Is Staging About Money or Creativity?
by Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP-Premier, ASP-SRS, ASP-REO
Owner, Sensational Home Staging
Years ago when I first got started Staging, I ran into my old boss at a business event. We got caught up after 10 years of not seeing each other and in the course of our conversation I of course let him know I owned a Staging company. He told me he had hired a home stager when he sold his Mom's house. The market was hot. The house was a $6 Million property. It was going to sell quickly. But he paid $60,000 for the Staging (or roughly 1%) of the list price. All new items were brought in to use for the Staging. Back then I was (and still am)shocked at how much he paid for a service that should have been 1/10th of what he paid. I could easily have done the Staging - and done it well - for a fraction of what he paid, and I felt badly because he got ripped off.
As a Stager it's a fine line to walk between wanting to earn a good income in my business and being fair to the client. Some Stagers may disagree with me, but to charge someone $60,000 to Stage a house that was going to sell the first month with or without Staging is unethical. If the service they provided - their time and inventory truly added up to that much, then charge that amount. In this case, and in most cases where an exorbitant amount is charged to a seller, that is not what is done and a Seller overpays because they do not know better.
Staging is about Creativity. It's harder to Stage using creativity than it is to just remove everything and bring in a controlled palette of furniture and decor. When a house is furnished, using creativity to come up with an appealing look for buyers is challenging. It's EASY to remove everything and bring in rental furniture, decor and accessories and create the look we want in a house. That is not creativity challenging but it can be physically demanding, and it is usually more costly to the Seller.
Our creative muscles get a workout when we have to use what a Seller has - and have to rearrange, repurpose, and reposition things in the house. Using the principles of Staging (not decorating) to Stage a room is what is needed. Consider the room - stand in the doorway and define a focal point. Define the purpose/use of the room. Feature the space not the stuff. Staging is the "framework" for the house and rooms in the house - not the focal point. Add points of interest with artwork, strategically placed decor and use of colors. Allow a buyer to take in the room as a whole - feature the floor plan, the setting, the views out the windows - that is what Buyers are buying. They are not buying $60,000 worth of decor and furniture.
My team and I just completed a Staging on a high-end property. We used the Seller's furniture, brought in some artwork and rugs for color, added a bit of decor but used 90% of what the Seller had. We were able to totally transform the "feel" of the house - giving it an updated look that will appeal to today's buyers. This was all accomplished for under $1,000. We took about 2.5 hours in the house to set the scene and were paid for a Staging consultation prior to the hands-on. This is .012% of the list price.
We Staged another house that was in a competitive price point. The Sellers put in new carpeting and painted. I selected the carpeting for them, and advised on paint colors as part of my consultation. We brought in furniture for 3 areas of the house, as well as some artwork and decor. The Staging was about $1,300. When listed, the house was listed at a price towards the top of the price range, and sold at $12K above the Staged List Price - which was a wonderful success and got the sellers far more than they hoped for their house.
Staging is about the Money. Staging is in line with other services provided for selling houses - pest inspectors, home inspectors, appraisers (buying side), and so forth. It's the only service done in preparation of the house for sale that actually brings measurable value - and statistics prove this - between 5 and 20% more that the seller either keeps or makes on the sale of their house.
Staging is not a free service - it is not easy either. Staging takes a lot of vision, planning and ability to execute the plan successfully. It is also physically demanding and a good Stager makes it look easy as they whirl through a house making what seems like minor changes that turn out to make a major impact. We sometimes have to come up with a plan in properties we've never seen with an audience of homeowner, friends, and real estate professionals "watching."
So Staging is about BOTH Creativity and Money - a seller should not overpay for the service and yet the public needs to recognize the VALUE Staging bring to the table to help them get the best price for their house.
What a Seller or Realtor pays for when they hire an expert Stager is their ability to see past what is in front of them - and envision a transformed room and house - and then translate that vision into reality. The proof is in the offer that comes and the smiles on our client's faces when they get the results they want.