Not just for the filthy rich!

Home Stager with Project Guru

In my daily interactions with realtors, I have come to realize that their rank is firmly divided amongst those who do and those who don't...stage their listings. Both sides are adamant in their position, though how they aligned themselves as such often remains murky. But another common theme I come across frequently, is that they only reserve staging for those listings above a certain dollar amount, a position I find baffling: are they saying only their wealthy clients will benefit from selling quicker and for more money? That only wealthy buyers are swayed by spaces presented with expertise, emphasizing square footage, architectural features and all the positives a home has to offer? I suspect that most would back-paddle when presented with this counterargument and that their rationale in this situation stems from multiple factors: most find the simple introduction of the staging concept to their clients uncomfortable, they possibly haven't worked with a staging team adept at working within a range of budgets, or they have  taken on the staging themselves for those very wealthy clients, and couldn't begin to justify providing that service to all their sellers.

As in most business propositions, the entire situation boils down to time, money and expertise. Each of us is striving to attain the perfect balance of return of investment for the time we put into each endeavor. I suspect the formula for most realtors favors putting the time into getting an extra 2 or 3 listings per month, rather than planning, moving and placing an entire staging job: their income from each extra sale would far outweigh the, granted, satisfying feeling of presenting the perfect property to the market( and, as a result, the undying gratitude from the seller... and maybe a referral down the road). Let's be clear: I absolutely believe staging is worthwhile. I just have a hard time understanding how a busy realtor, who wants to get the best possible result for their client, can truly justify taking the time necessary to provide expert staging services, out of their listing acquisition activities. We even provide hosting services for brokers' open houses for our realtors, so they can put that time yo better use.

The money argument calls for some facts about staging and its value, that are often ignored or misunderstood.The party who stands to gain the most from staging is the home owner/seller: nationally, staged homes had 78% less days on market(DOM) than un-staged homes:in  a 2009 Homegain study this translated into an average DOM of 9 months when not staged, versus 2 months when staged. For the seller/homeowner, the savings in mortgage payments and other carrying costs alone amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, at a staging cost that was minimal in comparison. In today's internet-driven market, staged properties internet pictures show better, attract more visits, and are designed to get the potential buyer to linger, imagine themselves living there. But a quicker sale also means more money for both realtor and seller. Price reductions are less likely with shorter DOMs, resulting for better a better result for the seller, but also clearing the deck for yet more listings for the realtor, thus the potential for more money. I would argue that a quicker sale for more money would please seller in any price bracket, taking us back to our satisfied seller eager to refer their amazing realtor to all their friends...

But what of the expertise aspect of the story: I visit open houses on a regular basis, sometimes to familiarize myself with a local market, but also at times for inspiration, color trends, and to gain from other people's ideas. I am often appalled at some of the  "staged" home I come across: no matter what the budget, placing 2 rattan chairs in a living room is not staging! I would agree with any realtor reluctant to hire, or have any client pay, for that kind of staging services. I suspect that some have sided with the "no staging"camp after an encounter with that breed of stager: I'm a former doctor, somewhat of a perfectionist and I would opt for doing it all myself rather than using someone I didn't trust. Navigating the unchartered  waters of my second profession can be tough, but the combination of a strong work ethic, the ability to work as a team with the realtor, and of course, a visual result that appeals to the intended buyer are essential.We've recently started putting together before and after quick videos for recent staging jobs around the bay area. Quite a few of these haven't been at the top of the listing bracket, but have had tremendous results from staging.  I think these quick and fun visuals can be a great tool for realtors to broach that tough "staging" talk with their clients. I have a passion for re-imagining great spaces and will go beyond the ordinary to deliver: our next job calls for unique bedding and headboard for the master and kids rooms that I'm busily fashioning as we speak. Stay tuned for that video! But here's one of a recent success that sold in less than 3 weeks.

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