Michelle Howerton owns Somewhere South Staging. CONTRIBUTED

How many photos do you click through when browsing online for a hotel room, vacation rental or even a house to buy?

Michelle Howerton knows, and has recently launched Somewhere South Staging, a business dedicated to making properties look their best in online listings.

“In today’s world, 99% of people are looking online at homes to buy or rentals in a vacation destination. If they’re not hooked by the third or fourth photo, they’re moving on to the next listing. But if they do what I advise them, the house will sell, or the property will rent.”

Bold words, right? But Howerton has the education and experience to back up her claims.

The Cudjoe Key resident has a degree in interior design, is an active real estate agent and owned a home decor store. 

“I’ve been in the trenches with real estate agents trying to sell a home, and with property managers trying to rent a property,” she said. “I know what buyers are looking for.”

Perhaps more importantly, Howerton knows what buyers aren’t looking for.

“The more neutral a property is, the better it sells,” she said, adding that although a seller may have raised their family in a home for 40 years, a buyer doesn’t care about their family photos and refrigerator art. “I work with homeowners, real estate listing agents and rental property managers to get a place looking as it should to sell. I’ve personally owned four homes in my life, and each of them sold the first day on the market with a full-price offer because I knew what they should look like to potential buyers. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve told to just paint their front door and lay down some fresh mulch  for better curb appeal. And it always works,” Howerton said.

And without asking her to give away all of her advice for free, Keys Weekly asked her the top three things sellers can do to make their house more attractive to buyers.

“Paint, add lamps and lighting fixtures and declutter.” she said.

In addition to staging a home for a listing agent trying to sell it, Howerton can make a vacant property fully ready for rental use, including kitchen items and bed linens.

“And I offer a variety of services that range from staging a home using the existing furniture to providing temporary furnishings that can also be negotiated in the sale,” she said. “I have an entire trailer with inventory in various styles, because a modern condo on Front Street will need a different look than a historic Conch cottage on Elizabeth Street. I don’t just go in with a Wayfair catalog and make everything look the same. And I’m very good at working with what people already have.”

Howerton also supports local Keys artists, making the artwork she places in a home available for sale as well.Somewhere South Staging can be reached at 305-849-8794.

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