Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Home Staging Hype- Whats The Point?

I was prepared to offer up some products I used this week in the Staging Challenge, which I will do, but I got a little derailed from my post due to a nasty client email. I thought I'd take this opportunity to do a post on the matter at hand.

Should You Hire A Home Stager?

Here's a little backstory on us. 
I started my home staging business in June of 2006. Prior to launching my business, I was a Realtor. In 2008, I added 12 Home Staging Professionals to my team, including Jennifer, whom is still going strong with me today. We have staged ALOT of homes. Hundreds of homes. I promise on my soul that only a handful of homes have not had a successful sale. Many of those were either so over-priced that they never got a showing, or the home was in a terrible state. 

I'm not saying that every staging has gone like a happy-go-lucky HGTV show, since many of our clients are going through a life change. Many of them have found themselves in a tight financial predicament, going through a divorce, experiencing a death, etc. We've had a few tough experiences trying to help people work through the changes made to their home but overall, we have never had an official customer complaint.  Until December of this year. It's been rough to experience one of our hardest working stagers be completely harassed by a Bully but I'm trying to keep in mind how lucky we have been to have 10 years without a complaint. And let me share with you a couple of examples of the integrity of my team. 

Jennifer Colvin: I received a call from Jen saying that she just left a home staging where the client has cancer, she's a young mom with kids and trying to sell with little time to live. Jennifer donated the consultation, design time, all of the staging items for free and staged her home at no cost. 

Kelli Webber: I've watched Kelli be completely composed in the face of a major professional change while still wishing only good things for everyone involved. 

These ladies are the real deal and I am TRULY blessed to have them on my team and in my life. If you have the pleasure of working with them, I can assure you, they will bend over backwards to help you.

Long story short, I try to find value in every experience and this experience, has led me to this post. 

What should you look for in a home stager?
Why should someone hire a home stager?
What if the staging doesn't work?
Should I invest in renting decor or use the money 
to update features in the house?

With the (unknowing. :)} help of some insight from Jennifer, Kelli and 10 years of staging experience, I have put together some answers to shed light on these questions. 
I realize how these questions are especially important for many reasons.
How do you weigh your options?? What should you look for in a home stager?

SF- When you hire any person for their professional expertise, you want to make sure they are in fact a professional. A home stager is a product merchandiser, a "visual expert", if you will. If I were hiring a home stager, I would make sure they have the following:
  • A website with a good portfolio of their own work. As a "visual expert", if they cannot properly merchandise themselves, how can they merchandise your home properly?
  • At least 2 years experience in a (very) related field. ie: Realtor, Designer, Builder. Hiring an inexperienced stager can result in costly mistakes and unnecessary improvements. If they are making suggestions for kitchen renovations, ask to see photos of kitchens they've done. Ask for photos! There is not a legitimate designer/stager out there that does not have some great photos of their work. 
  • Lives and or commonly operates work in the area in which you are selling. Asking your Ethan Allen designer who lives on the other side of the country how your home should be staged will not likely provide accurate advice for your marketplace.
  • Talks about your "target market or audience" in the interview process. Your target market plays the utmost importance in the staging process. Your stager needs to operate by those lifestyle drivers when making decisions for your home.
  • If you are leasing furniture they should provide you with a contract. Read it and read it again.
On the matter of licensure and home staging designations, in my personal opinion, I do not feel like these are necessary to be a successful Home Stager. There is NO legal licensure for home staging professionals. Are those designations helpful for home stagers? I would say "yes". Are they necessary? I would say "no".  There have been many factors in building success in my staging career. My corporate business background, my real-estate background, my sales ability and an innate design ability. I certainly don't think there is one set of "courses" that can teach the staging business. With that said, having taken a few of the most common staging courses, the course I got the most value out of was earning my MIRM designation with the National Association of Home Builders
That one was a DOOZY and no joke. You need some real experience to get through the requirements. (That's why there are so few people that have it. HIGHLY recommend it!)

SF- A Professional Home Stager is simply hired to help you merchandise your home for sale. Your Stager will make recommendations based on your home's TARGET MARKET. The goal of home staging is not to "decorate" the house. The goal is to merchandise your home according to buyer preferences. Also, keep in mind that the Home Stager is trying to work with what you have. Does that mean that you wouldn't be better off buying all new stuff? Well, probably all of our houses would look better with all new stuff but that's not a realistic plan. Your Stager is likely trying to work with what you have, prioritize the main rooms and add some affordable decor items.
Your Home Stager can help you implement those recommended changes to the best of their ability but ultimately, it is up to YOU whether or not you choose to make and maintain the changes. Your Home Stager is not a home inspector. It's like the difference between a car "detailer" and a car "mechanic". (sort of.)

SF-  I am not aware of any Home Stagers that offer a guarantee. This is because there are many other factors that dictate the sale of a home. Showings or buyer traffic quite often is dictated by external factors such as economic conditions.  Interest rate fluctuations can drive more or less potential homebuyers into or out of the market. We do not assume risk with the staging because many things are out of our control once the staging is in place, including: 
  • Price point -- we don't play a role in setting the price for your home and thus we can not guarantee that your home is at the place the market dictates
  • Cleanliness - we have returned to many staged properties over the years where homeowners let the property go during the selling and it was an obstacle for the selling process.
  • Time of year - Buyer traffic is seasonal. Check the average DOM (days on market) in your town to gauge how much time your house might do on the market. Statistically, staging your home can cut this time in half. 

Ultimately the above factors, in conjunction with your agency/agent will drive your traffic.  Make sure to give your home a fair amount of time to sell and most importantly LISTEN to your Realtor. Your Home Stager and Realtor will try to anticipate the feedback and the process but none of us have a crystal ball. If feedback comes up from your buyers, take it and try to remedy it. Don't waste valuable time blaming people for this or that. 

SF- If your home has outdated permanent features that could hinder the sale of your home, I would recommend talking to your Real Estate Agent and a Professional Home Stager to get the answer to that question. It depends on the circumstance. Any changes made to your home while selling should be neutral colors and very sparingly. If your Home Stager suggests you paint or install anything of a color, (like a blue carpet or paint) I would get a second opinion. The hype about "add a pop of color" should ONLY come in through accessories. Unless you are using a professional model home merchandiser, I would be very careful with tackling strong colors in the staging arena.
Buyers are savvy people and for the most part, the staging decor only goes so far before they notice any under lying issues. For example, the house may be looking good but then the buyer opens the oven and sees a disgusting layer of grease that leads them straight out the door. The home inspection may also bring up some issues that your Home Stager did not uncover. 

This is all of course my own opinion however, I am hopeful that it might shed the tiniest bit of light into the staging process. I would love to have questions from readers and for anyone to share their concerns so feel free. I know there are also plenty of stagers that like us, have a Bully client every once in a while and have to try and do what's best to work professionally around that. 

We love our job here and hope that together we can grow a community of people trying to live their dream, create a safe and loving place to live, and have lots of fun along the way.

Happy Selling! xoxo

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