"Staging is only for High End Properties" is what one agent said to a home seller just before I walked in to do a vacant walkthrough on a charming 1945 Charleston bungalo. I'm sure this made the seller feel inspired considering he had already hired me for the job based on a ballpark number and a required time table of staging only 2 days after walkthrough. You see, I had worked with this seller about a year before when he was selling a downtown property. The market here is much like other markets. If you aren't actively doing everything you can from presentation to marketing then your house just isn't going to sell.
This client had done his research and based on all reports from many financial experts was advised that staging was perhaps the most important part of listing. I agree with this with one exception - the listing agent is probably actually THE most important part of the listing, but the right agent will know the home needs to be staged, so let's call it the same thing. The first home sold in about 45 days with a better than expected offer.
When the decision was made to sell a rental property they had, we were actually the first call. They wanted it staged within only a few days. We had to book the movers, team and so on, so I advised him that we would need a signed contract before I even did the walkthrough to guarantee the timeslot. I did, as I said earlier, give him a rough ball park figure based on estimated list price, rooms and neighborhood.
I did not ask about his agent. I mistakenly assumed that he would be using the same agent - an agent I had never worked with before or since. Apparently while the experience with our service and the final price was good, the experience with the agent was not. He was interviewing. After interviewing 3 agents, none of them thinking staging was worth the money - he was left shaking his head. When I arrived and he was embralled in a heated conversation about price (the agent thought the home should be priced higher than the client did - buy a lot more than the comps showed). I introduced myself and the agent smiled, asked for my card and advised that he was familiar with our newsletters. I thought to myself, "great!" Then he left and the seller advised that the agent was adamant that this home did not need to be staged and it should be priced much higher than any comps he could see the justification for. This made no sense and he knew it. It went against everything his financial experts had recommended.
I asked if he would mind me referring him to an agent that I worked with regularly in neighborhoods all around this one. Moments later he had an appointment with that agent. That evening he had signed the listing contract and all the work that needed to happen after he left town (maid, access for us, lawn maintanance scheduled, etc) was suddenly being handled by the professionals - something no other agent had offered.
Two days later we staged the home. Then it went on the market. I received this email from the client days later, "On the home selling front, Randall has been great (thanks so much for recommending him to me!). He, my wife, and I agreed to price Sothel for a quick sale ... and it worked! Less than a week after it was listed, we had not one, but three offers. We told all of the prospective buyers that we had received multiple offers and for each to come back with their best offers & with letters confirming they had preliminary financing approval. We ultimately accepted an offer of $785 more than our list price ... not bad in the current housing market!"
This client listed to every professional - from financial experts to us, the real estate experts. This house, while "priced to sell" actually closed for more than $30 per sqft than the average closing in this neighborhood since the beginning of the year. It beat the days on market average by 74 days!
The next time an agent trys to tell you that you don't need to stage, the right price will sell the home, RUN! Run and find a professional who will bring out a competant stager that will tell you exactly what you can and should do to have this kind of experience.
BTW, as an agent, what do you suppose their benefit has been for offering staging? (Let me say that this agent one of the top 5 agents in the largest real estate company in Charleston) Not only did they have next to zero marketing expenses (home sold in less than a week), they got a referred listing from the stager they use and this homeowner will definitely be using them when they sell their last rental unit - not to mention refer them to other sellers in the area. Oh yea, and of course they received their commission more quickly and it was bigger thanks to the higher than listed sales price.
Just before sitting down to write this blog, I stumbled across one of Debra Gould's blogs, Why Real Estate Agents Discourage Home Stagers - the blog was well written and dead on. The fact is that education to both homeowners and agents is the only way to change the industry perception. For years we've been doing lunch and learns to train agents so they know how and why staging works. We have built collaborations with enough to keep a steady mid six figure staging income for our company for the last 5 years. Thanks for helping put it out there Debra! Education to both homeowners and agents is the secret to success in our industry!
Author Bio: Melissa Marro, Home Staging Industry leader, Realtor, and entrepreneur offers a unique perspective on New Home Construction, Resale Residential Real Estate, and Home Staging
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For more information on buying or selling in the Fleming Island, Orange Park, or Jacksonville, area, visit StageListSellNEFL.com or call Melissa Marro (marro.melissa at gmail.com), Keller Williams First Coast Realty, for more information (904-466-2093).