As real estate professionals, most of us understand the importance of staging a home for sale --especially a luxury home. The industry has grown exponentially in the last twenty years, and it’s now at the point where staging typically comes up as a topic of discussion while signing every client. Many (or even most) sellers have at least briefly considered it and researched it. This doesn’t mean, however, that each of them jumps aboard the home staging train without some gentle guidance.
For luxury homes listed over $1MM, staging is a no-brainer for listing agents. It’s customary and expected, and if a seller doesn’t know that, you get to teach them! Simply pull up some nearby comps and they’ll see that nearly every property is staged. Your authority on the topic will likely suffice.
You can also point them to the results of this survey conducted by the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) which shows in an analysis of nearly 700 homes - staged homes sold in an average of 18 days - vs 107 days for unstaged! They also sold for (on average) a 17% higher price. On a million dollar home, that’s $170,000.00! When you factor in the shorter duration of carrying costs (mortgage, insurance), it’s close to $200,000.00 back into the pockets of agents and sellers. Just from staging - wow!
Even with all the evidence pointing toward staging as both commonplace and a necessity, some clients remain stubbornly averse to spending the money. Let's take a look at four common types we see, and how to gently guide them in the right direction while maintaining a positive and fruitful business relationship.
The Mentally Absent Seller
Despite the massive financial incentives for sellers to undertake home staging, some still hesitate because the monetary return is of course, not guaranteed. Their heads may be clouded and focused in the future--often worrying about upcoming moving costs, downpayment and needed improvements on a new home. Try your best to direct their attention towards actual figures they will likely earn on their current property. Sit down with them and show “Home A” in their neighborhood - that wasn’t staged. How long did it stay on the market? How much did it sell for? Were there price reductions? Remind them that home staging typically costs less than one price reduction. Then compare with “Home B” that was staged, and sold fast and for more money. These comps aren’t hard to find, and the extra couple hours to put them together and share with your client will be well worth your time.
Other clients feel “done” spending money on their “old” home. We’ve all run into sellers who resent the home they’re trying to offload and outrightly refuse to put another dime into it. It’s almost like they’re operating in a defeatist mindset, and against their own (and your!) best financial interests. With these clients, it helps to set up a meeting and have the RESA staging analysis printed out. Consider your clients’ reason for moving out. Are they getting a divorce? Was there a death in the family that necessitates the sale? Spend an hour or two playing therapist/confidante and you can help your client truly unravel their negative feelings toward the home and selling it. Once it’s all out in the open (and not just rumbling around destructively in their mind) they will likely be more open to working together to get the home sold for the most money possible.
Other sellers stubbornly feel that their house is “beautiful as is,” and become offended at the suggestion of staging. Tread lightly here! What you want to get across to this type of client is that staging to sell is a completely different ballgame than decorating. Use this opportunity to praise their furnishings and style profusely, and then explain that staging is more of a simplification
and neutralization of the space. Sometimes, they’re concerned that they won’t like how the staging looks in their house. Teach your client that it’s just a marketing tool, and that you are a real estate marketing expert. As gently as you can, explain that you aren’t selling to them. Who it matters to are the potential buyers.
Tell them that potential buyers don’t want to see any evidence that the home is lived in, even though it looks beautiful. They want a clean slate to envision their own furnishings and their own family in the home. If it’s all possible to convince these clients to move completely out - it will save you money and so much headache in the long run. I’ve even heard of listing agents refusing to work for a seller unless they move out and stage. It’s that important! Remember, not all business is good business. Choose your clients carefully. You are the real estate expert and being allowed to effectively market a property is crucial to your success.
All the Time in the World Seller
This seller is not in any rush - they have all the time in the world to wait for a completely unrealistic offer to roll in! Usually, the mortgage is paid off, or it’s a second, (or third, fourth..) home. Problem is - you don’t have years to spare, nor does it do anything good for your professional reputation or cash flow to have a house listed for months on end.
This can be among the toughest of all clients to work for. They have the worst combo of traits from “Proud Seller” (“they should buy my wonderful home as-is!”) and “Emotional Seller” (“my deceased wife loved these forty-year-old drapes!”). Tackle one issue at a time.
First, explain how even though there are no carrying costs on the property, it continues to lose value in the eyes of potential buyers the longer it sits on the market. They tend to assume there’s something wrong with it structurally, or that it’s overpriced.
Second, address the pride issues in a very businesslike manner. “It is a remarkably well-cared for home. I can see without a doubt that you have enjoyed taking care of this home over the years. Staging it to sell will highlight how you’ve improved X, Y and Z.”
Lastly, explain calmly that your record of success depends upon an established and well- proven series of steps to get the property sold. Staging is simply one step in this process. They did hire you because you get the job done, right?
Introduce Luxury Virtual Staging
If your client remains adamantly opposed to traditional staging - this would be an opportune time to introduce them to luxury virtual staging. Chances are, they have never heard of it. Once they see some before-and-after photos (great examples here: www.luxurystagingpro.com/gallery) and learn of all the other benefits they will probably happily comply. This isn’t to say that luxury virtual staging should only be used as “second best” -- on the contrary there are myriad reasons to do away with live staging altogether and stage all your listings virtually - more on that in THIS blog post.
First, share with your client the good news about the price! While traditional home staging can (and often does, for luxury listings) run into the tens of thousands of dollars - luxury virtual staging costs only a fraction of that. Virtual stagers usually charge per photo, ranging from roughly $30 and topping out at about $100 per picture for premium design. If your seller has ten-to-twelve key photos in their listing, that’s about $300.00 - $1,200.00 for a luxury virtually staged home. That’s a one-time fee, and the photos are theirs to use however they like, and forever.
Explain the process to them:
- Vacate the property
- Have professional photographs taken
- Send to designer for virtual staging
- Receive staged photos
- List home on MLS!
The whole process can be completed in less than a week, when necessary. Most luxury virtual stagers deliver exceptional staged photos while remaining cognizant of your timeline.
It also helps to talk to your seller about the flexibility that’s inherent in virtual staging. A luxury virtual staging firm has access to tens of thousands of pieces of furniture, art and décor. Compared to a traditional stager, you and your client have a much greater sense of control into how the home looks in the end. If they’re concerned they won't like how their home looks staged (which again, it doesn’t actually matter if they don’t like it - but we’re trying to appease them here), you can offer them a sense of leadership over some of the virtual design.
When you’re talking to your seller and showing them virtual staging photos, point out how the photography is essentially indistinguishable from a traditionally staged home. The 3d rendering technology has increased to a point where a potential buyer is pretty likely to assume the home is actually staged in person (more on how to notify them in a future blog), for so much less money.
If your seller continues to refuse even virtual staging, you could pay to have the home luxury virtually staged yourself, even just 2-3 photos can make a huge difference in grabbing a buyer's attention and getting them in the door of the property. You could also offer to split the cost with your client. Spend a few minutes doing the math, and you’ll likely realize that the small investment will pay for itself many times over in terms of days on market, tours and open house successes.
I’m sure when using some (or most!) of the strategies laid out here, you’ll have success in getting your client on-board with home staging. Whether it’s traditional “live” staging, or luxury virtual staging it will make a considerable difference in your marketing efforts. Keep reinforcing that - It’s just marketing. It’s part of the complete marketing package. Eventually, your seller should come around and help you help them get their home sold!