Being a Real Estate Pro Today is Like Working in the Obama Administration

By Christine Rae

Christine Rae

Christine Rae

Being an entrepreneur, home owner, wife, grandmother, etc., I barely have time to watch TV these days and when I do, I seem to hit the news. My own philosophy about keeping a positive mindset is to avoid the news like the plague. On those odd times I have not listened to my own advice I heard a review of President Obama’s first 100 days in office; and lately his second 100 days.

Boy, everyone loves to gripe–expecting miracles without lifting a finger!

So why is being a real estate agent like the Obama administration?

It seems to me that as a real estate professional you have to run an election to get the listing and work your tail off in the first 100 days to get the word out. No one is helping, they are just watching.

By that I mean sellers are not always willing to pitch in and help; they prefer the wait and see, the “prove to me” theory that 2007 pricing will not come back. They are, of course, in denial about their present financial situation, they don’t expect to be inconvenienced during the time the house is on the market (i.e. they want to have lots of notice for visits, expect offers to be flooding in, don’t want a sign on the lawn like everyone else, and they “heard” open houses don’t work).

After the first 100 days, they review your performance find you sadly lacking and then issue edicts like “if you don’t pick up the pace we will have to list with someone else!” Their loyalty and confidence in you starts to dwindle.

When Obama was pitching for votes (as all politicians do) he promised a new tomorrow, promised to work hard and said something like, “if you just put your faith in me I will turn the tide”.  Much like you do.

As a professional stager and trainer I hear all the time that staging is thought of by real estate professionals as a “nice thing to do” and “in this economy people won’t do it”–those statements are so not true.

Do you know real estate professionals around the world are often viewed as the gatekeeper of property by stagers?

The most difficult job for a stager is to convince an agent that staging is a marketing tool–not decorating.

Not all agents truly understand the value or true impact of a great staged property. It’s not about how pretty a house looks-it’s about highlighting the features of the property, creating space and light where there wasn’t any, and virtually making the old house look and feel like new.  People buy the dream and they buy value.

Intellectually, people everywhere understand the economic situation; emotionally they want to believe it isn’t true.

When taking a listing today the truth has to be told, not a glazed over “it would be nice” version of what has to happen to prepare and market that property effectively in today’s market.

Buyers are looking for bargains and they chip away at the price if it’s less than pristine.  Investors buy low then do the repairs and necessary cosmetics to resell at a higher price–even in these conditions properties are selling, investors are flipping, and stagers are busy.

Recently an acquaintance worked on a house that was listed at $1.2 million. The owners listened to the stager’s advice and took the time to complete the recommendations.  Once it was ready, an agent open house was organized; 150 agents came through.

Within two days there were several offers on the table and it sold for $200,000 over the list price–in today’s economy–because it was “move in ready”. The marketing cost to the agent was $350 for the consultation. Imagine that!

I spoke to a stager two weeks ago whose business is thriving in an area hard hit by foreclosures; she works with agents who believe there is a future in real estate-it’s just a different one than they used to have.

Banks need agents to help to sell those REO properties–and agents need stagers. Are you going to be one of the people who show the rest of the people how it’s done? Or are you going to wait, see and complain about the market?

The economy needs YOU, your work, ethics, and drive to improve the situation for your buyers and sellers. That includes staging for every seller–even REO’s.

Since time began, there have been smarter people than I who said “build it, they will come”.   Well today there are some smart lenders out there who have used staging as their secret weapon. The result is their REO listings sell in days! They closed at higher yields for their investors too.

Don’t the banks owe it to their shareholders to maximize their yield too? Just asking?

Education is key. In the words of Paul Harvey: “In times like these it’s important to remember, there have always been times like these”.

While you may not be able to remember such a time, know that people have survived worse and if you think of this as a world “rightsizing,” getting back to values and a better place–you come to realize the answer for you is to get moving and sell those REO listings.

Help get the economy moving!

You can hear Christine Rae speaking at the California Association of REALTORS® Expo Oct. 6-7 in San Jose, Calif., on “Staging a Vacant REO Property: 20 Things for Under $200.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christine Rae is the co-author of “Home Staging for Dummies” (Wiley, 2008), found of Decorating Solutions Inc., and an internationally recognized expert and trainer in the home staging industry. She is the editor of Staging Standard, an industry trade magazine on staging, and co-author of the e-book “Home Staging Business Guide.” In 2005, she launched an international staging certification program–the Canadian Certified Staging Professionals and Certified Staging Professionals in the USA and Australia.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

More Posts - Website

  1. Chrstine,

    Great Post! I couldn’t agree with you more. I have not given a lot of thoght to approach the Banks about staging REO’s…..if you can get them to do it!(LOL)


  2. Thank you for writing such a useful article, that will, for those that use it, help to add more professionalism and effeciency to the market.

  3. Jim Kelly

    The major difference between us Realtors and the Obama administration is that we are required to be truthful about our goals and our means of pursuing them. They will not just come out and state that their objective is to destroy eeevil capitalism and replace it with a blend of Marxism and fascism under the guise of benevolent socialism, yet each step they take leads in that direction.

    Now that I’ve vented, the article comparing staging an REO to a political campaign is valid; you have to convince a number of levels of the benefit to get the job approved.

  4. Christine, you have a marvelous way of putting things. I particularly like the spin — “taking an old house and making it look and feel “new”.” People around here, in suburban NJ, often say they are looking for character and charm. What that appears to mean, actually is not crumbly, old and decrepit but thick, chunky moldings, huge, sparkly windows that flood the rooms with light and a nice open layout. This is not really an old house asset, but therein lies the challenge that makes Staging the fun that it is.

  5. Good information, interesting advice onthe reos and apparantly we are held to a higher standard then the administration as we would be in trouble if we are NOT truthful and ethical!

  6. Janiva Brangman

    Yes your article is really timely. When I first joined RE 12 years ago – we told people, nice job on the renovations – hope you got to enjoy them because it will have no impact on your sale! Imagine that! Now, we tell them “stage or else”? My, times have changed!

    Speaking of Change! We should all be so fortunate, as the Obama Administration; in havig the intelligence, insight and hope for a better future!

    Can you imagine being asked to list a dilapidated, old, falling apart house – where it is not only in need of dire renovations, but expansion at the same time – and being told that it must sell right away – and the owners want top dollar, but they do not want to spend one dime on salvaging or staging this old house, while your expertise tells you that renovations along with expanding the size of the property is the only way to improve it’s marketablility and get any sort of offer – whatsoever! What do you do? Nothing? or raise the stakes and insist they spend the money?

    That’s sort of what the Obama adminstration inherited and is faced with in order to better our nation. Thank goodness this Administration is wise and has a vision – or our country would sit int he ruins forever!!

  7. Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂

  8. Another great post. Thanks.