Rave Home Staging is known for our work in vacant homes. Most weeks we stage anywhere from 6-10 vacant homes, all over Jacksonville, in all price points. Occasionally however, we’ll get a call by an agent who has an occupied listing and it’s getting no traction. Either the home isn’t getting any showings, or the ones they are getting aren’t going anywhere. They aren’t getting offers. Sometimes, the agents already know the problem but want our professionals to come in and play “good cop / bad cop”. Other times, they simply don’t know why buyers aren’t connecting to the home. This particular example will be from a home from the latter.
Sometimes homes are actually too sterile, not too cluttered.
There is a fine line on how much you can take out of a home and have it still feel comfortable to potential buyers. While we need any property on the market to be free of distractions, and personalized effects minimized, there does need to be enough left in the home for it to feel warm and inviting. The sellers of today’s case study were actually minimalists. They hadn’t done a lot of decluttering because they didn’t need to. Instead, they had the exact opposite problem. Their house felt cold and unwelcoming.
When I was booked for the appointment and spoke with the agent, at one of our Realtor CE classes, she told me that the house was immaculate clean. She was concerned that the seller’s furniture might actually be putting off potential buyers since it wasn’t quite what most others in the neighborhood would have in their homes. Prior to visiting the home in person, I took to the internet to see what buyer’s were seeing online. Since the home hadn’t been getting many showings, I figured there had to be something there. It didn’t take but a few minutes to realize what the problem probably was. It was indeed their furniture, but not so much the pieces themselves. It was more that the rooms weren’t speaking in the photos, the furniture was.
At first glance, the “formal living room” is just sparse. It’s not quite as bad as a vacant home, but honestly it’s not a whole lot better either. The placement of furniture is awkward, and the kidney bean shape is unusual. With a $367,500 price tag, this home just doesn’t match buyer expectations.
The family room, while having more furniture, seems just as out of proportion. I conveyed to the sellers, of this home, that the “family room” seems to just be a place to watch TV. There isn’t any LIFE here. There isn’t a place to sit around and talk about the day’s events in a conversational setting. Not in either of the two main living spaces. If someone wanted to have a party, which they advised they do all the time, that guest might wonder how to connect with each other. This room seems to be designed fully around just watching the TV.
Making the most of what’s there to fix what’s not.
Seeing the photos online, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to move past the elephant in the room of pieces that just didn’t seem to be working in the spaces they were in. I knew I would have to really hit the basics in order to minimize their expenditures, but still keep the home functioning and feeling comfortable for the family. I suggested that we bring in additional pieces, some larger furniture items, and accessories. The budget for our transformation was $700.
We did our best to bring in as few items as possible to keep the budget low. In the formal living room, we brought in:
- 2 blue upholstered chairs – which added balance and color to the room
- one piece of metal art. The other print was taken from the dining room. We actually swapped art pieces there.
- one lamp, 3 books, 1 nautical jar, 1 faux fern plant
- 5 throw pillows
Rearranging the room, and adding a few items made a HUGE difference in the way that potential buyers would receive this space. Now, instead of the furniture feeling too contemporary and sparse, the space, while still modern, feels much more comfortable, warm, and inviting. Buyers now understand how they might live in the space with their belongings.
The family room, was now also more balanced. Better yet, it functioned as a gathering spot for friends. Now instead of the sole purpose of TV viewing, the room is ready for guests. Again, keeping the budget to a minimum, while using what we had available, we brought in:
- 2 modern chairs
- metal and glass coffee table
- 2 books
- 2 throw pillows
The large shell decorative object was previously on the mantel. The large urn, previously next to the TV by the stairs was relocated to the dining room.
Results aren’t in photos, they are in the deal.
I always try to remind our customers that our job, as professional home stagers, isn’t to make a house beautiful. We aren’t decorators or designers. Our job is to make the house sell. While I understand that in a very decorating way, the family room would have been better served by removing the giant sectional and replacing much of the furniture here. The fact is that once the space was made functional, and balanced, the marketing part was complete. Buyers could now see how the room could be lived in. They could imagine entertaining. They could imagine spending family time together.
The results were nothing less than text book. The photos were updated in MLS showcasing the new staging. There was a showing immediately following. The very next set of buyers to step through the door made an offer on the house. After 45 days of few showings and no offers, the house immediately went under contract. It is now in pending status and waiting to close.
I asked the Realtor, Jody Steele, with Watson Realty Corp in St Johns’ Florida, how her customers felt about it. She said, “The seller laughed, when they got the offer, and said that it must have been the staging!”
Did the investment of staging bring real value?
At Rave Home Staging, we tell our customers that we will never ask them to spend money or make changes unless we know it will measurably increase the marketability of the home. The final question, in our case study is whether the $700, plus the $225 consultation fee, increased the value of the home by at least what was spent, and ideally a multiple of that amount. Since the home had already been on the market for 45 days and had already taken over $4500 in price reductions, without staging, would there have been another price reduction? How much were buyer’s discounting their offers on the house because of time on market?
If the sellers hadn’t taken another price reduction, but the home had sat on the market for an additional 15 days, how much perceived value would be lost in future offers? As Realtors these are questions we must constantly evaluate when making suggestions to our customers.