Home Stager with The Scotts Group Inc.

Below is an article I recently wrote and was published in Staging Standard Magazine, ENJOY!

Many people think staging is something new which came out of California. I can tell you from experience it not. It is a process which has been done for decades all over the world. In this decade it has evolved into the fastest growing industry in North America, due to the fact that it is now a recipe for a successful sale - a tailored marketing tool for an individual property for sale.

In the 70's & 80's, my father was on his way up on the corporate ladder: this meant moving every couple of years to a new city or even a new country. I was a "corporate brat" and while many think this might be hard on a child, I actually enjoyed meeting new people and seeing new places. I also believe it helped me map my future to join the Real Estate Industry, first as a salesperson in 1988 and now as a Staging business owner and Trainer for Certified Staging Professionals (CSP).

As a child, when I drew a picture of a house, mine would always have a "For Sale" sign on the front yard. I would watched my parents rush around making sure 2 cars would fit in the garage, replacing the wall paper, painting the house and making the basement look like it was always a neat and organized storage area. As kids, my siblings and I new the "special" family meeting was about to be held where we would be told we were moving and the lecture for keeping our rooms tidy was about to follow! These were the early days of staging and no one even knew it.

By age 18 I new I wanted to be a Real Estate Agent. I stared selling in the late 80's and was shocked to find not everyone did what my parents did to prepare the property for market. When I got my first listing I sat with the homeowners and discussed how to make the house look good from the outside-in. In the days before the Internet, buyers would look at a black and white picture and then drive by the property; it had to look good to get them to an appointment to view the inside. I would personally reconfigure the furniture and maximize the layout on my own listings. When I showed buyers vacant properties I would tell them where the sofa would go and ensure that a queen size bed would fit in the Master Bedroom. Even as little as 20 years ago I had no idea that I was staging, I just thought it was part of my job. In the late 90's a woman by the name of Ann Maurice came onto the television in the UK, (where I live and managed an "Estate Agency"), with a show called the "House Doctor". Ann would go into a home that wasn't selling and transform it into something that a buyer would want to see. The show was a HIT! Staging was moving to the next step, finally someone was out there who could get my listings prepared so I could focus on getting the property sold and getting more listings.

Pamela Fenton, of Homelife Realty One in Toronto, ON agrees;

"I want every property I list to be a show piece, but spending time on staging myself takes me away from showing and marketing to potential buyers. Having my Certified Staging Professional do the work for me and my clients allows me to sell my listings faster and service my customers to the level they expect"

Reflectively, over the last three decades staging has only been what CSP refers to as the second step of a 3 step process. Cleaning up, putting flowers in the front yard and depersonalizing are only the start. A property has to appeal to the more than 63% of buyers who will pay more money for a house that is "Move In Ready"

When you know the average seller is 57 years old and the average buyer is in their early 30's, you understand these two age groups have different wants and needs, and no none, no matter what age they are wants to feel like they are moving into their parents home. By hiring a qualifieed a qualified stage the seller can benefit by having a professional come in with furnishings and accessories which will appeal to the target market. The same goes goes for a vacant home, buyers come in and feel themselves in the home and see how it might look when they move in. In most cases if a buyer sees a furnished staged house, they will buy the vision they can actually see ove the one they have to imagine.

Taking that principle a step further, my good friend and fellow CSP Staging Trainer, Jackson West, (Reveal Estate, Vancouver, BC) explains the importance of knowing the difference in preparing a Condo and a House in the same price range as not all properties can be staged the same way:

"Today's buyers have high expectations therefore it is crucial to merchandise a space in a way that will attract the specific buyer demographic. You have to consider the needs and desired lifestyle of potential buyers while incorporating items to compliment and enhance the architetural features of the property. Buyers will remember what they are shown, so functionality is paramount. Contemporary furniture and accessories are going to look out of place in a traditional home, however, buyers will expect modern furnishings in a new development or high rise."

Another consideration is price differential; an executive home or luxury million dollar home will need different accessories and furniture than an entry home or condo. Janet Coates, (The House Stagers, Toronto, ON) a fellow CSP and asscoiate of mine explains:

"Choosing accessories for a multimillion dollar property is similar in some respects to any other property. You have to consider style and scale. However  accessories in a luxury property have to be quality pieces. These properties are generally larger in scale and well appointed architecturally. Staging accessories need to enhance the space. Whether your are selling a starter condo or a luxury home, having the right look and feel is important to getting the property sold, having a professional staging consultant who knows the market and has the accessories to complete the job saves you time and money."

Having the right look is important but is not the only important factor, with the majority of buyers starting thier search on the Internet, pictures of the out and inside of the property are key to getting buyers in the door. Jackson provides his expertise for making sure the pictures capture the buyer's eye:

"A picture is worth a thousand buyers so it is worth having quality Real Estate photos. An appealing front exterior photo will entice people to look at the rest of the images. Showcase any attractive outdoor views the property has and include several interior shots too. A lack of photos may lead buyers to thing the property is not desirable. A wide-angle lens helps capture more detail of a room. Align the vertical lines of the room with the photo and capture more of the floor and less of the ceiling. Ensure rooms are well lit by turning on the lights and the lamps to give photos visual depth. Beware of reflections especially if you are using a flash. This is particularly true for mirrors, windows, glass table tops adn shiny objects. Finally and perhaps most improtantly think about the photo before you take it. Try moving 2 steps left, 2 steps right, a step back or drop to one knee. Even a slight change in perspective can make all the difference."

The CSP leading edge staging process includes 3 steps.

Step 1 is a complete, comprehensive, personalized evaluation of the property.

Step 2 is to address those conditions and bring the property's price range specifications.

Step 3 the final and key step, is to the CSP complete a full showcasing process to best position the property on the market. This step is vital to leave no chance. It features the reasons to buy, attracting buyers from the Internet, getting them into your property and putting offers on the table!

Paul Beauregard and Jennifer Pfuetzner, property sellers, attest to the benefits of using a CSP to stage their property. Last summer they were dealing with a job transfer across the country; just as the market was tumbling they were faced with trying to sell their large Victorian farmhouse in downtown Toronto. The property had not been touched since they moved in 10yrs prior. Many agents told them they were crazy to list in such a bad economy and they would never get their asking price. The agent they eventually selected insisted they would have to have the property professionally staged before marketing could begin. They interviewed several stagers deciding on a particular CSP from Toronto; they gave him the go ahead with the 3 step process of preparing their house for sale:

"(Our Stager) did more than just stage our 12+ room house. Through the entire process he explained to us what was being done and why. He took our house and transformed it into what it should have always been. This was not a cheap "Paint the Walls" staging, but a profound and fundamental rethinking of what the home was suppose to be. What it could be. What it should be... finally - as with so much in life - it boiled down to the bottom line; we were selling in the middle of summer in a collapsed market where agents were telling us not to list.

Many agents told us it would not sell. We were even told we were making a mistake listing the house for too high a price. Thanks to (our stager) our house sold in less than a day for $26,000 over list! (To be precise, it was on the market for 3 hours and we received multiple offers!). To leave no room for uncertainty - this home would have not have sold without (our stager's) contribution. And we received a generous multiple on the "Investment" we made by hiring (our CSP Stager)".

Never tell people they wont be able to sell their property, contact your CSP to help get your listings or home on the market, in the best condition and postitioned to attract buyers.

The staging industry is evolving quickly; specialty designations to compliment your work challenges are being developed: Eco-Staging, Staging for Divorce, Senior Move Management, E-Stager and Zoomer Staging are some that will def give your property the "Edge" when selling.

In closing, I have been in the Real Estate industry for over 20yrs in three different countries (Canada, USA, UK) and two different continents. the changes I've seen in what buyers are looking for in a property are remarkable. In Fall of 2006 I moved back to Canada from New York City and decided not to sell property but to stage it; the thrill of the transformation excites me each time I complete a showcasing... and even more so when the call comes in that the property is sold!

Oh FYI... I still occasionally draw pictures of houses... however now instead of a "For Sale" sign on the front yard, the property always has a "Sold for Over Asking" sign!

Cheers to all for a Fast Sales!





Comments (6)

Kimberly Uksik
Independent - Pickering, ON
Home Stager - Durham, Toronto, On.

Great article and testaments to the value of Home Staging.  Congratulations on your success!

Sep 03, 2009 12:29 AM
Barbara Heil-Sonneck
Design2Sell - Atlanta, GA
Home Staging Atlanta

Hi Duncan, Congrats!

Looks like you made a lot of Home Sellers very Happy and helped them to move on...

Sep 04, 2009 07:51 AM
Kimberley Hawley
Hawley Interiors & Staging - Caledon, ON
Hawley Interiors & Staging

Hi Duncan....Great article. You're right about staging being done for decades. I was a realtor most of the 90's and I always staged my listings....I just didn't call it staging....I didn't stage to the extent I do now but even then, it made an impact.

Sep 05, 2009 09:39 AM
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

great article!  I'm always excited (and amazed) at how fantabulous some of your stats are when I see you post them on facebook and then I remember how great your work is and just chalk it up to you know how to best present the home and buyers can't help but fall in love....

Sep 05, 2009 04:08 PM
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

sorry - I have no idea why that is blue or in bold... it just happened...

Sep 05, 2009 04:08 PM
Duncan Scott
The Scotts Group Inc. - Ottawa Valley, ON

Thanks all,  this is one business that I have really enjoyed being part of, even more so than selling properties, which surprises even me.. and the support of fellow stagers l like all of you has been great! Melissa... bold is the most important part of our business.. so no apologies needed ;)

Sep 05, 2009 04:21 PM