As I was on the treadmill at the gym the other day watching another episode of HGTV’s Property Virgins, I was thinking again about how amazing it is that what comes naturally to professional home stagers doesn’t seem to cross the minds of real estate agents and home sellers.
There are many invaluable lessons that real estate professionals (including new home stagers) could be picking up from this show.
You probably know the series I’m talking about. It’s the one that’s shot in different cities with the same host – a real estate agent named Sandra Rinomato (and in more recent episodes Egypt Sherrod) helps first time home buyers find the right property.
Generally, she takes a couple to see three properties, helping them figure out if they can afford it and what the resale value of the home may be. And when the time comes to offer on a property, Sandra appears to be a fantastic negotiator.
That’s all very fun to watch, but as a home stager my favorite part is seeing the décor of the homes (which are often vacant) and imagining what I would do to make the spaces more appealing to the couples they’re being shown to.
Watching this particular show gives you a very good sense of what first time buyers are looking for and what scares them off.
For instance in vacant or only partially-furnished homes, the couple sometimes has a hard time figuring out what they’d use a certain space for and as a result perceive the home as being laid out too awkwardly.
Sometimes you see what a big turn-off cosmetic issues really are, especially the possibility of having to renovate a bathroom or kitchen if the spaces don’t seem perfect from the initial showing.
If the properties in these types of scenarios had been staged, several mental barriers would have been removed for these buyers. And that is the entire point of home staging.
On this show you’ll notice how almost everyone ends up floundering around a vacant home wondering where there furniture would go or how they would make good use of the space.
That’s because when a room is vacant, it’s almost impossible for a potential buyer to come in and get a good sense of scale. Believe it or not, this can prevent someone from making an offer, especially in a buyer’s market. If someone has made up their mind that their furniture won’t fit, they might just decide to move on to the next property.
In the well-furnished homes, you can see how buyers are immediately attracted and often guess the value at much higher than the actual list price. It’s so obvious how they can be romanced by a well staged home!
The importance of home staging, especially with first-time buyers, is something I discuss at length in this free special report.
Another reason why this is an excellent program for home stagers to watch is that you get a good idea of what people expect when they’re looking at homes in different price points.
For example, as they look at higher-end homes you hear buyers talk about things like changing out the builder’s fixtures but that is a total non-issue in a less expensive property.
Watching a few episodes of Property Virgins is great prep for a home stager. You’ll hear right from home buyers’ mouths what small things turn them off and might prevent them from offering on an otherwise perfect home for them.
Home stagers, have you taken away a particularly useful lesson from an HGTV program like this one? Please share by leaving a comment below.
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Inc. Home Staging
Debra Gould knows how to make money as a home stager and she developed the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program to teach others how to earn a living doing something they love.
Ana Hitzel AccentPositives Home Staging & Redesign says
it is a great show and fun to see what people are looking for when house hunting. A while back I did a “ride along” with a girlfriend who is a buyer’s agent. I blogged about it because it was very eye opening and educational for me too. Staging certainly should be a top priority BEFORE listing.
Pat MacKay INTERIOR THERAPY! says
Hey Debra! RIGHT ON AGAIN!! You certainly got to the heart of the matter in this segment, and I am addicted to HGTV’s shows such as Property Virgins and Priced to Sell – where big, bad Mike goes in to show comps and gives sellers a dose of reality about their home compared to others on the market. Quite often, the sellers have NOT prepared their home for sale or have simply done clutter clean up thinking this will be enough. Professional stagers (a/k/a showcasing experts ~ ) understand that it’s just NOT enough. Buyers must be able to SEE themselves in the home. Vacant homes lack energy and charisma. Staging them certainly gives that shot of life. Another tool I’ve developed is using photographs of a room, scaling it to exact real proportions and then using software to “furnish” it TO SCALE so that people can now visualize exactly what will fit where and realize the choices for a given space. How cool, huh?
And I agree totally with Ana – staging saves thousands and thousands of dollars to the seller if it is properly done BEFORE photos. Yee gads, I cannot tell you how often I see nasty photographs on multiple listing services. You have about half a second to make that computer impression. Don’t blow it!!
I have a real estate license in New Jersey. Most people have no idea on how challenging and complex the job of an agent is. Let them be free to market your home and handle negotiations and your search for you… Let the showcasing experts help you prepare your home!
All my best,
Pat MacKay INTERIOR THERAPY! email@example.com
PS HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE ~ GOD BLESS!
Loi Diaz says
Love It or List It—-aaarggghh! The realtor always does a good job of giving more than what the buyer asks for. But the designer? She only reinforces the bad fluffy image that we designers and home stagers sometimes get. She NEVER stays on budget, and has the nerve to take on attitude when she is the one at fault! Not my idea of good customer service. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, right, Debra?
Natasha Liburd says
Great topic! Another HGTV show that often shows the need for a home staging professional is Real Estate Confidential. There was one episode where the real estate agent spent hours every weekend cleaning up after the tenants and trying to get the property ready for open houses. One set of potential buyers actually said the house looked like kids had taken it over. This is so not the first impression buyers should to have!
Two takeaways here: 1) The time the agent spent cleaning up was valuable time she could have spent getting another listing or marketing another property. Instead, she was dusting, moving furniture, and decluttering. A professional home stager would have addressed all of these issues and allowed the agent to do what the agent does best…get and close business. Not fight with tenants and frantically clean up properties for open houses! 2) In the beginning, the real estate agent should have thoroughly addressed the importance of having the property in showing ready condition. This is something some agents avoid because it can be a touchy subject or they just don’t have the time. A savvy agent would have brought in a home stager in the beginning to educate their clients (the sellers) and to get the house showing ready. Oh and the outcome of this episode…after months of the property sitting on the market, the agent fighting with tenants (during the open houses, one tenant locked himself in the room and put rude notes on the door) and cleaning up for open houses every weekend, plus a couple of price reductions, the agent decided not to renew the contract. What a waste (that could have been avoided)!
You have to also see the episode where the sellers had their 1st floor turned into a forest. A tree was sculptured in the middle of the room with vines painted on the ceiling. How do you think that went over with potential buyers?!
Nancy Lee says
All stagers seem to have the same love/hate relationship with HGTV. We watch it, screaming anything from ‘NO! Don’t do that!’ to ‘Wait! I haven’t finished fixing it in my mind yet!’ I laughed my way through the episode with the sculpted tree in the living room. And sometimes I want to cry when they pretend preparing the house for sale ‘only’ cost this much. But mostly, I watch and learn. As you say, Debra, just listening to buyer’s comments teaches a lot about what buyers want, and about regional differences in the real estate market. Great topic!
Pat, I love your idea of visualization software – how smart! I agree w/you & Ana: agents are avoiding &/or ignoring their best selling tool: The Home Stager.
. What buyers are looking for is a home – not a house. An agent sells a house: a Home Stager creates a home. The difference between the two explains how this agent discovered she was a natural born & talented Home Stager. [Thanks, mom.]
. Signing a client isn’t selling a property. From my first few viewings, it was evident sellers had no idea how to prepare properties for sale: how they live is how it’s shown & MLS photographed. (1) No changes were made to improve the property & (2) the listing price was for more than it was worth “for negotiating purposes”. Houses remained unsold. I was determined to revise what had failed.
. Selling any property required two non-negotiable seller-agent verbally agreed essentials: (1) necessary changes will be made to (a) show the property at its best; (b) photograph MLS well & (c) delight the buyer’s eye. (2) The listing price will be “right on the money”, for the right buyer, right now. [Surprisingly, every seller agreed & appreciated direction from their Agent.]
. Without knowing why, I did what stagers do: made the property welcoming, warm, colorful, & inviting, w/the house appearing as spacious as possible. My Realtor argued to list in the higher range. The properties were grudgingly listed “on the money”. Everything made sense to me, especially the secret staging. When teamed with creative energy, what a difference a little money made. [Other agents wondered why I lucked out & found the nicer properties. Head scratch … :>) ]
. As a new agent, the “fiddled with” properties sold quickly & above asking price. Agents enjoyed showing my listings: they were finished & smartly priced. Result: the properties sold quickly & for more than asking. A few caused bidding wars. “A staged home sells faster & for more money.” [The Wall Street Journal, 2010.]
. As an agent, when you don’t sell, you make $0.00, yet you’re dollar & dimed to death. Today, selling a home is beyond a miracle, w/the agent walking through a minefield from listing to closing. The KEY to selling any property is to present the buyer w/outstanding Internet photos, followed by anticipated activity & inter-actions w/the home that leads to the sale. The KEY is the STAGER.
. The REAL in Real Estate is home staging.
. “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like H O M E …”
Debra Gould says
Thanks everyone for your great comments to this story. You inspire me to keep writing! I love that others can visit here and get a multitude of points of view. Keep those comments coming!