If you take advantage of the annual Haciendas — A Parade of Homes tours in August, you will walk through some great new houses across the price spectrum. One thing you’ll notice is how beautifully they are staged. Not only are the furnishings lovely, but everything is arranged to show off each house in a way that makes it welcoming.

Four of the Parade of Homes entries this year are staged by Debbie DeMarais, an interior designer who has had her own staging business, Debbie DeMarais Home Staging + Design, in Santa Fe for five years.

Whether it involves a new house or a resale with its own furniture and accessories, she says staging is an art that requires an experienced sensibility.

“I’m going in with buyer’s eyes, looking at what’s on the walls, whether it’s artwork or personal photos, but also how the floor plan works with their furniture and how it might flow better,” DeMarais said. “The buyers need to be able to envision themselves in the home, and they can’t do that when you have a lot of personal items everywhere.”

A house that is really personalized — think vibrant paint colors in the rooms — can limit a seller to the few people who are able to see past that.

“When I’m working in a home, I create a vision of what I want the buyers to experience, from room to room, with nothing that really jars them,” DeMarais said.

The stager might bring furnishings into every room or make a startling improvement just by bringing in a rug and shifting the furniture that’s already there.

“Essentially, the sellers end up getting interior design advice without the high cost,” she said.

A professional stager will charge $300 to $1,200 a month, plus about $1,000 for both the staging move-in and move-out. But DeMarais says there are things a homeowner can do.

The hot points, she said, are decluttering, cleaning, taking care of minor repairs, removing pets during showings and doing some weed control outside. All are important to the seller getting maximum value out of the home.

And speaking of pets, make sure you either remove or disguise furniture that has been damaged by dogs and cats. You may be used to it, but it won’t look good to the potential buyer. DeMarais also suggests removing any decorative items with political or religious themes.

There’s a lot that you can do yourself, but the stager has that objective eye.

“Usually it’s that people have too much, and stuff everywhere,” said Marty Wilkinson of Santa Fe staging company Metamorphosis. “It can be doll collections, kachina collections or pot collections. So when someone comes in, they might focus on a pot they really like instead of the house.”

Often, it’s the little things that matter most. Wilkinson outfits bookcases; stages towels and soaps in the bathrooms; and in a kitchen, she might add dishes in glass-front cabinets and bowls of faux fruit on a countertop.

Tasteful additions are sort of the opposite of clutter.

“Try to make things as clean as possible. Staging is all about reducing questions in people’s minds — and not to distract but to enhance the look of a home,” she said.

“When I go in, I’m staging for the house. For instance, if you’re living in a home, you might have the living room set up to watch television and that’s not the most appropriate way to take advantage of the view, let’s say. So you might move furniture to get people to notice the most important things about the house.”

Wilkinson has worked as an interior designer since 1987 and started Metamorphosis in 2006. In early July, she said, the firm had 45 houses staged, all in Santa Fe and all for sale.

She said the seller is usually the one who pays for the staging.

“And if people think they can’t afford staging, I tell them that it’s less expensive than a price reduction,” Wilkinson said. “Instead of reducing the house price by $10,000, stage it, probably for less, and get more. Invariably, you will get a higher price for a staged home.”

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