While its great that home owners are getting more savvy about my profession - home staging - its also made things more difficult. Sometimes, with the issues I have to address as part of my job, regardless of how I give the feedback, it’s not always well received.
What do I do?
I am a professional home stager in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and contrary to the current trendy perception of my career, my job isn’t for the faint of heart. In any given week I can see between 5 – 20 homes and although the primary focus of my job is assessing the houses I visit, much of my job is talking to home owners and discussing subjects which can result in them being hurt or offended. I empathize with how they feel however that does not stop me from doing my job – it can’t – because if I don’t address the issues in a home, then the house won’t show to its fullest potential. Which means I’m not doing my job, the house won’t show well and my clients won’t be pleased. Let’s face it an ineffective stager isn’t going to get referrals or repeat business.
I’m bringing this up because over the years we have had instances where we did inadvertently and completely offend clients. It didn’t matter how gingerly we handled subjects such as a wall of swords (honed and dangerous) or eye blinding decor choices that a home owner was extremely proud of – these were areas of contention which had to be addressed because if they remained they would put off a lot of buyers. Most of the time we manage to diffuse the situation, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what we say, our clients just aren’t open to our recommendations in fact they are offended we even brought them up. This inevitably leads to complaints to our realtor partners which of course leads to us explaining why and how we discussed things – even though our realtors fully understand and back our recommendations. Bottom line is because we are on the front lines, we tend to take a lot of heat.
We have broad shoulders and we understand that selling a family home is a stressful and emotional time. No question about it. However, our goal is to help our clients and show them how they can maximize their biggest investment - their home – by making their property appeal to as many buyers as possible. Not only does this shorten their selling time, it also means that they won’t be waiting for ‘the right buyer’ or dealing with low ball offers. Buyers viewing their home are much more likely to see the value in the property and justify the asking price.
Our philosophy is simple. We believe every home owner is different and deserves to have his/her home treated with respect. This isn’t TV and we don’t make snide comments behind our client’s backs. We never make clients feel as if their furnishings are lacking, we always try to work with what they have but maybe put a new spin or finish on them. If that’s not possible then we move forward with rentals – with the client fully on board – so that we can do what they hired us to do – help them sell their home fast and for top dollar. It’s all about how we treat our clients. That’s what makes our clients open to suggestions and once we’ve done our job well, it paves the way to referrals and design business down the road!
However, as I’ve mentioned it doesn’t always go well. Clients aren’t always open to change. It’s our job to make sellers see the house from our point of view and that requires a combination of empathy, determination and finesse.
Clients and realtors have a job to play in this scenario too; it’s called trusting the professional you hired. We don’t take our job lightly and we endeavour to get the best possible results. This will mean addressing issues and situations which may prove uncomfortable for you and you clients. It’s a job we have been trained to do and in most cases, have years of experience doing. We know what works. We know what doesn’t work. We work hard to make sure the recommendations are delivered in such a way so that clients don’t get upset but it’s a fine line to walk. We can’t afford to not tell our clients the truth because then we’re gambling with their biggest asset: their home.
So, if you have hired a professional stager or you have chosen a stager to partner with as part of your real estate business, understand that as part of our job we’re going to have to address things that may make you or your clients uncomfortable. It’s not because we want to cause offence, it’s because we have been hired to help you or your clients see the property objectively. By helping you or your clients understand that in order for your house to sell fast and for its full value, we may have to take down those flowered borders, pack away the doll collections and pull up that pink carpet. All these things pave the way to making buyers fall in love with your home and want to buy it – which is the whole point.