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:
- We had the entire interior of the house painted.
- We had the carpets steam cleaned.
- The ducts were cleaned and the HVAC filters were changed.
- We hired a building inspector to do a pre-listing inspection and fixed everything he suggested.
- Every sticky door knob and squeaky hinge was fixed.
- I had a major 2 day yard sale and got rid of tons of clutter (and made a tidy sum).
- I rearranged the remaining furniture to make the rooms look larger and more spacious.
- 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?
- We staged it.
- We got it into top condition.
- We priced it right.
- 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?