Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Most Home Staging Courses Won't Tell You

A glimpse at Shauna Lynn's upcoming book! The following is an excerpt from the only home staging book of it's kind - learn the truth about the home staging industry!

Expected release date: Fall 2016

Most home staging courses will sell you on the big picture, selling you on the opportunity to put your creative style to great use by transforming homes and producing magical masterpieces, but the truth is that there is a lot more to it than that. While I list the following as the “cons” of the business, the truth is that they can actually be the best part of the business; they’re simply not the part that gets most new home stagers excited. I can remember the first time I booked multiple consultations on the same day – I had truly arrived! My business was really picking up, and I was getting more and more comfortable with each client meeting. I still wasn’t doing a great deal of larger projects, but I was enjoying watching these houses transformed, and I knew that I was providing a valuable service to these homeowners. I was establishing myself as an expert in my field, and homeowners and agents were taking my recommendations as intransigent. I was enjoying meeting the homeowners, learning their stories, and assisting them with preparing their homes, regardless of the scale that I was doing this on.

The Cons (Things you may not be expecting as a home stager)

Consultations are your bread and butter

We all want the dramatic transformations, but every large staging job starts with a single consultation. Your main bookings when first starting out are generally owner-occupied home staging consultations. This means that the homeowners live in the house, and will continue to live there for the duration of the listing until the house sells, and it is your responsibility to advise them of the areas that they should address in order to increase the value and sell-ability of their home. In these cases, it is generally not practical to remove all of their current furnishings and accent pieces to replace them with the pieces of your choice. Ideally, it is best to work with what they have where you can, and replace only what is necessary. This means that walking into every consultation your end sale may only be the price charged for that consultation (depending on your location, this can range from approximately $150 to $400). In a consultation, you are simply advising the homeowner on what they should do, but you are generally not actually implementing the recommendations on their behalf. You may offer this additional service, but most will choose to simply do this work themselves.

In cases such as these, it’s easy to feel like you’re not a part of the process the way that you had hoped to be. You’ll need to ensure that you provide the homeowners with clear direction for your vision, and some will interpret this information better than others. In most cases, you likely will not have a return visit prior to the formal listing of the house, so your opportunity to review the changes made will be through the online listing photos only. As your business grows, you may find that you are selling more and more additional services that will allow you to return to assist with the final preparations, but if it is not cost-effective for the client, they will choose to simply go it alone.

Not every house is clean

This was actually incredibly shocking to me, though it seems like such an obvious expectation in this business. I had been in some not-so-clean houses growing up, but nothing prepared me for what I would see. I’m not talking about the houses that have too much clutter and piles of stuff everywhere, I’m talking about absolute filth. Socks are a part of my company’s dress code and must be worn for every client meeting. While my stagers may not always understand and appreciate this, they certainly do when they find themselves standing in a pile of dirt, beside the dirty diapers left on the floor, and whatever the dog has left behind. The most amazing part to me is that all-too-often the homeowners in these cases really don’t realize that this is not an acceptable standard of clean to their potential buyers. This requires a firm but sensitive hand, to help them to understand the importance of cleaning, what that standard of clean is, and how to get their home to a higher level of clean. An effective stager is one that is respected by their clients, while they proceed to tell them everything that is wrong with their house. If you can leave the home on your terms without having the clients toss you out, and still manage to get your point across as to what is needed to be done, you can consider your efforts a success. In my bartending days, I was known for getting the highest tip average from the guests that I cut off. It is not a skill that everyone can master, but those that do will find the most success. read more, you'll have to wait for the release of the book! Stay tuned for details!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Top 10 Home Staging Myths

What exactly is home staging? Which house should be staged? How do you know if it's the right move for a house? If you've seen home staging featured on all of the great real estate television shows, you're probably thinking that all home staging projects are expensive, and intended only for high-end homes, or homes that are in a serious need of decluttering. But you would be WRONG! Home Staging actually refers to the entire process of preparing a home for sale, ANY home for sale, and professional home stagers are working with every type of homeowner every day. Here we dispel the top 10 myths about Home Staging:

1. Home Staging is Expensive

Absolutely not! A trained professional stager is skilled at maximizing their client's budget, whatever it is. When preparing a home for sale, it’s likely that the homeowners will need to plan to spend some money to get it to move-in ready, but with the recommendations of a professional home stager, often the largest investment is their time. Accessory packages and other staging packages vary by stager, but all will generally start with a full-home evaluation, providing a list of recommendations for preparing the home.

Did you know? Buyers are actively looking for a move-in ready home, and 63% of home buyers are willing to pay more for this!

2. A home stagers job is to remove everything in a home and replace with new stuff

A professional home stager will not recommend adding or removing anything unless they believe that it will contribute positively towards the sale of the house, and they will do their best to work with a homeowner's items, wherever possible, to achieve the desired results. Often, a little re-arranging of what they already have can work wonders for improving the flow, and overall appeal of a house to potential buyers! The truth is, sometimes it’s just not in the budget to invest in a large staging package.

3. All rooms should be painted builder’s beige

When selling a home, neutrals tones are best for showing off the space, but your typical “builder’s beige” is not recommended. In fact, today’s buyers are drawn to grey tones more than browns, giving the home a more modern look and feel. Whatever you choose, ensure that you select a neutral shade, and avoid colours that are too light. By choosing a colour a little further down the colour chip you’ll add warmth and a cozy, welcoming feel to a room.

4. Home staging is only for vacant homes or homes with ugly carpet and wallpaper

Certainly some homes can use updating more than others, but the truth is that every home can benefit from home staging, and often a few subtle changes can make a significant difference, whether it’s simply re-arranging some furniture, or more dramatic updates and repairs, every home is unique and requires a unique home staging plan. Vacant homes can tend to sit on the market longer than occupied and furnished homes, since with these properties buyers will struggle to make the necessary emotional connection to the home, and the same can be true for occupied homes that are not styled to suit the target buyer market. Home staging will help to improve the overall flow of the home, and provide the final touches that buyers will be drawn to. 

5. Home staging is a way to fool buyers

Absolutely not! In fact, it’s the complete opposite! Our goal is to provide buyers with the home that they are looking for. Homeowners are still required to disclose any major flaws of the home that they are aware of, however home staging will help to minimize minor flaws by drawing the focus to the features of the home. 

6. Home Staging is just removing personal photos and de-cluttering

We all know that we need to declutter and remove personal items from a home before listing, but home staging helps to address so much more. A professional home stager will help to create a style plan for your home, and address where to invest your money in repairs and updates. Home staging focuses on maximizing a home’s space, lighting, flow, design and best features, not just decorating the space.

7. It’s best to list a property first, and address home staging when it doesn't sell

Home staging should always, always, always be considered BEFORE listing the home for sale! Cliché as it may sound, you really do only get one chance to make a first impression. When a home is listed, it should be ready to show at it’s best, both in pictures and for showings. Any Realtor® will tell you that you get the most attention for a property listing during the first couple of weeks that it is listed – these are key buyers! Home Staging is an investment with proven results for selling a home in less time, and for the most amount of money possible.

8. Staging is just the latest real estate trend

Home Staging has actually been around since the 1970s, and is a real estate service that is as common today as home inspections!  Showing buyers that the home offers good value is always in style. 

9. Buyers should be able to see past the updates that are needed and the homeowner's "stuff"

Here’s a fun fact for you - only 10% of buyers have the ability to visualize a space! This means that only 1 in every 10 people that view a home will be able to look past things, and see the home’s true potential. If you're considering a career in home staging, you clearly fall within the 10%, which means that you can help 90% of potential buyers to see a home's true value! Show them the best way to live in the home by showing optimal furniture placement, and eliminating anything that might distract them from seeing the features of the home.

10. Home Staging means living in a show home, and that’s just not realistic to expect clients to do

A professional home stager provides options and solutions to allow their clients to maintain the function that they need while the home is listed. It's not easy to live in a show home, but by providing the right recommendations for preparing their home, they won’t have to do so for long! As their home stager, you will help to provide them with tips and creative solutions for the things they need every day. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Price of FREE

Don’t you just hate when people offer to do something for you…for nothing? Sure, everyone loves to get FREE stuff, but is anything ever free? Get free groceries, by signing up for a new credit card. Get a free muffin, you just have to buy 3 more muffins to get it.

You’ve heard the saying “you get what you pay for”, so what do you get when you pay nothing?

I know that I don’t like to work for free, and I don’t know many people that do. Yet everyone wants to get a deal, and we often forget what the cost of this is. Allow me to demonstrate a couple of examples:

You ask your friends to help you move – this is going to cost less than hiring movers, right? 

Let’s do the math:
5 friends’ labour = free
- Case of beer = $40
- Pizza for everyone = $60
- Truck rental and gas = $150
- Broken or damaged furnishings = potentially hundreds of dollars!
- Cost of a no-show that either slept in, had another commitment, or simply decided they didn’t feel like it?

What happens if no one shows up?? What did "free" really end up costing you?

I hire cleaners to come in once a month to help with the house cleaning that I would prefer not to deal with. I hire a property maintenance company to clear my snow in the winter, and care for my lawn and gardens in the warmer months. Does this mean that I have a lot of money to spare? No, but it means that I value my time, and I value the notion of hiring someone to do what they do best, and leave me to do what I do best. My neighbour generously offered to take care of my lawn needs for me, but what happens when I notice that it’s been a couple of weeks, and the grass is growing out of control? Am I allowed to get upset? How do I get him to cut it…like now...when he has offered to care for it for "free"?

When building your business, it’s easy to look for cost-savings and thrifty alternatives, but use caution with these. I had a friend ask if a friend of theirs could photograph my next home staging project for free to build up his portfolio. I explained that I didn’t like getting things for free, and my friend looked at me like I had two heads. “Who doesn’t like to get things for free?” he asked. I explained that I didn’t know this guy, or the quality of his work, and if the pictures didn’t turn out, I would then have to schedule a second shoot with my standard photographer! In the end, I caved and booked this friend’s photographer. I set up the appointment through the listing agent to shoot at the house and blocked off the time in my own calendar accordingly. The evening prior to the shoot, the photographer asked me if we could reschedule, explaining that he had hurt his back, and apparently this would affect his ability to hold a camera. Not only had I already booked this time for the house, but the property had already accepted a conditional offer, and we would be expected to destage the property any day now. Add to that the time of year, which was peak season for us, and my schedule was jam-packed for the next two weeks! I politely thanked him for his time, and called my own photographer. If you want quality work, pay for it. And if you expect to get paid for your quality work, you need to respect other professionals.

Looking at the flip side of this now – NEVER offer your valuable services free of charge, no matter what. Ultimately, this devalues your services, and sets an expectation of future fees. This is a common mistake made by new entrepreneurs, in order to build up a portfolio, and a presence, but there are better ways to do this, and create an expectation of quality and value. Create accountability by setting your fees, and abiding by them.

Bartering – this is a great way to build your portfolio, while still receiving compensation in return. Get to know other small business owners, and see about doing a trade for services. Make sure that the services traded are valuable to both parties (eg don’t trade your time for a dining table that you don’t need, or for dinner at a steakhouse if you’re a vegetarian).

Friends and family discounts – I don’t believe in discounting services generally, but this is a great exception. Time spent providing service to friends and family is time spent away from building your business and bringing in paying clients, so do not ever offer your services for free. By providing a discount, your friends and family feel that their relationship is valued, and it provides them an incentive to give you a chance and "try you out", which can easily turn into additional referral business for you, as well as help you to build your own portfolio.

Trials – this is a great way to offer a ONE-TIME discount, but be sure to keep it to one-time only, and set your parameters for this. This is not my favourite option, but it could be a way to get your foot in the door with a new client if you operate a business that is likely to have repeat clients (ie in home staging, I would offer this to real estate agents exclusively, and would not offer it to homeowners – agents sell a few houses a month, and homeowners sell a few houses in a lifetime). Make this a limited time offer, and make your future pricing very clear in your offer. Then, be sure to wow them with your service so that they’ll want to keep coming back for more, at the full price.

Remember that you are in business to make money, and your expertise is valuable. Be sure to respect what others have to offer, and be respected in return. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

8 Traits of the Successful Home Stager

Home staging is an exciting and rewarding career choice, but like most things in life, it isn’t always easy! If you’ve ever wondered whether or not home staging is a career for you, it might be helpful to learn some of the top qualities that you’ll find in the most successful home stagers in the nation.

1. Problem solver

Home stagers are solution people – we operate in challenges, opportunities, and solutions and resolutions. A successful home stager thinks outside of the box.
Out-of-the-box thinking may include repurposing client furnishings in alternate rooms and for alternate uses, cost-effective updates and upgrades, and merging quality styling with everyday function.

2. Enjoys helping people

This is crucial to your success – everyone has a story, and it may not always be a happy one. A home stager’s role is to help in a variety of capacities.
This job requires a great deal of understanding and compassion. Listen to your clients, and cater your services to their needs.

3. Creativity, with a keen eye for style and colours

Too obvious? We had to include this one for good measure.

4. Natural leader

You’ll be responsible with planning, managing, and executing projects in fast-paced environment. With this, you are a fast thinker and a quick decision maker that operates well under pressure and highly stressful situations.

5. Patience

Perhaps this should have been #1. Selling a home can be a stressful and highly emotional experience. The “people factor” in home staging cannot be taken lightly, and the ability to exercise patience in every aspect is critical to your success.

6. Confidence

This means more than just self-esteem – this is the confidence of telling a client to paint their classic wood trim, or their kitchen cabinets, or to replace their flooring, etc. Confidence in being an expert. Confidence to stand up for yourself, against real estate agents, competition, and the hard-nosed clients. And above all else, confidence that you will get the job done to the expectations of your clients, no matter what.

7. Flexibility

More often than not, something will go wrong. When preparing a home for sale, there are a number of variables and pieces to the puzzle, and they don’t always fall into place the way that you expected. The ability to adjust quickly, and roll with the punches will lead you to success.

8. Great communicator and salesperson

Salesperson? Really? Absolutely! Whether you’re explaining your recommendations and ideas, or promoting your additional services, understanding and learning the best communication techniques and what motivates buyers will ensure a high compliance rate, and a sellable home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Interview with a Home Stager

Your front row view of the Home Staging Industry - check out our interview with Shauna Lynn Simon from Beyond The Stage Homes, and see what advice she has for new or soon-to-be home stagers.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that you face as a home stager?

A: It’s hard to pinpoint one as the biggest, there are many challenges to be faced in this industry every day, but I would say that the biggest probably relates to the education of others as to what Home Staging is (and what it isn’t). We spend a great deal of time educating homeowners, Real Estate agents, and suppliers not only to what our process and services include, but what it is that we are working to achieve. What we do is take style, function, and flow of each room into consideration to create a unique staging plan. We don’t just furnish a room, we bring it to life and create a memorable experience for the buyer.

Q: Is home staging just another form of decorating?

A: You certainly need to have an eye for home styling, however home staging and home decorating are very different. In decorating, you take the homeowners’ tastes and style into consideration, you personalize the space, and you ensure that you make practical decisions for the lifestyle of the people that are living in the home. In home staging, you are not only depersonalizing the space, but you are creating a design that will appeal to how the buyer will utilize each space. There is an element of behavioral profiling that goes into each home staging project. You need to identify whom your potential buyers are, and the lifestyle that they may live, and ensure that you create a plan to provide them with the solutions that they will need for their everyday life. In addition, you are responsible for identifying and addressing all possible distractions that buyers might find in order to assist the homeowners to eliminate these prior to listing. Realistically I would say that decorating probably accounts for only about 15% of what we do day-to-day.

Another important distinction between home staging and decorating is in creating the proper flow of a space – while it is certainly something that is taken into consideration in decorating, this is critically important in home staging as buyers will be walking through the home, and a room that is not properly laid out can disrupt their flow, and in turn, their experience.

Q: What is the #1 misconception that new stagers have in your mind?

A: I think that many new stagers think that if you’re good at, and enjoy decorating, then you can easily become a home stager, and the business will come flooding in as soon as you are open for business. This is a business, and like any business, it requires proper training, management, marketing, and relationships in order to be successful. On top of that, Real Estate can be a ruthless industry, and takes a strong person to be successful. If you enjoy decorating, that’s great, but further to my previous point, there is much more that goes into home staging than decorating, and if that’s your main motivation for getting into this industry, then you might find yourself disappointed. Being a home stager means being an entrepreneur and a small business owner, and everything that comes with that responsibility.

Q: Is home staging a low-cost investment start-up?

A: I go into further detail about this in my book, outlining the specific costs that can be expected when you start a home staging business, but it is certainly NOT a low-cost start-up. Even if you choose not to own a single accessory or piece artwork or furniture (which you will find pretty much impossible), you will still have your course costs, plus business registration and insurance, just like any other business. You’ll then need to spend money on marketing, lawyers, computers and mobile devices, software programs, website development, mileage, wear and tear on your vehicle, office supplies, etc. Before you have ever stepped foot in the door of a client’s home you can safely expect to spend around $8000-$9000, and in your first year, an additional $3000+.

Q: Advice for new stagers and those thinking of becoming a stager

A: These are actually two different answers, so I will try to address each point:

-    For new stagers, look for guidance from other stagers. There are a number of great resources available now and opportunities to connect with stagers across the globe! Keep in mind that different regions will have different markets, so you may need to adjust some ideas to suit your particular geographical area, but these can be very helpful. Keep in mind as well that most of these groups are private, to allow for free discussion of questions and concerns brought forth by fellow stagers, so you will need to have a registered business and website before you can join in. Some courses also offer networking opportunities with their other stagers, and of course, there is also the Real Estate Staging Association, which offers many benefits to stagers, including the opportunity to talk with and work with home stagers in your region. Bottom line is, ask questions wherever you can, it’s amazing what you can learn from others that have lived it.

-    For those thinking of a career, start by reading my book! Then, if you are still interested, the next step would be to research and determine the best course for your needs (I caution that selecting based on price might mean missing out on important tools that you’ll need down the road, so be sure to determine what your needs are). You’ll then want to research your own local market – is it a well-recognized part of the home selling process, or is it still an uphill battle gaining recognition and respect? I recommend doing this BEFORE you register for your course, so that you know what you are getting yourself into and can be prepared to build your business accordingly. Next, create your business plan. Remember, this is a business, and even if your first business plan doesn’t have all of the answers, it is an important stepping stone to get your business running. You can update your business plan as often as you like, so as you learn more about the industry, your clientele, and your market, you can adjust your plan accordingly.

Q: What does a typical day look like?

A: Well, I can’t given away everything from my book, but the short answer to this is that there is no such thing as a “typical” day in the world of home staging. That said, most days tend to include a lot of driving, phone calls, emails, and overall communication with clients and real estate agents, in addition to the numerous home staging consultations, preparing estimates and bids, keeping up with social media, and of course, selecting, packing, delivering, and placing the fun stuff, like artwork, accessories, and other furnishings.

Q: How many hours do you work in a week?

A: Pretty much all of the ones that I am awake for, but that’s not to say that you would have to! There are certainly some long days, but there can also be a great deal of flexibility, as long as you are willing to work around your clients’ schedules. Make no mistake though, this is a career that is intended to be a full-time one, and so I do not recommend it if you are looking for something as a part-time hobby.

Q: What inspired your upcoming book?

A: Questions like these, to be honest. If I had a dime for every time someone told me how “fun” they thought my job was, I would be retired! The truth is, I love what I do, and I really do think it is a lot of fun, but there are numerous not-so-fun aspects of it that many don’t see. Sadly I have seen too many new stagers perish in this industry because either it did not live up to their expectations of what they had hoped that it would be, or simply because they entered the staging world unprepared. Either way, my book will help you to make an informed decision about this industry, and whether or not it is right for you, hopefully before you have invested in the courses and business start-up.

Q: When do you anticipate that your new book will hit the shelves?

A: We are aiming for Fall of 2016, but we’ll be giving lots of notice when we have a specific release date.


Shauna Lynn Simon is a Real Estate Staging Professional. She founded her company, Beyond The Stage Homes, in the Spring of 2008 and has been working closely with homeowners and Real Estate Agents ever since.