I’ve been doing a lot of interior design talk for a while now. I want to switch gears; change hats if you will and chat a bit about real estate home staging. You may or may not know this about me, but I am both an interior stylist and real estate stager. Some may think these skills sets go hand-in-hand, and there is some truth to that. Some truth. Having been educated and working in both fields, I can tell you the role and skill set of a home stager is quite different than the role and skill set of an interior stylist or decorator. By popular opinion, home staging is thought to be a lighter or fluffier, unnecessary or frivolous means to an end. Whereas, interior styling typically comes with more respect and even a prestige of sorts; that somehow it’s reserved only for the affluent. Both thoughts are completely untrue…but, I digress…let me dial things back and share a recent story with you.
As a home stager, it’s safe to say, I love going to open houses. Call it research. Well, it just so happened that a home on my street was holding an open house recently and I stopped by. I had previewed the pictures on the MLS listing and it appeared my neighbour was in good hands with his/her realtor. The photography was good, the copy was descriptive and painted a picture in your mind of what the home had to offer and it even looked as though the home had been professionally staged. (I should add…I don’t actually know this neighbour, so I wasn’t being that noisy neighbour that crashes open houses…it really was professional driven research!)
When I walked into the house with my stager’s hat on, looking through the eyes of a CSP, I could tell immediately that the styling was not the work of a professional. Don’t get me wrong, the space looked good. It was spotless and ready for presentation. It was even updated with some modern and fresh styling choices. But just inside the doorway, I could spot at least 5 staging errors before the tour even started. These errors won’t stop the compliments that potential home buyers will offer as they tour the property. In fact, most realtors would think they were working with a talented home owner; a dream client who understands the importance of first impressions and all. But if you listen closely to the comments mixed in with the compliments, there were definite objections being revealed. “Oh, there’s no real entry way…where do we put our shoes?,” “Is this the only living space…it’s small,” and “I wouldn’t do purple accents in here.” Slowly, but surely the potential buyers were talking themselves out of what really was a great little home. All of these objections, whether verbalized or not, are running through the minds of home buyers and can make the difference in selling fast and/or getting the best possible value for your home. The neighbour’s home sold, but it sat longer than a few other comparable professionally staged properties in the area. Of course it would sell in this market, but I can’t help but wonder, how much money did they leave on the oversized kitchen table just because they thought they had a knack for decorating?
Can you see it? The BEFORE pic looks pretty darn good, right? But, it’s what you can’t see in the AFTER picture that’s working on the emotional and subconscious thoughts of your potential home buyer.
A professional home stager does tap into design and decor, but more often than not, staging contradicts the “rules of interior design.” A good home stager is more concerned with buying behaviours and has a great marketing mind. I realize how easy it all looks on all the home shows on HGTV. Re-arrange the furniture, slap on a fresh coat of paint, add pillows, pillows, and more pillows and you’re ready for multiple offers! It makes sense though when you think about it… professionals always make what they do seem easy to others. Just like a great actor, Olympic athlete, an amazing chef…or whatever the profession, there’s a lot of training, research and experience that goes into being great at what you do. The same is true of the skills that professional stagers possess.
A lot of people shy away from staging professionally because they think it’s going to be a huge investment and result in a minor or even major renovation. That’s not always the case. Again, through the untrained eye, the BEFORE kitchen seems good to go. In the AFTER image, no major reno at all, but there are several intentional choices designed to trigger positive buying signals and bring out the best that existing kitchen has to offer.
So, if you have an HGTV lovin’ friend or your sister-in-law loves to decorate, remember that they really don’t have what it takes to stage your most valuable asset. With the prime home selling season closing in on us now, I wanted to share this little lesson on staging. What’s the lesson? If you’re looking to sell your home before the snow flies, you need a pro stager!