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Ready for Sale

When you’re looking to sell, this East Bay staging expert can make your home shine for all it’s worth


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When Paul Scott Silvera put a rental property on the market two years ago, his listing agent recommended he have the bungalow staged to make it more appealing to buyers. As the owner of Scout, a Rockridge furniture store, Silvera figured he could stage it himself. He figured right. Word of his work got around, winning him name recognition in this rapidly growing industry. Today, his business is booming, and the words staging by Scout send visions of bidding wars dancing through sellers’ heads.

1) Take us through the staging process.

First, we look at the property, and at the sellers’ budget and timelines. We work with what the seller has, [but also] advise them on how they should prepare the property for market, meaning paint, landscape, or any other improvements. We have a network of craftsmen who perform the services we typically use, like flooring and painting, so we solicit bids and provide them to the seller. The finishing touch is setting it: bringing in furniture and other accessories.

2) Is there any style of home that you just won’t touch?

No. We do extremely contemporary; we do Craftsman; we do Mediterranean. We do it all.

3) Are there any must-have items that you use in every house you stage?

We do fresh-cut flowers in all of our listings. No silk—I think it looks tacky. We usually use a big pull-down map. It draws attention, it’s something that people can be familiar with, and it’s just one of those things that people have positive feelings about. Our staging is always a mix of new and old. It’s very versatile, and it presents a picture that’s very layered. An old house looks good with some new stuff, but it looks even better with something that bridges that gap between now and then.

4) Do you have any rules of thumb for the staging business?

I have a list of three things that buyers hate: cottage cheese ceilings, electric ranges, and aluminum windows. We try to minimize those features whenever we can.

5) If you could change only one thing in a typical house to jazz it up for the market, what would it be?

Paint, inside or outside. The bang for your buck is incredible. Fifteen years ago, people wouldn’t have dreamed of using any colored paint on the walls. We’ve moved away from neutral, and now we’re much more into impact.

6) Should the house look lived in?

It’s supposed to tell a story that resonates with the people who are looking at it. If we’re marketing to people who [are looking for] their first home, we might set it with a nursery, even if the current owners don’t have kids. You want to tell the story not of how the buyers are now, but [of] where they want to be.

7) What should homeowners expect in terms of results when they hire you to stage their home?

We don’t just come in with an aesthetic eye, but we come in and say, “This is who your targeted buyer is, and these are the things we’re going to do with the house to appeal to that buyer.” It’s the difference between making aesthetic improvements and extending the marketability of the house, which means making up for whatever shortcomings the home has.

8) So, for example, what can you do with a room that has space problems?

I would have just as many pieces as I would have in a larger room, but I would use properly scaled—in this case, smaller—furniture.

9) Is there any style of home that sells faster than others?

Traditional homes, with touches like crown molding or inlaid floors, sell very well. The East Bay starter marketplace—Rockridge, North Berkeley, or North Oakland—is full of those homes, and that’s why people are buying in those areas.

10) Why is the staging business booming all of a sudden?

Buyers have become more sophisticated. There are more design magazines than ever, and people are watching shows like Trading Spaces. You need to be more sophisticated than that, but it gets people thinking.

Scout, 5550 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-2688, www.scout510.com .

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