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Affordable Staging Tips for Any Listing: Your Questions Answered

We had a great webinar last Thursday on how you can stage your listings without breaking the bank. In case you missed it, you can playback a recording and download the slides at REALTOR® Magazine.

Our speakers—staging pros Terrylynn Fisher and Christine Rae—provided attendees with dozens of staging tips and even provided ideas on how you can spice up those REOs. During the webinar, we ran out of time for questions but our speakers offered to answer your questions here.

Many real estate professionals and stagers have furniture they use from listing to listing. A lot of that furniture may be cheaper and is fine for many of their listings. But how about your high-end listings? Should you use the cheaper furniture in those listings or will that do more harm than good?

Christine Rae

Christine Rae

CHRISTINE: Absolutely not, cheap looks cheap and sends a message of cheap. The whole essence of staging today is to target the buyer who is likely to purchase—they don’t want to see cheap anything. People buy aspirationally whether it’s a $100,000 or several million $$ property they want to fall in love with—feel special and attempts to skim/slough speaks volumes….not just about the house but also about you.

The biggest challenge we face as an industry is lack of complete understanding of the craft. Staging started as a clean and fluff sort of thing, but it is way more refined now…before it would be like painting walls with primer and not finishing the job.

Terrylynn Fisher

Terrylynn Fisher

TERRYLYNN: I agree with Christine.  If you use cheap items what kind of buyers are you attracting?  The buyer who can qualify for a high-end home has high-end furnishings and won’t relate to cheap décor.  It will diminish the home you are “showcasing” and you aren’t really “showcasing” it.

For ANY property you need to be sure the furnishings you use match the décor and style of the property.  Like a Victorian or country farmhouse vs. modern or traditional.  The curb appeal we spoke of needs to be stellar, but the insides have to match as well so that when they walk through the door they get what they expected—only better.  Congruity is important.

Who traditionally pays for staging: Seller or the real estate agent?

CHRISTINE: Staging is a three step process—essentially its marketing. I believe the seller should pay—they stand to make the most ROI. However, many agents have invested $$ on consult—and assign it from their marketing budget. Some agents pay a set amount of $200, some invest $500 or $1,000—depends on the package they decide to do with the stager of choice and their ability.

TERRYLYNN: It depends. When we do our StagersListExpos all over the country we ask these questions.  In some areas, the real estate professional pays a portion or all, but we don’t encourage that.  Those are typically the sellers that will move the staging back when you’ve left because they have nothing invested in it.  They don’t understand it, even though the real estate professional who is paying for it does, so they don’t value it.

Some real estate agents pay for the consult and the home owner pays for the staging.  It’s all up to what you arrange with your staging partners.

A partnership can be formed with guidelines as to how you want it handled and it can vary to fit your budget, your client’s budget, etc.  BUT it’s their benefit and their return on investment, it is an expense of sale.

If you find a quality professional stager (CSP’s are trained to do this) they know how to “sell” staging to the home owner/seller.  If you don’t know any, just send an e-mail (terrylynn@stagerslist.com) or give me a call (925-876-0966), we can help. We have stagers all over the country in our database.

Should the home owner (seller) expect the real estate professional to help with staging?

CHRISTINE: No in my opinion—never. You don’t do house inspections, cleaning, mortgage finance so why should you do staging? I believe it totally sends the wrong message. You are experts in real estate, law and pricing, it puts your negotiating strength in jeopardy if yesterday you were schlepping furniture instead of marketing the property they will pay you to sell.

TERRYLYNN: Help, as in pay for it?  See my previous answer.  If you mean help, as in staging, well many agents think they know how to stage, but they don’t know anything about demographic staging, style or architecture, color mapping, or the principles behind the placement and balance in a room.  Staging is NOT decorating, so the purposes are different.

You can’t take a class and learn how to stage.  You either have it or you don’t.  The Realtor Elite program (www.StagingTraining.com) teaches you the what, when, and how to “sell” staging to your sellers and prepare them for the home stager to come in and have the conversation, do the consultation and staging.

The seller understands your area of expertise and the stager’s area of expertise.   A seller usually wouldn’t expect it, and you should explain that you are committed 100% to your area of expertise and expect the professionals you use to be 100 percent committed to their area of expertise.

After all of the duties you have as a real estate agent on their behalf, only about 10 percent of your time is left for staging. The staging professionals give 100 percent of their time to staging.  As the client, which would you rather pay for?

How would I, as an agent, address using a stager with my sellers without offending them?

CHRISTINE: Why would it offend them? Even if the house was amazing (and statistics show 75 percent of owners believe their décor is great!), if you change your own perception to think of staging as marketing—of doing everything in your power to get the property sold quickly and for the most $$ why would they be offended?

What is crucial is the correct communication skills. It’s why we developed the CSP Elite agent program—to educate on who, what, when, where, and the how of staging.

TERRYLYNN: Do you mean that they might be offended that you are implying their home is not perfect as is? Well that too is a script taught in the Realtor Elite class. The gist of it is that you explain what staging is and what it is not (decorating).

You then explain the differences between personalization and depersonalization and where each has its function. You also talk about the effect of staging and statistics and theories as to why and how it works.

By the time you’ve done that with that knowledge base, they believe you know what you are talking about and will generally allow the stager to come and talk to them about the particulars of their home.

It’s really not personal.  It’s not the seller’s home anymore, it’s a product that will be the buyer’s home.  Once they make that mental shift, they are generally more open to the conversation and eager to have the home stager come and see what they have to say.

Remember a consultation with a stager can be as little as $250 to $500, and if the sellers want to do all the work themselves, they can.  So they are really just committing to getting valuable information that will allow them to have a more marketable product for the buyer.  The result will be that the seller stands to gain more return on investment and they benefit from that.

Who wouldn’t have a conversation about earning more equity when selling?  It’s no obligation to talk to the home stager, most will do free bids.  But I recommend at least paying for the detailed report that they’ll leave, so you can take advantage of their expertise.

­How should you attach wall art to avoid holes?­

CHRISTINE: Use Wall respectors. You can buy them at www.stagerslist.com

TERRYLYNN: Christine is right, my two favorites are Wall respectors and Heavy duty wall hangers, both available at www.StagersLIST.com.

This is really important to me because I’ve had in the past (prior to using the heavy duty wall hangers) art fall off the wall when the nail or clips did not stay up in the wall.  One dinged hardwood floor and I found these and haven’t stopped using them since.  They have never failed me.

The heavy duty wall hangers are reuseable and very sturdy and you can install them without a tool.  I am always amazed when I do it myself and they come out of the wall fairly easily too. Check them out.

The wall respectors will even work on plaster, and it’s hard to find things that work on plaster.

What kind of special paint was used to paint the kitchen appliances­ in the example you showed during the webinar?

BEFORE

BEFORE

TERRYLYNN: A rustoleum product, or other brands that are specially made for high temperature applications.

AFTER

AFTER

They come in spray cans and are not terribly expensive.  They work really well, but you don’t want to use a brillo pad on them or anything.

­

Can you provide more information on where to find the countertop resurface finish paint?­

TERRYLYNN: www.GianiGranite.com is the Web site and we’ll have that resource page on www.StagersToolbox.net.

­Is your team paying for the staging or are you doing the work yourself for your listing?­

TERRYLYNN: What do you mean is my team paying for the staging?  Do you mean the seller?  When I stage my own listings, I often hire a stager to do it as they handle talking to the seller about paying for the staging, the pet odors, wallpaper, replacing carpet, etc.  I don’t have the awkward conversations that can taint my future interactions with them, like when I have to negotiate a contract or repair.

A client once said to me “I had no idea you’d have time to stage my home, I thought you’d be on tour and taking care of the marketing”.  That was an eye opener for me.  I tell the client I give my full attention to their listing and they don’t want me out staging someone else’s home.

The stager’s I hire get paid to stage.  They don’t do it for free.  In addition, I have inventory because I’ve been involved in this for so long.  My stagers can use my inventory, but the beauty of it is that I don’t have to keep updating my inventory if they stage for me as they have the most current accessories and know where the furniture is that is relevant to the project.

The client’s don’t want to see the same items in every listing.  They want a different and current look and if you stage to demographics, you have to have more variety.  A good stager on your team handles all of that and you don’t have to pay for storage for a lot of outdated items.  Make sense?

­

­For the REO sales… do you include all the furniture in your staging?

CHRISTINE: A job is priced based on what is being done. Contactors do paint, repairs, flooring, etc. A stager would be paid for consultation (list of things to be done) PLUS accessory and furniture rental if it belongs to the stager and labor costs to do the work.

Staging is three steps: consultation (i.e., action plan of what needs to be done); get the work done (someone has to do it– home seller or contractors of the stager team); and showcasing—placing furniture, hanging art, arranging accessories, lighting, etc.

Are the banks letting real estate professionals stage the REO properties?

CHRISTINE: Banks who assign property to an agent want it sold.  If you are working directly with a bank I would say your work would be best directed to an investor, who takes care of the condition and showcasing with a stager. You would have to treat each property as individual situations.

As mentioned, stagers are being hired by asset management groups to bring furniture in and showcase.

And who pays the costs?

CHRISTINE: Stager is paid upfront by the bank.

BEFORE

BEFORE

Do you think Miracle Method should be disclosed to buyer?  Some chemicals like dripped finger nail polish remover dissolves the epoxy.

TERRYLYNN: I always recommend disclosing it in the TDS and providing the paperwork given about care of the shower, sink or whatever .

AFTER

AFTER

I have used it in my own home and routine cleaning has never hurt the finish.  I have never personally known anyone to drop nail polish remover in the bath so don’t know about that.  I have also seen it done and 8 years later sold the property again and it looked great.  It holds it’s color very well too.

Comments
  1. Kathleen

    Where do you get high end furniture for your empty listings? So much of the furniture at furniture rental companies is cheap and unattractive.

  2. Robin Hill

    I go to local furniture stores and ask if they are interested in showcasing select pieces. Some feel like they will get more marketing on their furniture if it is in the store, so I guess you just have to shop around.

  3. Borgie Silano

    Staging is very important and is crucial if a property is empty. I like to help my clients with basic tips for staging,such as furniture arrangement, accessorizing, de-cluttering ,etc. Each home has it’s own issues and staging is an important part of selling a property for more and in a shorter period of time.
    I found your article on staging and all the tips ,very helpful. Important information for all professionals in the real estate field.

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