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Stage appeal

Professional home stagers broaden the appeal of your listings, which means faster sales for more money.

Every person who tours your listing should find it appealing. They should be drawn to its best features and feel how it will fit their lifestyles. Some buyers will find it appealing enough to whip out their checkbook, others will not. Regardless, you must ensure that you pique the interest of the widest range of prospective buyers.

What's the best way to create an atmosphere like that? Home staging.

You and your sellers share the same goal: a fast sale at the best price. While "fast" and "best" are relative terms, you certainly increase the likelihood of meeting this goal by staging your clients' homes. Plus, you already stage your listings, whether you know it or not.

Anything you suggest to sellers to maximize the appeal of their home-cutting the grass, painting the trim, shampooing the rug-is a form of home staging. Staging not only accents a listing's best features, it also eliminates as many distractions and negative aspects as possible. While every home can benefit from staging, the amount of time, effort, and money you invest in the process depends on several factors.

How bad is the place? "Maybe the general appearance of the property is dated, worn, or unattractive," says Ellen Boettcher, president of Staging By Design and chairman of the Austin WCR Education and Programs Committee. Step back and critically survey the property as a whole. What would a buyer think about the property in its present state?

Will the outcome be worth the effort invested? According to Boettcher, a good indicator that you need to invest significant time and effort in staging is when competing properties show better than your listing. You know what else is for sale in the area; look around.

What do the sellers want? "There are so many expenses involved in being a seller," says Kat Thompson, an Accredited Staging Professional. "It's important to limit staging expenses."

Be the buyer

Objectively assess your listing as if you were a buyer. Drive up to the listing, walk to the front door-take it all in. Figure out what it will take to make this house fly off the market. Do you have the time and resources to take the necessary steps?

"Does the house have any curb appeal? Does the entry way catch your eye, or is it overwhelming?" says Jeanne Gardner, an Accredited Staging Professional and owner of First Impressions by Jeanne.

Boettcher agrees, "View the home with a buyer's eye-and nose."

While you tour the home, take note of its best features-a wonderful fireplace, grand staircase, manicured front garden. Note any distractions such as furniture or decorations that steer your focus away from these features and onto themselves.

"The focal point should be the house, not the belongings in the house," advises Gardner.

Some distractions-pet odor, for example-are negative. But Boettcher points out that there are positive distractions as well. A display of expensive china, beautiful artwork, and even rows of family photos are considered positive distractions. These may add charm to the sellers' house, but you don't want it to be the sellers' house. You want buyers to walk in and see it as their house.

Going pro

"Most REALTORS® know what it takes to sell a home but they may not have time to implement everything," says Gardner. Adds Thompson, "An agent needs to honestly assess a home and determine if the obstacles to presenting the home in an appealing way are too much for her or her sellers to overcome."

Hiring a professional home stager not only frees you from having to rearrange furniture, paint rooms, and clean the garage, it also puts the onus on someone else to broach delicate decorating topics. The professional stager gets to explain to the sellers why their Hummel collection and grandchildren's pictures must sit in the attic until the house sells.

"Homeowners don't want to hear any negatives about their property," says Boettcher. "A carefully cultivated REALTOR®-client relationship can be put in jeopardy with a few poorly received words. And homeowners act upon what a professional home stager says faster than they would when the recommendations are delivered by their agent."

Of course, the drawback to hiring a professional stager is paying her bill. But, says Boettcher, "the cost of hiring a home stager for an hour is generally much less than the agent would earn from spending that same hour generating more listings and clients."

Popping the question

Hiring a stager may spare you from offending your sellers, but how do you bring up the subject of consulting a stager in the first place? Above all, be tactful and make sure your clients know that hiring a home stager is not a reflection on their decorating skills.

"It's a way to present the home as a blank slate with a neutral palate," says Thompson, "to attract the attention of the most buyers."

"When sellers ask, 'What do I need to do to the house before you show it?'" says Boettcher, "that's when you can step in and suggest a home stager." In her experience, most homeowners usually love the process because it teaches them how to keep their home ready for buyers with less stress and worry.

If your clients initially resist the idea and try to do it themselves, Thompson suggests being honest. "Tell them that their efforts to de-clutter and de-personalize the room or house have been great," she says, "but that it still doesn't look right. It doesn't flow. Let's get a pro." They hired you to guide them and give advice-it's time for them to listen to you.

Gardner suggests introducing the topic right from the start. "Your listing presentation should incorporate a comprehensive marketing strategy-one that includes a consultation with a home stager."

Boettcher agrees, "Present home staging as an added-value marketing service that will increase the perceived value of the home to help it show better than the competition and to gain an offer quickly. Ask, 'Who would you hire to list your home: the REALTOR® who includes professional home-staging services or an agent who doesn't?'

"Emphasize that the way one lives in a home is very different from the way the home needs to look for showings," Boettcher says. "The changes are a marketing tool to draw attention to the best features of the home."

OK, but how much?

Like most consultants, a professional stager or designer charges based on her talent and experience. Expect to pay $75 - $125 per hour, according to Boettcher.

Just as stagers charge different fees, each house requires a different level of service. Gardner estimates that basic staging-rearranging furniture, a little paint, removing clutter, cleaning-on a 1,900-square-foot, three-bedroom house runs $200 - $1,000. That does not include any rental furniture or added decorative accessories provided by the stager.

In most cases, you as the listing agent bear the cost of the initial consultation, maybe an hour with the stager-especially if it's part of your marketing plan. After that, it's up to you and your clients how you implement the staging strategies that result from that brief consultation.

You can find stagers the same way you find a well-qualified electrician or plumber-referrals. Ask colleagues if they know any designers or home stagers they would recommend. Also, check out IAHSP.com, the Web site of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, and ASID.org, the site of the American Society of Interior Designers. Both sites have resources to help you locate professionals in your area.

Address the idea of home staging early in the transaction with your sellers, and hire a professional to make you look good. Your clients will approve when their home generates more interest, sells fast, and fetches a good price.


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Contact Us today -- Or --
Call us anytime at (281) 334-CASH


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Houston Area & save up to 1%

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