Wednesday, December 16, 2009

5 Things You'll Never Hear Me Say . . .

5 Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say . . .  
by Jennie Norris, ASP Master®, IAHSP® President
December 16, 2009

Let’s face it. How many of you have grown tired of the shows on TV that depict homeowners as tasteless saps and the Interior experts – Designers, Decorators – as the only ones with taste and knowledge?

I know I have. Actually as much as those shows do help educate the public about doing something to spiff up their houses, they also do damage to my industry – The Home Staging Industry - by portraying us as critics that have no manners when we walk in to a house.

As an Accredited Staging Professional Master® (ASPM®), the FIRST principle I learned when establishing my business was to “honor the client and their possessions.” Words are powerful. They have the power to heal, to hurt, to uplift, and to drag down. Barb Schwarz, the Creator of Home Staging®, has taught this basic principle for nearly 40 years. It is founded in the principle of human kindness and consideration for others.

It amazes me that somehow others miss the boat on the fact that people have feelings, and when it comes time to sell a house, those feelings are elevated to a much higher stress level. I am never there to be a dictator, a critic or to offend my client in any way. I am also never there to make the Realtor® that may have brought me in to work with their seller, look bad. That would be foolish and amount to financial suicide.

Here are 5 things you will NEVER hear me say:

1. You have no taste!

2. What were you thinking!

3. These woods or colors don’t match.

4. Your things are outdated.

5. You need to replace all your things to get a Buyer.

1. Your taste is your own. Home Staging is not about the “things” in your house. It is about featuring the house and the floor plan for the Buyer. Your things may be worn, may be a bit dated, but that’s OK. We are not selling your furniture. The Buyers have furniture – they just need to see if it will fit and so they use your furnishings to get an approximation of scale and size visually, and this helps them mentally move in to your house.

2. Your things are what you enjoy. Who am I to come and tell you that you have the “wrong things” in your house? If you like a particular color or collect certain things, that’s your choice. Again as I have learned from Barb Schwarz, “The way you live in your home, and the way we market and sell a house are two different things.” So I focus on things that could be potentially distracting to Buyers. When people are walking through your house, they do get easily distracted by photos, collections, and anything that is too “incredible” to leave out – as that becomes the only thing the Buyers remember about your house. So, you do have to make changes to Stage your house for sale, but they are not done to criticize you or your belongings.

3. Matchy-Smatchy. Your furniture woods don’t have to match – in fact we don’t’ really need to focus on that at all when we Stage your house. People that come and tell you that “your things are all wrong” are focusing on the “stuff” and not the space. They must not have gotten the memo that the “eclectic look is in” and we can do wonders with what you have by simply reducing, rearranging, and possibly refreshing with a little “WOW Factor” inventory.

4. Most people don’t replace their furniture every season so guess what – their things are “outdated.” My own house has things we’ve owned for 10 years or longer. I am not going to replace all my furniture any more than you should be expected to. That is not realistic. A house that is dated can still be Staged and reflect the best way for Buyers. Of course, if you have dated fixtures and colors, those are easy fixes for Selling and as your Home Stager, I am going to suggest making improvements as your budget allows. However, if you tell me you don’t have any extra money, then I am going to successfully work with what you have and make it look the best for Buyers. That is what I am trained to do as an ASP Master® – I use my Creativity and Ideas to Stage – and don’t just rely solely on your money to replace and upgrade everything.

5. Please don’t fall into this trap. Even if you have a very high end house – don’t fall into the trap of “you must remove all your things and we will bring in rental furnishings to get your house sold.” Now if your house is vacant, yes, you do need to rent some things. But if you have furniture in your house, I can work with that. I may bring in some added “pizzazz” with d├ęcor or key Staging items, but I am never going to tell you that all your stuff has to be removed in order to sell. Anyone that does that is focused on money and not the goal of selling your house. It makes me cringe inside when I hear that some Sellers are being gouged in the tens-of-thousands of dollars to Stage their house with some supposed “stager” (usually some other profession cloaked in the guise of Staging) – that convinces them the only way their house will sell is with all new stuff. Ouch.

When you want an honest assessment of what to do to put your house on the market to get the best price in the shortest time, please make sure to work with an Accredited Staging Professional® (ASP®) Home Stager or a ASP Master.

If you reside in the greater Denver region, I would be happy to assist you or your client in preparing your house or listing for sale.

My commitment to all my clients is that I will provide an honest assessment and work with your budget and timeframe to successfully Stage your house for sale.

Happy Staging and Selling!

Jennie Norris, ASP Master®, IAHSP®
President, International Association of Home Staging Professionals® (IAHSP®) 2009-2010
Owner, Sensational Home Staging

10 Markets that are Poised for Rebound and 10 Markets that are Over Priced

10 Cities Where Housing is on the Rebound.

According to Michael Kling of Investopedia (, the following US Cities are poised for rebound:

(from Real Estate news – December 16, 2009)

1. Minneapolis – up 3.2%. Manufacturers such as 3M, and high-tech industries are hoping to benefit from the coming recovery. Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp is among the healthiest U.S. financial services companies, according to Moody's.

2. San Francisco – up 2.8%. Home prices there will drop 8.3% by next June, but will increase 14.3% by 2011.

3. Detroit – up 1.9%. Home prices fell 22.6% since last year, and are at about 72% of what they were in 2000.

4. Chicago – up 1.7% following a 2.7% increase from June to July due to first-time homebuyer tax credit that has motivated buyers.

5. Phoenix – up 1.6% after a 1.8% increase from June to July. The city was one of the hardest hit in the real-estate bubble. Prices have dropped by more than 25% since last year.

6. San Diego – up 1.6% but reported a 2.5% increase in July, and fell about 8.9% since last year.

7. Los Angeles – up 1.6% - Prices there rose 1.8% from June to July, but are still 12% lower than last year.

8. Washington DC – up 1.4%. and fell almost 8% since last year. The city is somewhat protected by a reliance on government employment.

9. Denver – up 1% - Prices there fell only about 2% since last year and have avoided the real-estate bubble that hit east and west coast states.

10. Seattle – up 0.1% with 3.8% increase predicted over the next few years. The real-estate market suffered less than others, as prices fell 15.2% over the last few years.

According to Forbes, the following cities are the most overpriced markets. 

This means the houses for sale in these markets are sitting longer than needed and are not selling.

The 10 most overpriced metro areas

1. Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.

2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.

3. Jacksonville, Fla.

4. Baltimore-Towson, Md.

5. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.

6. San Antonio

7. Denver-Aurora, Colo. (tie)

7. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (tie)

9. Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.

10. Austin-Round Rock, Texas (tie)

10. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn. (tie)

As an ASP Home Stager, it is important that I stay on top of the national statistics and trends related to the housing market so that I can serve my clients even better.  Knowing that markets around the country are rebounding is good news, and yet in any market ASP Home Staging helps a house present the best for Buyers and therefore get an offer faster than the un-staged competition.

We know that when a house is ASP Staged and priced right, it will sell.  But the two key factors of Presentation and Price must be balanced.  We know based on our statistics that we track at that an ASP Staged property sells 2-3 times faster, and in some markets 6 time faster, than the un-Staged competition.  We also know that the Staged property sells for 5-20% more than the un-Staged competition, helping homeowners keep more equity and helping Realtors earn more commission and make more money.

When it comes time to sell your house, make sure to work with an ASP Home Stager.  You can find us at in our online directory or at online directory of the current members of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP). 

If you live in the greater Denver region, I would be happy to personally assist you in getting your house or listing Staged for sale. 

Please contact me at Sensational Home Staging - 888-WE-STAGE.

Happy Staging & Selling!

Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP President
Owner, Sensational Home Staging

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Staging Statistics Survey - Supports Home Staging return on Investment

HomeGain has just released its 2009 survey of the top 12 things a Seller can do to make their house more marketable.  #2 on the list:  Home Staging.  It has steadily climbed up the ranks as one of the most important things a Seller can do when putting their house on the market.  With an average investment of $300 - Home Staging has over a 500% measureable rate of return.

See for yourself:  The Return on Staging Investment (ROSI) is factual and supported by studies such as the one below, as well as statistics that are tracked nationwide through

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Your Job Sounds so Fun!" - The Reality of a Home Staging Career

If I have heard that once, I have heard it 100 times."Your job sounds so fun!" and to be fair, I suppose from the outside looking in, it DOES seem like a "fun job." Most recently as I was boarding a plane the flight attendant spied my carry on that promotes my Staging business and exclaimed how fun my job must be . . .

What the public sees is the transformation of a house - room by room - where we use creativity and skill to enhance what the public sees when buying a house. What they don't see is all the work and planning that went in to that successful transformation.

Seems that most people believe that Home Staging is a "fun" job . . . probably ranking up there with Genie, magician, dolphin trainer, or some other "job" where a person appears to get to do something others perceive is lots of fun but don't really understand all the work behind the result. I haven't asked, but I think they believe that we just move a bunch of decor around and diddle with fabric or bedding, and tossing pillows is the most labor intensive thing we do.

To most, they probably figure we have an army of "workers" at our disposal, like those people on TV - that work for free, and make magic happen with their saws, lumber, and materials they just pull out of their magic trucks or vans. If there are Stagers that do this, it is a very, very small percentage. Most of us are the ones doing the work, moving the stuff, and lifting the furniture.

What they don't realize is that although Home Staging is "fun" it is also a lot of work. Home Staging itself is very physical too, or it can be. Home Stagers sweat. Home Stagers strain. Home Stagers can even stress out.

The reality of Staging is that it is not glamorous and the "fun" is not about the ease of what we do, but about the reward of a job well done. Most professional Home Stagers I know that actually work a business, and don't just preach about it, are in the trenches getting sweaty and schlepping stuff from point A to house B.

The days when I Stage, I show up in my "uniform" which is comfortable shorts and a tank top, sandals or tennis shoes, and my hair up in a clip. To be brutally honest, on days when I wake up and know I am Staging a vacant house, I don't bother with makeup, except maybe some lipstick, and - shocker here - don't even bother to style or comb my hair. Why bother - I am going to sweat - and I am not going to see a client so vanity goes out the window. I just stick my hair up in a scrunchy or hair clip - and off I go to "work." Where I live, the temps can reach over 110 degrees in the summer, and just loading up for a Staging project brings a workout. We don't "perspire." We sweat.

In the winter, we bundle up and deal with the cold temps and freezing weather - and hope that our projects "beat the rain" or other bad weather, but we've Staged during near hurricane winds, and with fog so thick we can hardly see to drive. God bless those Stagers that deal with hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, sleet, and any other weather related challenges. Like the mailman, come rain, wind, snow or shine, the show must go on!

I have been physically injured numerous times from Staging. I have broken toes, injured my foot, pulled muscles, gotten bruises, cut myself, gotten tennis-elbow from lifting furniture, and had a bungee cord snap back in my face, splitting my lip open. In that case, the show went on, and we Staged a house because we needed to get it done, with my lip bleeding for 9 hours. Good news is it was my lip - a few inches higher and it would have taken out my eye. I have had sore back, legs, arms and neck from Staging - and over the years have gotten smarter about how much physical labor I personally do, opting to hire movers and manual labor help whenever the budget allows. There are "tools" we can use to help minimize some of the physical strain - furniture lifters, movers, and such, but the bottom line is that we cannot escape the physical nature of Staging. Even if we are just pulling inventory and loading our truck, that is physical.

Home Staging is fun because we are helping others, we do get to see the transformation of a space happen relatively quickly, and we get the reward of accomplishment when the house sells faster than expected - compared to the marketed un-staged competition. But it's not "fun" in the sense that it's easy to do.

Working with clients and providing Staging reports is not physical, but it is mental. We may not sweat while preparing the Staging report (unless the homeowner does not have their air conditioning on), but the mental side of coming up with a plan of action on the spot, and then having the ability to convey that plan with compassion and kindness to a Seller that may or may not be ready to hear the suggestions, or be excited about moving, can be a challenge and be somewhat stressful. The emotional aspect is something we have to be prepared for each time we work with a client. We never know what response they are going to have to our plan, and much of the time we act in the role of compassionate counselor, encouraging them to make changes that will ultimately benefit them the most in the sale of their property.

The longer we engage in business, the more confidence we get, and the better prepared we feel going in to work with a client, but I don't believe we ever fully get over that feeling of pressure to perform Staging magic, using what a Seller has or bringing in some "WOW" factor, with the hopes that everything will turn out great. We have a vision, we work to carry that out to the best of our ability, factoring in what the seller has to work with, any limitations we may have, the necessary timeframe, and budget.

My last Staging report was done late one afternoon, and the next day we showed up to do hands-on Staging to finish it off, with the clock ticking from a Realtor that wanted to get the house on the MLS - ASAP! Of course, the Realtor was thrilled and the seller got a real kick out of seeing how we used her things, combined with some basic inventory - to get her house show ready. She even said, "You were not like those people on TV - you treated me very kindly and I appreciate that." Working with pressure is not something every person can handle, and yet professional Stagers do it every day.

My greatest satisfaction comes not just from seeing a room come together with my ideas that transfer from mind to reality, but from the reaction of a client that cannot believe how nice their house looks, and from a Realtor who is thrilled at a tranformation of their listing. And it comes from a part of me that feels great joy at using my talent and creativity in a way that helps someone else.

Ultimately, when I finish a Staging project, there is a part of me that just wants to high-five someone, or do a celebration dance. As I have shared with colleagues - having a "theme song" is important and keeping the actual Staging fun - by sharing it with other professional ASP Stagers is what make it fun for me as well. As I learned from my mentor, Barb Schwarz, "having a party with myself" is half the fun of Staging - and that happens when I do something unexpected with Staging, when my creativity comes out and we use something in a new way, or make something out of "nothing" in order to achieve a goal. I love that feeling.

However, the "work" behind Staging never ends. Any successful Stager will tell you that getting the business is always on our minds. We are managers, marketers, and workers. Besides the physical labor that leaves us sweaty and tired, there is the constant marketing that has to occur. We can never just sit back and "wait" for business but must constantly find ways to reach our target audience with our message of how we can help them achieve their goals of selling faster and at the best price.

As a markets change, we have to change our strategy for getting business, so we are also adjusting to economic trends that impact our business. Any successful Home Stager will attest to the reality behind reinvention, and carving out market niches to stay viable.

Yes, our "job is fun" but it is also a lot of work - mentally and physically. We have to have endurance to make it through the tougher times, we have to have optimism to keep our hope alive when the going gets tough, and we have to rejuvenate our creative spirit by continuing to find new ways to test our skills and transform houses and spaces that truly need our Staging touch.

So those of you out there looking from the outside at Home Staging - and believe it is one of those "fun" jobs - what it is really is a passion that we have turned into a career. Despite the physical, mental and even emotional work it takes, we love it because it feeds a part of our soul or spirit that nothing else meets.

THAT is the real "fun" behind Home Staging.

Sensational Home Staging launches!

The newest Home Staging company to launch in the Denver region is Sensational Home Staging! This may be a new company to the region, but it is not owned by a new Stager. Jennie Norris, owner of Sensational Home Staging is a professional ASP Master Home Stager that has been Staging houses for over 7 years. She is also a member of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) that for over a decade has been guiding the Home Staging industry with standards of education, excellence and ethics. She is serving as the President of IAHSP for 2009-2010.

The launch of Sensational Home Staging follows her relocation from Northern California to the Denver area. After Staging over 2,700 in the past 7 years, Jennie has the experience and expertise to Stage any property. She built a large and successful Home Staging company and was the first professional ASP Home Stager to launch in a business outside of the SF Bay Area.

Jennie is a mentor to fellow Home Stagers, is a featured blogger, social networking expert, and has been interviewed by reporters for local and national publications. She is also privileged to have been included in national media segments on Home Staging for ABC's 20/20 and NBC's The Today Show.

She is the only two-time recipient of the Barb Schwarz Staging Award of Excellence as voted on by her peers in the Home Staging industry, and has been recognized by the Women's Council of Realtors as Affiliate of the Year and been awarded the President's Award.
To find out how Jennie can help you achieve your goal of selling your house or listing, contact her at 888-WE-STAGE. You can also find us online at
To read past blogs, go to to read the blogs posted under the company We Stage Sacramento, Jennie's former company.