Friday, March 20, 2009

$1,000 Staging. Done Right or Done Wrong?

When a home stager is hired one of their primary responsibilities is to stage the property in a manner that best solves problems or perceived issues sellers may have with it. Unfortunately this may not always happen.

CASE IN POINT: Recently I received an Email  from Adam in Chicago asking for advice over a dispute he was having with his stager regarding the worked she had preformed. Adam wrote…

Hello Craig,
My name is Adam and I am having a disagreement with a stager I hired.
I am trying to sell a 2-bedroom condo in Chicago and recently hired a professional to stage the empty condo. The property is unique in that the living room is very long and narrow, which is why my realtor and I thought it was important to stage it to show its potential. This is the only living area of the property so it has to look like a living room.
We've since (the staging) had ten showings without an offer.
I had two friends over… both of them said is "this room looks like a hallway". They also said that the way it's staged does not show the potential of the living room.
I called the stager… and she maintains that the room is properly staged and that I need to respect her professional opinion. She discounts these opinions because she says she's the professional.
Do you have any tips on how I could deal with my stager?
Thank you very much,
So that you have a complete picture of all that was done and how Adam's $1,000 was used to stage his property, I have created this short video show.

So... now that you have a more complete picture, I have a few final questions for you to consider.
  1. Given the budget, Adam’s instruction, and the style of the home, did the stager stage the home correctly?
  2. Did the stager provide a good solution for the problematic living room?
  3. If Adam feels the solution provided does not solve the living rooms problem, what should he do?
  4. What actions do you suggest the stager take to solve the problem?
Whether you are a seller, stager or realtor... I  am curious to know what you think.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting “PUNCHY” about Great Real Estate Reads

While many people think that a home stager’s job is just to be glorified interior decorators... we actually do much more. So while making a home look good is important, a stager’s job typically begins with a much less glamorous task of putting together a Punch List of repair and maintenance tasks sellers need to complete prior to going to market.

So whether you are a home seller or a real estate blog reader, a Punch Lists can be of great value. These lists simplify, guide and direct us as to where we should focus and invest tour time and efforts. That is why I am calling my top 5 choices the “Punch List of Real Estate Do Reads” submitted for this week’s Carnival of Real Estate.

Making my top 5 list (in no special order) for this week are:

DO READ: “3 Bogus Real Estate Statistics - Know Them or Be Burned By Them” by Joe Manausa at Really Better Real Estate. I gotta admit I enjoyed Joe’s discussion on why he feels the 80/20 Rule, 153 Days is the average market time, and Average Selling Price is 97.3% of List Price are all bunk.

DO READ:  “Every House’s Value is Dropping Except Mine!” by Amy Bohutinsky at the Zillow Blog. Amy, I can only say “from your blog to seller’s ears!” Nice job.

DO READ:  “When Do Schools Start In St. Louis” by Karen Goodman at St. Louis Real Estate Insights. While I don’t live in St. Louis, I gotta admit I found Karen’s post to be quite interesting, and would venture to bet that what Karen notes as a trend in St. Louie takes place all over the country.

DO READ:  “Fannie Mae Adds New Risk-Based Pricing and ‘Adverse Market’ Fees for All Conforming Mortgage Applicants” by Dan Green at The Mortgage Reports. If you have read any of his past posts you know that Dan is as prolific as the title to this post of his is long.  In this post he shares great insight as to why he expects that loan-level pricing adjustments will continue to increase for a 5th and 6th time before 2009.

DO READ:  “How to Sell My House” by Surfer Sam at Surfer Sam Online. With each new day a new seller comes to market. Because this is so, the advice Sam offers never is old. In this post Sam does a nice job breaking get a home sold down to the basics.

I hope find my list of 5 my “to do” list of real estate blogs for this week informative. However, I gotta admit reading through all the posts submitted to the 103rd Edition of the Carnival of Real Estate left me a bit punchy. But I am glad to be a host... cause each week the Carnival points to something that expands my knowledge and understanding to the ever changing, complex and multifaceted world of real estate.

Blog on!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Selling Your Vanilla Box

We all know that the real estate market is in a major slump. Nothing seems to make that grim point more real then when one takes a short drive through any neighborhood. For it is there we see, dotting the front yards of so many homes, a multitude of For Sale signs. But while looking at a sign in a front yard makes a tangible point of reference for what is happening with the sales of single family homes, what is taking place with regard to the condo market is sometimes harder to see. Because often there is no sign, it is easy to overlook the fact that there are many many condominiums for sale too.

In some ways selling a condo is harder then selling a single family home. First, it is not uncommon, especially in larger developments, for one condo in a building to be selling against another condo configured with the exact same floor plan, features and finishes. And, except for slight differences in the exterior façades, it is also not unusual to find one building full of condos to be pretty much the same as another building full of condos in the same neighborhood.

Sellers need to understand that with so many condos to choose from, they all start looking the same to the buyer.  In the buyer’s eye, without much distinguishing one from another, they become just another Vanilla Box.

While there are many configurations of the Vanilla Box, the typical Vanilla Box of today has the door in the rear, sliding patio doors to a balcony in the front, and a kitchen in the middle with stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops and an island that separates the kitchen space from the open dining/living room area. All are pretty much the same…floor to floor, building to building, neighborhood to neighborhood.

With so many condos being relatively the same, the chance for a sale is quite competitive. Plus, if you are a home seller that is currently living in a Vanilla Box, in a neighborhood that offers similarly priced NEWLY constructed Vanilla Boxes… keep in mind that a shiny new Box is much more appealing to a buyer, than a scuffed, scratched, and worn used Box.

Good news is that the hope for a sale of your Vanilla Box is not a lost cause… for either the independent owner trying to sell their unit, or for the builder trying to sell one or more units. Both, for different reasons, can benefit from hiring an EXPIRIENCED home stager.

Stagers will help individual seller trying to sell their unit in a number of ways. First, they will point out the problem areas that make a used home look used, and then offer low cost ideas and solutions that make the condo feel new. Next, while it is a fact that a furnished property is easier to sell then vacant; sellers need to understand that due to size constraints of the home (typically condos are more compact) furnishings in the condo needs to be set in a way that  they actually help the condo show and flow for touring… and a stager can help here too. Good staging is a balance between adding the right amount of visual appeal, without having the interior décor distract the seller’s eye from the property they are considering buying.

For the builder, a Stager can also be of great service. Who hasn’t been a bit surprised to experience a builder’s empty vanilla white unit after touring their lush and lovely model? For this reason large builders have for years had model properties for buyers to first tour. Today, the opportunity and benefit of having a model unit need not be a selling advantage reserved only for the larger builder. Smaller builders can hire a Stager who can provide low cost, yet beautifully designed staged-model solutions. PLUS, if the builder is selling multiple units in one building, should the staged unit sell, the staged model can be moved from one unit and re-set in the next. The added flexibility of a “rolling” model offers yet more flavor and appeal to the Vanilla Box.

So yes, without a doubt this is a tough market, especially for condo owners. But properties are selling. Fortunately, builders and owners of Vanilla Boxes can change the flavor of their offering from FOR SALE to SOLD… with the help of a Home Stager.

Flavor It Forward...


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stagers Should Picture What They Preach

Without a doubt the end result of a home’s staging should be a great visual impression. Because this is so, home staging has come to be viewed as an “image” industry. But as a relatively new industry, home stagers have much to learn from their counterparts in other more established image industries such as advertising, interior design, and landscaping. Professionals in these fields know that to sell and grow their own businesses; they must first present a good visual image of themselves. This impression starts with the logos, business cards, and websites they use to market their products and services.

Be leary of staging hypocrits. If home stagers are going to pitch the need and importance of investing money to ready properties (which is a home seller's "product") for market, then the stager needs to invest money to do the same for what they sell... their staging services. To be fair and judged credible, a home stager needs to invest in their business image. But more than just spending money. A stager's image, communicated through business cards, brochures, and websites, must demonstrate knowledge of and skill to apply basic design principals. Why? Well, basic design principals are universal and govern all visual creativity, including the skill and ability to properly stage a home.

Picture what they preach. Another area, where real estate stagers need to practice what they preach, is in the portfolios they use to sell their ability. First and foremost, the work they show MUST ONLY be theirs... and it better look good. If stagers are going advise sellers and Realtors as to the importance of using good photography to capture and present a home, then again, a stager needs to do the same with photography they show of the their work. A stager's portfolio is a key, yet often overlooked tool that communicates quality, skill and ability.

Seller’s looking to hire a stager can use a stager’s online portfolio to pre-screen and judge a stager's talent and ability. The best portfolios address the following 3 points.

  • Versatility & Proficiency - Every market is different and examples of the work a stager shows should represent the types of homes being sold in the markets they serve. However the more depth and diversity a stager can show the better. The most compelling portfolios will show staging work that was done in both big and small homes, vacant and occupied homes, low to high end homes, and the ability in to work with a variety of design styles.
  • Same View Point - Proof of a stager's skill and ability is often shown in Before & After photographs. But quite often the Before photo is taken from a totally different position in a room, from the After photo. The best sales testament that shows a stager’s ability and talent come from having Before & After photographs taken from the EXACT same angle.
  • Quality Photos - While it may not be possible to take the perfect Before, the After image needs to be well photographed. Stagers that invest the time and money to take quality photos visually communicate their commitment to their profession.
Just as a home that is for sale is being judged by how it looks, sellers can use the business images a stagers shows of themselves to judge skill and ability. The best home stagers will picture what they preach.

Stage It Forward...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When Wallpaper Attacks, It Can Kill the Sale

In today’s real estate market more and more home sellers are relying on home staging tips and advice to guide them in ways to best prepare their homes for selling. So last week, when I was hired to tour a seller’s property to give them my “Buyer’s Eye” advice, a monster of a problem reared its ugly head. The wallpaper in my client’s home was so extremely ugly I told them I just had to write a blog about it and use it as an example on how monsters like this will negatively affect a home’s sale.

So for the fun of it, and to drive home my point, I present to you (below) what I saw. So hideous was this wallpaper, I have to admit it almost looks like a cliché. However be wise, while not all wallpaper is as ugly this, it still is a problematic issue that sellers need to pay attention to. Fortunately, my clients were motivated and open to advice and willing to take it down. They know they had to present the most competitively appealing property as possible to sell in today’s market. But when it comes to wallpaper, not all sellers are as accepting of staging advice. I have found that the topic of wallpaper usually results in eye rolling, harrumphing, justification and/or avoidance with sellers. So if you are serious about selling your wallpapered home, you need to look it from a sellers view. Keep in mind, regardless of how “fantastic” you think your home’s wallpaper is, it is a HIGHLY personal expression of taste, so chances are potential buyers will NOT like it. Second, buyers want to buy their dream home ready for today, not yesterday. Wallpaper is trendy and needlessly ages a home.

But most importantly, what sellers need to know is this…. when buyers see wallpaper they don’t like, they see dollar signs. When it comes to spending their hard earned money to buy their dream, buyers will scrutinize and negatively react to your wallpapered home as, hopefully, you reacted to my extreme examples above.

So you need to know that any and all the resistance you have about removing wallpaper will be the EXACT same resistance a buyer will have about it too. Buyers know removing wallpaper is an arduous task that can be costly. Because this is the reality of buying a home with wallpaper, buyers know in this market they can and will move on to the next home that does not have that monster to battle.

Stage It Forward...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

5 Simple Factors That Keep Your Home From Selling

Believe it or not, even though the market is “bad” homes are still selling. Of course they are not selling at the rate they used to… but they are selling. So if you are trying to sell your house and find yourself asking the question “Why isn’t my home selling?” you may be surprised to know that the answer to that question is quite simple, but a bit multifaceted. The sale of a home in today’s market is dependant on a five factors that if not seriously considered and advantageously applied will keep your home from selling.

The first factor you must look at is PRICE. The asking price of a home today can not be dependant on what the price would/could have been in the “good old days”. The price of your home must be appropriate for today’s market… AND, because there are so many other homes in the market, it also needs to be aggressively competitive. Home buyers want and will spend the least to buy the most they can. Holding out for more, will only result in MORE time on market… so be wise.

The next factor is CONDITION. The better condition your home is in, the more attractive it is. Buyers do not want to spend their money repairing and making simple updates once they take possession. A home that is “move-in ready” is going to be snatched up long before a similar home that needs attention. Investing in a home inspection and addressing any major issues earlier on may cost you some money, but it will never cost you the sale. However, problematic issues, discovered by the buyer’s inspector, will still cost you money and also may be just enough to kill the sale. Besides hiring a home inspector, who focuses more on structural and mechanical conditional issues, you might want to also work with a home stager who will focus on the numerous smaller maintenance details and repair concerns that influence a buyer’s perception of condition.

PRESENTATION, both on-line and in person, is third factor that needs to be taken into account. The on-line presentation of your property needs to be captured and shown in first rate photography. Gone are the days when a Realtor could take poor quality digital snapshots and loaded them into an MLS system. Today’s buyer, who lives are busy and hectic as yours, depends on the Internet to help them prescreen properties. Better photos capture and tell a better sales story. In addition to having quality photos taken of your home, it still must look great when being toured by a buyer. An experienced home stager will guide and direct you to set and present your home so it can be easily toured and distinguished from your possessions in it.

Hiring the right listing AGENT is the fourth key factor essential in getting your property sold. Selecting a Realtor, solely because they recommended the highest listing price, may be the biggest reason why your home will not sell. Picking a savvy and strategic Agent who has skillful with a variety of marketing tactics and who is adept in working through a myriad of sales issues that can stop a sale once a buyer makes an offer is crucial. An experienced Realtor, who has a proven track record that demonstrates they have mastered both the marketing side and the sales side of real estate, will earn every penny they are paid for selling your home.

The fifth and final factor has to do with your INVOLVEMENT. Sellers need to fully share concerns, needs and objectives with the selected Agent right from the start and continue until the property is sold. But while candid honesty is key, it must also be two way street. Your Realtor must not only listen to you, but you must listen to them. So stay informed, watch the market conditions, and objectively listen to the feedback after showings. Then consider and act on key information you gather as if you were the buyer. Ultimately your home’s sale is controlled by you… NOT your Realtor.

So that’s it… the secrets are finally revealed on how to sell your home in a tough buyer’s market. How you choose to work with and apply these five simple factors will make, stall or totally keep your home from selling. In closing, if you think that just because you have a few of the factors under control your home will sell, you are wrong. It really takes all five working in together.

Sell It Forward...