My First Home Staging Job 2001

Home Stager with Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA

I'm often asked by home stagers just starting out, how I started my home staging business. My first home staging job was in April 2001. Of course, I didn't call it home staging. I had never even heard of home staging. But looking back, that's exactly what it was.

My husband and I were living in Denver, Colorado at the time. He is a pilot for United Airlines and he had the opportunity to upgrade to the Captain's seat flying 737s out of LAX (Los Angeles). I jumped at the chance to move back to Los Angeles and so we had to think about putting our house on the market.

I had bought and sold a couple of houses at that point in my life, so I knew the drill. I interviewed 3 real estate agents. The suggested listing price varied from $299,000 - $349,000. My husband was certain that we couldn't get even $299,000 for our house. I decided we should go with Agent #3, Kelli Lamphere, because her marketing package and plan made the the other real estate agents marketing plans look like high school projects. I chose her because of her confidence in her ability to sell our home and because she really seemed to know what she was talking about.

Once we decided to list with Kelli, I got to work. I wanted my home to look as much like a magazine as I could. I'd worked for years as a stylist in film and commecial advertising, and I knew the power of styling a photo to sell something. In the following 30 days:

  1. We had the entire interior of the house painted.
  2. We had the carpets steam cleaned.
  3. The ducts were cleaned and the HVAC filters were changed. 
  4. We hired a building inspector to do a pre-listing inspection and fixed everything he suggested.
  5. Every sticky door knob and squeaky hinge was fixed.
  6. I had a major 2 day yard sale and got rid of tons of clutter (and made a tidy sum). 
  7. I rearranged the remaining furniture to make the rooms look larger and more spacious.
  8. We prepacked so that the cabinets and closets were half empty and looked spacious.

I was so excited about living in Los Angeles again, I didn't want anything to sink the sale.

24 hours after the house hit the MLS we had 3 bids, all over the asking price. We went under contract 72 hours after listing and we wound up selling our home for $20,000 more than the asking price and $60,000 over what my husband thought the house would sell for.

Then next day, there was a headline in the Denver Post Business Section "Bottom Falls Out Of Denver Housing Market" (or something similar). It seems that housing prices were dropping and real estate sales were slowing throughout Denver.

Why did my house sell so quickly and for $20,000 over asking price in a slow market?

  1. We staged it.
  2. We got it into top condition.
  3. We priced it right.
  4. We hired the best full service REALTOR we could find.

We moved back to Los Angeles and I began working as an interior designer again (Yay!) I had some clients that kept buying houses, fixing them up and moving someplace else. The first house I staged for them was in Kansas City (yes, they flew me out to get their house ready to sell). They were old friends and they had heard of my success in selling our Denver home. We got their KC house ready to sell (still didn't call it staging) et voila! It was one of the highest priced homes in Kansas City. It sold in less than 30 days. The second house was in Carmel, CA. That house took a little longer to sell, but the buyers bought it furniture and all; they loved the way I had decorated and staged it.

In 2006, a REALTOR friend asked me to help her with a listing she had. It was a trust sale, and the trustee didn't want to spend a penny. He felt the old sheets he had tacked up over the windows were fine and the nasty old carpet was fine because he had vacuumed it. The REALTOR was willing to invest some of her own money into staging ($300), so we went shopping. I purchased some dishes for the open kitchen cabinets, some kitchen countertop accessories, a large picture for the mantle. She had the old carpet torn out to expose the hardwood floors, which were worn but servicable. The house sold after the first open house (it had been on the market for 4 months prior).

After that, my Pasadena home staging business took off, mostly because my REALTOR friend had a big mouth and told everyone about her success selling her listing after it had been staged. I'm forever grateful to her for setting me on a new career path. I got a call from the top producer at that particlar Pasadena real estate office to stage one of her listings, and it was game on. My business has grown steadily (knock on wood) since.

That first home staging project seems eons ago - 2001. That means I've been staging homes for almost 10 years, although for much of that time it wasn't called home staging. I was just getting houses ready to sell!

OK, I told you about my first staging job, what was yours?


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Los Angeles Real Estate Staging

2015 RESA Professional Stager of the Year

2014 RESA Top 10 Professional Home Stager2010 RESA Professional Stager of the Year

Michelle has staged hundreds of Los Angeles homes, many of which have sold with multiple offers, above listing price.

She works with home sellers, listing agent, builders, flippers and asset managers to prepare homes for sale throughout Los Angeles and North Orange County.

Moving Mountains Design provides vacant home staging, color consultations, corporate and executive relocations,  and interior design. We also stage model homes, REOs, foreclosures and auction properties for real estate investors and asset managers. Builders hire us to stage their models or to help move inventory when sales slow down.

For more information about our Los Angeles home staging services, contact Michelle at (626)385-8852 or by email.

Click here to see our Los Angeles home staging portfolio

Click here to go to our Los Angeles home staging blog

Click here for more information about home staging in Los Angeles and how we can help sell your home faster and for the best price

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David Beckham
Realty Executives Bayou Properties - Alexandria, LA
Your Louisiana Real Estate Connection

great blog

Nov 13, 2010 01:08 PM #1
Stephanie Reynolds
Integrity First Financial Group, Inc. - Santee, CA
East County San Diego Homes 619-838-4408

I love your story Michelle. It sounds like you were meant to be a home stager! Sounds like you really have had many great successes. Here's to many, many more!

Nov 13, 2010 01:19 PM #2
Sonja Patterson
Keller Williams - BV - College Station, TX
Texas Monthly 5-Star Realtor Recipient for the Hou

Michelle, great job!! :)  Enjoyed your blog esp. the part about your getting so much more for your CO home than anticipated!! :)  I remember my first listing.  I was SO excited, because it needed no staging. The owners had hired an interior decorator when they bought the home...and it looked picture perfect!!  The amazing thing first client was a walk-in to our office.  Didn't know me from Adam...

Here's to 10 more years of successful staging!!

Nov 13, 2010 01:43 PM #3
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Thanks, Stephanie. Being a home stager is not what I had planned, but it worked out beautifully. Sometimes we have to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sonja: Its wonderful when your first listing turns out to be so successful. Thank you, and 10 more years of successful real estate sales for you!

Nov 13, 2010 01:51 PM #4
Anna Dovger
Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607 - The Woodlands, TX
Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX

Michelle, great question. My first staging job was in 2005. I staged our beach house. I didn't know about staging back there and decorated the house just enough so we could rent it out during summer. I do remember that our painter didn't understand why I don't want off white through out the house and why each bedroom had to have different wall color. I also had to struggle with my own husband because he didn't understand why we can't just bring everything that we don't use at our own house to the beach house, or why do I have to buy extra lamps, art work, new bedding sets, and new fabric to reupholster dining chairs. I've never tolled him how much did I spend for accessories.... One year later we decided to sell our beach house. I tolled our agent to try a "crazy asking price" which was 30K more than comps. In 3 weeks we had our furnished house under the contract for the full asking price... I year later it was our own houses, than our relatives and friends houses.... When somebody is asking me for how long I have been in staging business I say: "If you are asking me when I started charging for my knowledge and experience, than since 2009";-)

Nov 13, 2010 02:28 PM #5
Wanda Richards
Shows Great Home Staging and Web Solutions - Roanoke, VA
Shows Great Home Staging

Great story...thanks for sharing.  You have inspired me to share my "first". 

Nov 13, 2010 02:34 PM #6
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Michelle - Very unique experience. Thank you for sharing a very beautiful blog.

Nov 13, 2010 04:04 PM #7
Julea Joseph
Reinventing Space - Chicago, IL
Julea Joseph House Stager - Reinventing Space

Michelle, You sure brought home memories - Here's my 1st press on Home Staging, before I even moved here to Chicago from San Fran. in 2000!  I was just a baby re-designer and hadn't taken my Home Staging training yet (my association, the IADA had very strict training rules.)

The column ran on June 4th and we didn't even move in till the 16th-  It launched my staging biz here in Chicago. I hadn't even unpacked boxes when yet another paper was calling me - I told them I'd have a staging in 24hours - I did and winged it - Made the Real Estate section front page.




Nov 14, 2010 01:24 AM #8
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Michelle- you are a great example of how home staging has evolved into the profession that it is now.  Here's to at least another 10 years +++ of success.


Nov 14, 2010 02:48 AM #9
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Anna: I think you will find that many home stagers first got bitten by the bug when they got their own home ready to sell. Everyone thought I was crazy for putting so much effort into a house we were selling, but I had a strong feeling that whatever we did to improve the appearance of the home would be paid back by a higher sale price.

Wanda: I look forward to reading your "first"

Thanks, John.

Julea: My first big break was an article in the Los Angeles Times in March 2007. I had just gotten my first home staging website and the day before the article hit, I discovered that the contact page wasn't working. The emails were being sent to someone in India, I think. I called the web designer, like, 14 times and never heard back from her. I found another web designer, who very generously, changed the contact form to the correct email address, but who knows how many contacts I lost. Then I realized that my business didn't have a 411 listing. I got everything straightened out eventually, but it was so stressful. The article was a big boost for my business but I had gotten all my jobs by word of mouth prior, I wasn't really set up for all the attention the article brought.

Kathy: The profession really has evolved, hasn't it. Here's to all our success!

Nov 14, 2010 03:02 AM #10
Annie Pinsker-Brown
Stage to Sell - LA Home Staging - Los Angeles, CA
Stage to Sell, Los Angeles Home Stager

Michelle - this is so awesome! We see eachother and talk fairly frequently, but I had no idea about how your business started! Well, here's my story. While I was taking time off from a career as a producer to stay home with my first baby, I watched a lot of HGTV and had been talking to my mom about this idea of staging that I saw on TV. So when she wanted to sell her house to move closer to the baby, she asked me to stage it for her. Since she was selling FSBO, the only people that came to the open house were neighbors and Realtors trying to get the listing. Everyone that came through said that the house showed so beautifully. And a few even asked me if I had it staged (which was funny because in 2004 not many people around here even knew about staging). I told them that I had actually staged it myself, and they asked me if I had a card. Well, of course, I had no idea what to say, so I said "You know, I just ran out!" :O There was one Realtor who got really excited about the idea of staging and wanted to immediately add it to her list of services for her clients. She wanted to meet with me the very next week, so I went online and found the ASP accreditation course coming up (at the time they were only offered in the Bay Area). I signed up right away, and when I came back from that class, the Realtor who wanted to talk to me gave me my first referral - a friend of hers who was selling a condo in Culver City. At the open house for that condo (which sold immediately, for over asking), an investor came through and told me he had a friend who was selling her condo in the Marina. That became my next client! Crazy how things can start from nothing and then become such a huge part of our lives. :)

Nov 15, 2010 07:10 AM #11
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Annie: Like you, I had never considered home staging as a career, but it was something I had a knack for and it dovetailed nicely with my film design and interior design background. Now I know why you are such a good business woman and home stager! Its that producer experience that taught you how to pull together all the multiple layers necessary to be successful. Thanks for sharing your story.

Nov 15, 2010 07:23 AM #12
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Michelle Minch

Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA
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