Given the high demand that good Stagers attract, it’s inevitable that, whether through timing, budget, or Seller preference, we Realtors are going to be forced to work outside our tried-and-true group of trusted vendors. (There's a reason they are "tried and true" and why we hate doing this!)
Such an occasion happened last week with a new listing where the Sellers were anxious to get their home on the market almost immediately. Unfortunately, the Stagers I most often collaborate with were booked for at least a month out.
To be fair, it's difficult to bring a house to market in less than two weeks considering the high number of moving parts, but we were helped measurably by the fact that the Seller had her own great pool of painters, movers, and handymen on which to rely, and she had already refinished the floors prior to our arrival. But we were hampered when it came to an available Stager, forcing this Seller to choose an unknown commodity from the Internet. (Waiting in the Fall market can cost you BIG time as we move closer to the holidays.)
“I know I should do it myself,” said the Seller, who also happens to be a very gifted designer, “but I'm in the middle of several projects and I really don’t have the time. . . ”
"I'm sure we can make it work," I positively responded. "We can always tweak things if need be." (A scenario I'm much too familiar with.) We had both talked to the Stager, sent photos of what we expected, and were reassured that she had the inventory to accommodate the story we were trying to convey: "Modern Farmhouse!" (She didn't.)
On the day of staging, the moving crew began to unload dirty furniture, chipped items, bad art and flimsy lamps. What was missing was even more disconcerting as the beds had no sheets or headboards, and the bedrooms lacked bureaus or table desks. This was a beautiful family home that was void of style, charm . . . and well, furniture.
Okay, that’s not gonna fly.
“I specifically told the Stager 'no white leather, no glass tables, no faux fur...'” the Seller groaned. “What do we do now?” (We take charge.)
Having played "good cop/bad cop" a number of times, I jumped in: “No, no, no!” I said to the project manager. “Take that away, that away, and remove the rust-colored area rug in the family room. The nondescript, generic art can go back on the truck as well.” (Bad cop.)
"We appreciate all your hard work," the Seller countered, but it really doesn't go with my house." (Good cop.)
“You can also remove these broken chairs, the stuffed animals, and every plastic plant in the house!” I added. (Bad cop.)
Was I frustrated? Absolutely.
This is the Stager's job for which they are charging a substantial amount, so it isn't an unreasonable expectation that they should deliver the goods and the GOODS (and many of them do!). That's why we often ask you to put your faith in us and the people we bring to the process. They have earned our trust and they also meet our high standards. . . time and time again.
However, when problems arise, my natural inclination is to move into solution. Jill and I ran back to my home and started stripping art from the walls, pillows from the beds, and accessories from the shelves. By the time we returned later in the day, we bid the staging crew farewell and then got to work restaging a staged home with everything we had stuffed into Jill's station wagon and my son's truck. (It was a haul to be sure!)
Between borrowing liberally from my own house for accessories, the Seller's quick trip to the Serena and Lily outlet in Berkeley for sheets and comforters, and a last-minute addition of a fantastic harvest table her son and handyman had retrieved from the Sellers' own storage shed, we managed to salvage the staging just in time for photos the next morning.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was vastly improved.
Was I harsh? Most definitely.
In fact, I was brutally honest. Because when time is of the essence, and when hundreds of thousands may be on the line, I can’t afford to present a property that’s more "shabby" than "chic." At the end of the day, it's my name that hangs on the sign out front, is sent out on the postcards, and shows up on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), AND in a digital world where more than 95% of Buyers begin their search online, how the property presents in photographs is EVERYTHING (as is my reputation).
Hey, I'm not about to present something to the public that falls far short, which means that if I need to go the extra mile to get a home ready for market, I'll lace up my jogging shoes and do it (and so will Jill).
Now that's teamwork, and it's also how you present a house for sale in a highly-competitive marketplace designed to sell in one week. Would you expect anything less? (No, you wouldn't.)
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.