Selling a home is never easy. However, the challenges today seem overwhelming to most sellers. The main criteria for selling real estate have always been location, size, and price but never before have presentation and condition been as important as they are today. 95% of buyers are shopping first on the Internet and “driving-by” properties in a “click.” Without a doubt, appealing website photos are the key to attracting buyer traffic. Visiting the property, buyers form first and lasting impressions within seconds. 90% of the population cannot visualize and base their judgments solely on what they see and how they feel, and research is proving that emotions play a much larger part of the decision making process than previously assumed.
In this tough market, buyers are also demanding and getting best value, so properties that are in good condition sell faster and for money. According to Barbara Corcoran, for every $1 a home seller does not invest in condition work, a buyer will deduct at least $3. Most buyers today are putting their full investment into the purchase price of the home and don’t have extra money for any major work. In addition, the majority of buyers do not have the time or the desire for renovation.
As professional home stagers, we cannot influence location, size and price factors. Our role is to collaborate with agents and home sellers to prepare properties for the marketplace to sell for top dollar as quickly as possible. This is impossible without thorough attention to condition issues and enhanced presentation. A successful home staging process begins with a professional analytical consultation that includes specific recommendations for the homeowner. It is our responsibility not only to tell the seller what they need to do but also to make sure they understand the importance of staging and to motivate them to follow through with the recommendations. Otherwise, they will not achieve their objectives of selling quickly and for top dollar. In fact they may not be able to sell at all.
With so much at stake for home sellers, the staging consultation is critical to the preparation and marketing of the property. The expert advice trained staging consultants provide has significant financial importance. That is why real estate agents and home sellers should invest in trained professional home staging consultants. Unfortunately, many “stagers” are not trained and make serious mistakes that can be extremely costly to the home sellers. When the staging process is ineffective this can lead to longer time on the market, increased carrying costs for the seller, reduced selling price and increased stress. These are all extremely costly consequences for a home seller.
Here are five common costly mistakes made by untrained staging consultants:
1) They give away free consultations:
My view of this is “you get what you pay for.” Trained professional home stagers understand the critical importance of the consultation as the first step in the staging process. They provide comprehensive room-by-room assessments and thorough, prioritized recommendations. They counsel, explain and motivate homeowners to invest in what needs to be done. The consultation should be value-rich. Free consultations are generally “meet and greet” with some general information about the benefits of staging. They are superficial and fail to capitalize on this opportunity to address all the important staging issues of the property. In many cases the lack of attention to detail and other omissions can lead to ineffective staging, longer time on the market and reduced selling prices.
2) They provide decorating advice versus marketing strategy:
Trained professional home stagers know that staging is not decorating – it’s marketing. A room can be beautifully decorated, but fail from a staging perspective. Our focus is on showcasing the best features of the property, making rooms look as bright and spacious as possible and creating buyer appeal and wow impact. Our work is strategic, always considering the buyers’ preferences and the camera’s eye. Even if someone is a talented decorator, they may not be qualified to give you professional home staging advice.
3) They perform check-list style assessments but don’t analyze and prioritize recommendations.
This really demonstrates the level of expertise of your consultant. The room-by-room assessment is just the beginning – it is simply information gathering. Identifying the key strengths of the property, and analyzing and prioritizing recommendations in respect to market trends, buyers’ wish lists, and budget issues provides the homeowner with a clear understanding of not only what has to be done but why these actions are so important. This expert consulting advice helps sellers make the best financial decisions.
4) They don’t know how to handle sensitive issues so avoid them.
Mastering the art of difficult conversations with home sellers is a key skill for professional home stagers. We are trained to address sensitive issues with home sellers and understand that it is imperative for us to do so. One strong negative impression can override a list of positive factors and prevent a sale. These sensitive issues can include odors, cleanliness problems, unattractive and dated decor, clutter, an abundance of religious items, provocative art, etc. A lack of understanding and or skill in handling these issues is not an excuse and avoiding them can be a very costly mistake.
5) They fail to motivate the client with an action plan.
Professional home stagers know that it is not enough just to tell home sellers what they need to do. The true test of an effective consultation is that the consultant has been able to motivate the sellers to follow through with the recommendations. Trained home staging consultants understand that the staging recommendations may seem overwhelming to their clients, but by outlining a feasible action plan, they will inspire confidence and demonstrate their ability to help with some or all of the process. Trained professional home stagers are serious business owners who are experts at consulting, design planning, problem solving, project management and showcasing. A home seller is far more likely to get the best advice, follow through with the necessary staging process and succeed at selling faster for top dollar if they invest in a consultation with a trained staging professional.
Nairn Friemann, MBA, is a Certified Staging Professional and Instructor. As president of Ingenuity & Pizzazz, Inc., one of New York City’s leading home staging companies, she has collaborated with agents and home sellers on the staging and marketing of over $600 million in real estate. A nominee for the Real Estate Staging Association’s 2010 Pro Stager of the Year Award, Nairn has received exceptional media attention including the CBS Early Show, CNN, Dow Jones Market Watch, Business Week, the New York Times, New York Living, New York Spaces, the Staging Standard magazine and others. As an instructor for Certified Staging Professionals, Nairn draws on her extensive staging and award-winning teaching experience. Nairn teaches the 3-Day Certified Staging Professionals program in the U.S. and Canada and shares her signature, 10 step program for “Mastering the Art of Difficult Conversations with Home Sellers” in her popular webinar.