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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Home Staging Training - Navigating the Plethora of Options and Knowing What to Look For and What to Avoid by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, Owner Sensational Home Staging

Home Staging Training - Navigating the Plethora of Options
and Knowing What to Look For and What to Avoid


Nearly 40 years ago the industry of Home Staging was created by Barb Schwarz, and 12 years ago it went to the next step with the creation of the first professional designation and course offered for a much needed service.

Flash forward to where we are today and there are many "courses" (and I use that word lightly) that offer some sort of education for Home Staging.

If I were looking for a class today it would be confusing.

I don't envy those that are researching to find a place to be trained. Did you know there are over 30 "classes" found online you can take to get educated in Staging?

Did you know the Staging industry is not regulated . . . Yet?

It's true. No one is regulating who can teach or offer a course or call themselves a Home Stager.

Fact is, some courses are reputable and others are scams.

There are those in the industry that claim you don't need a professional designation to Stage® and some say that there is no such thing as an Accreditation for Home Staging. The first part is true and the second part is false.

Anyone can claim to have been in business or have all this experience and unfortunately there is no way to stop someone from making false claims. Personally, I am frustrated at how some people even explain their credentials in this industry - falsely stating experience and impact when there are those that know what is shared is not true.
So how can you tell the difference when no one really regulates what is shared?

You have to do your homework.

A. Do the research: Ask the questions . . .

1. How long has this course been around?

2. Is the course content about Home Staging only or does it cross over into other industries, diluting the focus of my business?

3. Do the real estate agents know about this class and recognize the designation?

4. Is my Trainer someone that actually has built their own Home Staging business successfully?

5. Will the company be there 5 years from now when I need help?

6. What ongoing support will I have from my Trainer and the Company?

7. What kind of exposure will I receive online to help me succeed?

8. Do they have a professional Association for me to join?

9. Does this Association have standards for joining like requiring education first?

10. Are there local chapters of this Association that I can be part of for ongoing success?

11. What kind of ongoing education is there?

12. Is there a code of ethics and professional standards that are upheld?

13. What national and regional industry company partnerships do I have to help me add value to what I bring to my client?

14. Ask for references of others that have taken the class and find out what they though and how successful they have been.

B. ASK WHAT the course is about.
If you want to be a professional Home Stager - take a Home Staging Course.

For those reading this post that is a key distinction. Staging is a stand-alone industry that falls under the auspices of the Real Estate industry.

It is not decorating or design or redesign - they are stand alone industries and provide valuable services for people in need of professional decorating or design work.

In other words, if you want to be a professional Home Stager, take a professional Home Staging course that sticks to the fundamentals of what it takes to own and operate a successful Home Staging business.

If you want to be a designer, decorator, redesigner, feng shui expert, color expert, etc. - then take a course specifically catering to that service and industry.

They are all unique industries and services and should not lumped under the auspices of "Home Staging."

I believe in not putting all your eggs in one basket and to diversify, but I also do not believe in diluting.

Diluting is trying to cover too much in one course so that the student doesn't really learn what it takes to be successful in any one industry.

Diversifying is adding knowledge about other services you would like to offer such as color, feng shui, redesign, interior design, interior decorating and so on - and you can do that at a later time so you can offer added services to your clients.

Are there cross over elements with these various industries and services? Sure - but it's important to note that the goals of these industries are not the same.

Staging is about depersonalizing and preparing a house for sale for an unknown Buyer and to make a property appeal to a particular and distinct audience. The likes and dislikes of the homeowner really do not come into play as the house is being prepared for the Buyer so it must be very broadly appealing.

Decorating, Design, Redesign, Feng Shui, and Color Trends are about customizing and personalizing a home and in the process, the likes and dislikes of the property owner are the main consideration. It does not have to be broadly appealing, and in most cases is not simply because the work is being done to please the property owner.

C. You need to ask yourself, "Who is behind this course?"

It seems these days that everyone wants to teach a class or course on Home Staging - and I can't blame them - when you are successful and want to share with others, it's a natural path to take in the industry.

But as a person considering launching a career in Home Staging you have to dig deeper and ask yourself if the class you are considering has any recognition in the Real Estate industry?

Because as a professional Home Stager - you don't want to pay money for a class and just get knowledge - you want to take a course that is actually going to help you succeed in your own business.

Fact is, a new course and designation that has not been around is not going to have the brand recognition of one that has been established and has integrity in the industry.

The only way to get that is longevity. You can either be part of the movement to help brand a new course and set of initials or go with one that is already established - and your participation will be about branding YOU with the muscles of the already established course and designation behind you.

D. Online Exposure:

One of the best ways to determine if a class is reputable or not is how you are represented online and how you are marketed to the public and Realtors that want to hire you.

Yes, you may have your own website, but...

Your training company should have a way of promoting and marketing you online and a way to drive business to you - and they must invest the right amount of money on your behalf to ensure that when the public does search for people to work with, you have a fighting chance to be found.

To do that successfully takes a LOT of money and this is where the smaller training camps clearly fall short. You don't want to go with a training company that lacks capital to fund site optimization and site design that will help build your business and give you proper exposure.

E. Who is Successful?
Next you want to evaluate what Stagers have business in your region - and find out how successful they are.

Find out where their training roots are - I know those that took a reputable class and launched their business successfully, and then may have branched into something else - even training their own course - but you need to go back to that core training as that is what created their success initially.

Ask the people that are successful TODAY - don't ask those that tried and failed or quit. Find someone that is where you want to be and ask them HOW they did it - and then do your own research so that you can be launched on the right path for success and have a business that will serve your clients and you as long as you want to be in business.

Do your homework. Ask questions. Make an informed decision so that when you launch your Home Staging business you have the resources to help you grow for the long term.

F. WHAT TO AVOID:

1.  Avoid courses that cannot point you to real life graduates that have actual success.

2.  Avoid courses that have not been around long - they have no history of success or graduate they can point you to that have been successful.

3.  Check the BBB rating of the course - and if they don't have one that should be a red flag. These are companies taking your money and should be rated online and pay the fees to be part of the BBB network.

4.  Avoid any course that guarantees you any sort of income post graduation. That is impossible to provide to graduates as you are not employees of their company and are an independent business owner so your success is truly up to you.

5.  Avoid online courses that have no access to a real person that you can ask question of during your training.

6.  Avoid courses that cannot tell you how to price yourself for where you live - specifically - as the range of pricing for Staging varies greatly depending on geography and you don't want to "guess" at how to price yourself in business. You could end up leaving a LOT of money on the table or price yourself out of your market which would be a big mistake too.

7.  Avoid anything that sounds too good to be true - it probably is.

8.  Avoid a course that has no ongoing support for YOU - an Association, exposure online, and ways to market you for success.

9.  Avoid Associations that allow anyone to join. You will have made an investment in your training and business - do you really want to be part of a group that allows ANYONE to join - therefore diluting what you paid for and the standards you set for your business?

I hope this article has been helpful to you - and as a professional Home Stager that has owned and operated a successful Staging business for nearly 10 years and is a professional Trainer for 6 years, let me know how I can help YOU make a choice. Just email me at SensationalHomeStaging@q.com or go to www.SensationalHome.com to contact me.

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR? Part 4 of 4 by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP President

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR?: PART 4



 
In this series of 4 articles on what you pay for when hiring a professional Home Stager, this last article covers the inventory investment for houses that need a little or a lot of pizzazz to attract a potential buyer.

I hear this question a lot: "When it comes to renting items for Staging why can't they just sit for FREE in a house until it sells?" Great question and before I can answer it let's look at some facts.

 
What is inventory? Inventory consists of décor and furnishing used to add visual appeal to a property. The inventory can be a few items to help enhance a Seller's existing things to help add "Wow Factor" or inventory can be furniture and décor to help furnish a vacant house. Therefore inventory can be artwork, bedding, accessories, greenery, furniture, rugs, and so forth.

 
Inventory a professional Home Stager brings in is a convenience to the Seller - so that they do not have to purchase extra items, store them, or move them to a new property.

 
Inventory = Overhead: When an item is purchased it becomes an overhead expense and property of the company. Professional Stagers are not just pulling stuff out of their houses to stick in a vacant house or to help spiff up house that needs some pizzazz. They make an investment in selecting things that are universally appealing, will enhance a house, and make it look better for the buying public. They must also consider the style of the house they are Staging - not every piece of décor is useful in every house for sale. So we have to purchase things specific for types of properties as well.

 
Think about this: That piece of furniture, lamp, vase or fichus tree costs money every time it is moved or used. There is labor involved, gas and time.

When it is stored - there is often overhead costs associated with warehouse or storage unit space.

 
Things get damaged in houses - from careless Sellers who may paint interiors, or by Buyers that break something or use something inappropriately.

 
So why can't items just sit for free in a house? Because all these costs have to be covered by the renting of the items.

So before any Stager turns a profit from "stuff" they bring into a house, they must first cover their overhead expenses of managing and maintaining that inventory, and then pay for the transportation of those items to and from the house.

 
  • Moving costs average $200 each way per project for 2 men and a truck.
  • A small Storage Unit averages $100-150 per month.
  • A warehouse costs thousands to manage and maintain monthly.

Then there is the wear and tear on an item. Fabrics get stained, woods get nicked, and items get broken. Over time an item must be retired and replaced with a new item. The old one is sold or donated at pennies on the dollar. Things even get stolen from time to time - and have to be replaced. It's all a cost of doing business. And professional Home Stagers operate a business.
 
So when you are paying rental for things, you are helping that business owner cover operating costs and maintenance costs on having those items as a convenience to you - the Seller or Realtor - so that your house or listing CAN look better than the un-Staged marketed competition.
 
You pay for the "WOW Factor" to help your house or listing SELL - and when it sells we can say 100% of the time - "THE INVESTMENT OF STAGING IS LESS THAN A PRICE REDUCTION" - that you did NOT have to take because your house SOLD.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Green or Eco-Friendly Home Staging

Green Home Staging
By Jennie Norris, ASP Master®, IAHSP® President, President Denver IAHSP® Regional Chapter and Owner, Sensational Home Staging

The trend across the country is to have eco-friendly everything – “Green” is the buzz word to identify those people or industries that want to do more to conserve resources. People and companies are “going Green” in an effort to help protect our planet and our futures.

Did you know that ASP® Home Stagers have been doing this BEFORE the word “Green” was even in fashion? I was reminded of this during a leadership call with the Creator of Home Staging®, Barb Schwarz – who really has been teaching the idea of using what someone has or “repurposing” – which is really what the Green movement is all about – for nearly 40 years.


Home Staging with a Green focus or eco-friendly focus can be about using natural materials, cotton, bamboo, jute rugs, real greenery (instead of silk) which is so easy to do. . . I have done some of these projects and it is really simple to adapt to that type of Staging by thinking about what we are using and how we use it in Staging. (go to http://www.sensationalhome.com/ and link to eco-friendly home staging to learn more).


We even have an eco-friendly “star” in the ASP® Family that has developed a whole line of eco-friendly furniture to use in Staging houses – that is made from recycled materials and this genius was born from a need in the Staging industry and finding a way to fill it. (go to http://www.nextstagefurniture.com/ to find out more).


But when it comes to the average person’s home and selling – an ASP® Home Stager is already in the mode being Green – which is about using what is in the house – repurposing and find new uses for items that otherwise could get thrown out or as others in the industry that don’t have the same training might do – have the homeowner go purchase MORE stuff. . . that they don’t need which then causes even more wastefulness.


This philosophy has been taught for nearly 12 years and used in successful real estate sales for nearly 40 years! As the original Home Staging training course, Accredited Staging Professionals (ASPs) have been doing “Green Staging” since the beginning and that makes me really happy to know that I am part of an industry that does care about the environment and the future of our planet, and that we were doing a service for clients and the world before it was “trendy.”


So if you want a Green approach to preparing your occupied house for sale, look no further than your local ASP® Home Stager. Give them a call – and then sit back and watch in amazement as they transform your house using your things – and put the focus on selling your house – not selling you on purchasing a bunch of stuff you don’t need. If you have a vacant house – give your ASP® Stager a call to get an honest assessment of what you need to showcase your house working with your budget and timeframe to make the most impact for Buyers.

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR? Part 3 of 4 by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP President

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR: PART 3
By Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP®, Owner, Sensational Home Staging


In today's market, many people can be confused about what they are actually paying for when hiring a professional Stager. In my last post, I talked about the Staging Consultation and what the underlying costs are – and what you pay for when including this service as part of preparing your house for sale. Remember, professional Stagers have business overhead and marketing expenses, and the costs to having an actual business - not just a hobby - and why it's important to hire someone that knows what they are doing.

In this post - we talk about The Vacant House. This type of Staging has a lot of work that goes in before the actual Staging takes place. In most markets, a Vacant House Staging starts at about $800 and goes up from there. There are 3 types of Vacant Staging: Light, Moderate and Fully Furnished and based on your budget and the type of property we are Staging, we will recommend the most cost-effective solution that gets your property SOLD.

What we don’t want to do is say something is “Staged” when there is no furniture in the property, when the “Staging” is not going to truly help a Buyer visualize living in the house or when the quality is not of the standard based on the type of property. If you are not going to Stage it right, then don’t do it at all because you are wasting your money. You need to invest the money up front to get your house or listing SOLD so Stage it so that it will SELL.

Here is a run-down of what typically goes into Staging a vacant property:

For a Vacant House: I drive to the location of the house to preview the property – typically at no charge to the client or you. While I am there I begin to form a vision and plan for what has to be done to Stage the house. I am not being paid at this point.

I go back to my house and prepare a detailed proposal – and have to research pricing for rental items and furnishings that are needed for the Staging. I am still not being paid a dime. This process can take hours to even days to find the exact pieces that are needed for your particular house or listing. 
I put the proposal together and then share it with the my client. I answer any questions they may have about the Staging and pricing. I negotiate. I listen to concerns they may have and overcome them. Hours have gone into the process at this point and I have still not been paid anything.

Once the Seller agrees to the Staging, I have to send them an Staging Services Agreement and secure payment, and establish the date for the Staging.

Then the work begins of pulling the Staging together. I take time to source furnishings from my own inventory or outside source. I coordinate the financial aspects of the Staging. I pull a team together and hire them for the Staging day. More time in the process is taken here.

Once I process the payment according to the terms of the Agreement, I finally get paid. On Staging Day we meet early and get loaded up and ready. 70% of the Staging is completed by this point because I have been planning this project mentally and now it’s just a matter of executing the plan.

We drive to the house and get the Staging done. I coordinate the entire project – what piece goes where, what each room should look like, and convey that to the people I hired to work with me on the project.

Once the Staging is complete, I coordinate the return of trucks, pay for labor, and then turn to the marketing of the property. If there are any incidences with the Staging, my insurance policy is activated and I take care of it. My goal is to make the process as user-friendly and easy for Sellers and to get the house sold.

I take photos that I will share with Realtors as needed. I put your listing up on a special website featuring only Staged properties and brings leads to you. I send you an interactive media show on the house that you can use to market the property. I will create customized flyers for your future listings, and if I get a call from the house I Staged, the leads are passed to you as my partner in success.

And once the house Sells, I and my team come back and remove everything efficiently and effectively, and restock the inventory.

All this is done and included in the price of the Vacant Home Staging.

Can you see why something like this would cost more than $500?

Monday, November 1, 2010

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR? Part 2 of 4 by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP President

In today's market, many people can be confused about what they are actually paying for when hiring a professional Stager. In my last post, I talked about the business overhead and marketing expenses, and the costs to having an actual business - not just a hobby - and why it's important to hire someone that knows what they are doing.


In this post - we talk about The Staging Consultation or as it is sometimes referred to "The Staging Report, Staging Plan, etc." No matter how you name it - the goal is to share with a Seller and/or Realtor what is needed to get a house ready for sale when the owner plans on doing the work themselves.... On average - the investment to provide a Staging Consultation averages between $150-$375 around the country and the pricing depends on the market where you live and the square footage of your house.


As you read below, consider this:

1. Average Appraisal: $400-$600

2. Average Home Inspection: $400+

3. Average Pest Inspection: $80-$100 and usually leads to $$$$ for repairs

Staging is the only service done in preparation of a house that brings MEASURABLE value and we help a homeowner keep 5-20% of their equity. So for the "Staging Report" - investing $150-$375 to get clear direction on what to do to help you keep 5-20% of your house value - is WORTH it!

For a Staging Consultation: I arrive at the scheduled time and rarely charge for time and gas to get to your client's house (unlike other service industries that have a "trip fee"). I have my report materials with me that I paid for - and a packet that I will leave with your client that I have prepped ahead of time.

When I walk in the door - I am immediately engaging my psychology skills to understand the Seller and what motivates them. In a matter of seconds to minutes I have to size up that person and adapt myself and my communication style to reflect theirs so we "sync" up and they are receptive to what I share. And when there is a couple - I must do this with not one, but two people - that I am sometimes meeting for the first time. This is called "developing Rapport" - and is a SKILL that must be learned through experience and training. Without Rapport - well - good luck getting your client to take down the painting of the naked woman or dead animal head they have hanging in their dining room.

Next, I have to walk through the house - first time to see it - and come up with "the Staging PLAN" in my head and figure out solutions that meet the Seller's timeframe and budget. I have to be able to "see" their house in a different way in my head. This talent is present in less than 10% of the population and it's more than just decluttering surfaces.

While I am there I am building camaraderie and rapport with the client - this is so when I go through my recommendations with them there is a foundation of trust and likeability between us. I do this in many ways - subtlety and skillfully.

Next, I prepare a detailed consultation report - and some Stagers hand-write this professionally while others prefer to type theirs. Regardless, your client is given a detailed summary of what is needed, room by room throughout the whole interior, and the curb appeal (all parts of their yard, the house, etc.) issue is addressed in detail as well.

When I go through my recommendations with the Seller, I must be able to communicate my vision effectively to the Seller in way that does not offend or hurt their feelings.

While I work with your client, I boost you as the Realtor - I edify, I am there as your advocate - I have your back. The deadline is set - and it all ties back to the desired MLS date that you have set with your client.

As a professional Stager that is networked throughout the region, I also provide Value Added Services to your Client in the form of discounts on things they may need such as paint supplies, moving services, storage services and more.

Then I follow up with your client - I make sure they are on track based on the goals and listing dates. I encourage them. I hand-hold if needed. I am available to help finish the Staging if they get overwhelmed or are not able to get it done themselves.

After the Staging is done, I help market that property (now not all Stagers do this - but I do). I take photos that I will share with Realtors as needed. I put your listing up on a special website featuring only Staged properties and brings leads to you. I send you an interactive media show on the house that you can use to market the property. I will create customized flyers for your future listings, and if I get a call from the house I Staged, the leads are passed to you as my partner in success.

All this is done and included in the price of the Staging Consultation Report. And all this helps YOU as the Seller or YOU as the Realtor (or as the Investor, Builder, etc.) KEEP more equity in the house.

So in summary - when you hire me for a Staging Consultation - you are paying me for my creativity, vision, ideas, psychology skills, communication skills, and business acumen to help get your client on board with the Staging and keep them on track.

It is a worthwhile investment to pay a Professional Home Stager to do it right!

Friday, October 29, 2010

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR?

WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ME FOR? - by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP Presidenrt
(Part 1 in a Series of 4)


I recently attended a real estate networking event and had a Realtor come to me and say, “It seems that all the Stagers in this market have increased their prices 100-fold and I cannot find anyone to work at the rate I paid before.” Intrigued I asked him about the pricing he had received and did my best not to laugh (or throw up in my mouth) when he shared that he was getting a vacant house Staged with rental inventory and time for only $500. I asked what happened to the person he was using, and he said, “She is not longer Staging.”

REALLY? Hmmm – I wonder why? Maybe it’s because she ran herself into the ground and was losing money – not able to even cover operating costs. It does not surprise me in the least this Stager is no longer around. And it upsets me to know there are still more wearing the same shoes of that Stager thinking “If I do it cheaply, people will hire me.”

My experience with anything CHEAP is that it does not hold up and the quality is poor. Cheap shoes, cheap clothing, cheap vacations . . . and Cheap Staging.

How many of these Cheap Stagers are lurking in your market and just what do we get paid for anyway?

This question has haunted me these past days as I mulled it over. It seems that the gap between wanting Staging to work but wanting it to be cheaply priced is still there and getting agents and sellers to walk over the Bridge of Value and understand WHAT we do in Staging needs to happen.

So just what DO you pay for when you hire a Stager AND WHY am I worth every dollar?

First, I have set up a BUSINESS. This means I have licenses, education and insurance. I have memberships, marketing fees and costs. That is called OVERHEAD. So the projects I do in Staging must at MINIMUM cover these basic operating costs to owning and operating a business. I did not get into business to lose money. It’s not just a hobby for me and it’s not just a way for me to get a creative “fix” by tweaking someone else’s house instead of my own.

Next, when I work with your client as a Realtor or with you as a Seller – you are not just paying me for ideas – although that is a large part of it. You are paying me for my vision and my ability to effectively communicate that vision to the Seller in a way that does not hurt their feelings or make them get upset at you for bringing me in to their house.

Anyone with creative bones can spew out an idea or thought. The key is to not do it with mean-spiritedness, not to offend. That takes experience and training. I am sad to say that probably over 50% of the “Stagers” in any market DO NOT have proper training and therefore are stomping all over the feelings (and odd items, poor paint choices, and clutter) of a Seller – instead of honoring that client.

When you pay me – you are paying for a skilled NEGOTIATOR, someone that understands the PSYCHOLOGY of Staging, and the MOTIVATING factors for a Seller.

You are paying me to make YOU look good to your Sellers . . . and if you are the public you are paying me to share honestly with you about your house and to explain the reasons behind recommendations in a way that makes you WANT to make changes.

You are paying me for my KNOWLEDGE of the market – and to know what should be done (or does not have to be done) to sell your house or listing. We are Selling your house or listing – and my job is to know WHAT recommendations are MOST important in your market.

I study statistics, I stay up on trends. I know what colors, fixtures, flooring, cabinetry, counters, etc. - are the ones Buyers want to see (and which ones they don’t) . . . and I know what it’s like to move and sell – it can be emotional, stressful, sad . . . and I don’t take that lightly.

You pay me for my discounts I get at local resources in your area.  I pass those through to my clients - unlike other industries where they make a profit on stuff or charge a fee for this - I include this as part of working with me as your Stager.

I am your advocate for future business referrals, Realtors. When you use me – and we form a Partnership for Success – I will help YOU get more business.

You see – Staging is NOT just about a “look” and having an idea for where to put the sofa or what clutter to take out.

Staging is a PROCESS – and it involves human emotions and feelings. It involves SKILL – creative and psychological . . . and It is a key tool to help sell a house to help the Seller achieve their goals and for Realtors to be successful.

Knowing all this - don’t you think it deserves the value that brings? Do you still think it should be CHEAP or want it to be CHEAP? And knowing that someone like me is out there and knows how to handle your client, is someone you can trust, is professional, has standards, training, and much more – don’t you believe that is worth working with me versus the low-ball leader?

Stay tuned for Parts 2-4 of this Series to understand WHAT you are paying for - the STEPS and PROCESSES a professional Stager goes through . . . to better help you know and understand the VALUE behind the PRICING.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do what you Love . . . Don’t just Work as a Means to an End

Do what you Love . . . Don’t just Work as a Means to an End
by Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP - Owner, Sensational Home Staging


I was listening to a radio show the other day and they were talking about jobs and how people should not whine about having to work – it’s a means to an ends. . .

There was a caller that kept changing jobs because she was unhappy with her workmates, they annoyed her, they were not intelligent enough, she got bored, or whatever other reasons she tossed out there – she was not happy at her work. I just kept thinking, “She is in the wrong industry.” If someone is that unhappy in their job that they keep looking for “it” somewhere else – and job hops, and hates going to work – they need to do something else.

I kept thinking to myself:  "They need to find their passion."

However the advice from the radio people was, “Suck it up.” They actually said for working, “We do what we have to in order to have the life we want.”

In other words a job is just a paycheck and working is part of what we all HAVE to do in order to pay bills and have a life that we hopefully enjoy. It does not really matter if you really like it or enjoy the people you work with . . . you do it because you have to in order to live the life you want.

WRONG. Anyone else find something wrong with that advice?

Settling for a job just to pay bills – is a miserable existence. I know many people do it and I also know for many in this economy having any job is a blessing . . . but I just feel sad for those people.

Finding a passion is the key to happiness in the work world. I think high school counselors should be helping kids discover their passions – whatever it is – and steer that child into an industry they will enjoy – not just figure out what jobs pay the best and steer that kid into an industry they will hate.

Why did I have a physician in one of my recent ASP® Training classes? She has a full-fledged career as a Doctor – M.D. – and yet wants to be a Home Stager. This person was so full of life and creative energy – her field (oncology) was stifling that in her – and dealing with death and dying was just not fueling her passion. She was good at it – but she wanted something more.

Realizing there is an industry that pays well and will fuel that creativity opened the door of opportunity for her . . . I expect her to be very successful and much happier as a professional Home Stager!

Follow your Passion! Then work is not drudgery or just a means to an end . . . it is something you look forward to every day!

You know how some people just get through the week and then live for the weekend? I live for Staging! I get so excited when I get to work with a client and help them get their house ready for sale!

But in order to follow your Passion, you have to know what your Passion is. It might be working with kids, or gardening, or writing or health and fitness, or old cars, or any number of things. . . There are careers for all those fields – they may not pay the same as you are making now – or maybe they will pay more – but what I have found is that I would easily give up $$$ in order to be HAPPY in what I am doing daily and be motivated to be the best in that field that I can be!

I thought about all this and realized how lucky I am to have found Home Staging. I had a passion for creative things – decorating, painting, remodeling houses, and found this industry. It is my work – and yet it is not a means to an ends only. It’s not just a way to provide income to my family so we can do what we love. It is my passion!

My motto is, “I do what I love so I can live the life I love.”

I love Staging. In fact all the Stagers I know love Staging. We did it for free for much of our lives for crying out loud! Finding there was an industry that would actually pay me for my creative energy and ideas is the icing on the cake. Knowing I am helping other people (one of my passions), using my creativity and talent (another of my passions) and earning great income (a great benefit of the industry – and OK a passion as who does not want to be paid well?) is the proverbial trifecta of working for me!

So if you are reading this and are doing what you love, say a little prayer of thanks as you truly are blessed. If you know someone that is unhappy in what they are doing – ask them, “What you are really passionate about?”

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself.

Age is just a number and I’d rather go out of this life doing what I love than suffer in silence or never discover and use my true passion.

Monday, June 14, 2010

ONE WEEK on the MARKET - and SOLD after Staging!

Another SENSATIONAL Success from Sensational Home Staging!  SOLD only one week after Staging!  When you want Sensational Results, call Jennie Norris at 303-717-7918!

SOLD IN 7 DAYS! Days on market average 60-90

SOLD in only 7 days after Staging!!  When you want Sensational Results, just call me at 303-717-7918!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ZZZ’S . . . is your house so BORING that it puts Buyers to Sleep?

ZZZ’S . . . is your house so BORING that it puts Buyers to Sleep?
by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP President, Owner, Sensational Home Staging


In the words of the immortal Ella Fitzgerald . . . “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing.”

When it comes to Selling your house . . . we need to change the words to: “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that ZING!”

How about . . . “Your phone just won’t ring without Buyer Zing!”

Have you ever walked into a house and there was just nothing there emotionally for you? You know – it looked “OK” but there was no CONNECTION in the emotional realm. There was no “ZING”.

Buyer Boredom strikes. Yawn. When they see room after room when looking at houses – what makes your stand out from the crowd?

Ya gotta Bring the ZING!

What exactly is ZING? One definition is: “To be lively or vivacious. To have pizzazz.”

That is what we want to have buyers FEEL when they walk into a house. An instantaneous connection to it . . .
Buyers will always say when they find houses they like, “This house FEELS better than that other house.”

What do they mean? Does it actually physically feel nicer to the touch? NO. What they mean is considering ALL their senses, the house FEELS internally better – they make a connection to the house that the other one did not do for them.

Think of it as BUYER CHEMISTRY.

CHEMISTRY . . . we all have experienced that with dating . . . You know that feeling you may have had when you went on dates – and the other person either created that “ZING” inside you – or not? It was the desire to spend more time with that person and explore getting to know them. . .

Well – houses can do the same thing – create a ZING for Buyers. When there is no ZING there is no ZEST or ZEAL for buying – and the buyer will go in search of the ZING somewhere else.

Then you get ZILCH. No offers or at least not the kind you want.

So how can we get that ZING for buyers and get them to ZOOM ahead with an offer?

Make sure your house has BUYER CHEMISTRY. It needs to look, feel, and smell right. It needs to invite the Buyer to explore all areas of the house – room by room. We don’t want them ZIPPING by each room with a cursory, “Uh huh” as they glance from the door. We want them to experience the house – and really begin to FEEL like they could live there.

Each room should have some ZING – appeal that makes the buyer want to see more of the room and more of the house. Then the chances that Buyer will feel the ZING inside are greater – and then instead of them passing on the house, they will be eager to write an offer because this house feels just right!

To get help creating “ZING” in your house or listing, make sure to work with a professional ASP® Home Stager – trained to bring the WOW Factor and ZING needed to help Buyers want to make an offer.

________________________________________________________________

If you live in the greater Denver area, call me – Jennie Norris, ASP® Master, and Owner of Sensational Home Staging at www.SensationalHome.com to prepare your house or listing for sale. 888-93-STAGE.

Check out Columbia, MD - ASP Course - Creativity and Ideas used to present this house for sale!




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Monday, April 26, 2010

ASPs rank #1 in Google Search Engine results thanks to Stagedhomes.com

Stagedhomes.com has released stats that show that we rank #1 in Google Search results for the key phrases related to Home Staging!  This helps boost all ASPs and ensures the public finds those they need to work with for Home Staging all over the world!  As a professional ASP Master Home Stager I am thankful for the partnership that Stagedhomes.com extends to its graduates and the investment they make monthly with earch engine placement to ensure their graduates and members do come up first in search results!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The 5 Senses of Staging a House - A Sensible and Sensational Idea

The 5 Senses of Staging a House – a Sensible and Sensational Idea!



By Jennie Norris, APS Master®, Owner, Sensational Home Staging



I read something recently that caught my attention as it talked about how our 5 senses – SIGHT, SMELL, TOUCH, HEARING, TASTE – engage as we look at houses, or rather how they don’t engage if the seller has not deliberately put things out to make that happen or has not bothered to prepare their house for sale.


I thought about this – and as a professional Home Stager – I realized this is what I do every time I work with a Seller and on a house to Stage it for sale. But there is an imbalance with some Staging out there – where the focus is really on ONE sense – SIGHT and the others are sort of forgotten.   Let’s take a look at what a complete sensory Staging would be like. . .

Before we take a look at what happens with Staging, let’s consider the flip side - when a Seller does NOT prepare their house for sale and what a Buyer might experience within their 5 senses.


SIGHT: Cluttered and dirty houses are a turnoff to Buyers. If the house is not picked up it says, “I don’t care about my house.” If a Buyer sees too many personal things, they feel like they are invading someone’s space and they are uncomfortable and will leave. If they see all the Seller’s things it not only distracts them from just being able to take in each room as a whole, it also could turn them away if the items are too personal, tacky, or just plain odd.


SMELL: Do I really have to mention that ANY unpleasant odor, aroma, or smell in a house is not a good thing for Selling? If a Seller is unsure whether their house has a smell that is unpleasant, tell them to ASK any number of people that do not live there. The most common culprits are cooking odors, pet odors, cigarette smoke odors, and mildew smells but it could even be too much fragrance or plug-ins that cloister the senses. However, most people are afraid to tell them the truth, and that is where the Home Stager can help.


TOUCH: This can go a couple of ways, but let’s first start with the touch that ends up with sticky residue on your hands – that is a house that needs cleaning! Buyers are going to open doors, cupboards, and touch things as they go through the house. Buyers will also consider the furniture in the house, and if touching it gets a reaction like “EWW” – that is not a good thing. Threadbare, torn or tattered is not a good look for any Seller hoping to attract a Buyer and give them the belief that, “Hey I took great care of this house – just look at how well I cared for my furniture!”


HEARING: We cannot always control the noise outside of our houses – traffic, dogs, construction, but we can control the noise inside. A faucet that sounds like a Mack truck engine when you turn it one says, “There is something gravely wrong with the plumbing in this house.” Squeaky hinges, doors that drag on the floor, and in general any noise that advertises the age of the house is not a good thing for Selling.


TASTE: This one really does not pertain to pre-Selling so we’ll just skip this one for now and go right into the recommendations for when the house is Staged.


It’s easy to incorporate all 5 Senses in a positive way when Staging and Selling a House. This can be done with Occupied or Vacant houses for sale and is a key process that ensures a Buyer has a complete experience in the house. . .


SIGHT: Make sure the house is light and bright. Open up windows where there is a view to show off, and minimize any unattractive views with blinds or strategically placed objects. Make sure the house is very CLEAN and also DEPERSONALIZED as far as collections, personal items (bills, medicine), photos, and anything that could be a potential distraction for a Buyer. Any brightly painted walls should be painted a warm neutral color. Walls that are too dark actually make the room feel smaller as it closes the room in . . . And when a Seller does not paint, they are eliminating a large portion of the Buyer pool who don’t like that color, it does not go with their stuff, and they don’t to have to paint when they move in! They’ll just go buy something else that is ready for them and does go with their things, a.k.a. NEUTRAL.


However, we need and want COLOR and NATURE for visual appeal in Staging. Accent décor and greenery, artwork that draws a person closer, and other fun whimsical displays are good for Staging and Selling.


Do not make your house so stark and plain that all the pizzazz is gone. This is taking the “de-cluttering” too far – and now your house is cleared out but it’s Boring.

TIP: Your Home Stager will know what to do in each room to make it visually stimulating and appealing to draw the buyer in and want to see more! They can use your things or enhance what you have with décor, but the plan should be to keep or add pizzazz but allow the Buyer to take each room in its entirety and not be distracted by décor or too much. There is a fine balance your Home Stager can help you achieve.

SMELL: We want houses on the market to smell good – fresh and inviting. For showing houses Realtors often use the baked cookies or bread trick or the cinnamon simmering on the stove trick . . . but Buyers can detect if there are other underlying aromas. This is where a house must be CLEAN – and there is no concession here – we don’t want smells –urine, dirty clothes, smoke smell, cooking odors, mold or mildew smells in the house. Once the smells are eliminated, the house should smell fresh and clean – and be kept that way while the house is on the market. There are products that eliminate odors for good as long as they are not reintroduced.

When others may be afraid to tell the truth about odors in a house that is coming on the market, a professional Home Stager owes it to the Seller to tell them the truth. Those that are trained understand how to couch their message in kindness so they don’t offend – and yet if we don’t tell the truth and the house does not sell because of this issue, we did not do our job.


TIP: Ask your Home Stager what they recommend as a permanent solution for odors. There are inexpensive yet effective products that are odor eliminators, as well as machines that can be used.



TOUCH: The house should look “plush” and inviting. There should be soft surfaces along with the hard – and this relates to the furniture. A bed can havea comforter, but why not add some accent pillows and a throw as well to create layers of softness? If a Seller has a collection of Adirondack furniture throughout the house, they need to possibly minimize the collection, and for sure bring in accent pillows or cushions, and silk trees or plants to help soften all that wood. Not that a Buyer is going to sit in a Seller’s couch, but we want them to feel like each room is inviting them in to experience more. By the same token if the Seller has a bunch of overstuffed couches, bean bags, or large floor pillows, we want to bring in some structured furniture to help add strength and solidness to the room, otherwise we feel like we are sinking. Throughout the house there should be a balance of hard and soft, plush and streamlined.

TIP: An experienced Home Stager will know what to do in each room, how to make the most of what a Seller already has, and bring in any needed décor to complete the look.


HEARING: Showing houses agents will often play music – and I think that is a good thing to create an atmosphere that is pleasant and inviting. There are other audible enhancements that are appealing to buyers as well. A water feature is enticing and relaxing – consider putting one in the Master bath or a larger one in the courtyard or back patio. Sellers need to fix all the squeaks and groans in the house they can before it comes on the market. You cannot “Stage away” traffic or construction noise, but you can minimize it by having another sound override it. This helps a buyer to know, “Even though there is some exterior noise, I could still live here if I had this water feature.” Help them to know how to override what may be a potential detraction to buying the house.

TIP: Your Home Stager can provide a creative solution or idea to help override a potentially negative sound. They cannot “Stage away” the issues, but they can help come up with a plan that will minimize or eliminate the issue.

TASTE: Of the 5 senses this one is probably the least utilized when Staging as most of the time we are not using real food as props that are supposed to be eaten. However, when Showing a house, it’s fun to have cookies or fruit and refreshing drinks for Buyers. Stagers can use faux prop food for a look – such as parfaits or small cakes, faux fruit or even faux champagne in glasses, but these are props. Some Stagers can use real fruit as a prop – but with most it’s not to be eaten. To get this 5th sense involved with Buyers the Seller or Realtor will have to provide the delicious snack that gets that last sense engaged, or a team partner Stager can bring cookies and lemonade for the open house – and get that last sense checked off!


Let’s face it – the market is competitive and to get the Sale you want within the timeframe you need, you owe it to yourself and your house to engage all 5 senses for the Buyer.


The Results? A SENSATIONAL Sale . . . When Buyers make a 5 senses connection to a house it is more likely to become their HOME and the Seller will achieve their goals as well of selling versus sitting on the market.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sensational Home Staging - Using CREATIVITY and not renting or buying!

Another Sensationally Staged house - for sale . . . and instead of having the Seller "remove everything and bring in all brand new stuff" - which really requires little creativity - we used what the Seller had in their house - and our ideas.



TWO Staging Project - TWO Success Stories - TWO Examples of Sensational Home Staging. . .

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=161639&id=212548433098&l=d953e6310c&ref=mf

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=161641&id=212548433098&l=c133798211&ref=mf


In today's market - many sellers cannot afford to "spend" thousands of dollars to "stage" their house - and I put the word in quotes on purpose - because when a Seller is told to get rid of their stuff - and a "Stager" brings in new things - it's Decorating. Decorating focuses on the stuff - and not the space. It's not about the house it's about the Stuff - we can select what we want, put it where we want - and although it might look great - we need to ask - "Was it necessary?"

Sometimes it makes sense to add a few things to add "WOW" Factor or even a lot of things - to make a house appeal to buyers - but to replace a whole house that is already furnished - is a costly venture. If the house is vacant - yes it does need rental furnishings to make it feel homey and inviting. But a furnished house - does NOT need to have things replaced or removed . . . we can work with what you have.

This type of Staging is tougher. Mentally it's hard to be restricted to what someone else may have in their house. I may think it's dated or even unattractive - and I can still work with it - and using my training and experience present the HOUSE using those things - in a way that appeals to buyers.

When a Stager is restricted by what is in the house - CREATIVITY has to kick in - and it's a welcome mental challenge for me.  The other type of Staging is physically demanding - because we are bringing in boxes of decor and furniture - but it is not as challenging creatively. Staging with what a Seller has is also physically demanding as furnishings are moved from one place to another, or room to room.

90% of Sellers cannot afford to spend excess on Staging - and so are we so focused on making the look like an episode of Design Chic - that we forget that we can use our creativity to present a house for buyers?

I believe that one reason some Stagers only use rented inventory to Stage is they don't want to take the time to have to figure out how to make the things in a Sellers house work. It's much easier to know that they can bring in the sofa or chair of their choice than be stuck working with one that may be worn or dated.

When a Buyer buys the house - are they buying the furniture too? NO. They are buying the house and space - not the stuff. They do use the furnishings in the rooms to assess whether their things will fit and how to arrange their things. But rarely are they there to shop for furniture and decor.

So Sellers and Realtors - you need to know that Staging is NOT about having you buy or rent things - when you already have things to work with in the house. Check out the link of photos that prove my point.

Could there have been different things added - sure. Was it necessary. No. These houses got the attention they needed post Staging - and the Sellers were flabberagasted at how GREAT their houses looked.

When you want to minimize costs for Staging - and invest in the time it takes to use someone with Talent and Creativity to Stage a house - look for an ASP Stager. Go to www.Stagedhomes.com to find them on the online directly.

If you are in the Denver region - I would love to help you or your client get their house Staged - and will honestly assess whether we can use what they have or if they do need to rent. But the first words out of my mouth will not be "it all has to go and you need to buy things or rent." Never.

Call me at 888-WE-STAGE or 303-717-7918 or go to http://www.sensationalhome.com/ to learn more about how I can help you achieve your goal of Selling your house or listing in the shortest time and for the most money.

TWO Staging Project - TWO Success Stories - TWO Examples of Sensational Home Staging. . .
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=161639&id=212548433098&l=d953e6310c&ref=mf
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=161641&id=212548433098&l=c133798211&ref=mf

Friday, March 19, 2010

Home Stagers: Is Your Mama Proud?

Home Stagers: Is Your Mama Proud?


I was thinking early this morning – as my mind wandered and settled on different thoughts and conversations – that as a professional Home Stager – there seem to be those that expect us to do work for FREE to “prove ourselves” with the promise of lots of business to be had.

I know of many Stagers that have fallen into that trap – “Gosh – when they see how wonderful my work is – they will then give me all their business. I just have to prove myself to them.”

Remember what Mama used to say? “Don’t give the milk away for FREE or else they won’t buy the Cow.”

Mama was right – even though she was talking about something else – it applies to business as well.

Let me ask you something.

When was the last time you heard a REALTOR® offering to sell a house for free? (and those that waive the commission fee if the Seller buys a house through them are still MAKING MONEY off that client).


Do you think they have established their business, paid for education, memberships, and insurance – only to work for FREE?


“Gosh – if I just list this house for FREE then these Sellers will refer me to all their friends and the neighbors will see how great I am and the next time someone needs to sell they’ll call me.”


That’s not how it works!


When you give it away for FREE people want that the next time too! They don’t see the VALUE in working with you and therefore diminish your worth.


Realtors would not list a house for free unless they are – well – foolish. I know of NO successful agents that would do this as a strategy for getting business. Instead they focus on their value, their expertise, and their relationships.


So why are Home Stagers expected to “give it up” in order to gain business.


I think we have only ourselves to blame. And it’s – well - foolish.


When we don’t let our prospective clients know that we run a COMPANY – a BUSINESS – and there are business expenses inherent in that – education, memberships, licenses, insurance, marketing – AKA – OVERHEAD. . . when we don’t let people know we have set up a professional business, maybe they think that we really don’t have anything to lose by working for free.
  • Do Agents or Sellers ask pest inspectors or home inspectors to do their reports for free? NO.
  • How about Appraisers? Do Agents or Sellers expect them to come and do an appraisal for free? NO.  
  • What about a Title Rep or a Lender – do Agents or Sellers expect them to provide their services for FREE? NO.
These other affiliates of the Real Estate Industry don’t work for FREE – so why should Home Stagers? We don’t have to give it away for FREE in order to gain business and “Show our Stuff."

So STOP using FREE as a marketing strategy. If you are a professional Home Stager, you have value – you BRING VALUE to the table. You can quantify your VALUE to the Realtor and Seller.
And if you are an Agent reading this – please realize that your Home Stager can be a key part of your team – to help you get your listings SOLD, and help you get future business. They have taken the time to set up a Business, and have expenses related to that business, just like you do.
Please don’t expect FREE with the promise of “lots of future business” – I have heard that speech so many times, and it never seems to quite pan out the way it is painted in the beginning.
So my recommendation is to establish a partnership with a trusted and TRAINED professional Stager that can really help YOU gain more business. They can help add to your marketing, and can even provide things to help you in your business. This will make them a valued asset to your team, not just someone that can do things for “cheap or free.”

We honor our Realtor clients and I know how much WORK goes into what an agent does for a Seller and Buyer. I would not dream of asking a Realtor to discount their fees or Sell my house for FREE (or my friend’s or family member’s house) . . . as I know it is not smart Business to do that – and the same is true for a professional Home Stager.

We don’t just dabble in Staging. This is not a hobby. This is a business that we have established to support our lifestyle, just like you – as a Realtor®.

And how do we help you and your Seller? When a house is Staged professionally it will Sell faster – as much as 3-5x faster based on National Statistics tracked at www.Stagedhomes.com), and sell for more – as much as 5-20% more according to the National Association of Realtors. This mean they keep their equity and you make more commission $$.

I’d say that’s bringing a LOT of value to the Seller and Realtor.

I am not opposed to giving “Promotional Incentives” to clients – but I don’t do that until we have an established working relationship, it’s a once in a while thing, and it’s never 100% free. It’s a way I can honor my working relationship with my Realtor partners – and still pay my business expenses – and make a living.
And I can still hold my head high versus feeling cheap because I gave it away for free – and then the next call never came.
Mama would be proud.

Monday, February 15, 2010

6 UPLIFTING TIPS to Get Your House STAGED and SOLD

6 UPLIFTING TIPS to Get Your House STAGED and SOLD
By Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP®
Owner, Sensational Home Staging – serving the Greater Denver region



1. If it’s cluttered – PACK IT UP

Clutter is a natural part of life and most of us do our best to stay on top of it. Things on surfaces, floors, walls, and in our yards – are all items we enjoy or have “plans for” – and that is life. However, when selling a house – the clutter that is part of daily lives actually cuts into our equity. As Barb Schwarz, the Creator of Home Staging®, says, “Clutter eats equity” and the more of it that is around, the harder it is for a buyer to look past and see the possibilities of the house and of living there as their home. When Selling – PACK IT UP – pack up the clutter and this actually gives the Seller a head start on moving – as when the Seller gets an offer they will already have packed up a lot of their smaller things and personal items – which will lessen the stress of having to move.

2. If it’s dated – SPRUCE IT UP

Not all houses are new. Not all buyers want new houses, and yet most all buyers want houses that are in move-in condition. This means that if your house or listing is dated, it might be worth the investment to paint or upgrade elements of the house so it stands up to the competition. Spruce it up – put in warm neutral paint colors on walls and paint over any custom colors that are too bright, too dark, or too dingy. Don’t be stubborn about painting – you are moving. You can paint your new house the colors you want but for Buyers – make the effort to help them mentally move in to the house you are selling by giving them a warm neutral palette.

Take down wall paper or paint over it – wall paper is too customized and individualized - make your house Buyer neutral. Replace worn carpeting if possible, and remove odd objects, funky art that is possibly distracting, and pack up controversial items. Replace dated fixtures – for about $25.00-$75.00 you can replace a faucet, ceiling fan or lighting fixture. That means for an entire house when you invest about $500 you can update a lot of elements that will help your house compete with newer houses for sale.

3. If it’s dirty, CLEAN IT UP!

Dirty houses are a turn off to Buyers. It sends the message, “I did not care for my house and you will probably find maintenance issues here.” It may also send the wrong message to the buyer that you are desperate or in some sort of sticky situation if you are not maintaining your house. That is the wrong message to send when selling. Dig in and do whatever you can to make your house really shine. If you are not able to do it yourself get help. Call in favors or get volunteers that can help you do what you need but do not put a dirty house on the market. If there are pets, get rid of the hair – and that means you need to vacuum UNDER the furniture too – and suck up those dust balls.

Get an objective opinion from someone that has high cleanliness standards – and LISTEN to their advice about your house and don’t take it personally. The things we do for buyers may be beyond what we do for ourselves, but remember this is all about the EQUITY in your house – and your desire to get the BEST offer in the SHORTEST time. Be willing to clean your windows and bathrooms until they sparkle. Buyers can tell how well you’ve cared for your house by looking at the small things – window tracks, bathroom or tile grout, fixtures. If you cannot afford to replace worn carpet, at least CLEAN it! It is an inexpensive investment to ensure your house looks the very best based on your timeframe and budget.

4. If it’s broken – FIX IT UP

Houses that are for sale need to be in good condition as well as show well. It would be worth it to have a home inspector go through your house for sale and find all the things that need repair or replacement so that when the house comes on the market it is ready to sell. A buyer does not like going through a house that has “issues” that need addressing – and anything that can be done up front will help the sale.  If you cannot afford a home inspection, go through your house with "Buyer's Eyes" and see how your house stands up to the scrutiny you know it will go through with showings.  Make sure things are in working order, any cosmetic scuffs or knicks are repaired, and your house is ready for the public to come through.

5. If it’s overgrown – TRIM IT UP

The outside of the house makes the first impression and we have about 3-10 seconds to capture the attention . Curb appeal is extremely important and yet many Sellers fail to address that when their house comes on the market. Trees get bigger and overgrown, and shrubs grow wider and taller – and sometimes the house – that is the product – is hidden.  Take the time to trim trees and shrubs so that they don't make the house feel crowded.  Add color to help with curb appeal - with annuals or perennials that highlight the yard and house and show up well in photos.  And don't forget the side yards and back yard.  If there is a view - show it off.  If there is an eyesore - minimize it with strategically placed trees or lattice.  If there are unused pots or other yard items, box them up or get rid of them.  Minimize "yard art" as well - remember we want the focus on the house, not pink flamingos or a collection of cute bunnies.

6. If it’s not selling – LISTEN UP

Ultimately, Staging is a marketing tool and a financial tool to help the Seller and Staging will help a house sell faster and at the best price in any market. It is well worth it to invest in an objective opinion about your house by hiring a professional Stager to come and create a Staging plan for your house. Listen up to your Stager and do your best not to take things personally when you may be advised to pack, paint or perk up your house.

Staging works – however it is not a “magic wand” that allows a seller to price their house outside of where it will sell. It will help a house sell faster than the un-Staged competition. Statistics prove that fact – and yet Sellers - Listen UP to your Realtor and if your house is not selling and it is Staged properly for sale, then it is the price that is keeping a buyer from buying. This does not mean that the Staging did not work – it means that the house needs to meet the market conditions and other factors that could be impacting the sale – and it WILL sell before the competition that has NOT taken into account presentation and Staging as a marketing, listing and financial tool.

Follow this UPLIFTING advice and you should be receiving an offer on your house that will lift you up and make you glad that you invested the time and dollars in Staging. Whether you implement the suggestions provided to you by a professional Home Stager or you hire them to help you do the work, Staging is a proven way to get top dollar for your house in any market. And in today’s market and economy, we need every tool available to help put our best foot – or your case – house – forward and attract the positive attention that will get your house SOLD!

If you are in the Denver region and want a professional Home Stager’s evaluation of your house or listing, contact Jennie Norris, ASP Master®, IAHSP President, and Owner of Sensational Home Staging (www.SensationalHome.com)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why Every Realtor Needs A "Guido" On Their Team

The other night my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with a new friend, and real estate professional and manager of an office, and her husband. We had a great time. However, as is common, the conversation got around to what we both enjoy doing, and when we talked about my Staging business this friend shared something I thought was very insightful - and about which I agreed 1000%.


She said (I am paraphrasing) that she was encouraging agents in her office to add a Stager to their team so the agent did not have to tell clients things that could hurt their feelings or as I call it, "Be Guido."


"Being Guido" means you are the one that tells the client all the things they have to change in their house before putting it on the market. It's like you are the "bad guy" - hence the name I give it - "Guido."

Agents - Do you REALLY want to go there with your client? I know many of you have ideas and knowledge on how to prep a house for sale - and yet do you REALLY want to be the one that tells them their house is outdated, paint colors are wrong, they have too much stuff, their collection of Hummels, Lladros, thimbles, teapots, trolls, beer steins, hats, mugs, golf balls, sports pariphenalia, etc.- has to be packed. . . or their big moose head on the wall that they love so much - has to go?!!

Staging is an investment in getting the house sold - and the average Staging report is about $200-$300. That is a worthwhile investment to get the client to make changes - without the Realtor risking something that is worth far more than $200-$300: The RELATIONSHIP.

No matter how you couch it - that Seller will always remember that you told them things about their house and taste - and decor, furnishings, and things they love - that may hurt their feelings. Even when the seller says, "Oh go ahead and tell me - it won't hurt my feelings." That is not true.

I have heard them say that hundreds of times - and yet they almost always cross their arms at some point when I am working with them - which is a LOUD body signal that "I don't like what I am hearing." Now - because I have training in how to work with clients I don't just "press on" with my opnions. I stop and assure the client, I compliment them, and help them get past whatever emotional issue is happening to cause them to shut down - and I will compromise if needed so that I do NOT risk the client's feelings. That takes TRAINING and EXPERIENCE.

Can I caution you agents out there that are contemplating working with a Home Stager? Don't just pick someone because you like their website or photos. A lot of Stagers work with vacant houses - and don't have to interact with a client, their things, and the emotions. If you list houses that have stuff in them - including a family - you need to work with a Stager that KNOWS how to handle this combination - a possible stressful situation with the seller and why they are moving, family members that may not be 100% on board, and the "stuff" they love in their house that they need to move, pack, or change.

I think getting a trusted Home Stager to be part of your Real Estate Team is genius - of course I would think that - but from your perspective - it will help protect your relationship with your client, and not put you in that sticky situation at all. Leave that part up to those that can get the client on board, not risk your relatiionship (because I am there to make YOU look good too!) and get the Staging done.

Because that is the goal after all - to get the house Staged so YOU can SELL IT for the Seller in the shortest time and at the best price!

We can make a WINNING TEAM! "Bada bing! Trust me" - oh wait, that sorta sounds like "Guido."

Friday, January 29, 2010

WHO is a TYPICAL HOME STAGER?

WHO is a HOME TYPICAL STAGER? by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP, Owner, Sensational Home Staging serving the Greater Denver Region


I am! I am! Are you?  We have many versions of "us" out there, and based on the thousands that have entered the market over the last decade, and the many hundreds if not thousands I have met, I find out in class, at conventions, at meetings, and online - what people's backgrounds are and how they got into Staging.

The results of my informal but experienced survey may surprise you!

I offer up my profile of the "typical Home Stager." And by typical - I don't mean "average."
She is a woman (although thre are plenty of male Stagers), usually married, typically in her 40's-50's (although we do have more and more younger people entering the field inthe past 3 years and we also have many older women who do a great job!). She is creative. She has had several careers or at least multiple roles within one company over the years. She has been a business owner, lawyer, nurse, teacher, corporate executive, admin, sales person, marketing guru, or even stay at home mom. She is not in physically perfect shape, and she sweats when she Stages. She works hard, likes people, and Stages for the satisfaction of helping others and because she can make good money. She is a mom, grandma, wife, comforter, business entrepreneur and even a child referee.
Let's compare that to the television version of a Stager: There are typcially two types of Stagers shown on TV.

The first typical TV Stager is a man - usually gay - that has no kids but may have pets. He is probably a decorator or designer that has forayed into Staging. He is in his 20's-30's - he Stages houses and is shown with a fabulous inventory to use for his projects. He is funny and fun to watch. He is successful and savvy and has a passion for what he does.

Does that sound like YOU?  I know, me neither.

The other television version of a Stager is a younger woman who is attractive, in nearly perfect shape, and is usually a designer who has not really run a typical Staging business. She has been successful in design and has a great eye for décor, placement. She is smart, sexy and looks good on camera. She has been seen in fashionable attire, high heels, and in some shows, actually wears "work clothes" - slacks, tennis shoes, etc.

Does that sound like YOU?  It's getting closer except for the part about being in perfect shape and being able to Stage in heels (LOL).

One other common element of the TV Home Stager is that they can be portrayed as caustic and rude to the client, which is unfortunate. This is probably for "entertainment" value but ends up giving the wrong impression to the public. Not all shows on TV with Stagers are like this, but there are enough that are that makes it a concern.

Does that sound like YOU?  Definitely NOT!

If you are reading this and like me feel like you cannot relate to who you see on TV as far as them looking like you or Staging like you, know that you are not alone.

In reality, 95% of Home Stagers are primarily women that are creative and looking for a way to have a business and/or add extra income to their family household. We are moms, wives, comforters, and business owners - and we not only run successful businesses, we run a successful household, daycare, love nest, marriage, and more! We spin many plates and manage to be productive despite all the distractions and outside responsibilities we have. We know that most of the TV versions of who we are could not last a week in our shoes.

Now, the MEN that are reading this - I know YOU may watch and feel that you need representation on TV too - for the ways YOU run your businesses and for your background.

The other issue with TV Stagers and shows is that TV has the public believing that all Stagers must have a HUGE inventory of expensive things to be successful. Or they have access to a crew that can build things with ease, and whip up a bookshelf, refinish tables, and remodel the house - all in a day's work! When I was interviewed by a television station for a show, one of their first questions was "how large is your warehouse?" and they wanted pictures. They didn't ask about my success rate as a professional Home Stager or ask to see a portfolio of photos. It's almost as if they are saying, "You cannot be successful if you don't have expensive inventory warehoused in a big place." They were thinking "visual" for the show - not what really happens in a Staging business.

I've "been there -done that" and invested a LOT of dollars into inventory that I used with my clients. However, I know we as Stagers serving the general public day in and day out - without TV crews following us around - can be successful without sinking profits into "stuff." I want to Stage, not run a furniture rental business. I do have inventory, but after having to manage and maintain a large volume of inventory, I'd rather take that time (and money) to find more clients and leave that part up to the rental experts or colleagues that partner with me.

I also don't really hear if the houses on TV sell. Did the Staging do the job? I hear plenty about how great they made the houses look but do these shows actually track statistics that prove their Staging works? If they do - I'd be interested to see them - I don't doubt the houses Sell, but so much emphasis is on how the house "looks" and the "stuff" and not the Sale and the Seller. Outside if it looking "gorgeous" because of all the wonderful stuff brought in, what else can you tell me about the process AFTER the Staging was done?

And what happens when the Seller says they cannot afford to rent or buy things? Do you just walk away because after all it's not entertainment value to have to use old or dated stuff? Or does the TV budget provided cover that aspect? I know there are shows where it just films the Home Stager and the money for the project is negotiated and collected by the Stager, and no other budget is provided by the TV show producer, but for most companies and individuals on the shows, they are getting compensated either up front or on the back end or in some other way for participating in the show.

You might say, "Jennie, What fun is it to Stage with all the old stuff in a house?" The FUN is that it challenges your and my creativity! It's not as creatively challenging to go out and rent or buy things to bring into a house and set them up to look like a magazine. It takes more time and labor to do it that way. The challenge with having to use what a seller has is having to "get out of the box" and tap into creative resources in our minds that we did not know existed! Making a house look wonderful and inviting is the magic of Staging! Making a new use for an item is great! Why is that not shown on TV?

Not everyone can do this - it takes practice and a lots of creativity. I can plan out the interior décor of a house with the best of them. I have set up multi-million dollar vacant houses down to modest small vacant bungalows. Occupied and Vacant houses. Being project manager and selecting the look, style, and placement of all the furnishings is easier from the standpoint that I am in charge and get to pick the colors, style, and placement. Running the project takes skill - and keeping things on track, setting the budget, negotiating with the client and managing the financials is a key part of business ownership.

Having to use what a Seller has in an occupied house is much tougher mentally - but easier on their pocketbook. And let's face it - in today's economy not every Seller is willing to or can afford $5,000+ to Stage their house.

Stagers can specialize and just Stage vacants or just Stage houses where they use inventory, etc. In my opinion, I think that part of the whole package is missing when we only do half of what we could do in the industry. It boils down to personal preference and there is not one "right way" to run a business or Stage. But so far, I am not seeing the other side of Staging that does not involve expensive rental furniture and a designer approach, versus working with what a Seller has with creativity and a reasonable budget.

So Who is a Home Stager?
Really, it's anyone that has a creative passion and the ability to visualize a space in a different way. It's a person that has excellent interpersonal skills, enjoys people, likes networking, knows marketing, and likes calling their own shots. It's a person that likes real estate and Realtors, and is not afraid to dig in and WORK (sweat!). It's a person that knows how to handle and hand-hold Sellers. It's someone that has a flair and individualized taste, but who also knows what the public expects to see when they walk through the door of a house. It's someone that is a good time manager, project manager, and people manager. It's a person that likes the challenge of going after business and reaps the rewards of taking that risk. It can be a man or woman, young or old, any race, any religion, sexual preference, and any educational background.

Does that sound like your resume? If so - you are in the right business!

Staging also does not discriminate. If you have the desire and fire to do something different with your life, and are ready to take on the challenge of building a business - then hang on! You are in for a great ride as you get on or stay on the Home Staging train! Get ready to go places and see things you probably thought you'd never see - big houses, small houses, cluttered houses, empty houses, and a slew of "amazing" things people have in their homes that they just don't understand why they need to pack! Get ready to meet some incredible people and experience the euphoria of a Staging project well done and done well!
I know that has been my story - and I know over time the profile I provided of a "typical" stager WILL change as the business continues to attract all sorts of people to it! How Wonderful!

I AM a Professional Home Stager and I am excited to be part of the next evolution of the Home Stager!- Jennie

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Get in the Zone – the Creative Zone!

Get in the Zone – the Creative Zone! by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP - Owner, Sensational Home Staging





My eyes are heavy and my head has sunk blissfully into my pillow. Another day passed and I am ready for a good night’s slumber . . . and then something odd happens. My brain decides it is not ready for sleep and all these ideas start to flood in. It’s like a door to a creative part of my brain that was not awake (or acknowledged) during the day has been opened. And I HAVE to walk through it.

In the past I did not take advantage of these Creative Surges and would believe I would “remember the message in the morning” only to have the details be a distant memory. The inspired genius idea or thought not to be recovered and perhaps a missed opportunity went with it.

After having this happen to me one time too many, what I learned to do is to have a notebook by my bed for ideas, sketches and thoughts. I have even been known to get up at 2 AM and go to the computer to type what I have in my head – to get it out so that I can rest and go to sleep! Sometimes it takes a few minutes, and other times it has taken a couple of hours – but I have to get it out.

I have done this with business ideas, Staging plans and projects – where I visualizing the end result. I have had this happen when developing a marketing campaign or idea. I have written articles and stories based on Creative Surges. I have had ideas and brainstorms for our family, my life – and been amazed at what clear thoughts or solutions come when I turn off my own conscious thinking.

I remember one of my first Creative Surges happened when I was 18 and was asked to write an article for a magazine. The article was about what it was like being an identical twin on a performance team – which had been my life for 8 years. So I wrote a nice article and went to bed. Then I had a Creative Surge and the entire content and tone of the article completely changed in my head. I got up and wrote and wrote and wrote! The resulting article was so much better and inspired than the original, and the overall tone, message and flow was completely different than the original – and not something I thought I wanted to write. It was not until my mind wandered to my Creative Zone that I was able to envision something totally fresh and new.

I have written blog posts or had ideas floating in my head about something I wanted to share and it is not until I am in a quiet place of rest that my thoughts are free to flow! I have to go to my Creative Zone where my Creative Surges happen. So it reminds me to allow my Creative Surges to happen during the day too . . . get to a place where I am not just “doing” things all the time but to allow myself time to rest, get quiet, even lie down – and let my mind wander.

When is your Creative time and do you let your inner Creative Surge happen? For me “zoning out” is not about tuning out – it’s about tuning IN to my inner creative self – and allowing the “genius” that is in all of us to come out and inspire!

Paper ready, pen poised – Bring on the Creativity! Get in the Zone and watch your inner genius arise!