10/1/09

Home Staging as Residential "Dress for Sucess"

Home Staging as Residential ‘Dress for Success’
By CYNTHIA LESCALLEET
River Oaks, Bellaire, West University, Memorial Area Examiner News
Updated: 09.23.09



At a recent expo on home staging, experts presenting industry tips and training included Terrylynn Fisher of Diablo Realty, Cindy Bryant of Redesign Etc. and Kym Hough of Staged to Sell and www.stagerslist.com.




Even home stagers think of themselves as the hired guns of housing.

Property owners hoping for a quicker sale — and realty agents not wanting to overstep the sales relationship with their clients —sometimes turn to these third-party experts who’ll visually re-package a listing to stand out in a crowded field.

Whether charging by the project or by the hour, home stagers make changes that range from subtle to sweeping, inside and out.

Some home stagers have warehouses of furnishings, art and accessories for use and a roster of contractors on tap. Others will shift around, winnow and store what a client already has in place.

“A house is a consumer product,” said certified home stager Kym Hough of Staged to Sell and www.stagerslist.com, an online industry resource. She was in Houston this summer for an exposition targeting local staging professionals.

Home staging is “merchandising the home to sell,” Hough said. The idea is to make would-be buyers imagine themselves in the space. Even small changes can make a big difference in that general appeal, she said.

Good real estate professionals address some of the points of home staging, she said. But whereas a sales-focused agent is thinking of a home as being four bedrooms-three baths with hardwoods and pool, a home stager is thinking about lingering odors, dingy wall and window treatments, clutter-busting and even swapping out grandma’s old furniture.

“It’s about the package and how to present it for this market, this street,” Hough said.

As with theater, home staging includes the overall experience, from lighting, flow, function and decor to ambience.

Buyers are easily distracted by what the homeowner no longer even notices, Hough said.

In contrast, home stagers focus buyers’ eyes on the features being sold, explained Realtor Terrylynn Fisher of Diablo Realty. She’s a certified staging professional, or CSP, as well as Hough’s StagersLIST business partner.  Home stagers think like buyers and package a property to connect with the emotions of the transaction.  “It’s an art and a science,” Fisher said.  Third-party intervention

Realtors said they can only go so far with their pre-sale suggestions for sprucing up a listing because they need to keep the client relationship strong.

“The Realtor has to soft-soap it,” said Peggy Vineyard of Martha Turner Properties of the do-overs homeowners sometimes need to hear about their home’s decor and condition.  “It’s easier coming from a third-party,” she said.  And Realtors don’t always have the time to manage what needs to be done to a property, she said.  The challenge is to help buyers visualize themselves in the home, she said.  Buyers buy what they can see, not what it can be,” she said.

Local home stager Shannon Paige Boysen has made it her business to say what needs to be said and to execute what needs to be transformed. She does so drawing on her design savvy and her advertising background.  “Decorating to live in a house and decorating to sell a house are two different things,” she said. That ‘80s-era pit sofa, for example, has got to go.  Sometimes, she said, “clients push back — until they see how well it works.”

The bottom line, Boysen said, is that “you hire me to come in and make it look good. It’s not a personal shopping experience.”

Profession growing

Home staging isn’t a new practice. Tweaking a property to show well is part of any listing, said Kris Holt of Greenwood King Properties. Less clutter, higher wattage in lighting, trimmed landscaping, fresh paint and “removing what’s not part of the sale,” are typical to readying a home for sale, she said.

Most homeowners and their agents practice home staging basics “without even realizing it,” she said.
Some homes, especially large vacant ones and those with open floor plans, benefit from staging to help would-be buyers see themselves in the space, she said. Staging can also help them see how to define room functions in the more open spaces of recent floor plans.

If the home staging practice isn’t new, the profession is, with its own certification and a growing industry association, Hough said..  An estimated 20,000 home stagers are working in the U.S., based on membership in such organizations as RESA, the Real Estate Staging Association. Houston is an emerging market for home stagers, Hough noted.

One of them is Cindy Bryant of Redesign Etc., who is also RESA’s regional vice president.  Quoting a realtor.com survey, Bryant said 92 percent of people start their home-buying search on the Internet. If a house doesn’t photograph well, people will never even make it to the front door.

“Buyers will tend to remember a beautifully staged home, and it will stand out in their minds, much like model homes do,” Bryant said. “Everyone loves model homes. Most people walk in and say, ’Wow, I can see myself living here.’ Home staging reveals how the house can look and a potential buyer will be able to visualize himself living there.”

Earlier this year, Bryant helped transform a client’s house from a messy bachelor pad to a sophisticated, inviting house. It sold in 17 days.

Fees a la carte
Home stagers offer a variety of services and fee structures.
While a quick home staging consultation for a bid is often free, the report chock full of suggestions and treatments is not, typically running $250 to $350. The work itself carries additional charges for contractors, or for furniture and accessory rental or storage. This can run in the thousandsj

Hough said it is hard to give a staging estimate over the phone because everyone’s house presents unique challenges. A home might need little more than rearranging furniture or as much as new paint and carpet after serious mucking out.

Some home stage clients reportedly like the neater, tidier results so much, they wish they weren’t moving at all, Hough said. That’s why home stagers also offer stage-to-live or redesign services for clients’ new homes.