"I don't believe in staging" - "Why can't buyer's imagine my home renovated?" - "You want me to spend how much?!"
I've been staging homes since I signed my first listing ever, in 1999 - long before staging was 'a thing'. Here's why it works.
As we get older time warps a bit for us. Many sellers today in Manhattan are 40 years old or over. Something that occurred even 20 years ago, feels like it was 5-7 years ago, especially the older we get.
Many times when I meet a seller who says they “recently renovated”, it turns out they renovated in 2002 or maybe in 1998. It feels recent to them.
However, consider this: in the context of a buyer, who may be 28-40, it would mean that renovation was done when they were a kid or late teens. So the renovation the 55+ owner thinks is “recent” - reminds the buyer of an older relative's place, not a home they’re going to be excited or ready to move into.
Case Study: 22 West 15th Street, 14B had been updated several times over the years at different levels. However the white formica kitchen, baths and popcorn remained as they were when the building was built in 1989. After renting it for ten years, the home definitely needed a facelift, in my opinion to excite vs. turn off buyers - especially in 2021.
The cosmetic changes we made: We got rid of the popcorn ceilings skimmed the ceilings; freshened up the kitchen with new cabinets and backsplash, as well as the baths to appeal to today’s buyers. We used high enough quality products to get buyers excited and able happy to move right in, while not breaking the seller's bank account.
The Results: The final asking price was $200,000 above our original estimate in February for the apt in that original state. We listed it 3 weeks ago Friday at 6:30pm. By Tuesday I had shown it 35 x and had multiple offers. The strongest buyer jumped forward and by last Friday evening (2 weeks to the day) we had a signed contract for the seller.
Why Staging Works and the Hurdles Sellers Face: It is hard for many sellers to imagine spending money to make money, yet time and again over the decades I've seen it work. It's even more necessary in today's world of fast-fashion and social media driven selfies. A home has to be Instagram-ready for someone to want to move into it. Especially in 2021 when renovation work can take longer and cost more, a buyer and their broker will always overestimate the cost, time and effort it will take to update a home, even cosmetically. Buyers also want move-in-ready today, so the more buyers you appeal to with a renovated or updated home, the higher the price will be and the faster it will sell.
In this instance, I worked with the seller's contractor to advise what choices to make on the cabinets, tiles and vanities that we were bringing in, to maximize appeal to the widest audience. It worked!
Based on what we invested into the property and the increase in the price from where we thought it would sell 'as is' in February / March - the seller is benefitting from a very healthy return on the monetary investment that was made to freshen up the apartment!
For me, this apartment has a personal story dating back to the 1990s, so it was incredible to see its transformation - but that transformation wasn’t complete and didn’t fully “Wow!” me until I walked in the evening after I had hired Cathy Hobbs' staging company and they had delivered their professional staging. The moment I opened the door to the apartment, an apartment that I’ve walked into hundreds of times over the years, my heart stopped! Wow! I felt my spirit sing! I knew in that moment that it would sell quickly. For the home I had walked into was fresh, bright and elegant. It was a new home, not one that I still felt memories show up from decades ago.
Staging and prepping a home sets the stage for a new buyer to imagine their lives in the home and removes the current owners' or tenants’ history and energy in it. That brings you as a seller one big step closer to getting an offer (or multiples). When a buyer has to imagine beyond a sellers' brick-a-brac and life, it’s a harder hurdle for them to offer you the top dollar. More work? Fewer buyers interested? Lower price. When buyers and their brokers feel wowed the second the front door opens...? Bingo!!
You need to invest in your home, to deliver the best result and that includes making sure you don’t just choose the cheapest broker but the one who comes armed with a plan and solutions and an understanding of your market and how it works - and a path to deliver “Wow!” Into the hearts of buyers and their brokers, the moment they open the door to your home!
After all, when you buy clothes at Louis Vuitton or Gucci, would you pay the same for their clothes or think as highly of them if their stores and windows were dusty and only had the clothes they were selling 15 years ago on the racks and windows? How would you react if when you stepped into the store and said it felt a bit dated, the salesperson told you - "but just imagine how wonderful our new designs are!" No. You wouldn't stick around to "imagine" their newest line of clothes standing amongst their dated and dusty items. You’d run out the door.
So why do we expect buyers to “imagine” what our best home can look like? Set the stage and collect top dollar! Spend to receive.
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