I was recently asked by a local writer with the Austin Board of Realtors to comment on some common staging questions. Many of them were ones I have been asked before and some not so common, but I thought posting all would be helpful to those looking to have their home staged or who have considered doing it themselves.
1. How long have you been staging homes? How has this practice evolved?
I have been staging homes for 7 years. In my opinion the biggest evolution is that staging is more prevalent. It is the new standard when listing your home. With the reality TV boom realtors and sellers alike have an acute awareness of staging. The business itself has not really changed all that much. There are certainly some specific design practices that are no longer common, but as a whole the industries growth is the biggest evolution.
2. Do staged homes sell faster than those that are not staged? What are the statistics?
Overall staged homes do sell faster and often for more money than unstaged homes. The rate at which that occurs solely depends on how experienced the stager is. Homes staged by Decorator For Hire sell, on average, 83% faster. According the the Real Estate Staging Associations 2011 staging report, the national statistics show a 70-80% faster sell rate.
3. What are the credentials for a staging specialist?
There are no necessary credentials to call yourself a “stager” which is why anyone searching for an experienced and reputable stager should ask for realtor referrals and pictures of previous homes. Be sure that the photos are of actual local properties and not “stock photos”. Some staging programs that “certify” stagers, offer stock photos for new stagers. This is a practice frowned upon by the industry as a whole, but does still happen. These sort of education programs are widely available, but are not necessary to practice staging. It also a good idea to belong to reputable trade memberships such as the Real Estate Staging Association and the American Society of Home Stagers and Redesigners that help keep the integrity of staging intact.
4. Can you guide me through the staging process?
The process can be different depending on what type of staging is required, vacant, occupied or vignette. Not all stagers offer those options, some only do occupied homes or one of the other specialties. We offer both occupied and vacant, but do not believe there is value for the consumer in vignette. All staging begins with the initial contact by phone, gathering pertinent information about the listing (i.e. location, size, style, listing price, vacant, etc.) This is also when you find out expectation in pricing and what the clients overall needs are. Once everything has been established and terms are agreed upon, a contract is sent along with a deposit request. From here the next steps change depending on the needs. If it is merely a consult,meaning they just want a walk through and written report of an occupied home, then there is no need for a contract and an appointment is set and report sent after. Vacant homes are bid on a case by case basis and the process as well as the timeline can differ.
5. How do you sell staging to clients? Why is it important?
I don’t usually have to. By the time the seller or realtor contacts me, they have pretty much already decided they need me. Five years ago, that wasn’t so much the case as information hadn’t been so readily available and I had to educate potential clients on the value of staging. But now it is generally accepted that if you want to be competitive, you have to stage your home.
6. Without giving away your secrets, what are the top ten staging concepts a homeowners should know about?
1. Declutter. That goes for rooms, walls, shelves, closets, garages, cabinets…EVERYTHING. Why pay to pack and move items, you don’t need or want. Recycle the money you get from selling old stuff, for updates.
2. Clean your house ( I know this sounds like a given, but you would be surprised! Deep clean those showers, baseboards, tiles and carpets.)
3. Remove your personal belongings (buyers don’t want to know you use a water pick and foot luffa).
4. Remove affiliated decor (religious, school, work). If there is a chance of offending even one potential buyer, is it worth it?
5. Freshly paint interior with warm neutral colors.”Builder Beige” is not a warm neutral color.
6. Curb appeal is just as important as staging. If you can’t get them to come in, then the inside doesn’t matter.
7. Add neutral and seasonal home fragrances. Even if your home does not have an offensive oder, it does have your oder.
8. Make sure, curtains, throw pillows and rugs coordinate and add a bit of color.
9. You don’t want something hanging on every wall, but you do want something hanging on key walls.
10. It does not have to be expensive to have your home staged. Even one hour will make a HUGE difference in your bottom line.
7. Clearing clutter is a big part of the staging process. What tactics do you use to convince homeowners to let go of their stuff?
They don’t have to let go of it, just remove it. If they choose to store it, then I tell them they are one step closer to moving, because they have one more boxed already packed. But I do encourage them to make sure it is something that they want in there new home. No one wants to pay to move something just to unpack it and donate it. Sometimes we get so used to having “things” around, we don’t stop and think about if really really want them anymore.
8. Will a room feel larger if the furniture is pushed against the wall or does floating furniture in groups open up traffic flow?
The short answer is no, but it all depends on the room, the layout and the furniture size. Typically it is not ideal to push your furniture against a wall, but sometimes it is the best choice for traffic flow. Not all rooms are large enough to have the furniture floating. The most important thing is to have size appropriate furniture and just the right amount of it.
9. How do you use lighting in the staging process?
Everywhere! Light is money in real estate. Aside from using all existing ceiling and mounted lighting, adding side lamps, table lamps and counter lamps create an ambiance and warmth. I use lamps in every room, including kitchens and bathrooms when appropriate.
10. How can paint improve a space? Make it appear larger?
New paint is to a house like a wash is to a car, it adds a fresh, clean, new feel. Warm neutral colors can lighten and brighten a room, or make it feel more cozy, which ever look you are trying to achieve. There are mixed reviews as to whether a lighter color really makes a room feel larger or not, but it does make it feel brighter and that is a good thing.
11. Do you have creative suggestions for hanging wall art?
I have creative solutions for wall art, but rarely do you need them for hanging wall art. Art needs to be the right proportion, hung securely and at an appropriate hight. It is a good idea to mix framed art with sculptural hanging pieces to add texture and interest. It can get boring quick having one frame after another. You can also use paint as art in small decorative spaces, niches and coffered ceilings.
12. When organizing accessories, is the rule of three still a good one to follow? Is color, texture and shape also important?
The rule of odds, still applies it can be 1,3 or 5. Color, texture and shape are always import. You are not selling your decor, but you do want it to be pleasing to the eye and have an overall cohesive look.
13. Have you ever staged a home so well that the owner kept his home?
Great question, but no. Usually sellers have special circumstances outside the home that requires a move, expanding family, job relocation, etc. I have, however, had home owners say more times than I can count “Why didn’t I call you sooner!” And since I am a decorating and staging company, many of my staging clients become design clients and hire me to decorate there new home.
14. Please feel free to include any additional information that I didn’t ask.
The biggest reason people may not realize they need a stager is because there is so much more than just decluttering and redecorating. Having a solid understanding of spacial relationships and how to apply them, as well as being able to see a home through buyers eyes, are skills only a trained and experienced home stager can offer.