HGTV Design Star finalist Cathy Hobbs, who was booted off the reality show last week, was in town earlier this month to teach a class on home staging in Columbia. The designer took morning classes at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology while she was an Emmy-award winning local TV reporter, to fulfill her dream of becoming an interior designer. We caught up with the Sandy Springs, Maryland, native to ask her about preparing a house for sale (which is what home staging is) and asked her to give us her tips for DIY staging.

She returns January 13-15 to teach another home staging course in Columbia.  For more information, see her blog.

What’s the first thing to do when staging a house? 

It is important, if not critical, that each space define function, how a space should be used. De-cluttering. Neutralizing and de-personalizing are also important steps in staging a home. 

What do you do about all the new items that need to be purchased for staging? Return them? Share with friends?

No, they become the property of the homeowner/home seller. In instances where items need to be purchased/rented. I inform clients in advance that a small/nominal purchase package is necessary and that as the stager we will be responsible for their selection and will have sole discretion and that the items will become the property of the home seller. 

How do you incorporate your LEED background into your design? Whether it is for a home staging or an interior design project?

I always try to select sustainable choices whether it involves finishes, fabric choices or furniture choices.

What is a good online source for DIY staging (to buy accessories and furniture)? 

Ikea is a great source for attractive yet inexpensive furniture as far as accessories, I love Target, Pier 1 and cb2!

How do you mix different periods when staging? 

I tend to always always stage based on the product that I am marketing. The staging needs to reflect the property I am trying to sell. In its essence this tends to not involve mixing periods..for example a property is either modern or its not. 

How much should one expect to gain from staging?

On average it is a 189-percent return and a 463 percent return on landscaping according to Certified Staging Professionals which certifies and trains stagers throughout Canada and the United States.

Is there a cost benefit analysis you do?

Absolutely. We tell home sellers everyday and they seem to clearly understand this…the cost of staging is not only less than the cost of your first price reduction it is also considerably less than the cost of maintaining the home until it sells! Imagine! Even looking at the cost for one is clear that the cost of a mortgage and to maintain a property would be considerably less than the cost of staging!