Yesterday we got a sneak peek at the HomeGain Top 10 DIY Home Improvement list for 2012. What followed behind the scenes was a rather heated discussion among many of the nation's top professional home stagers. As noted in the article, "In past surveys, Home Staging and Lightening and Brightening were battling it out for the number two spot on the top 10 list. In the 2011 survey, Lightening and Brightening reclaimed the number two position and held on to it in 2012. Home Staging, however, fell to the number five position."
Home staging, for the purposes of this survey was presented to Real Estate Professionals as, "Home staging: Add fresh flowers; removing personal items; reduce clutter; rearrange furniture; add new props or furniture to enhance room/s; play soft music; hang artwork in walls. See complete staging checklist." To get a really good appreciation of what is characterized as home staging, check out the staging checklist linked above.
It's no wonder that Professional Home Stagers are in an uproar over this survey. HomeGain, while we love you - I keep your little orange monkey, received after writing a really great article about you, visible in my office for anyone who comes here - can you please jump into the year 2012 and catch a reality as to what home staging really is?! Let me sum it up two sentences, just to be clear:
Home Staging helps to control a buyer's eye, with careful placement of furniture, art & accessories, so as to minimize the flaws of a home while enhancing the positive aspects. We help any home, regardless of age or occupancy status look and feel like a model home so that buyers will emotionally connect with it, increasing the odds of a quick sale at the highest possible price."
The commentary of your participants has also left us somewhat baffled. “I don’t believe that staging adds any value except that it gets a property sold when others just sit and sit. To go in spending money and expecting it to improve the dollars in your pocket (whether you spend $100 or $10,000) is just unrealistic. I personally sold my home after upgrading to the tune of $15,000 to an already updated home, and I didn’t get more money but I got it sold.” - Uh yea-ah. That's the point. The fact that home staging helps the home sell more quickly, thus reducing carrying costs, price reductions and perceived value by potential buyers IS value. We all know that the longer a home sits on the market, the lower the offer will be. What is the cost of the FIRST price reduction? It is usually at least 1/2 - 1% of list price. That means an average family home (approx $180K based on national NAR stats) is $9,000-$18,000. Having been one of the nation's top home stagers since 2005, I can tell you that I've never seen $10,000 in staging recommendations on a $180K home. The average is usually under $2000 for that price point.
Let me address another favorite one: “We’ve found that we do our own home-staging vs. hiring a professional stager. The professionals we’ve hired in the past cost a lot and the home still sat on the market for over 6 months.” I would LOVE to know if the agent who provided this quote actually picked the best stager or the cheapest. We are not all created equally. I would strongly recommend home sellers or agents considering DIY vs Professional Home Staging read Juliet Johnson's blog about it. Watching a firestorm of comments in a private facebook chat last night after we viewed this blogs, here were some comments from uber successful home stagers about this phenom of poorly trained (and often cheap) stagers.
"got one of those pro stagers here who gives them a staging kit. oh yeah...plus if you watch the staging shows that automatically qualifies you to be a stager. I actually went to a networking event, met a Realtor who had her young hairdresser with her who stages because she has a flair for decorating. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"
"I just got some photos from a photographer I know, he was shocked at the junk in this $800K property he photographed & he wanted to share his horror- the Realtor said she got the job "cheap" and it showed, I just don't understand what they don't get in this price point of home or think that "towels and fruit" work."
"I am turning away any vacant jobs that cannot afford to do it right. They're turning to "budget" staging companies and comparing prices - I told them you will get what you pay for and I would not be able to comfortably stand by a product I don't believe in or will work in their price point."
"I will tell prospects to go to websites and check portfolios when they tell me that my competitors are only charging X - if they want stick furniture & random pieces in their homes then by all means shop "XYZ co." I am not them and have a brand to uphold."
"This issue is hot right now for me because I've gotten push back lately about pricing - which I am not budging on, I can't because the furniture rental companies charge what they charge and I'm not working for free. Until we all start to value our selves and our businesses I continue to say this industry will remain small and not totally accepted by the RE community."
For years Real Estate Professionals have complained about the hobbyist REP that thinks real estate is just putting a sign in the yard and a listing in the MLS. They complain that homeowners think they do nothing to earn their commission because what they see are bad agents. Hello... McFly. That's us now. As long as Real Estate Agents decide to tell their clients that they just need to lower the sale price of the home to get a buyer, the market will erode. There are homes, all across the country, that are selling at the top of the market bands. Within every neighborhood there is a top and bottom that the market will allow for a given home of a given size. Guess who gets the top of that and who gets the bottom. It's not random. The top of the band are homes that are well maintained and attractive. The bottom ones aren't. They are the majority of homes on MLS.
Agents who want to earn more commission and spend less marketing dollar, who want clients whose homes sell quickly, at higher sale prices turn to staging. The rest are the typical agents who don't make any money in this business. Sure, they might sell, but their profit margins are eaten alive with listings that cost them money. It isn't always about having the most listings, sometimes it is about having the right listings - you know, the ones that sell.