My sister's little terrier mix, Bridget, has a funny way of showing up in our marketing photos. She's like, "Where's Waldo?" (The dog, not my sister.) If you carefully look at my listing brochures, you'll usually find Bridget tucked away on a bench or a sofa, or parked at the top of the stairs. She's not a dog, she's a ham. I'm definitely noticing a theme . . .
Makes sense, as Jill typically meets the photographer at the photo shoots with her loyal companion in tow, but from a marketing point of view, there's an emotional appeal to having a dog in the frame that absolutely works. Not that I'm an art director mind you, but I bet the same could be said of children as well. It's just that my children are grown now and Bridget works for milk bones, so there is that . . .
But the "emotional appeal" of these photos is an important point that shouldn't be overlooked, yet often is, especially by Sellers who believe their homes should sell "as is" and wonder why we bother. After all, they've lived in their house for years without issue and have never noticed the aging carpet, the leaking roof, the leaning fence . . . and so it goes.
I get it, we all stop seeing the faults when we walk by them day after day, but they are defects nonetheless - and believe me, unless we address, disclose, or correct them, they'll discount the final outcome of your sale by a fair margin, at which point, you'll turn to your Agent and ask "Why didn't you do something about that?"
Moreover, more than 93% of Buyers begin their search on the INTERNET, so the photos we produce and curate aren't just one important component of the marketing package, they're EVERYTHING, and in this day of social media, they're also EVERYWHERE!
When I'm at a listing presentation with potential Sellers - after the pleasantries, after the tour of their home, after the story about why they are thinking of selling, after the graphs, charts, and beautiful marketing materials I'll pull out of my bag of tricks to razzle and dazzle them - what Sellers really want to know is this:
These questions have very different answers depending on available inventory, condition, location and debt level, but the simple truth is: "I don't know," (nor does anyone else) and I'd be disingenuous if I told you that I do.
Despite hundreds of sales, I cannot definitively tell you how much you are going to get, or even what your house is worth beyond last week's sale down the street, but I can tell you (definitively!) that staging provides the best return on investment in the marketing arsenal. A professionally staged home gives us the best shot at attracting interested and qualified Buyers and more importantly, "emotionally" hooking them in, and that's where the BIG money lies. If the public is turned off by dated photography, and even more, dated interiors, we may never get them through the front door and wouldn't that be a shame? (Yes, it would.)
So if I appear to be pushing the point, it's because I am. My experience tells me that your results will be significantly higher with the right "window dressing" and because I know that net profit is what's MOST important to nearly every Seller, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you how to achieve that end goal.
"It costs how much!?!" my prospective Sellers respond with shock and surprise.
I understand. It's a significant investment to be sure. Staging usually begins at approximately $8,000 and goes up from there, averaging between $12,,000 - $20,000, depending on the size of your home, the interior and exterior needs, the number of floors, and the ease of access (lots of stairs to the front door will add to the costs),and it won't stop there. Chances are we'll be changing lighting fixtures, painting rooms, refinishing floors, replacing carpets, and giving the garden a makeover. In short, it's the equivalent of a facelift, BUT good staging is worth every penny (as is a good plastic surgeon - not that I would know, but definitely keeping my options open!). Statistically, staged homes will sell far higher than their unstaged counterparts. In other words, think of this investment as "value added," because . . . it is!
Do we expect you to run these teams of people and coordinate the vendors all by your lonesome?
No, of course not. Prepping your home for an eventual sale is all included in the services we provide: part sales, part theater, part dreamscape - selling a home in today's world is nothing short of a full-scale production (and it's also why we earn the commissions we do). You need, and want, professionals to oversee the work. So hand over your keys, secure in the knowledge that I will treat your home as if it were my own (and I treat my home pretty darn well).
Look, I don't need to disguise the fact that if we merely tidy your place, it will look dated by comparison (it will). A picture is worth a thousand words. But I will encourage you to visit a few homes on Sunday and judge for yourself. You'll quickly see and feel the difference - and so will Buyers - and that's the most important piece . . . that's IF what you desire is the highest and best price -and I'm certain it is. (It certainly was for me.)
"Here Bridget!" (I have no shame. If it works, it works.)
P.S. I've got some great "before and after" shots on my website so take a peak and judge for yourself: juliegardner.com
How can I help you?
Check out my Instagram at: piedmontrealtorgirl
(Original publication 9.8.2017)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.