,” Bond said, “and you want to make your home appear as functional as possible.”

Bond suggests transforming that odd little room you have into an office or exercise room—not using it for storage.

And try not to look at your home like it’s the shell that’s housed a lifetime of love and memories, try to “look at it like it’s a product,” Bond said. “That’s what prospective buyers will be doing.”

Priced to move

Home staging grips prospective buyers once they’ve arrived, but how do you get them to your front door?

Just ask Bob Barker.

Priced-right homes are flying off the market right now. And Billings home sellers have supply and demand on their side.

Demand is high for well-maintained and updated homes in the $150,000 to $250,000 price range, Bond said. In fact, according to the Billings Association of Realtors, approximately 53 percent of total homes sold in the past six months were all in this price range.

“It’s hard to find well-cared-for and updated homes in this price range,” Bond said.

In addition to home staging and appropriate pricing, home sellers can achieve success quickly by setting up an aggressive marketing plan, Bond said.

Sometimes this can include extras like footing the bill for the pre-listing home inspection or offering prospective buyers a free one-year home warranty plan.

“These can be great negotiating tools to seal the deal,” Bond said.

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